“Chick flick” — is there any other category of movies so often underestimated? And yet so many memorable movies are the ones that have a chick flick’s emotional intensity. (What else is The Godfather but a mafia melodrama?) Men might remain skeptical, but if female friendship, romance, and tragedy are what you’re looking for — as they are in the ten best that follow — you’re in pure chick flick territory. Guys beware.
10. All That Heaven Allows (1955)
Douglas Sirk practically invented the modern chick flick with his run of excessively stylish melodramas that dealt with social issues and the hypocrisies of American life. Veiled in the subtlest layer of acid, Heaven‘s weepie plot has Jane Wyman’s beautiful widow falling in love with a hunk (Rock Hudson) half her age — what will the neighbors say? The movie explored the double standards of society that prevent a woman from doing what her heart wants her to do, while Sirk’s flair for visual metaphors transform the gorgeous decor into a noose.
9. Dirty Dancing (1987)
It may have arrived late to the party, but Dirty Dancing quickly distinguished itself as the leader of the ’80s teen-oriented dance craze movies (Flashdance, Footloose). With a retro setting (the golden age of the Jewish Catskills resorts) melded to contemporary music (megahit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”) and rising star Patrick Swayze as dancing instructor and sexual mentor to Jennifer Grey’s “Baby,” Dirty proved forbidden love on the dance floor was catnip to the fairer sex.
8. The Women (1939)
A recent remake has shone the spotlight once again on the original 1939 The Women, George Cukor’s groundbreaking movie featuring an all-female cast in 135 speaking parts. And what a cast: Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine star among many other notables in this fashion-minded satire of upper crust wives and divorcees. It’s the only movie that can be undoubtedly deemed 100% estrogen-fueled.
7. Titanic (1997)
the highest grossing film of all-time, James Cameron’s labor of love
seemed destined to be one of the worst flops in the history of the
movies until the chick factor took over and made it an absolute
phenomenon. With teenage girls going crazy for Leonardo DiCaprio and
the movie’s love story about his forbidden and doomed affair
with Kate Winslet, repeat viewings pushed Titanic‘s pop culture clout into the stratosphere.
6. Terms of Endearment (1983)
Funny man James L Brooks, the producer responsible for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and The Simpsons, was the surprising brains behind one of the most powerful four hankie movies of all-time: Terms of Endearment,
in which mother Shirley MacLaine learns how to fall in love again, and
daughter Debra Winger learns how to fill the auditorium with tears by
dying tragically. The movie set the bar high for future heartstring
tuggers like Steel Magnolias and The Bridges of Madison County.
5. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
The grand irony of the
chick flick is that some of the greatest representatives of the genre
have been conceived by men. Perhaps no other movie demonstrates this
better than The Bridges of Madison County, written by Richard
LaGravenese, based on the bestselling novel by Robert James Waller, and
written and directed by cinema’s steeliest tough guy, Clint Eastwood.
That these fellows were able to convey the tenderness of an affair
between Eastwood’s traveling photographer and Meryl Streep’s Iowa
housewife proves once and for all that men not only possess a softness,
but can express it, too.
4. Thelma & Louise (1991)
Two women, misunderstood by their men and on the run from the law in a patriarchal society that just won’t give them a break — Thelma & Louise
surged on a wave of feminist righteousness and empowerment to become
one of the screen’s greatest “sisters doin’ it for themselves” movies.
Unlike Pretty Woman,
Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis’ housewives-gone-outlaws ain’t no
damsels in distress. They take matters into their own hands and find
the true meaning of friendship — even if they’re too tough to
3. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Improving on the template of the 1957 Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr tearjerker, An Affair to Remember, which it directly references, Sleepless in Seattle provides the long unfulfilled satisfaction of a rendezvous on top the Empire State Building (promised by Affair
but never delivered). By uniting Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (with the help
of an adorable child), the ending became a classic chick flick
denouement the moment it appeared on screen, stealing the hearts of
hopeless romantics everywhere.
2. Steel Magnolias (1989)
The Women of its time, Steel Magnolia
featured a powerhouse of ’80s female stars — Dolly Parton, Sally
Field, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia
Roberts (soon to become the reigning queen of the chick flick). Though
written and directed by men, Steel Magnolias is the ultimate
testament of a group of female friends’ enduring strength through
marriage, childbirth, and one of the screen’s most devastating deaths.
1. Pretty Woman (1990)
An update of the Cinderella myth, it’s hard to believe Pretty Woman has been making females swoon for almost two decades — that’s how fresh and original it still is. Pretty Woman
remains the ultimate chick flick for catering to so many ladies’
fantasy, which has seemingly withstood all feminist barrages: No matter
how destitute, like Julia Roberts’ hooker with a heart of gold, there’s
always a multi-millionaire Prince Charming ready to sweep you off your
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