The best books that champion women in cinema

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a London-based critic, author, and host whose love affair with film began after seeing The Lion King in the cinema as a kid. I trained as a journalist because I wanted to talk about the world. Since then I’ve been covering film and culture for the likes of Empire Magazine, Time Out, and IGN. I co-host MTV Movies and the weekly film reviews podcast Fade to Black; co-founder of The First Film Club event series and podcast, and am a member of London's Critics' Circle. I'm a voice for gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry and an advocate for MENA representation as a writer of Tunisian heritage.


I wrote...

Strong Female Character

By Hanna Flint,

Book cover of Strong Female Character

What is my book about?

I speak from the heart in Strong Female Character, a personal and incisive reflection on how cinema has been the key to understanding myself and the world we live in. Interweaving anecdotes from familial and personal experiences, I offer a critical eye on the screen's representation of women and ethnic minorities, their impact on my life, body image, and ambitions, with warmth and humour.

Divided into the sections Origin Story, Coming of Age, Adult Material, Workplace Drama, and Strong Female Character, the book will appeal to readers of all backgrounds and seeks to help us better see ourselves in our own eyes rather than letting others decide who and what we can be.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Princess Diarist

Hanna Flint Why did I love this book?

Carrie Fisher is a phenomenal writer whose Hollywood upbringing and career makes her insightful voice when it comes to the experience of women in film.

Turning the diaries she kept while shooting Star Wars – playing the iconic Strong Female Character, Princess Leila – into a memoir offers and eye-opening perspective about life as an actress working in a male-dominated world.

It’s full of humour, self-deprecation, and real vulnerability, as well as juicy tidbits about the production.

By Carrie Fisher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Princess Diarist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved - plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naivete, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Now her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her co-star, Harrison Ford.
With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher's intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of…


Book cover of Women vs Hollywood: The Fall and Rise of Women in Film

Hanna Flint Why did I love this book?

Helen is a fantastic film journalist and professional peer who has put her sharp writing to excellent use with this short history of female contributions to cinema as well as their erasure.

From the original pioneers to the experience of female film critics today, this is an accessible and educational gateway into the marginalised struggle for women to be taken seriously as filmmakers and creatives on the silver screen. 

By Helen O'Hara,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women vs Hollywood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A fascinating polemic' Sunday Times
'A powerful, sobering and vital work' The Mail on Sunday
'A page-turning read, peppered with humour' Sight & Sound
'A must read' Edgar Wright

A call to arms from Empire magazine's 'geek queen', Helen O'Hara, that explores women's roles - both in front of and behind the camera - since the birth of Hollywood, how those roles are reflected within wider society and what we can do to level the playing field.

Hollywood was born just over a century ago, at a time of huge forward motion for women's rights. With no rules in place…


Book cover of The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael

Hanna Flint Why did I love this book?

We, female film critics, are still underrepresented in the critical world but Pauline Kael found success and respect at a time when our numbers were even fewer.

This collection showcases her talent for writing and her keen eye for what makes a movie or a performance great or terrible.

From Bonnie and Clyde to Last Tango in Paris, Kael’s compelling cinematic observations make you want to rewatch these films while also highlighting how even the best of critics can fall foul to unconscious biases (just check out her Othello review!).

We can learn much further we’ve come when it comes to checking those blinkered perspectives. 

By Pauline Kael,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Age of Movies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A master film critic is at her witty, exhilarating, and opinionated best in this career-spanning collection featuring pieces on Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, and other modern movie classics

“Film criticism is exciting just because there is no formula to apply,” Pauline Kael once observed, “just because you must use everything you are and everything you know.” Between 1968 and 1991, as regular film reviewer for The New Yorker, Kael used those formidable tools to shape the tastes of a generation. She had a gift for capturing, with force and fluency, the essence of an actor’s gesture or the full…


Book cover of Visual and Other Pleasures

Hanna Flint Why did I love this book?

One of the most influential thinkers and writers on feminist film theory, Mulvey’s groundbreaking essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is one of many that tackle the representation of women in art and culture and how these mediums might impede or aid the women’s movement.

Mulvey was a great resource for my own book in analysing the overt sexualisation of female characters on screen to cater to the so-called Male Gaze and misogynistic pleasures.

By L. Mulvey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Visual and Other Pleasures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new edition of Laura Mulvey's groundbreaking collection of essays, originally published in 1989. In an extensive introduction to this second edition, Mulvey looks back at the historical and personal contexts for her famous article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema , and reassesses her theories in the light of new technologies.


Book cover of Reel to Real: Race, Class and Sex at the Movies

Hanna Flint Why did I love this book?

A massive influence on my own cultural approach to understanding cinema and intersectional representation, hooks offers acute analyses of the way films can affect us on a personal, political, and communal level, for better and for worse.

Hooks is smart, sharp, and switched on to how misogyny and racism can adversely affect the treatment of female characters of colour, especially.

By Bell Hooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reel to Real as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Movies matter - that is the message of Reel to Real, bell hooks' classic collection of essays on film. They matter on a personal level, providing us with unforgettable moments, even life-changing experiences and they can confront us, too, with the most profound social issues of race, sex and class. Here bell hooks - one of America's most celebrated and thrilling cultural critics - talks back to films that have moved and provoked her, from Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction to the work of Spike Lee. Including also her conversations with master filmmakers such as Charles Burnett and Julie Dash, Reel…


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The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

Book cover of The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

Kathryn Betts Adams

New book alert!

What is my book about?

The Pianist's Only Daughter is a frank, humorous, and heartbreaking exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her mother, an English scholar and poet, and her father, a pianist and music professor. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' newly single father flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Their daughter watches in disbelief as they reconcile and decide to live together again. She steps in to become her parents' eldercare manager when her mother’s condition worsens, facing old family dynamics and disappointing limitations to available services. Throughout, she attempts to help her parents maintain their humanity in their final years.

The Pianist's Only Daughter: A Memoir

By Kathryn Betts Adams,

What is this book about?

Grounded in insights about mental health, health and aging, The Pianist’s Only Daughter: A Memoir presents a frank and loving exploration of aging in an aging expert's own family.

Social worker and gerontologist Kathryn Betts Adams spent decades negotiating evolving family dynamics with her colorful and talented parents: her English scholar and poet mother and her pianist father. Their vivid emotional lives, marital instability, and eventual divorce provided the backdrop for her 1960s and ‘70s Midwestern youth.

Nearly thirty years after they divorce, Adams' father finds himself single and flies in to woo his ex-wife, now retired and diagnosed with…


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