The top female-led movies for 2023

Margot Robbie stars alongside a strong female cast for the ‘Barbie’ movie. Picture: Instagram.

Margot Robbie stars alongside a strong female cast for the ‘Barbie’ movie. Picture: Instagram.

Published Dec 12, 2023


Female-led movies have been in-vogue in the cinematic world over the past few years.

But this film trend intensified in 2023, with women continuing to take lead roles in a variety of movie genres.

This progressive move is seeing an increasing number of female actresses also try their hand at all genres instead of just romantic comedies. These days, they are ruling the roost in horrors, thrillers, sci-fi as well as adventure and mystery movies.

These actresses are also stepping up and portraying complex characters with interesting back stories, as they move away from playing second fiddle to their male counterparts.

As such, we have compiled a list of some of the biggest female-led movies for the year.

The female cast of the ‘Barbie’ movie on the cover of TIME magazine. Picture: Instagram.


No movie this year has arguably had such an extensive impact - not only in the entertainment industry but also worldwide - than the “Barbie” movie.

The hype around the film began months before it was released in July, and fans from across the globe, including in South Africa, came together in their pink outfits and other Barbie-inspired wear, to watch the highly-awaited flick.

The wave of pink continued as the film’s release also saw restaurants, fashion retailers and even home decor outlets releasing Barbie-themed meals and items.

The cinematic sensation features a mostly female cast, with Australian actress Margot Robbie playing the title role.

She was joined by the likes of America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon and Issa Rae, who plays the role of President Barbie, in the movie directed by Greta Gerwig.

The movie centres around a stereotypical Barbie and Ken (played by Ryan Gosling) living their best lives in Barbie Land.

But then Barbie goes through an existential crisis, which prompts her to travel to the “real world” with Ken, where the pair soon discover the joys and perils of living among humans.

In the movie, Ferrera - who plays Gloria, a stressed out employee of Mattel, who is the manufacturer of the popular doll - also delivers one of the strongest on-screen feminist messages as her monologue in the film highlights the impossible double standards of being a woman.

Jenna Ortega plays a leading role in ‘Scream VI’. Picture: Instagram.

Scream VI”

The latest instalment of the acclaimed horror movie franchise also featured a strong female-led cast.

It stars Jenna Ortega (who was cast in the leading role in Netflix’s “Wednesday”), as well as Melissa Barrera, Jasmin Savoy Brown, with Courteney Cox reprising her role as Gale Weathers from the previous “Scream” movies.

Scream VI” also features themes of sisterhood, resilience, and unmasking hidden truths.

Meanwhile, the narrative for the slasher movie unfolds in New York City, as the female leads navigate a web of mystery, horror, and revenge.

The movie picks up from the aftermath of a series of harrowing “Ghostface” killings.

The four survivors embark on a new chapter, leaving behind the shadows of the film’s fictional Woodsboro.

As they attempt to escape from the masked killer, the women are also forced to grapple with their traumatic pasts.


This biopic - written, directed, and produced by acclaimed American filmmaker Sofia Coppola - centres on Priscilla Presley.

The film is based on the 1985 memoir “Elvis and Me’’ by Presley herself, together with prominent writer and producer Sandra Harmon.

The leading lady is played by Cailee Spaeny, from HBO's "Mare of Easttown” fame, and centres on the King of Rock and Roll’s wife, Priscilla, who met Elvis when she was just 14-years-old, and then went on to become his bride at 21.

As the star of the film, Spaeny is front and centre of “Priscilla” as Elvis, played by Jacob Elordi from “Euphoria” fame, took a back-seat.

Coppola's film is firmly rooted in the perspective of the title character and as the star of the film, the US actress offers a glimpse into what it would be like to be chosen by the most famous man in the world.

Priscilla’s prominence in the biopic is reflected in Spaeny appearing in nearly every frame of the film, often alone, neglected and abandoned in her opulent prison, as Elordi's Elvis is relegated to a side character who's on tour, shooting a movie and even fighting tabloid reports.

Emma Mackey stars as the title role in the movie ‘Emily.’ Picture: Instagram.


This British biographical drama film is yet another 2023 movie which features a strong female case.

It stars Emma Mackey, who plays Maeve Wiley in Netflix’s hit comedy-drama series “Sex Education”, in the title role.

The British-French actress is joined by Alexandra Dowling and Amelia Gething, who all play lead characters.

“Emily” is directed by fellow female Frances O’Connor.

The film also has strong themes of sisterhood, as it centres around literary luminary, Emily Brontë, who undertakes a journey to find her distinctive voice.

Set against the backdrop of societal constraints, Emily's story is also marked by forbidden love, unwavering sisterly devotion, and a strong determination to fight patriarchy and carve her own legacy.