“Complicated” barely scratches the surface when attempting to describe women and how we relate to each other. Even the best of friendships are rife with competition, envy and resentment. Women can be each other’s greatest allies and support systems. We can also be our most destructive enemies when using intimate knowledge to go for the jugular. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, here are 10 of my favorite movie clips dramatizing the complexities in woman to woman relationships.
1. THE WOMEN (1939)
Mrs. Moorehead: We women are so much more sensible. When we tire of ourselves, we change the way we do our hair, or hire a new cook, or decorate the house. I suppose a man could do over his office, but he never thinks of anything so simple. No, dear, a man has only one escape from his old self – to see a different self in the mirror of some woman’s eyes.
Although released almost 80 years ago, The Women remains the standard-bearer for the ways of women. The female archetypes — including a mother offering her daughter wise counsel regarding her husband’s infidelity, wife/mistress confrontation, and envious “friends” with snide commentary — are well represented and still very relevant.
2. CABIN IN THE SKY (1943)
Petunia Jackson: Awww, save that sugar-coated talk for your girlfriend.
It’s fun to see Ethel Waters as Petunia Jackson being sassy and flirty for a change. Her onscreen characters were usually devout, long-suffering, matronly and devoid of sex appeal. Waters shows why she was called “Sweet Mama Stringbean” as she literally kicks up her heels and upstages Lena Horne.
3. OLD ACQUAINTANCE (1943)
Kit Marlowe: There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.
Lifelong frenemies Kit Marlowe (Bette Davis) and Millie Drake (Miriam Hopkins) have a strained relationship at best. Fed up after yet another misunderstanding, Kit does what many of us would like to do to those who refuse to hear reason. Knowing that Davis and Hopkins hated each other in real life makes this scene even more fun to watch.
4. ALL ABOUT EVE (1950)
Margo Channing: Funny business, a woman’s career – the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you’ll need them again when you get back to being a woman.
Margo Channing (Bette Davis) battles insecurities regarding her age, lover and career. Ironically, Margo becomes most assured and insightful when she drops her guard, admits her fears, and timelessly breaks down what it is to be a woman.
5. FOXY BROWN (1974)
Foxy Brown: Death is too easy for you, bitch. I want you to SUFFER.
Seeking revenge for her boyfriend’s murder, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) faces her nemesis Katherine Wall (Kathryn Loder) and destroys her as only another woman could.
6. ALIENS (1986)
Ripley: Get away from her, you bitch!
Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) maternal instincts make her even more formidable.
7. DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)
Marquise de Merteuil: When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses, and the wound is invariably fatal.
Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) describes how she empowered herself by manipulating others.
8. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
Catwoman: Life’s a bitch, now so am I.
After transforming into her fully realized self, Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) has little tolerance for damsels in distress. I now understand why Catwoman refused to live happily ever after with Batman.
9. DOLORES CLAIBORNE (1995)
Dolores Claiborne: Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.
Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) finds an unexpected ally in her imperious employer.
10. BLACK OR WHITE (2014)
Rowena Jeffers: Well, there are certain things a man can do, certain things a woman can do.
Rowena (Octavia Spencer), in court seeking custody of her granddaughter, faces off with Judge Cummins (Paula Newsome). The two women size up each other without words while communicating clearly. Message received.