BitchWatch: 15 Movies Feminists Should Watch This Summer

Gillian Jacobs as Kate in I Used to Go Here (Photo credit: Gravitas Ventures)

As summer continues to (somehow) fly by, we’re digging our heels in, desperate to slow things down. While our normal seasonal markers have seemingly disappeared and are hard to imagine given what’s happening in the world, there’s still one staple we can enjoy: those buzzy, summer flicks that wow us year after year. Whether you’re in the mood for something animated and simple (Candace Against the Universe, anyone?), looking for a laugh (thank you, Yvonne Orji), or want to be fully immersed in terror with horror films like She Dies Tomorrow, this BitchWatch list can serve as a guide to the summer’s must watch movies.

1. On the Record

On The Record | Official Trailer | HBO Max

{ HBO Max }
Release Date: May 27, 2020

Once upon a time, women could only warn one another about the abusive men they were forced to work with through whisper networks and group texts. But times have changed thanks to a shift in the ways we understand consent, social media networks, and the brave women who risk it all to come forward and tell their stories. On the Record, directed and produced by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering of The Hunting Ground, places Def Jam founder Russell Simmons at the center of the #MeToo movement. The documentary chronicles the stories of Drew Dixon, Sil Lai Abrams (who has contributed to Bitch), and Sheri Sher to examine the ways in which Black women and women of color are so often silenced or ignored when they accuse Black men of assaulting them.

2. Shirley

Shirley Trailer #1 (2020) | Movieclips Trailers

{ Hulu }
Release Date: June 5, 2020

Portraying Shirley Jackson, the popular horror and mystery writer, is a natural fit for actor Elisabeth Moss; this becomes clear when watching Shirley, which follows Jackson as she and her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), welcome a young couple into their home. Jackson develops a strange relationship with Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young), and from there, the film gets increasingly more bizarre scene by scene. The film, which was written by Sarah Gubbins and directed by Josephine Decker (2018’s Madeline’s Madeline), is adapted from Susan Scarf Merrell’s 2014’s thriller of the same title.

3. Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It!

Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It! (2020) | Promo | HBO

{ HBO }
Release Date: June 6, 2020

Famous for her role as Molly on Issa Rae’s hit series Insecure, Yvonne Orji takes the stage with her first HBO comedy special. Orji discusses her Nigerian American upbringing, dating, falling in and out of love, and her increasing fame. Clips of her visiting family back home in Nigeria are interspersed, resulting in a comedy special that introduces us to a side of Orji that she’s mostly relegated to her podcast, Jesus and Jollof.

4. Homemade

Homemade | Official Trailer | Netflix

{ Netflix }
Release Date: June 30, 2020

In 2019, stringing together the words “Netflix quarantine film anthology” would have made zero sense. In 2020, however, they’re a reflection of our reality. With Homemade, Netflix offers a collection of 17 short films made by directors in quarantine, ranging from Maggie Gyllenhaal and Rungano Nyoni to Kristen Stewart and Nadine Labaki. Stewart’s film felt especially resonant, as we watch her struggle with exhausting insomnia—a feeling many of us can relate to. 

5. Transhood

Sharon Liese’s documentary Transhood (Photo credit: HBO)

{ HBO }
Release Date: June 24, 2020

Transhood follows four trans children from Kansas City and their families as they come of age in a conservative, Christian, and largely transphobic city. The children, who range between the ages of 4 and 15, share their stories, which highlight the reality that even when they do find support and become centered as young activists in mainstream media, they’re ultimately from a city that doesn’t support them. The documentary offers a close look at what we expect from trans children and how we fail them.

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6. Welcome to Chechnya

Welcome To Chechnya (2020): Official Trailer | HBO

{ HBO }
Release Date: June 30, 2020

Directed by David France (2012’s How to Survive a Plague and 2017’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson), Welcome to Chechnya is a documentary that follows activists in Russia as they take on homophobia and anti-LGBTQ persecution. Viewers watch as the group, whose lives were documented from 2017 to 2019, attempts to save LGBTQ people from Chechnya who are under a great threat of violence.

7. Relic

Relic Trailer #1 (2020) | Movieclips Indie

{ Video on Demand }
Release Date: July 3, 2020

During times of stress, it can feel healing to direct your energy elsewhere. I increasingly find that kind of healing when watching horror films like Relic. The film uses dementia as a metaphor for the spirits that possess three generations of women: the grandmother, Edna (Robyn Nevin); her daughter, Kay (Emily Mortimer); and Kay’s daughter, Sam (Bella Heathcote). When Edna disappears, Sam and Kay set out to solve the mystery of her strange disappearance, one that becomes murkier when she suddenly reappears as if she’d never been gone. It’s the debut film from director and cowriter Natalie Erika James and one that takes care as it explores the women’s feelings and struggles.

8. The Old Guard

The Old Guard | Official Trailer | Netflix

{ Netflix }
Release Date: July 10, 2020

A standout summer flick, The Old Guard is directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood—the only Black woman to direct a major comic-book film—written by Greg Rucka, who based the screenplay on his comic book. It’s an action-packed and delightful distraction from the state of the world. Viewers join Andy (Charlize Theron) as she leads her crew of immortals on a grand adventure, attempting to evade capture and welcoming a new member to the group.

9. The Sunlit Night

The Sunlit Night Trailer #1 (2020) | Movieclips Indie

{ Quiver Distribution }
Release Date: July 17, 2020

The Sunlit Night is a drama starring Jenny Slate as Frances, a painter who flees the apartment she shares with her family after a breakup, the separation of her parents, and her sister’s engagement. She heads to Norway to find herself and reset her life. Though the drama has the bones of your usual post-breakup romantic comedy, it’s Slate who brings new energy to this trope. The movie will be released directly to home televisions.

10. Radioactive

Radioactive – Official U.S. Trailer | Prime Video

{ Amazon Prime Video }
Release Date: July 24, 2020

Directed by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), Rosamund Pike stars as Marie Curie, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize—and then win it again. The film places her research and scientific genius against her romance with partner Pierre (Sam Riley) and is a smart and engaging film.

11. The Go-Go’s 

The Go-Go's (2020) Official Trailer | SHOWTIME Documentary Film

{ Showtime }
Release Date: August 1, 2020

The Go-Go’s, an all-woman punk band that gained massive popularity in the ’80s, re-enter the spotlight in this new documentary about their rise. The flim is a mix of music, history, and interviews with band members and friends. The Alison Ellwood-directed documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, though it’s still unclear if the film adequately covers the band’s biggest, most troubling controversy.

12. I Used to Go Here

I Used To Go Here Official Trailer Starring Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Hannah Marks

{ Gravitas Ventures }
Release Date: August 7, 2020

Kate (Gillian Jacobs) is a millennial woman who’s trying to figure out who she is and what she wants. Her friends are having babies, her boyfriend wants to get married, and she just wants to write. But life isn’t going as she’d planned. She did write a book, but it’s a failure. And she feels like one, too. But I Used to Go Here offers Kate the chance to rewrite and reconsider her life.

13. She Dies Tomorrow

SHE DIES TOMORROW - Trailer

{ Video On Demand }
Release Date: August 7, 2020

Amy (Kate Lyn Sheill) is one of the summer’s most haunting characters. She’s plagued by paranoia and is convinced that she’s going to die tomorrow. Her life spirals, but her paranoia is contagious— her friends also become convinced of their impending deaths. As those friends interact with other friends, more and more people become subject to this dangerous fear. This movie feels unfortunately relevant: Many of us feel as though our survival is dependent on those around us, and their choices to protect us, or not to. Amy Seimetz directs this thoughtful and nightmarish horror film.

14. Antebellum

Antebellum Trailer #2 (2020) | Movieclips Trailers

{ Lionsgate }
Release Date: August 21, 2020

We’ve been waiting a while for Antebellum, and it’s finally almost here. Our beloved Janelle Monáe plays an author who is transported to a plantation in the south. A mediation on power, slavery, and history, Antebellum is a must see this summer.

15. Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Candace Against the Universe

Phineas And Ferb: The Movie Candace Against The Universe - It's Me Againts The Universe (Promo)

{ Disney Plus }
Release Date: August 28, 2020

If you’re craving lighter fare, this Phineas and Ferb spinoff is just what you need. Candace (Ashley Tisdale) finds utopia on a far away planet where she’s free of her brothers, Phineas (Vincent Martella) and Ferb (David Errigo Jr.), who are regularly sucking her into their nonsensical schemes and causing her plenty of oldest sister stress. When Phineas and Ferb decide to rescue her, it’s on Candace to decide what the future holds.

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by Rachel Charlene Lewis
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Rachel Charlene Lewis is the Senior Editor at Bitch. She has written about culture, identity, and the internet for publications including i-D, Teen Vogue, Refinery29, Greatist, Glamour, Autostraddle, Ravishly, SELF, StyleCaster, The Frisky (RIP), The Mary Sue, and elsewhere. Her literary work, reviews, and interviews have been published in Catapult, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Normal School, Publisher’s Weekly, The Offing, and in several other magazines. She is on Twitter and Instagram, always.