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The 14 Best Shows and Movies About Famous Women in History

Celebrate Women’s History Month with these shows based on real women in history.

It’s always a good time to learn more about the often-overlooked female perspective in world history (even after Women’s History Month is over).

But studying doesn’t have to be boring—watching these documentaries, biopics, dramas, and comedies totally counts as research. They all feature real stories of real women, although some may take more liberties in depicting their lives than others.

Wondering if your favorite women-led shows have been canceled?

We, too, fear oblivion. Check out our 2023 canceled TV guide to stay up to date on the latest cancellations.

TV shows featuring historical women

The Great

The Great is a comedic drama about Catherine the Great, Empress of All Russia. This is one of the more ahistorical depictions on this list; it takes a lot of liberties to make the story of her life (marrying the Emperor of Russia and taking control of the country from him) into a quirky dark comedy, but it does it well.

The cast of Dickinson.
The cast of Dickinson.


Like The Great, Dickinson is a comedy that doesn’t necessarily follow Emily Dickinson’s life down to the letter. Instead, it reimagines the American poet’s life through a 21st century lens, including anachronistic dialogue and lots of cameos including Chloe Fineman and Ziwe.

Gentleman Jack

This ill-fated period drama (HBO cancellations are often cruel) follows Anne Lister, a wealthy landowner during the Industrial Revolution. She’s well-known not only for dressing and conducting business like a man, but also for marrying a woman.

A League of Their Own

Yes, they spun the classic 1992 movie into its own series, although it flew a little under the radar when it premiered back in August 2022. Like the film, the TV series is a comedic drama about an all-woman baseball team during World War II.

The White Queen/The White Princess/The Spanish Princess/The Serpent Queen

The White Queen is a dramatic TV series ported over to STARZ from the BBC. It follows three women during England’s Wars of the Roses in 1464. STARZ loved the show so much that it decided to make two spinoffs: The White Princess, which depicts the end of the Wars of the Roses, and The Spanish Princess, which is about Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

In 2022, STARZ pivoted away from England with The Serpent Queen, a show about Catherine de’ Medici, the Queen of France for much of the 1500s. This isn’t really connected to the original English royalty shows, having nothing to do with the novels by Philippa Gregory, but the naming convention feels intentional and is close enough for us to include it with the others.

Protip: The STARZ English Princess cinematic universe may have ended in 2020, but there are plenty of other shows about Henry VIII’s wives. Check out 2007’s The Tudors on Paramount+ to see more of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and yes, Charles Brandon as played by a young Henry Cavill.

Self Made

Self Made is a fictionalized drama about Madam C.J. Walker, an entrepreneur and a woman of many firsts. She was the first female self-made millionaire and the first African American self-made millionaire, making her fortune with a line of cosmetics for Black women.

Movies featuring historical women

Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures.
Janelle Monáe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer in Hidden Figures.

Hidden Figures

Starring the talented trio of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, Hidden Figures follows three Black women who played vital parts in NASA’s Space Race. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in the history of computers and space travel.

Hidden Figures is available to stream on Disney+ and the following platforms:

The Janes

This documentary comes in the form of interviews with the women who called themselves “The Janes”—a network of activists who connected around 11,000 people to low-cost abortions in pre–Roe v. Wade America.

The Janes is available to stream on Max and the following platforms:

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake

This bloody martial arts film is about Qiu Jin, a feminist revolutionary at the turn of the 20th century. The film follows Qiu Jin as she uses her unusual martial arts education to rebel against the Qing Dynasty.

The Woman Knight of Mirror Lake is available to stream on Funimation, although you can also purchase the DVD and Blu-ray if you’d rather.

Protip: Anime streaming service Crunchyroll currently owns Funimation, and is porting a lot of its library over to itself. We wouldn’t be surprised if this title made its way to Crunchyroll in the near future as well, even though it’s a live-action film.


Salma Hayek stars as Mexican artist Frida Kahlo in this biopic. The film depicts Kahlo after a devastating car accident inspires her to begin painting, and it follows her life and dysfunctional marriage to Diego Rivera.

Frida is available to stream on the following platforms:

What’s Love Got to Do With It

If you’re still mourning Angela Bassett’s recent Oscars loss, you can catch her “doing the thing” in this 1993 biopic about legendary singer Tina Turner.

What’s Love Got to Do With It is available to rent or buy on the following platforms:

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