5 Films That Teach Empathy

5 Films That Teach Empathy to Watch With Your Teen Daughter

So much of what Hollywood films deliver portray women and girls in an unrealistic light. As we at Girls’ Voices Matter have pointed out many times, the number of lead roles for men far exceeds those for women (in 2018, only 4% of the top-grossing films had female directors).

The list of five films below feature stories about women (and one man). In each of these films, the main characters must accept themselves for who they are, even if they’re very different from other people. In doing so, they teach other characters in the film, and the viewers, about kindness, empathy, and acceptance.

Temple Grandin: thinking in pictures

Temple Grandin, Directed by Mick Jackson, Produced by Emily Gerson Saines, 2010, not rated

Claire Danes plays Temple Grandin, a woman who is on the autism spectrum. The film
shows how young Temple has tantrums and is misdiagnosed with schizophrenia as a child. Later, as an adult, Temple works on ranches with cattle, where she faces sexism from the ranchers. The executive producer, Emily Gerson Saines, became interested in Temple’s story after reading her book, Thinking in Pictures. Saines’s son also has autism.

A League of Their Own: exceeding expectations

A League of Their Own, Directed by Penny Marshall, 2010, Rated PG

A women’s professional baseball league? Yes! These sports teams were actually quite common during World War II. The so-called “Peaches” play the “Belles” in a World Series of only female players. Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell, this film is based on the real-life All American Girls Professional Baseball League.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: teaching empathy

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Mr. Rogers, Directed by Marielle Heller, 2019, Rated PG

This is the true story of jaded magazine writer, Tom Junod, whose assignment to write a profile of Mister Rogers teaches him about kindness, love and forgiveness. Mister Rogers might seem too good to be true, but every scene in the film is based on a real-life event. Generations of children have benefited from his seemingly uncomplicated persona.


He Named Me Malala: courage and sacrifice

He Named Me Malala, Directed by Davis Guggenheim, Rated PG-13, 2015

At age 15, Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban. She was severely wounded when gunmen
attacked her school bus in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Malala, along with her father, were condemned for supporting girls’ education. She survived, is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and continues to fight for girls’ education globally. This film gives us a glimpse into the private world of this extraordinary young woman, showing her family life, work as an ambassador, and her sense of humor.


Hidden Figures: grace under fire

Hidden Figures, Directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, Rated PG, 2017

In spite of some historical inaccuracies, this film portrays the achievements of three African-American women: Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan. These women “used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.” (Quoted from Hidden Figures: the Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly.)

We wrote about these remarkable women in a previous blog post.

I hope you will make the opportunity to watch these 5 films that teach empathy with your daughter!


“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
– Malala


1 thought on “5 Films That Teach Empathy”

  1. Pingback: Teaching Critical Thinking Through Film - GIRLS' VOICES MATTER

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: