Films about abortion and the right to choose | Pretty Reel

“Today, the Supreme Court of the United States expressly took away from the American people a constitutional right that it had already recognized,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement after a June 24, 2022 court ruling, which will remain infamous. “It is a sad day for the court and for the country. He is referring, of course, to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision that guaranteed federal abortion protections nationwide.

The annulment of Roe v. Wade immediately led many states to initiate “trigger laws,” prior legislation that determined that, if Roe v. Wade was one day canceled, states could immediately ban and illegalize abortion. Currently, more than half of the country will completely ban abortion, and a woman’s right to choose is under threat elsewhere. It seems that five people (five Supreme Court justices, three of whom were appointed by the Trump administration) have determined the fate of hundreds of millions of people for generations. Does this seem normal to you?

Abortion is one of the most difficult subjects to find a compromise or an agreement with. If one is pro-life, they probably believe abortion is literal murder; for them, people who support women’s right to choose are real murderers. If one is pro-choice, they believe that the government (made up mostly of old people) dictates what a woman should do with her body and condemns people to a parenthood they don’t want. It is almost impossible to bridge the gap between these positions, the abstract question of ‘when life begins’ and how ‘life’ is defined being sufficiently nebulous to make it difficult to find a point of convergence.

Fortunately, there have been several wonderful films (especially in recent years) that have detailed the struggles involved in abortion rights and legislation. Art has the power to create empathy by pushing a process of identification on the viewer, and is able to change hearts and minds through entertainment. These films explored the issue of abortion with tenderness, humanity and thoughtfulness, and should be watched by both Roe supporters and Wade supporters. The future of civil rights in America is uncertain, but these films beautifully detail how people can be more important than politics and how a woman’s body is more than a canvas on which legislation can be spat.


Sony Pictures Classics

Lily Tomlin is delightful in the rambling film Grandma about a young woman (a tall Julia Garner in the lead role) seeking her queer grandmother (a hilarious Lily Tomlin) for help with an abortion. The two travel, explore parts of each other’s lives, and get to know each other better along the way. Paul Weitz continued his weird and wonderful career path as a director here, moving from the sex comedy American Pie to more mature films like About a Boy and Being Flynn, but Grandma remains arguably his best film and an insightful opportunity to look at women and generations. differences.


Cherry FilmManny Films

The recent film Cherry follows the titular 20-year-old roustabout (played impeccably by Alex Trewhitt) as she roller-skates around Los Angeles for 24 hours, wondering if she should have a child or have an abortion with her unplanned pregnancy. and unwanted. The film shows, through endearing characters and warm humor, that some people are not ready to be parents, and that it would harm them (and society) if forced to.

Citizen Ruth

Miramax Movies

A viciously dark satire, Citizen Ruth follows Laura Dern (in one of her finest performances) as a selfish, drug-addicted opportunist who is a hateful waste of a human being. Faced with imprisonment, she is offered a reduced sentence if she has an abortion (because giving birth to her child would not really be good for anyone). Ruth is bailed out by hardline evangelicals and hailed as a martyr and heroine of the pro-life movement, despite being the antithesis of anything “moral” or “Christian”. It’s a hilarious but depressing masterpiece from Alexander Payne, who brought a similar sourness to politics with his satirical election.

Vera Drake

Photos of the moose

Mike Leigh is famous for making films about fascinating and complicated women, and Vera Drake is no different, although she stands out. Imelda Staunton is absolutely phenomenal as the titular character, a 1950s Londoner who performs abortions and helps women in secret. The film is a harrowing, tragic and revealing exploration of a society in which abortion is illegal and the women and doctors who are targeted, abused and imprisoned as a result.



There’s something about humor that deflates difficult topics, and it seems that many movies that deal with abortion use comedy as a way to ease the tension. Unpregnant is certainly no different as a hilarious road trip flick and buddy comedy following two teenagers (played by Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira in endearing performances) who embark on an interstate quest to end a pregnancy. .

With more than half of the United States now banning abortion, thanks to literally five people on the Supreme Court, tens of thousands of young women (including victims of rape and incest) will have to find the time to missing work or school, transportation, and the funds to travel hundreds and hundreds (and potentially thousands) of miles to get a safe and legal abortion in a state that allows it. Being pregnant can be very funny, but it presents a very real situation.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Universal images

Eliza’s Hitman masterpiece Never Rarely Sometimes Always uses its same aesthetic (uncomfortable close-ups and long naturalistic takes) to detail a 17-year-old girl’s struggles to get a legal abortion. Masterful in its depiction of the bureaucratic process and the endless hurdles people have to go through thanks to male legislators who want women to see multiple doctors, pay exorbitant fines, read useless pamphlets, and endure all manner of trauma in the hopes that ‘they will change their thoughts.

The protagonist of this film does not change her mind however. She takes control of her body. However, she’s not exactly thrilled about it; abortion is not something most people are ‘happy’ with. By the end of the film, the viewer is encouraged to care and empathize with the pains of women who pursue abortions, and to see the human behind the ideology.

The surrogate mother

Liberation of the monument

The Surrogate is an extremely difficult film that raises difficult ethical questions. The film follows a surrogate raising a child for a gay couple. When they discover that the child will have Down syndrome, the couple who arranged and paid for the pregnancy want to end it, but the surrogate has other plans. As such, the film explores heavy topics like eugenics, disability, abortion, and motherhood, and is one of the most morally thought-provoking films of recent years.

Obvious child


Jenny Slate made a triumphant return after being foolishly fired from SNL for profanity with Obvious Child, a very funny but very cautious film from Gillian Robespierre, who is very slowly becoming one of the best comedy directors working today. Slate and endless charmer Jake Lacy portray a couple who never expected pregnancy to result from their time together. A very welcome antithesis to Knocked Up, the film sticks to its guns and refuses to moralize or judge any of its characters, approaching abortion as a personal choice.

4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days

BAC Films

One of the most important films of the Romanian New Wave, the Palme d’Or winning film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is perhaps the most important abortion film to date. That’s because it’s not inherently partisan and doesn’t use political ideology to drive its narrative, but instead explores what abortion and anti-abortion laws do to women.

The film is above all humanistic and compassionate, concerned with people rather than politics. This is evidenced by the fact that even Christianity Today gave it a perfect review, with Peter Chattaway writing: “Abortion itself is treated in a way that could be seen as supporting both sides of the abortion debate. . Meanwhile, feminist magazine Herizons considered it a horror film in the way it portrayed the treatment of women in a society where abortion is illegal.

The fact that a movie can be a masterpiece from both sides of the aisle is remarkable. Of course, in the months and years following the overthrow of Roe v. Wade, a call for more aggressive films in support of women’s right to choose is certainly understandable. Art, as it always should, must come to the aid of the political emergency. However, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days remains special because of its ability to humanize the abortion debate and hopefully create conversation beyond a shouting match, however unlikely that may seem.

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Films about abortion and the right to choose | Pretty Reel