When I start a new show with a female lead, I go through a short checklist to see whether it’s even worth watching. Is the woman written in a three-dimensional way? Well, that’s a good sign. Is her trauma used to move the plot forward? Red flag! Was she basically just written for the male characters? Another red flag! The women and non-binary characters in this list are strong and capable; they’re admirable people who make things happen.
Here are some picks to stream in honor of Women’s History Month—though these ladies should be celebrated all year long.
- Outlander. After happening upon some strange runes, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is transported to the Scottish highlands, two hundred years in the past. Though many find her suspicious, Claire is a nurse who will do whatever it takes to help those in need. The current five seasons span some twenty years of wild, history-based adventure. Streaming on Netflix.
- The Queen’s Gambit. Since so much “geeky” content is centered around men and boys, this show is so refreshing—not to mention beautiful. Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Beth, an introverted orphan who becomes a chess prodigy. Though struggling with substance abuse, she rises through the ranks of competitive chess with the help of her adoptive mother and competitors-turned-friends. Streaming on Netflix.
- Insecure. Besides being the star, Issa Rae is the mastermind behind this unpretentious comedy about a twenty-something woman living in L.A. The pitfalls Issa suffers in her work life, friendships and relationships as a young person living in a city are so true to life, it’ll keep you watching. Streaming on HBO Max.
- Westworld. Fans of sci-fi and history will enjoy this show led by two badass female characters: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton). Within the titular American West-themed park, guests can do whatever they want with the android hosts: follow them on missions, drink with them, or even kill them. So when the hosts unexpectedly gain consciousness, all bets are off for the humans trapped inside. Streaming on HBO Max.
- Pose. Ryan Murphy’s series about the LGBTQ+ community in 1980s New York stars five trans women and people of color. The characters, Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), Angel (Indya Moore), Elektra (Dominique Jackson), Lulu (Hailie Sahar), and Candy (Angelica Ross) make up competing houses in the city’s ballroom scene. The HIV/AIDS epidemic and sex work are also themes of the series. Streaming on Netflix.
- Killing Eve. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer head this gripping thriller about a spy in the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service and the assassin she’s been directed to track down. As Eve (Oh) and Villanelle (Comer) learn more about each other, their relationship takes a deeply personal turn. Killing Eve is also led by female writers, with Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge as head writer for season one. Streaming on Hulu.
- Fleabag. Phoebe Waller-Bridge is the creator, writer and star of this dark comedy that has been so highly acclaimed, you’d be remiss not to watch (It received 57 wins and 62 noms, according to IMDb!) The series opens with Fleabag grieving the sudden loss of her best friend and co-owner of her guinea pig-themed café. It handles grief, sex and family relationships in a highly relatable way. Streaming on Amazon Prime.
- I May Destroy You. Michaela Coel is the creator, writer, co-director and star of this emotional drama. Arabella (Coel) is a successful influencer and writer whose world is turned upside down when she realizes she was raped. Coel is a truly multifaceted actress (if you like this, check out her other show, Chewing Gum), while reviews praise the balance of difficult subject matter with humor. Streaming on HBO Max.