Body Image on Screen

My Skinny Sister
My Skinny Sister

Films that deal with issues surrounding body image and its impact on our wellbeing, as well as films that showcase protagonists with positive body acceptance. These films provide subject matter for discussions around self-esteem, mental health, societal pressure, performative gender, injury and disability.

Shrek

CertU

Age group5–14

Duration87 mins

Shrek(2001)

Animated comedy about a fat, green, bad-tempered ogre banished from his woods cabin home by an evil lord, which has become a modern classic.

This joyful animation incorporates elements from many traditional tales with a modern update – the hero is an ogre, and the princess decides she’s happier as an ogre too when the time comes for her to choose her fate.

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Finding Nemo

CertU

Age groupAll ages

Duration96 mins

Finding Nemo(2003)

The colourful world of the tropical sea is captured in all its glory in this moving and funny story of a lost fish.

Plucky hero Nemo may be slowed down but isn’t held back by his one undersized fin.

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A Kid For Two Farthings

CertU

Age group7+

Duration90 mins

A Kid For Two Farthings(1955)

Memorable film about a boy growing up in a working-class area of London after World War Two, who becomes obsessed with a fable he hears.

This snapshot of post-war East London reveals a society under pressure to put on a brave face after the ravages of war. Amateur boxer Sam Heppner strives for the idealised male body, inspired by body-builder pin-ups, and hopes to make a living from his body.

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Khumba

CertU

Age group7–11

Duration81 mins

Khumba(2013)

Entertaining South African animation about a half-striped zebra who learns that difference can be a strength.

A zebra born with only half his stripes is rejected by his herd, who believe his unusual appearance is a bad omen.

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Penelope

CertU

Age group11+

Duration86 mins

Penelope(2007)

Original, touching film about a young woman who, due to a family curse, has a pig's snout instead of a nose and is pursued by a cruel photographer.

Penelope’s appearance is rumoured to be so hideous that potential suitors run in fright. Forced to live in seclusion, Penelope is desperate to experience the real world – but is frightened what people will think of her.

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Mary and the Witch's Flower

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration103 mins

Mary and the Witch's Flower(2018)

Gentle anime which sees a young girl embark on a magical adventure after finding a mysterious flower.

Bored and lonely after moving away from home, Mary stands out to some people because of her wild, red hair which makes her feel awkward and distinct. However, after learning that she comes from a family of witches, it turns out that her hair might make her more unique and powerful than she could have imagined.

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My Skinny Sister

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration93 mins

My Skinny Sister(2015)

Compelling Swedish drama about a girl who struggles with the knowledge of her older sister’s eating disorder.

This drama explores a teenage girl’s obsessive quest for perfection and its dangerous transition into anorexia, which is observed by her worried younger sister.

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The Station Agent

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration86 mins

The Station Agent(2003)

Utterly lovely and unique film about friendships forming in the most unlikely of circumstances.

Fin McBride is a man with dwarfism who has led a reclusive life. When his only friend passes away, he is left a plot of land that offers the opportunity for a fresh start elsewhere and to reconsider what he wants from life. However, he still faces the challenge of dealing with others’ responses to his height.

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Frida

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration118 mins

Frida(2002)

Salma Hayek stars in this biopic of the groundbreaking Mexican-born artist Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo’s relationship with her injured body and the resulting pain and periods of disability it causes her are explored in depth in this film that embraces magic realism to include motifs from her artwork and soul-baring self-portraits.

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Girlfight

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration106 mins

Girlfight(2000)

Tough, realistic sporting drama about a teenage girl from a rough New York housing project who wants to be a boxer.

In the disciplined training regime required to become a serious athlete, the body necessarily undergoes dramatic changes. Gaining muscle and strength is a benefit- but for female athletes the loss of curves associated with idealised femininity can affect how they are perceived by others.

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Amy

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration128 mins

Amy(2015)

Archive footage is used to tell the life and career of iconic soul singer Amy Winehouse.

This film lays bare how, parallel to her success, Amy Winehouse suffered from mental health issues, addiction, and eating disorders which took a terrible toll on her body and contributed to her tragic early death.

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Whip It

Cert12

Age group11–16

Duration107 mins

Whip It(2009)

Drew Barrymore directs this hugely enjoyable alternative sports film about female bonding and finding your place in the world.

Bliss Cavendar rebels against pressure from her mother to participate in a Southern Belle beauty pageant, preferring instead to express her femininity via the adrenaline-fuelled girl-only sport of roller derby.

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Precious

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration105 mins

Precious(2009)

Highly charged drama about an overweight teen growing up in an abusive family in New York, who meets an inspiring teacher.

Precious lives in a world that she wishes would leave her be; after years of abuse at home she takes comfort in food and emotionally overeats, leading her self-esteem to plummet even lower.

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Wakolda (The German Doctor)

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration90 mins

Wakolda (The German Doctor)(2013)

A gripping drama set in Patagonia about a little girl who befriends a visiting German doctor with a dark secret.

A young girl who is worried that she is not growing properly is left out by children her own age and so bonds with adults – forming a strong friendship with the mysterious doctor who takes on her case.

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XXY

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration89 mins

XXY(2007)

Sensitive drama about Alex, a 15-year-old intersex person, who cannot be physically characterised as male or female but has been living as a girl.

Issues around body image and self-representation come to a head for Alex, an intersex person who finds themself experiencing sexual attraction but is anxious of revealing their true identity.

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Cobain: Montage of Heck

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration132 mins

Cobain: Montage of Heck(2015)

Epic documentary about the life of rock star Kurt Cobain, mixing animation and live-action and incorporating never-before-seen footage.

This intimate portrait of musician Kurt Cobain reveals self-esteem issues around his slight physical appearance (alongside other, deeper mental health issues), which he disguised under multiple layers of clothing, as well as his ‘rock n’ roll’ public persona.

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The DUFF

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration97 mins

The DUFF(2015)

High-school comedy about a student who reinvents herself after discovering people see her as a gateway to her more popular friends.

The damaging effect of labelling others in high school is examined in this film in which a girl discovers she is considered by her peers as the ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’.

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Little Miss Sunshine

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration101 mins

Little Miss Sunshine(2006)

Big-hearted road-trip comedy about a seven-year-old from a dysfunctional family who dreams of winning a beauty pageant.

A young girl obsessively rehearses for a beauty pageant in this dark comedy that reveals how attitudes around personal appearance can influence children to pursue unhealthy goals.

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The Bully

CertUnclassified

Age group14+

Duration23 mins

The Bully(2009)

A moving Australian short film that looks at the causes of bullying and how bad advice can make matters worse.

A boy bullied because of his weight is pressured to put up a macho defence by his father, who believes that he should stand up for himself by using his size against his tormentor.

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Girl

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration109 mins

Girl(2018)

A 15-year-old transgender girl pursuing her dream of being a ballerina goes through important life changes.

This coming-of-age tale provides an honest and much-needed view of some of the struggles of adolescence through the experience of trans youth, tackling important aspects of gender identity in regards to body image as well as mental and physical well-being.

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Eighth Grade

Cert15

Age group16+

Duration94 mins

Eighth Grade(2018)

A 13 year-old girl endures her final week of eighth grade, navigating the perilous world of social media and the end of middle school.

A film which tackles, amongst other things, the ever-changing attitudes of body image among young people, Eighth Grade follows Kayla, a young teenager in the midst of puberty who uses YouTube as an outlet for her hopes and anxieties. Eighth Grade is an unflinchingly honest look at both the positive and negative effects of social media on the younger generation.

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Mary Queen of Scots

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration124 mins

Mary Queen of Scots(2018)

Stylish period-drama which examines the relationship between Mary Queen of Scots and her cousin Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century.

In this tale of royal and political intrigue, Hollywood superstar Margot Robbie plays Elizabeth I who, despite overcoming a terrible bout of smallpox, is left severely scarred and has to learn to live with the complications that this brings to her reign.

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