It’s been years since Anne With An E, a series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables, was canceled by Netflix, but the show remains widely beloved by fans of historical dramas and young adult fiction alike. Aside from being a really great show, the series is one of the few shows in recent memory that deal with the struggles of growing up as a girl without devolving into one of the many Euphoria-alikes that star teen characters.
Instead, Anne Shirley – our titular Anne with the E – works to earn the trust and love of her adopted family and that of the entire town of Avonlea using her kindness, intelligence, and strength. Basically, it’s an empowering girl-centered story where reasonable character growth and relationship development happens without venturing far beyond a PG rating.
Movies like Anne with An E are surprisingly rare, but we’ve done our best to find them for you so you can sit back and watch stories of perseverance starring young girls and, sometimes, men.
1. Little Women (2019)
Based on the novel Little Women written by Louisa May Alcott, the 2019 adaptation of Little Women has viewers following the lives of the March family as Jo, Amy, Beth, and Meg grow up and learn about how harsh the world can be for young women like them. The girls spend most of the first half of the film being children so expect some petty fights to break out while the girls are still learning how to communicate like adults.
The girls’ infighting only serves to strengthen their bonds, though, as it lets them understand how their actions affect their sisters. As they grow older, we see them struggling with matters of marriage and courtship in a time when women were not legally separate persons from their husbands. For all their hardships, the girls never lose sight of how much other people suffer more than them. The period drama doesn’t play to the tune of its time either as the March sisters’ parents are depicted, if briefly, as fiercely abolitionist as they are in the book.
2. The Secret Garden (1993)
The Secret Garden (1993) is an adaptation of the novel The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett that follows 10-year-old Mary Lennox as she crafts a world of imagination to cope with the neglect she’s subjected to by the adults in her life. After her parents tragically die in an earthquake, Mary is sent from India to her uncle in England. Things don’t get better for her there as her uncle is just as neglectful as her parents, making Mary emotionally repressed.
While bored in her uncle’s manor, Mary finds a hidden door that leads to a garden that once belonged to her deceased aunt. Together with the only two other children in the manor, Mary turns the garden into her own little paradise.
3. A Little Princess (1995)
Another adaptation of a novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess (1995) takes the original story from its England setting and moves it to a boarding school in New York. In this adaptation, Sara is the daughter of a wealthy British Army officer serving in World War 1. At the beginning of the war, Sara’s father sends her to boarding school and rents out the best room for her, filling it with lavish furniture and toys. These all get taken away from Sara when her father dies in a gas attack.
Now forced to serve as a servant, Sara must find the courage and strength to continue being kind to other people and stand up for others no matter how badly she’s treated.
4. Emma (2020)
Emma (2020) is based on a Jane Austen novel of the same name. The titular Emma Woodhouse is the daughter of a wealthy gentleman and stands to inherit Hartfield and the income of the village of Highbury. The young and intelligent Emma realizes she’s in a position few other women find themselves in during the Regency – she is independently wealthy and has no need to marry.
However, Emma’s youth, boredom, and cutting intelligence are the perfect storm for unintentional cruelty. She has a lot of growing up to do until she can blossom into the sensible woman she’s meant to be. It’s only when she grows out of her meanness, but not her independence, that she gets her happily ever after.
5. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
Whisper of the Heart (1995) is an animated Studio Ghibli film centered on the journey of students Shizuku and Seiji toward becoming adults. Shizuku dreams of becoming a writer and is often reading at her local library. One day, she finds out that the books she likes have all been checked out by Seiji who she still hasn’t met at this point in the film.
The two later meet at an antique shop after a cat leads Shizuku to the store. From there, the two learn more about each other, themselves, and their dreams. The two briefly part ways to achieve their dreams of becoming a writer and a violin maker.
6. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) is a movie about a family living in Alabama during the 1930s. The family’s children, Jem and Scout, live a happy and quiet childhood under the care of their father, Atticus, who works as a lawyer. When Atticus takes on the case of an African-American man accused of raping a Caucasian woman, the two children find themselves on the receiving end of the town’s hatred and racism. Since Scout is so young, her innocence means she doesn’t understand why the town is so angry at her family or her father’s client.
7. The Sound of Music (1965)
The Sound of Music (1965) is a musical centered on the von Trapp family and their governess, Maria. Maria quickly becomes a mother figure to the children and teaches them how to sing. As she grows closer to the children, she realizes how badly their father emotionally distances himself from them and works to bridge the gap in the family. Their happy life is disrupted when the Nazi army annexes Austria, forcing the family to flee.
8. Enola Holmes (2020)
A spin-off of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Enola Holmes (2020) follows its titular protagonist in her quest to get out of her older brother’s shadow and become a respected investigator in her own right. Though initially opposed to Enola’s becoming an investigator, Sherlock learns to be supportive of his younger sister as she strikes out on her own.