If you’re ever wondering just how male-dominated Hollywood is these days, take a look at the list of female Best Director Oscar winners. It’s a very short one. In fact, the Academy has only given one woman this honor! It’s not like Kathryn Bigelow is the only amazing female director out there. Why do we not give more of these women credit? So many amazing movies had a woman at their helm – more than many people realize. Thing is, Hollywood isn’t always that keen on giving women credit.
Women have directed incredible movies in pretty much every genre out there. They don’t just make rom-coms – although directorial legends like Nora Ephron have done so with aplomb. War movies, psychological thrillers, horror movies, comedies, superhero films… Whatever genre floats your boat, you can guarantee an amazing female director has contributed to the field. Here are just a few incredible female-directed movies that you should make it your business to watch.
16. Lost In Translation
This movie made Sofia Coppola one of the few female directors to be nominated for an Academy Award. She fully deserved it. Lost in Translation masterfully toes the line between being a serious drama and a rom-com. It’s one of those movies that will stick in your mind for a long while after the credits roll, not least due to Scarlett Johansson‘s amazing performance. Her character’s slightly weird but mostly sweet relationship with Bill Murray‘s Bob is surprisingly touching considering both of their circumstances. That’s all I’m saying – no spoilers here! You’ll have to go and watch Coppola’s masterpiece for yourselves. You won’t regret it.
15. American Psycho
Before Christian Bale became known as Batman, he creeped us all out as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Prestigious filmmaker Mary Harron directed this part-black comedy, part-horror classic. Both she and Bale were at one point replaced by director Oliver Stone and Hollywood heavyweight Leonardo DiCaprio. However, Bale and Harron were eventually brought back by the movie’s producers, a smart move considering how successful the film went on to be. Bale is alarmingly sinister in the role of a serial killer, and Harron’s direction only adds to movie’s tension. American Psycho certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted – it’s one of those movies that seems to revel in gratuitous gore and violence. However, if you can stomach it, it’s an intense but interesting watch.
14. Their Finest
Movies set in World War II have seen a surge in popularity over the past few years. Just look at Dunkirk and the recently-released Darkest Hour! While war movies have a pretty understandable tendency to be gloomy and emotionally draining, Their Finest gives the genre a much-needed dose of fluffy comedy. Directed by Lone Scherfig, the Danish director famous for her hit movies An Education and One Day, the film follows a government team making a morale-boosting propaganda movie just after the Dunkirk evacuation. It’s a wild ride of romantic entanglements and dramatic twists, all set against the backdrop of the devastating London Blitz. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll totally fall in love with Sam Claflin (if you hadn’t already).
13. Julie And Julia
Julie and Julia was the legendary director and writer Nora Ephron‘s last movie before her death in 2012. Based on a true story, it weaves together the lives of chef Julia Child and struggling blogger Julie Powell. After realizing there’s something major missing from her life, Powell decides to distract herself by cooking every recipe from Child’s famous book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She starts a blog to chronicle her self-imposed challenge, and her life quickly changes more than she could have imagined. Alongside this, we’re treated to Meryl Streep portraying Child as an aspiring chef in 1950s Paris. It’s a touching and inspiring movie that’ll make you crave French food for weeks. It all looks so good!
12. Wayne’s World
Originally starting life as a Saturday Night Live sketch, Wayne’s World blossomed into a fully-fledged cult classic comedy film. Starring Mike Myers as the titular Wayne, the movie was director Penelope Spheeris‘s highest-grossing film. Wayne’s World‘s unique brand of humor, hilarious pop culture references, and total disregard for the existence of the Fourth Wall made it a hit among critics and movie-goers alike. Initially following Wayne and his best bud Garth as they film their public-access show in a basement, the film quickly descends into a farcical but enjoyable series of minor disasters. For a movie you’d expect to be kind of dumb, it’s got some pretty intelligent humor. Wayne’s World is full of surprises, but in a completely positive way!
11. The Hurt Locker
You can’t talk about female-directed movies without mentioning The Hurt Locker. It’s the one film that’s managed to win a woman a Best Director Academy Award, with Kathryn Bigelow taking home the prize back in 2010. It’s a pretty intense movie, following the experiences of a bomb disposal team in Iraq at the height of the country’s conflict. Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty portray three soldiers who react very differently to their shared experiences. If you’re in for a light-hearted and comedic watch, The Hurt Locker maybe isn’t for you. It’s pretty nail-biting throughout. However, it’s one of those movies that everyone should watch at least once in their lives, both for its sheer brilliance and its approach to the subject of war.
10. Wonder Woman
So many incredible, badass women contributed to the making of Wonder Woman. Not only did Gal Gadot totally kill it in the lead role, director Patty Jenkins did a pretty phenomenal job. While some of DC’s superhero movies have been frankly pretty terrible, Jenkins did Wonder Woman justice and made her the feminist icon we all need in our lives. For one, the character was refreshingly strong and powerful: she wasn’t just another sex object running around in a tiny costume. Jenkins also made the wonderful choice of adding some humor and lightheartedness into the movie, something that’s often lacking in the DC Extended Universe. All in all, Wonder Woman was a total triumph and we need more superhero movies like it. Basically, we need more female-led movies. Get it together, Marvel and DC.
9. We Need To Talk About Kevin
Based on the novel by female author Lionel Shriver, We Need To Talk About Kevin is a stirring psychological thriller that’ll take you through a whole range of emotions. You can’t help but feel sorry for Tilda Swinton‘s Eva, the distraught mother of the titular Kevin. Kevin is an incredibly troubled and possibly sadistic teen who’s in prison for committing a massacre at his high school. As Eva wonders where she went wrong to create such a child, we see the full, horrifying story of Kevin’s consistently dangerous behavior. Kevin himself is portrayed by a suitably eerie Ezra Miller. Lynne Ramsay‘s directorial skills make this a horrifying but unmissable thriller that’ll leave you shaken, but also impressed.
8. Something’s Gotta Give
Something’s Gotta Give is an unusual but ultimately brilliant rom-com. Directed by Nancy Meyers, a master of this particular genre, its two romantic leads aren’t the young, conventionally attractive individuals you’d expect. Instead, they’re two decidedly middle-aged singletons who eventually find love later in life. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton portray hapless lovers Harry and Erica, who first meet because Harry is dating Erica’s daughter. Awkward. Various misunderstandings, fall-outs, and medical emergencies ensue, but we’re given the heart-warming happy ending we’d expect from Meyers. The movie was a huge success, earning Keaton an Academy Award nomination. It taught the perpetually single people of the world not to worry – it’s never too late to get your happy ending!
7. Bend It Like Beckham
This quirky British comedy was one of Keira Knightley‘s first major roles as an adult. However, she wasn’t the lead: that, rather refreshingly, went to a woman of color! Bend It Like Beckham chronicled the antics of Punjabi Sikh and Londoner Jess, a teen whose passion for soccer conflicts with her family’s traditional values. As a young woman, Jess is expected to simply marry and settle down as soon as possible. Jess isn’t too keen on this idea, and instead secretly decides to join a football team and pursue her dreams. She finds friendship and romance along the way, but her family’s discovery of her rebellion ultimately threatens her new-found freedom. While admittedly there aren’t many soccer-base comedies out there, Bend It Like Beckham still deserves credit for being the best of a limited bunch.
This 2002 biopic of Mexican surrealist artist Frida Kahlo won critical acclaim for both lead actress Salma Hayek and director Julie Taymor. Taymor is most well-known for her Broadway work: she famously directed the stage version of The Lion King upon its initial release. She also helmed the first version of the seemingly cursed Spiderman musical. However, her venture into film with Frida secured Taymor a reputation as a talented and stylish filmmaker. The movie chronicles Kahlo’s life following the severe injuries she received in an accident as a teen. During her convalescence, Kahlo passed the time by painting, and her career as an artist began. The movie was particularly praised for its visual imagery, a pretty important thing for a film based on the life of one of the world’s most talented painters!
5. Sleepless In Seattle
Sleepless In Seattle is one of Nora Ephron’s best-loved romantic comedy outings. The first film to feature the magnetic chemistry of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, this tale of a widower whose son wants him to find love warmed everybody’s hearts. That famous Empire State Building scene has gone down in rom-com history! The movie showcased Ephron’s warm and witty filmmaking style and went on to be a huge commercial success. While some critics weren’t fond of the movie’s fluffy and romantic tone, every single young woman ever tends to disagree with their doubts. Along with You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle is staple girls’ night viewing.
Persepolis is absolutely not what you’d expect from an animated movie. For one, it’s not aimed at children: it deals with pretty heavy themes and is clearly geared towards an adult audience. The film is based on an autobiographical comic strip created by Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi. Satrapi grew up in the midst of the Iranian Civil War, a pretty chaotic experience that the movie tries to capture. Satrapi herself directed the movie along with French comic book artist Vincent Paronnaud. Persepolis was a huge success, narrowly missing out on the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture (Disney’s Ratatouille pipped it to the post). It’s a moving and visually impressive film that’s definitely worth a watch.
This historical movie based on the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches took everyone’s breath away upon its 2014 release. Selma chronicled the work of civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, and John Lewis with grace, care, and respect. David Oyelowo‘s performance as King received almost universal acclaim with his lack of an Oscar nomination bewildering many onlookers. Director Ava DuVernay also missed out on a nomination despite being lauded by critics. However, John Legend and Common did famously win the award for Best Original Song for the film’s theme “Glory,” using their speech as an opportunity to reach out to oppressed people everywhere. Their performance of the song on the night was so moving that it left much of the audience, including Oyelowo, in tears.
2. The Babadook
Despite a slow start in its home country of Australia, psychological thriller The Babadook quickly gained in popularity upon its international release. Impressively, it was the feature-film debut of director Jennifer Kent. Despite Kent’s inexperience, she created one of the most highly-rated movies of 2014. The Babadook is a genuinely pretty creepy adversary: expect to be totally terrified by the time the credits roll. The movie has gained renewed attention in recent times due to Netflix mistakenly categorizing it as an LGBT movie. The monster has become an unexpected LGBT icon, with the internet trying very, very hard to find gay subtext in the film. Love is love, guys, even for nightmarish creatures.
1. Lady Bird
It seems like everybody is talking about Lady Bird at the moment – and for good reason! The Academy nominated director Greta Gerwig‘s comedy-drama gained the nod for five Oscars this year, including Best Director. Could Gerwig become the second woman in Oscars history to win the award? We’ll have to wait and see! If Gerwig were to win, it’d be a well-deserved piece of recognition. Lady Bird has captured audience’s hearts and minds with its warmth and humor. Saoirse Ronan gives a terrific performance as the titular lead character. Lady Bird is a Catholic teen coming of age in early 2000s Sacramento. Plentiful family drama plays out, with Lady Bird and her mother having a less than a solid relationship. The movie’s charm and wit make it infinitely watchable and rewatchable.