Female Film Directors Put Together a List of Must-See Movies Made By Women

Director Sarah Polley at work on her documentary The Stories We Tell

Last month, I put together a podcast about systemic sexism in the film in industry. You probably know the stats: Although women make up over half of the movie-going audiences in America, this past year less than five percent of the top-grossing box office films were directed by women.

After the show came out, a couple listeners had the same question: So, what are some recent female-directed films we should be seeking out? To put together a list of current women-directed films, I turned to Film Fatales, a collective of women film directors who support each other and collaborate on projects. The Film Fatales asked their members in New York and LA for their recent favorite films helmed by a female director and for older films that have inspired their work.

“At a time when audiences are hungry for a diversity of stories on screen, we’ve compiled a list of recent films directed by women that everyone should see, as well as a selection of older titles which continue to inspire us,” explains Film Fatales founder Leah Meyerhoff, who directed Twitch and I Believe in Unicorns

Here’s the list. Summer film club, anyone?

Recent Women-Directed Films That Everyone Should See:

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night by Ana Lily Amirpour

A Teacher by Hannah Fidell

Advantageous by Jennifer Phang

Apartment Troubles by Jess Weixler & Jennifer Prediger

Appropriate Behavior by Desiree Akhavan

Belle by Amma Asante

Beyond the Lights by Gina Prince-Bythewood

Caught by Maggie Kiley

Concussion by Stacie Passon

Diary of a Teenage Girl by Marielle Heller

Honeytrap by Rebecca Johnson

I Believe in Unicorns by Leah Meyerhoff

It Felt Like Love by Eliza Hittman

Kelly & Cal by Jen McGowan

Little Accidents by Sara Colangelo

Lucky Them by Megan Griffiths

Obvious Child by Gillian Robespierre

Pariah by Dee Rees

Selma by Ava Duvernay

She’s Lost Control by Anja Marquardt

Sleeping with Other People by Leslye Headland

Stray Dog by Debra Granik

The Midnight Swim by Sarah Adina Smith

There Is A New World Somewhere by Li Lu

Vessel by Diana Whitten

Your Sister’s Sister by Lynn Shelton

 

Women-Directed Films That Inspired the Work of Film Fatales:

American Psycho by Mary Harron

Beau Travail by Claire Denis

Boys Don’t Cry by Kimberly Peirce

But I’m a Cheerleader by Jamie Babbit

Cleo from 5 to 7 by Agnes Varda

Daisies by Vera Chytilova

Daughters of the Dust by Julie Dash

Down to the Bone by Debra Granik

Fat Girl by Catherine Breillat

Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold

Gas Food Lodging by Allison Anders

Go Fish by Rose Troche

High Art by Lisa Cholodenko

In A Better World by Susanne Bier

Jesus Son by Alison Maclean

La Cienega by Lucrecia Martel

Me and You and Everyone You Know by Miranda July

Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair

Monster by Patty Jenkins

Near Dark by Kathryn Bigelow

Ratcatcher by Lynne Ramsay

Salaam Bombay by Mira Nair

Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley

Suburbia by Penelope Spheeris

Sweetie by Jane Campion

The Arbor by Andrea Dunbar

Thirteen by Catherine Hardwicke

Vagabond by Agnes Varda

Variety by Bette Gordon

Virgin Suicides by Sofia Coppola

Wadjda by Haifaa al-Mansour

Wendy and Lucy by Kelly Reichardt

• • •

Related Listening: Hollywood's Missing Directors

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is Bitch Media's online editor. She's interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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58 Comments Have Been Posted

addition to the coversation

I produced, directed, wrote, edited and acted in myown films. The first is called Assignment "Witches Talisman" available at cultmoviemania.com the second not released yet is the sequal. A2; The Anomaly. I wanted to create something original. They are my first and I am the only female in this area who has sold her features. The 3rd different from the abstract is a murder mystery.Called One By One. I live in the Tampa bay area. Proven no matter how strange, abstract it can be done.

addition to the coversation

I produced, directed, wrote, edited and acted in myown films. The first is called Assignment "Witches Talisman" available at cultmoviemania.com the second not released yet is the sequal. A2; The Anomaly. I wanted to create something original. They are my first and I am the only female in this area who has sold her features. The 3rd different from the abstract is a murder mystery.Called One By One. I live in the Tampa bay area. Proven no matter how strange, abstract it can be done.

Films made by women

"Wanda" by Barbara Loden is a great film too

Films made by women

"Wanda" by Barbara Loden is a great film too

"Wanda" by Barbara Loden is a

"Wanda" by Barbara Loden is a great film too

"Wanda" by Barbara Loden is a

"Wanda" by Barbara Loden is a great film too

I have remembered this film

I have remembered this film for many years. black and white if memory serves. So glad to see it suggested. I wonder what happened to the films of Ida Lupino..?

I have remembered this film

I have remembered this film for many years. black and white if memory serves. So glad to see it suggested. I wonder what happened to the films of Ida Lupino..?

Curious omission

I'm surprised Hurt Locker didn't make this list. Any reason why?

Maybe because The Hurt Locker

Maybe because The Hurt Locker is a propaganda film for the US miltary?

Maybe because The Hurt Locker

Maybe because The Hurt Locker is a propaganda film for the US miltary?

Favorites

<p>Glad to see a couple of my favorites on this list --</p>

<ul><li>Michelle Williams' performance is staggeringly good in <i>Wendy and Lucy</i>.</li>

<li>I really liked how <i>Concussion</i> tried to show a very complex aspect of marriage, and I appreciated how much it left unresolved, and how much it gave me to think about. It stayed with me for weeks afterwards. It's on Netflix and I really need to rewatch it. Also, the film is notable because it very easily could have focused on a mundane, suburban straight couple, but instead focused on a mundane, suburban lesbian couple. Except for the main plot point (which would be sensational regardless), it never really sensationalizes lesbians.</li>

<li><i>But I'm a Cheerleader</i> and <i>Obvious Child</i> are funny and wonderful.</li>

<li><i>American Psycho</i> is such a polarizing story for feminists -- I always forget and am always surprised that the movie was directed by a woman. I just found out it had a female screenwriter, too -- Guinevere Turner, who also screenwrote <i>Go Fish</i> -- another film on the list. Here's <a href="http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/20751/1/how-american-... interesting interview</a> with her about adapting <i>American Psycho</i> and how she intended to write the movie.</li></ul>

<p>Anyway, great list. So inspiring and cool to hear about groups like Film Fatales. I think film is a lot richer when there is a balance of men and women filmmakers, and today's imbalance impoverishes us all. Thanks to <i>Bitch</i> for calling these things out.</p>

Favorites

Glad to see a couple of my favorites on this list --

  • Michelle Williams' performance is staggeringly good in Wendy and Lucy.
  • I really liked how Concussion tried to show a very complex aspect of marriage, and I appreciated how much it left unresolved, and how much it gave me to think about. It stayed with me for weeks afterwards. It's on Netflix and I really need to rewatch it. Also, the film is notable because it very easily could have focused on a mundane, suburban straight couple, but instead focused on a mundane, suburban lesbian couple. Except for the main plot point (which would be sensational regardless), it never really sensationalizes lesbians.
  • But I'm a Cheerleader and Obvious Child are funny and wonderful.
  • American Psycho is such a polarizing story for feminists -- I always forget and am always surprised that the movie was directed by a woman. I just found out it had a female screenwriter, too -- Guinevere Turner, who also screenwrote Go Fish -- another film on the list. Here's an interesting interview with her about adapting American Psycho and how she intended to write the movie.

Anyway, great list. So inspiring and cool to hear about groups like Film Fatales. I think film is a lot richer when there is a balance of men and women filmmakers, and today's imbalance impoverishes us all. Thanks to Bitch for calling these things out.

The piano

I loved The Piano directed by Jane Campion. It resonated with me. Perhaps because I am a musician who has also struggled to find her voice. Perhaps because I too am a victim of domestic violence. I think Holly Hunter did a fabulous acting job as Ada. The metaphor of the voiceless woman is brilliant!

The piano

I loved The Piano directed by Jane Campion. It resonated with me. Perhaps because I am a musician who has also struggled to find her voice. Perhaps because I too am a victim of domestic violence. I think Holly Hunter did a fabulous acting job as Ada. The metaphor of the voiceless woman is brilliant!

Gillian Armstrong's "High

Gillian Armstrong's "High Tide" is wonderful.
I also didn't see Deepa Metha?

Gillian Armstrong's "High

Gillian Armstrong's "High Tide" is wonderful.
I also didn't see Deepa Metha?

I love this list but sad to

I love this list but sad to see that Lena Wertmueller doesn't appear on the list with Swept Away or The Seven Beauties. She paved the way for female directors at the Oscars.

I love this list but sad to

I love this list but sad to see that Lena Wertmueller doesn't appear on the list with Swept Away or The Seven Beauties. She paved the way for female directors at the Oscars.

Netflix...

Perhaps a future list might include an indication of streaming sources.

Netflix...

Perhaps a future list might include an indication of streaming sources.

Hi Ive written about the fact

Hi Ive written about the fact we need to be reading and watching more stories by women so this list is great thanks! There's so many on it I have watched yet.. Can you direct me to where I can find them? Is there a good online movie website that might have a lot of them.. I doubt netflix has many?
Thanks
Sheila

Hi Ive written about the fact

Hi Ive written about the fact we need to be reading and watching more stories by women so this list is great thanks! There's so many on it I have watched yet.. Can you direct me to where I can find them? Is there a good online movie website that might have a lot of them.. I doubt netflix has many?
Thanks
Sheila

Varda is one of the greatest

Varda is one of the greatest living filmmakers, almost all of her films are masterpieces in their own way. Kind of a bummer to not see Chantal Ackerman, Maya Deren, or Marguerite Duras... all three among not only the best female filmmakers, but the best filmmakers ever. Maybe these femme-fatales don't take inspiration from their films? That'd be a shame. I can't imagine watching Jeanne-Dielman and not being inspired at the possibilities of the medium.

Varda is one of the greatest

Varda is one of the greatest living filmmakers, almost all of her films are masterpieces in their own way. Kind of a bummer to not see Chantal Ackerman, Maya Deren, or Marguerite Duras... all three among not only the best female filmmakers, but the best filmmakers ever. Maybe these femme-fatales don't take inspiration from their films? That'd be a shame. I can't imagine watching Jeanne-Dielman and not being inspired at the possibilities of the medium.

Wanda

Another vote for Barbara Loden'Wanda... But where is the work of Ida Lupino?

Wanda

Another vote for Barbara Loden'Wanda... But where is the work of Ida Lupino?

The Arbor

This reminds me that I've been meaning to re-watch <i>The Arbor</i>, one of my favorite films of recent years. It's about Andrea Dunbar rather than directed by her, though. It was directed by the very talented Clio Barnard. Thanks for this list!

The Arbor

This reminds me that I've been meaning to re-watch The Arbor, one of my favorite films of recent years. It's about Andrea Dunbar rather than directed by her, though. It was directed by the very talented Clio Barnard. Thanks for this list!

Some on my list of the very best films by women directors-

Mosquita y Mari by Aurora Guerrero is a jewel of a film, full of visual poetry, humor, and a first love story rarely seen. Also filmed in a part of LA never depicted in film or television. (Huntington Park/South Gate)
IN A WORLD by Lake Bell is hilarious! And shares an important message about gender gaps in the movie industry.
Hot Girls Wanted by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus Is a documentary about the amateur porn industry and the girls it uses.
'The Tango Lesson' and 'Orlando' by Sally Potter are 2 beautiful films all female filmmakers ought to see (in my opinion;)
'Titus' and 'Frida' by Julie Taymore are two incredible works of art!!!
The Piano by Jane Campion may not have come out recently, but should go down as one of the best films ever made!
One day I hope my own name may be among these whose art has affected me so deeply!

Some on my list of the very best films by women directors-

Mosquita y Mari by Aurora Guerrero is a jewel of a film, full of visual poetry, humor, and a first love story rarely seen. Also filmed in a part of LA never depicted in film or television. (Huntington Park/South Gate)
IN A WORLD by Lake Bell is hilarious! And shares an important message about gender gaps in the movie industry.
Hot Girls Wanted by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus Is a documentary about the amateur porn industry and the girls it uses.
'The Tango Lesson' and 'Orlando' by Sally Potter are 2 beautiful films all female filmmakers ought to see (in my opinion;)
'Titus' and 'Frida' by Julie Taymore are two incredible works of art!!!
The Piano by Jane Campion may not have come out recently, but should go down as one of the best films ever made!
One day I hope my own name may be among these whose art has affected me so deeply!

I'm really amazed that none

I'm really amazed that none of the films directed by Barbara Streisand are on this list. I have loved her movies and she has not received the kudos she's due IMO

I'm really amazed that none

I'm really amazed that none of the films directed by Barbara Streisand are on this list. I have loved her movies and she has not received the kudos she's due IMO

other films

im a female filmmaker working my ass off to make movies. I might not be running with the in crowd but I have films that gave won numerous awards, played lots of tests and gotten distribution. My films are worth a consideration - METH HEAD (2014) and CRAZY BITCHES (2015).

other films

im a female filmmaker working my ass off to make movies. I might not be running with the in crowd but I have films that gave won numerous awards, played lots of tests and gotten distribution. My films are worth a consideration - METH HEAD (2014) and CRAZY BITCHES (2015).

No Films by Deepa Mehta or

No Films by Deepa Mehta or Patricia Rozema? That is very disappointing.

No Films by Deepa Mehta or

No Films by Deepa Mehta or Patricia Rozema? That is very disappointing.

imagine the outrage if it was

imagine the outrage if it was a list put together by male directors made by men.

imagine the outrage if it was

imagine the outrage if it was a list put together by male directors made by men.

another film

That project is great,
please let me add East-European title too.
Like "Az én XX. századom" by Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary 1989 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_20th_Century

There were some more female filmmaker, author-directors like Agnieszka Holland http://culture.pl/en/artist/agnieszka-holland to mention.

I am a filmmaker too, my first documentary about women working in a laundry close to Berlin just after the wall broke down, who had to deal with every day changing radically, was screened in many festivals these days and from time to time again since then.

another film

That project is great,
please let me add East-European title too.
Like "Az én XX. századom" by Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary 1989 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_20th_Century

There were some more female filmmaker, author-directors like Agnieszka Holland http://culture.pl/en/artist/agnieszka-holland to mention.

I am a filmmaker too, my first documentary about women working in a laundry close to Berlin just after the wall broke down, who had to deal with every day changing radically, was screened in many festivals these days and from time to time again since then.

The Babadook

Overall, happy to see the article. Good list. But fatally flawed. The Babadook was the best film of 2014. Jeniffer Kent's debut is a dreamy scary heart-filling knockout. It's a masterpiece. Why the hell is it not on this list?!?!?!

The Babadook

Overall, happy to see the article. Good list. But fatally flawed. The Babadook was the best film of 2014. Jeniffer Kent's debut is a dreamy scary heart-filling knockout. It's a masterpiece. Why the hell is it not on this list?!?!?!

You Forgot...

To include Jennifer Kent's masterpiece The Babadook. A truly terrifying piece of genre film-making that didn't rely on the arduous torture and abuse of a woman to be truly unique, horrifying and ultimately beautiful.

You Forgot...

To include Jennifer Kent's masterpiece The Babadook. A truly terrifying piece of genre film-making that didn't rely on the arduous torture and abuse of a woman to be truly unique, horrifying and ultimately beautiful.

You forgot Celine Sciamma!

You forgot Celine Sciamma! Girlhood, Tomboy and Water Lillies are unmissable films that everyone needs to see.

You forgot Celine Sciamma!

You forgot Celine Sciamma! Girlhood, Tomboy and Water Lillies are unmissable films that everyone needs to see.

Women's recent films.

If only they were all on Netflix

Women's recent films.

If only they were all on Netflix

Female contemporary directors

Lisa Cholodenlo:
High Art
Laurel Canyon
The Kids Are All Right

Female contemporary directors

Lisa Cholodenlo:
High Art
Laurel Canyon
The Kids Are All Right

LINA WERTMULLER!

Frederico Fellini's protege Lina Wertmuller has directed some of the best Italian films. She was also the first female to be nominated for best director at the academy awards. Check out Swept Away, and Seven Beauties. She really deserves to be on this list.

LINA WERTMULLER!

Frederico Fellini's protege Lina Wertmuller has directed some of the best Italian films. She was also the first female to be nominated for best director at the academy awards. Check out Swept Away, and Seven Beauties. She really deserves to be on this list.

Must see Movies by Women

Great to get all these additional films in the comment section. Gotta agree with "Wanda". I'm also a director - check out my features "16 to Life" - and the soon to be finished "August in Berlin". Thank you! Becky

Must see Movies by Women

Great to get all these additional films in the comment section. Gotta agree with "Wanda". I'm also a director - check out my features "16 to Life" - and the soon to be finished "August in Berlin". Thank you! Becky

Links

So sad to see that these films are not linked to a source.

must see movies made by women

how is Sally Potter's ORLANDO not mentioned at all? did i overlook it? seems a cornerstone and mesmerizing besides

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