Our Favorite Female-Directed Films For International Women's Month
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
Female directors, writers, performers, and artists have contributed more to the film industry than we could possibly imagine, however currently only 3% of all Hollywood directors are women. So to show our appreciation for the women who have made the art of film into what it is today, here is the Cinemasters staff's favorite female-directed films to celebrate International Women's Month 2021.
Lost In Translation (2003) dir. Sophia Coppola
One of the most heartbreaking and emotionally intelligent films I've ever seen. I vividly remember the first time I watched Sophia Coppola's Lost In Translation and just how much of an impact it had on me. Never before has a movie captured the feeling of loneliness quite this perfectly. All the performances are fantastic, the soundtrack is great, and the ending will leave you absolutely speechless. This has got to be my favorite Bill Murray movie, which is saying something. It's the kind of movie you need to watch at least once before you die. Actually, better make that ten...
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) dir. Céline Sciamma
At its core, Portrait of a Lady on Fire feels less like a movie and more like a visual love letter to women, more specifically queer women. Throughout the entire 120 minute runtime there is barely any male presence at all and every single member of the crew was a woman. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is just pure, unadulterated femininity with absolutely zero compromise. Everything about this film feels so professional from the bleak cinematography to the exquisite costume design and of course the brilliant performances by Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel. Needless to say, I'm on the edge of my seat to see what Céline Sciamma and company accomplish next.
Cléo From 5 to 7 (1962) dir. Agnes Varda
In the world of feminist cinema, Agnes Varda is a titan. To this day her films remain some of the most influential in history and no project explains why better than 1962's Cleo From 5 to 7. The black and white color scheme makes the whole movie look so effortlessly beautiful, the performances are outstanding and the direction really sells it. I knew Cleo From 5 to 7 was going to be a masterpiece as soon as I saw the music rehearsal scene and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. I debated for a long time about what film would take my third spot on the list but I would simply be remiss if I didn't mention Agnes Varda and the cinema genius she truly was. If you enjoy French films, this is a must-watch.
Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig
Little Women has always been one of my favorite books, and might I be so bold to add that Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaption makes it even better. Gerwig’s writing is so sharp, witty, and heartbreaking as it was in Lady Bird, maybe even better. The film is undoubtedly anchored by Saoirse Ronan’s performance with an outstanding supporting cast. The ambiguous ending is perfect for any fans of Alcott, who know the real history behind Jo’s ending, and it’s incredibly rewarding. I love how each March sister chooses a different path, yet they are not represented as diminishing or less rewarding than the others. This will always be one of my favorite movies of all time.
Booksmart (2019) dir. Olivia Wilde
Easily the funniest film of 2019. Booksmart takes everything you love about teen movies, adds in some modern twists and some badass female characters, and the result is genuinely funny and heartfelt. Written and directed by women, Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut is an absolute must-see, focusing on the power of female friendships and having fun after some hard work. Let’s be honest, Billie Lourd’s performance as Gigi is probably something we will see horribly replicated in years to come, and none will ever be as good as her. Also, there is nothing wrong with doing some good old fashioned homework. Thanks Molly and Amy for reminding me senior year is still a thing.
Sleepless In Seattle (1993) dir. Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron is such an amazingly talented writer and director. One of my favorite romantic comedies, Sleepless in Seattle manages to create an entire love story with the two central characters only sharing a small scene at the end. It makes you feel practically every emotion under the sun, and leaves you with a warm feeling of love in your heart. Ephron’s work is truly a feat of genius, combined with the wonderful performances of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, as well as a killer soundtrack makes for a movie that’s near and dear to me, as it’s my mom’s favorite movie, and has become one of my own. Romantic comedies are traditionally regarded as a female-centric genre and are hence brutally underappreciated, but to leave out one of the best female-directed films of the genre quite possibly ever would be such a shame.
Selma (2014) dir. Ava DuVernay
This past Sunday marks the anniversary of the Selma protests in Alabama, so I thought it would be great to highlight this film. I first saw Selma several years ago back in 2014. My family and I have a tradition of watching all the Oscar best picture nominations every year, and Selma was easily a highlight for me. Ava DuVernay did an absolutely incredible job directing such an important moment in civil rights history. David Oyelowo also does a fantastic job portraying Martin Luther King Jr, among other great performances from Common, Oprah Winfrey, Carmen Ejogo, and many others. I also thought that John Legends’ song “Glory” was an absolutely amazing fit for this film. Definitely a highlight, and definitely a film I’m dying to come back to.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) dir. Amy Heckerling
The quintessential high school film. I hold a special place in my heart for movies like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club, among others, but I feel that this film in particular did a wonderful job at being a prime example of a good high school film. Not only is it a hilarious movie, but also incredibly heartfelt. As well, Cameron Crowe did a fantastic job adapting the movie from his book, Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It’s a masterful example of great filmmaking, writing, and directing, and one that should be studied for generations.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) dir. Marielle Heller
I’ve never been a big Melissa McCarthy fan. That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed her films in the past. I thought she was great in Bridesmaids as well as Spy and especially St. Vincent, however this movie really made me see her acting career in a new light. Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a standout moment in the career of McCarthy, as well as director Marielle Heller, and I feel that it was insanely snubbed at awards ceremonies that year. It’s a beautifully directed and written story of fraud and loneliness. If you haven’t gotten the chance to see this one, please change that immediately. Heller is an incredibly talented director, and I’m dying to see what her next masterpiece is.
Wonder Woman (2017) dir. Patty Jenkins
I love DC comics. The characters often feel more connected, the plots more compelling, and the world more unique. So when I saw the failure of the DCEU, the pathetic counter to Marvel’s already bad Civil War, and the horrible renditions of two-thirds of the DC trinity, I was terrified when I heard about Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. However, when I saw it, I was absolutely astounded. Serving as not just the best DCEU movie, but one of the best superhero movies ever, seeing a genuinely powerful character that had unique struggles, genuine and uplifting moments, all while somehow being relatable to me as a straight white man, was truly an incredible experience. Jenkins’ ability to create a character that was compelling and crazy strong, all while avoiding the “Mary Sue” character archetype is something I truly believe all aspiring action writers need to study.
Emma (2020) dir. Autumn de Wilde
Emma was a movie I had no interest in watching. However, what I expected to be a movie about old-fashioned Pride and Prejudice rhetoric that would drag on for too long wound up being a unique and shockingly engaging film. Anya Taylor-Joy’s performance as the titular Emma is incredibly witty and emotional, the dialogue of the film sweeps you up in the moment to where there were times I had to pause the film and think about how incredible the banter I just heard was. While this movie about a spoiled kid learning the consequences of her own actions seems to be very surface level, it proved to be relatable, funny, and shockingly emotional.
Big (1988) dir. Penny Marshall
While 1988’s Big is known for being Tom Hanks’ breakout role, a lot of people don’t know that it was directed by Penny Marshall, one of Carrie Fisher’s best friends. The film, for anyone who somehow hasn’t seen it, follows a teenage boy who suddenly finds himself in the body of an adult, and the challenges that go along with his transformation. Excluding the absolute joy that is the chopsticks scene, the film manages to capture a unique sense of childlike wonder we often miss as we grow old through intentional color grading, immaculate (albeit sometimes cheesy) dialogue, and an emotional plot that leaves you feeling nostalgic in ways you never knew you could feel by the time the credits roll.
The Matrix (1999) dir. Lana and Lilly Wachowski
A bold and stunning tale of a science fiction world and the horrors surrounding the future. The Wachowskis influenced the science fiction genre like no other in the late-90s. They changed the game when it came to science fiction films and even what was possible with the medium of film. Excellent picture from a dynamic duo.
The Babadook (2014) dir. Jennifer Kent
A bone-chilling and fantastically sinister horror film that uses classic tropes and brings new light to them. The brilliant performances from the lead actors such as Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman really elevate this story to make it as immersive as humanly possible. Jennifer Kent hit a home run with The Babadook and I have no doubt her movies will only get better from this point on.
RBG (2018) dir. Betsy West and Julie Cohen
One of my absolute favorite documentaries about an absolutely fantastic woman (may her memory be a blessing). The insight that directors, Betsy West and Julie Cohen bring into Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's life is quite inspirational and shows the true nature of RBG as a person instead of an untouchable icon, something that I believe many documentary film makers have failed to do. An absolutely fantastic watch for International Women's Month.
On behalf of everyone at Cinemasters.net, we want to wish all of our readers a happy International Women's Month! Please take some time this month to support your favorite female creatives and artists because the world of film certainly would not be the same without them!