17 Films Directed by Women You Need to Watch

There can be a long list of films directed by women today, yet it took eleven years for a woman to be honored with an Oscar for Best Director.

Lina Wertmuller made history by becoming the first woman to win an Academy Award nomination back in 1977 for the film ‘Seven Beauties‘. But the first woman to win the award was Kathryn Bigelow for the movie ‘Hurt Locker’ in 2010. Chloé Zhao has made history by becoming just the second woman and the first woman of color to win the Best Director award for ‘Nomadland’ in 2021.

The Power of the Dog’ director Jane Campion is the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar twice. This proves women are not given the recognition they deserve at the Academy Awards even today. From Céline Sciamma’s ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ to Nora Twomey’s ‘The Breadwinner’, we’ve compiled a list of movies directed by women that focus on women’s issues, LGBTQ issues, award-winning and nominated films should watch!

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)

The fluidity of gender and sexual identity among girls and women is a common theme in Céline Sciamma’s films. The 2019 movie ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire‘ too takes a similar path. Set in France, 1770, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a painter, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse, (Adèle Haenel), the young daughter of a French countess. Marianne poses as she hired a companion. She is instructed to complete the portrait in secret, but intimacy and attraction begin to blossom between both women.

The latter is a reluctant bride-to-be who develops a mutual attraction to Marianne. Since the female artist must paint Héloïse without her knowing, Marriane observes her by day, to paint her secretly. In 2019, Scammia won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay for this film. The next film we’re going to talk about has also been directed by Céline Sciamma.

Watch ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ on: Amazon Prime Video | Hulu | Amazon
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Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011)

Tomboy’ is a French film that sees a French family with two daughters, 10-year-old Laure (Zoé Héran) and 6-year-old Jeanne (Malonn Lévana), moving to a new suburban neighborhood during the summer holidays. With her Jean Seberg haircut and tomboyish ways, Laure is immediately mistaken for a boy by the local kids. The ten-year-old then decides to pass herself off as “Mikael”. “Mikael” is a boy different enough to catch the attention of the leader of the pack of kids – Lisa. She becomes smitten with Mikael.

At home with her parents and younger sister, the older child of the family is Laure. While hanging out with her new pals and girlfriend, she is Mikael, who finds resourceful ways to hide her true self. Laure takes advantage of her new identity in this Sciamma film which brings a light and charming touch to this contemporary coming-of-age story. This 2011 film is also about relationships between children and parents. It follows an even more complicated relationship – one that’s between one’s heart and body.

Find ‘Tomboy’ on: Amazon | Vudu | Google Play

Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)

Writer-director Greta Gerwig (‘Lady Bird’) crafted a ‘Little Women’ film. It draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott. The movie that won Gerwig a The Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March (portrayed by Saoirse Ronan ‘Ladybird’) reflects back and forth on her fictional life. ‘Little Women’ (2019) follows the beloved story of the March sisters. In Greta Gerwig’s take, four young women are each determined to live life on their own terms. This is both timeless and timely.

Apart from Saoirse Ronan portraying Jo March, the film also stars Emma Watson (‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, and Beauty and the Beast) as Meg March, Florence Pugh (‘Black Widow’, ‘Midsommar’) as Amy March, Eliza Scanlen (‘Sharp Objects’, ‘The Devil All the Time’) as Beth March, with Timothée Chalamet (‘Dune’, ‘Beautiful Boy’) as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern (‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Big Little Lies’) as Marmee March, and Meryl Streep (‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘The Devil Wears Prada’) as Aunt March.

Find ‘Little Women’ on: Netflix | Amazon Prime Video | STARZ | Amazon

The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey, 2017)

From executive producer Angelina Jolie, ‘The Breadwinner’, directed by Nora Twomey is an animated feature based on Deborah Ellis’ bestselling novel which follows Parvana, an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When Parvana’s father is wrongfully arrested, she cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a boy. She does this in order to support her family by working alongside her friend Shauzia, taking on odd jobs – Parvana discovers a new world of freedom and danger.

With undaunted courage, the eleven-year-old draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents, as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family in this film voiced by Saara Chaudry (‘Charlie’s Colorforms City’), Noorin Gulamgaus, Kawa Ada, Ali Badshah (‘Shazam’), Shaista Latif, and more! This 2017 film equally thrills and enchants us. It is an inspiring and brilliantly animated tale that shows us the power of stories. Stories help us to sustain hope and carry us through dark times when we don’t see light at the end of the tunnel.

Find ‘The Breadwinner’ on: Netflix | Amazon | Vudu

Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)

In Greta Gerwig’s ‘Lady Bird’, an artistically inclined teenager – Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson portrayed by Saoirse Ronan (‘Little Women’, ‘Brooklyn’) navigates a loving but turbulent relationship with her strong-willed mother (Laurie Metcalf, ‘Roseanne’, ‘The Conners’) over the course of an eventful and poignant senior year of high school.

In 2018, Greta Gerwig was honored with The Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, The National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Director, The Satellite Auteur Award, National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay, and Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Most Promising Filmmaker in 2017 for the film.

This 2017 film also stars Timothée Chalamet (‘Dune’, ‘Little Women’, ‘Beautiful Boy’), Lucas Hedges (‘Boy Erased’, ‘Manchester By the Sea’), Beanie Feldstein (‘Booksmart’), Tracy Letts (‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’), Odeya Rush (‘The Giver’, ‘Goosebumps’), and more!

Find ‘Lady Bird’ on: Netflix | Amazon | Vudu | Amazon Prime Video
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Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020)

Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut ‘Promising Young Woman’ sees Carey Mulligan (‘The Great Gatsby’, ‘Drive’) as Cassie, a young woman who is wickedly smart and tantalizingly cunning. She is traumatized by a tragic event in her past, so she’s living a secret double life by night to seek vengeance against those who crossed her path and revenge for her best friend, Nina, who committed suicide after being raped by their classmate.

The film also features Bo Burnham as Ryan, Alison Brie (‘GLOW’, ‘Community’, ‘BoJack Horseman’), Jennifer Coolidge (‘The White Lotus’, ‘Legally Blonde’), Laverne Cox (‘Orange is the New Black’, ‘Inventing Anna’), and more!

“From groundbreaking director, Emerald Fennell (Killing Eve) comes a delicious new take on revenge. Everyone said Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a promising young woman… until a mysterious event abruptly derailed her future,” reads Prime Video’s description of the film. Watch a med school dropout embark on a mission to punish predatory men in this provocative drama, to avenge her friend’s suicide in ‘Promising Young Woman’. This is a wildly entertaining story about a delicious new take on revenge.

Find ‘Promising Young Woman’ on: Amazon Prime Video | Netflix | Hulu | Amazon | YouTube | Google Play | HBO Max | Apple TV

Pariah (Dee Rees, 2011)

Dee Rees’ 2011 film ‘Pariah’ is about a Brooklyn teenager Alike (Adepero Oduye, ‘The Falon and the Winter Soldier’, ‘12 Years A Slave’). She lives in Fort Greene neighborhood with her parents portrayed by Charles Parnell (‘All My Children’, ‘Mind the Gap’) and Kim Wayans (‘Living Color’) and her younger sister (Sahra Mellesse, ‘You’re Not You’).

Alike is a lesbian who quietly embraces her identity. She is looking for her first lover. However, Alike wonders how much she can truly confide in her family, especially with her parents’ marriage already strained. The teenager’s mother presses her to befriend a colleague’s daughter (Aasha Davis, ‘South of Nowhere’). Alike finds the gal to be a pleasant companion.

Find ‘Pariah’ on: Apple TV | Google Play | Amazon | Hulu | Amazon Prime Video

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)

In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director for her movie ‘The Hurt Locker’. It is a gripping drama following U.S. Army’s elite explosive ordnance disposal teams operating in Iraq. Before we could meet Marvel’s superheroes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Falcon’s now Captain America (Anthony Mackie) in the Marvel movies, we saw them in Bigelow’s award-winning ‘The Hurt Locker’ as Staff Sgt. William James and Sgt. J.T. Sanborn, respectively.

The film follows James, Sanborn, and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty, ‘Chicago P.D.’). They are members of a bomb-disposal unit in Baghdad, Iraq. The men face a set of increasingly hazardous situations, as their tour of duty enters its final weeks. Any of these situations could end their lives in an explosive instant.

This film and its director won several accolades such as an Academy Award for Best Picture, BAFTA Award for Best Film, The Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture, The Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director, BAFTA Award for Best Direction, The Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, The Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Feature, The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, The Satellite Award for Best Director, among others.

Find ‘The Hurt Locker’ on: Amazon Prime Video | Hulu | Netflix | Amazon

Margarita With A Straw (Shonali Bose, 2014)

Shonali Bose’s 2014 film ‘Margarita With A Straw‘ revolves around a rebellious young woman called Laila (Kalki Koechlin, ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’, ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’, ‘Gully Boy’) with cerebral palsy who leaves India to study in New York.

On her journey of self-discovery, she unexpectedly falls in love and becomes involved in a life-changing affair with a blind female activist in this film also starring Sayani Gupta (‘Four More Shots Please!’, ‘Inside Edge’), Revathi, Hussain Dalal, and more! Bose won the Stardust Award for Filmmaker Of The Year – Editor’s Choice for this film.

Find ‘Margarita With A Straw’ on: Netflix | JioCinema | YouTube | Voot | Apple TV | Google Play | Amazon

Frozen (Jennifer Lee, 2019)

Based on a bond between two sisters instead of needing a prince to save the day, 2013’s Disney film ‘Frozen’ is a screenplay by Jennifer Lee which she co-directed with Chris Buck. When their kingdom becomes trapped in perpetual winter, fearless Anna (Kristen Bell, ‘The Good Place’) joins forces with mountaineer Kristoff (Jonathan Groff, ‘Mindhunter’, ‘Hamilton’) and his reindeer sidekick to find Anna’s sister, Snow Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel, ‘Enchanted’, ‘Glee’), and break her icy spell.

Their epic journey leads them to encounters with mystical trolls. This includes a comedic snowman (Josh Gad, ‘Beauty and the Beast’), harsh conditions, and magic at every turn. Anna and Kristoff bravely push onward in a race to save their kingdom from winter’s cold grip. Lee won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, The Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film for the film.

Find ‘Frozen’ on: Disney+ | YouTube | Apple TV  | Google Play
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The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)

The 2019 film ‘The Assistant’ follows Jane (Julia Garner, ‘Inventing Anna’, ‘Ozark’), a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer. In the film, she just landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul with her day being much like any other assistant. This includes making coffee, ordering lunch, arranging travel accommodations, and taking phone messages. But as she follows her daily routine, she grows increasingly aware of the abuse that insidiously colors every aspect of her workday.

It is an accumulation of degradations against which she decides to take a stand in the movie directed by Kitty Green. ‘The Assistant’ also stars Kristine Froseth (‘The Society’, ‘Birds of Prey’), Matthew Macfadyen (‘Pride & Prejudice’, ‘Succession’), Bregje Heinen (‘Babylon’), Patrick Wilson (‘The Conjuring’, ‘Passengers’), Makenzie Leigh, and more!

Find ‘The Assistant’ on: Amazon Prime Video | Amazon

Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)

The 2020 movie ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ sees Autumn (Sidney Flanigan), a teenager face an unintended pregnancy. Since there is a lack of local support, the teenager and her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder, ‘Master’), travel across state lines to New York City to have an abortion. They are on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.

This film has been directed by Eliza Hittman and the cast includes Théodore Pellerin (‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’), Ryan Eggold (‘90210’, ‘The Blacklist’), Brian Altemus (‘Grand Army’), Sharon Van Etten, and Eliazar Jimenez. Hittman took home The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Screenplay and The National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Screenplay for the film.

Find ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’ on: Amazon | Netflix | Amazon Prime Video

Nomadland (Chloé Zhao, 2020)

Chloé Zhao became the first woman of color, the first Chinese woman, and second woman ever to win the Oscar for directing ‘Nomadland’. It is about a woman (Frances McDormand, ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth’) in her sixties who after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West. She lives as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.

Zhao also won The Academy Award for Best Picture, The Golden Globe Award for Best Director, The BAFTA Award for Best Film, The Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director, The Independent Spirit Award for Best Film, The BAFTA Award for Best Direction, The Film Independent’s Spirit Award for Best Director, The Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, among others. Nomadland’s cast features David Strathaim (‘Nightmare Alley’), Bob Wells, Gay DeForest, Patricia Grier, and Tay Strathairn.

Find ‘Nomadland’ on: Disney+ | Apple TV

The Half Of It (Alice Wu, 2020)

Netflix’s ‘The Half of It’ sees a smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis, ‘Nancy Drew’) agree to write a love letter for a jock. However, what she doesn’t expect is to become his friend – or fall for his crush in the 2020 film directed by Alice Wu. The cast of this film features Alexxis Lemire (‘Truth or Dare’), Daniel Diemer, Wolfgang Novogratz (‘Feel the Beat’), Collin Chou (‘The Matrix Revolutions’), Becky Ann Baker (‘Freaks and Geeks’), Enrique Murciano (‘Without A Trace’, ‘Bloodline’), among others.

Watch ‘The Half Of It’ on Netflix: HERE

Happiest Season (Clea DuVail, 2020)

Clea DuVall’s 2020 film ‘Happiest Season’ is a romantic comedy about longtime lesbian couple Abby (Kristen Stewart, ‘Twilight’, ‘Spencer’) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis, ‘The Blade Runner 2049′, ‘The Martian’). Abby made plans to go home to the latter’s family for the Christmas holidays and spend the yuletide season with Harper’s conservative parents. She is also planning to spring a marriage proposal on Harper, but trouble begins when she discovers that Harper hasn’t come out as a lesbian yet to her family.

This leaves them clueless as to who Abby really is in her life in this film co-written and directed by Clea Duvall. ‘Happiest Season’ also stars Dan Levy (‘Schitt’s Creek’), Victor Garber (‘Titanic’, ‘Legally Blonde’, and Mary Steenburgen (‘Elf’, ‘Nightmare Alley’), Mary Holland (‘The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window’), Aubrey Plaza (‘Parks & Recreation’), and Alison Brie (‘Glow’, ‘BoJack Horseman’).

Find ‘Happiest Season’ on: Hulu | Netflix | Amazon Prime Video

The Power of the Dog (Jane Capion, 2021)

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch (‘Sherlock’, ‘Doctor Strange’) as a domineering rancher in ‘The Power of the Dog’ written and directed by Jane Campion.

An adaptation of Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel, Cumberbatch’s character – Phil responds with mocking cruelty when his brother brings home a new wife and her son. He spends a summer taunting his sister-in-law’s son (Peter, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’) because of his intellect and kindness. This is until the unexpected comes to pass as over the course of the summer, Phil and Peter’s relationship evolves.

The story explores themes of grief and love. The film also stars Kirsten Dunst (‘Spider-Man’, ‘Fargo’), Jesse Plemons (‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Jungle Cruise’), Thomasin McKenzie (‘Last Night in Soho’, ‘Jojo Rabbit’), Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy (‘American Horror Story’, ‘Joker’) among others.

This movie has been winning big at the awards with Campion herself bagging trophies like The Golden Globe Award for Best Director, Silver Lion for Best Director, The New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director, and the Critics Choice Award for Best Director.

Watch ‘The Power of the Dog’ on: Netflix
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CODA (Sian Heder, 2021)

CODA’ is an acronym for “child of deaf adults.” This coming-of-age movie sees Ruby, a child of deaf adults (hence CODA), devoting much of her life to helping her family business on a fishing boat with her father and brother. She operates as the family translator and avoids most other social interactions. Ruby’s family learns how to navigate change when Ruby is encouraged to pursue music and forge her own path in this movie. It made history with Troy Kotsur becoming the first deaf man nominated for an acting Oscar.

The AppleTV+ film won Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture beating out fellow nominees ‘Belfast‘, ‘Don’t Look Up‘, ‘House of Gucci‘ and ‘King Richard‘ at the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG Awards 2022).  “I’m stunned, I’m stunned,” Marlee Matlin told the audience while accepting the trophy on behalf of the film, “We need to thank SAG-AFTRA, you guys, you voted for us,” she said.

The ‘CODA’ star thanked the producers, the director, writers, and interpreters who contributed to the project. “We wanna thank AppleTV+ for trusting us, for believing in us [and]our movie,” she said. “Thank you for writing the words and including deaf culture, we love you,” Matlin continued. “The interpreters, thank you all the CODA interpreters and all CODAs everywhere, all over the world. My kids, all four of them are CODAs.”

“This validates the fact that we deaf actors can work just like anybody else,” she proudly told the audience. Wrapping up her speech, Matlin said: “We look forward to more opportunities for deaf actors [and]deaf culture. Thank you. We love you,” she said, before showing everyone how to say “I love you” in sign language.

Find ‘CODA’ on: Apple TV+ | Amazon

 

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