Curating a short list of films directed by women was honestly so much more difficult than I thought it would be. There are just waaaay too many good movies and women filmmakers to choose from.
So instead of compiling a short list of some of the smartest, most captivating cinema, I’ve broken these recommendations down by mood/genre. Enjoy Women’s History Month with these picks!
In the mood for…
…coming of age films?
The Edge of Seventeen – This movie perfectly captures the ~*teenage angst*~ we’ve all felt (or are still enduring) without mocking teenage girls’ plights. Nadine, played by Hailee Steinfeld, is so awkward and so real that I felt transported back to high school.
Mustang – This film by Deniz Gamze Erguven earned the Turkish director a Cesar for best debut, and rightly so. It takes place in Northern Turkey and follows five sisters whose conservative grandmother, one by one, arranges their marriages. It’s reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Virgin Suicides, but with less…death and dreamy filters. Ultimately, it’s about the power of sisterhood.
If you like these you might also like Girlhood, dir. Celine Sciamma.
But I’m a Cheerleader – RU PAUL!!!!!! But if that’s not enough to convince you, there’s also Natasha Lyonne playing a high school cheerleader Megan who is sent to a conversion therapy camp when her parents suspect her of being a lesbian (because she’s vegetarian and likes Melissa Etheridge). This satire is hilariously camp and the costume/set design is reminiscent of John Waters.
Boys Don’t Cry – This film is a romantic drama about Brandon Teena, a trans man trying to maneuver through a small town and his own identity. Though I have reservations about Hilary Swank’s casting as a trans character, this film is heart-wrenching and worth a watch.
…a quiet period-piece?
Bright Star – Jane Campion’s most recent feature film is about the relationship between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. It follows the couple’s courtship all the way to the poet’s premature death (Keats died when he was only 25 years old). Campion’s biographical feature is quiet, soft, and understated and yet still thoroughly engaging.
…dysfunctional family drama?
La Cienaga – I’m always up for dysfunctional family dramas (that’s probably why I latched onto Wes Anderson’s filmography in middle school). This film, by Lucrecia Martel, is a prime example of this type of drama. It follows a family in Argentina; it involves drinking and humid summer days and listlessness and the feeling that contentment will always be out of reach. This movie is slow-paced, which only adds to the building tension of the feuding family.
…an empowering story about a girl in Saudi Arabia who dreams of riding a bike despite all the cultural norms that stop her from achieving her dreams?
Wadjda – WELL YOU’RE IN LUCK! Your weirdly specific mood can be satisfied by Wadjda, the first Saudi Arabian feature-length film made by a woman.
…a historical drama?
Selma – If you haven’t seen Ava Duvernay’s gripping MLK film, DO IT!!! And keep a look out for her adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle In Time next year. (If you enjoyed this, check out Duvernay’s documentary, 13th, on Netflix. It deals with the timely topic of mass incarceration of African-Americans in the US.)
Honourable mentions from other first-year students:
Andriana recommends anything from Claire Denis, a French filmmaker. Check out her critically acclaimed debut, Chocolat.
But if you don’t check any of these
amazing feats of cinema movies, at least watch the cinematic masterpiece all three of us recommend:
Shrek (2001) dir. Vicky Jenson and Andrew Adamson.
(It’s directed by a man and woman duo, but it obviously counts. You can’t ignore true cinema.)
What are your favourite women-directed/-written/-produced films? Have any recommendations?
Happy Women’s History Month!