It’s hard to know what ‘appreciate’ or ‘support’ should mean to you, specifically, as a filmmaker or a fan of films. When Women’s History Month rolls around, it’s what we’re asked to do, but how do we put that into action? Is it just a matter of acknowledgment or credit to the women who’ve pioneered filmmaking in the past?
Well, we think there’s one key thing you can do to ‘appreciate’ and ‘support’—watch films made by women. Sure, it’s important to give credit and acknowledgment, but it’s far more important to actually buy/rent/stream movies created by women. The film industry is a big machine and it doesn’t move quickly. If we want to steer the ship in a different direction, we need to do it little by little on an individual basis. And that almost always starts with the consumer (i.e. people watching films).
So, that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish in this blog post. Now more than ever, we have plenty of time to brush up on movies. So, why not brush up intentionally? Here are 10 movies made by women you can watch to help pass the time.
Obviously, this isn’t a complete list. There are hundreds of incredible movies released by women over the years. But, this is simply a short list of movies we highly recommend.
A League of Their Own by Penny Marshall
The late great Penny Marshall was a titan of cinema before she passed in 2018. Many may think of Big as her biggest accomplishment to modern movies, but we think A League of Their Own takes the cake. This movie was living proof that women were capable of not only great art, but also great blockbusters. This movie is a crowd-pleaser all around, tackling important issues while just being damn funny.
Rent or Buy it here.
Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow
It’s hard to make a movie that’s topical, but also stands up on its own outside of the zeitgeist. A few movies have done it in the past—All The President’s Men, for example, is still relevant today—but perhaps no movie does it better than Zero Dark Thirty. Director Kathryn Bigelow tackled the monumental task of portraying the hunt for Osama bin Laden, doing so with the utmost intentionality and skillful storytelling. There are no traditional heroes in this story. Just a set of extraordinary circumstances and people who were thrown into them headfirst.
Rent or Buy it here.
Monster by Patty Jenkins
Patty Jenkins is currently standing toe to toe with some of the most famous directors in the industry, regardless of their gender, having helmed the incredibly successful and surprisingly good Wonder Woman. But, she got her start by forcing audiences to pay attention. In 2004’s Monster, she transformed Charlize Theron into a harrowing serial killer and even more importantly, transformed her into a three-dimensional character. Her deft direction and unflinching honesty make this film a must-watch.
Rent or Buy it here.
The Farewell by Lulu Wang
Lulu Wang’s The Farewell is what happens when a director takes something personal and makes it universal. Cinema, at its best, connects on an elemental level, and this movie does so in spades. This story exists somewhere between comedy and drama (what in life doesn’t), but explores family and relationships in ways that could only be told by someone who’d actually been through something like this. It’s personal to everyone.
Lost in Translation by Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola’s incredible Lost in Translation is a masterclass in subtlety and grace. Everytime you think this film is going to devolve into something, it doesn’t. It could have been a romantic comedy. It could have been a campy drama. Instead, it’s a character study that explores the connections we share with each other and how emotional needs can be fulfilled. Plus, Coppola pulled incredibly affecting performances from Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson. It’s one of the most refreshing, charming and least cliché movies you’ll ever see.
You Were Never Really Here by Lynne Ramsay
Lynee Ramsay is fearless. Her unflinching portrayal of parenthood gone wrong in We Need to Talk About Kevin turned heads in 2011, but You Were Never Really Here decidedly kicked it up a notch. This thriller is unlike any other we’ve seen before. It’s artful, violent, and takes some notes from Scorsese and then turns them on their head. The entire film is an exercise in efficiency and tension.
Leave No Trace by Debra Granik
Speaking of efficiency, let’s talk about Leave No Trace by Debra Granik. This is one of those films that may seem like a snooze if you were trying to describe it to someone at a party. But, how incredible this movie is speaks to the transformative power of its director. She turned a simple storyline into something complex, bracingly emotional, yet timelessly simple at the same time. It’s critically acclaimed for good reason, but didn’t get much attention at its release. It should definitely get your attention now.
Little Women by Greta Gerwig
It’s hard not to get excited about anything Greta Gerwig releases. Whether in front of the camera or behind it, she has the uncanny ability to tell a fascinating, rich story without you even knowing it. She proved it with Lady Bird, giving fresh life to the sometimes overdone coming of age story. But, with Little Women, she proved that she can also breathe new life into old classics. Her portrayal of Louisa May Alcott’s iconic characters is astonishing because it pays homage to its source material, but frames them in entirely new ways. Little Women is not just for women—it’s an incredibly smart film for any audience.
Buy it here.
The Babadook by Jennifer Kent
Outside of comedy, horror may be the most difficult genre to produce something with lasting quality. So often they’re meant for cheap scares, cheap entertainment, and short-term space in our memory banks. So, when Jennifer Kent released The Babadook, it was a welcome surprise. What started as a slow-burner in the movie industry eventually bloomed into a full-on hit—and for good reason. This film is a horror movie with weight. It somehow manages to be entertaining and scary, all while exploring grief and depression in ways you’d never expect.
American Factory by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar
There’s maybe no movie more timely than American Factory—ok, maybe Contagion, but other than that. This documentary takes a decidedly light-handed approach to its subject matter, exploring global dynamics, commercialism, and miscommunication. But, what it captures is nothing short of a train wreck and we’re there in the front seat for it. This is documentary filmmaking at its best, exploring complicated and difficult subjects, and letting them speak for themselves. If you want to read more about documentary filmmaking and what it takes, check out our blog post here.
Available for streaming only on Netflix.
Luckily for all of us, there are more movies being made by women than ever before. These 10 films are the result of it. Like we said, there are hundreds more to watch, but hopefully this list gives you a headstart on a rich history of women in film.