As an aspiring filmmaker, I want to see more female directors receive opportunities and limelight as their male counterparts. Even more so, female directors of color. Female directors bring a new perspective to storytelling that most male directors may not be able to accomplish. They know how to portray female pain and grief through small details or evoke excitement and thrill without any dialogue.
Here is a list of 10 movies to watch by female directors in no particular order. Some are popular movies that you have heard of while others will be a new addition to your watchlist. I haven’t seen some of these films myself but I am looking forward to writing more about them in-depth.
Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Zoya Akhtar
I had to have a Bollywood film in here and I couldn’t think of a more perfect movie than ZNMD! This movie is about three friends, Imraan, Kabir, and Arjun, who meet again after many years apart for Kabir’s bachelor party. Each friend has an activity they want to do that range from deep-sea diving to attending the La Tomatina festival in Spain. It’s a beautiful movie that teaches you about love, family, friendship, and life overall. The location of the movie is breathtaking and literally every song is a banger.
Real Women Have Curves, Patricia Cardoso
This movie is about the struggles of a first-generation Mexican-American, Ana Garcia, who aspires to go to college to make a life of her own but is held back by her parents who want her to stay home and help out the family. Patricia Cardoso is the first Latinx woman to receive a Sundance Audience Award and a Student Academy Award for this movie. I personally can’t wait to watch it because the story sounds relatable for any first-generation American who had to balance two different lifestyles growing up.
Birds of Prey, Cathy Yan
The full title is Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. As a HUGE NERD, I was so excited to watch this movie because it was about a league of badass women trying to take down a sociopathic manchild without any of the characters being hyper-sexualized. One of the first things I noticed and loved about this movie was the costumes! In most superhero movies, female characters are overtly sexualized whereas, in Birds of Prey, the outfits were super cute and practical (gasp). This movie received mixed reviews, however, I personally enjoyed it. It’s not perfect but I think its the right step towards portraying female superheroes/antiheroes/villans in a way that isn’t dehumanizing, objectifying, or some romantic side piece.
Little Woods, Nia DaCosta
Little Woods is a film about two sisters, Ollie and Deb, who have to venture into illegal activities to pay off the mortgage of their home after their mother passes away. This movie is Nia DaCosta’s directorial debut that has been praised for tackling issues like the opioid crisis, the broken healthcare system, and the restriction put on a women’s own body. I can’t wait to watch this movie because it also stars Tessa Thompson and Lily James, two actors with range and film versatility. Nia DaCosta is also directing another movie coming out later this year called Candyman.
The Farewell, Lulu Wang
The Farewell centers around Billi and her family who return to China to spend their final moments with their grandmother who is sick and only has a few days to live. However, no one can tell the grandmother of her sickness and must act normal as if nothing is wrong. I won’t spoil anything, but there is one scene in this movie that had me bawling because of how relatable it was. There is so much being said with very little to no dialogue. Family can be so complicated but it’s even more confusing when you grow up away from the cultural norms and lifestyle. A clash of cultures and mindsets occurs in the family but there is still strength and love felt during the most tragic time.
Queen of Katwe, Mira Nair
Phiona lives in an improvised town of Katwe in Uganda with her family who struggles to make a living. Phiona meets Robert Katende a missionary who teaches kids how to play chess. Phiona is fascinated by the game and learns to play and starts competing in local games across the country. Mira Nair’s filmography is impressive on its own with movies like Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay, and The Namesake to name a few. This uplifting movie about perseverance and risk feels on-brand for Nair’s style. I can’t wait to watch it mostly because my academy away winning queen, Lupita Nyong’o, plays the mother in this movie.
The Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma
This film follows Marianne, a painter, who must secretly create a portrait of Héloïse, a young woman who left the convent. This movie is a literal painting come to life, but more importantly, the movie is a lesbian romance directed by a lesbian director starring a lesbian actress, Adèle Haenel, who walked out on the César ceremony after child rapist Roman Polanski won the best director award. Seriously, what more reason do you need to watch this movie? The less I say the better. Watch this art piece!
Booksmart, Olivia Wilde
Booksmart follows two academically successful teenagers, Amy and Molly, who realize they have missed out on iconic moments in their high school years. In an effort to make their teenage years memorable before college, they cram a jam-packed night of mischievous fun full of twists and turns. I personally look forward to watching this movie because I think Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are great actresses. Also, I love the idea of two high achieving girls going on a crazy ride in high school because usually those types of stories are centered around boys.
When They See Us, Ava DuVernay
This four-part series follows the events of the Central Park Five who were wrongfully charged with raping a female jogger in central park. Although this is not a movie, I highly recommend watching this series like a movie. This story is captivating, heartbreaking, and absolutely devastating. No amount of money or reparations can ever fix the emotional trauma these five men went through in their lives because of our failed justice system.
Emma, Autumn de Wilde / Aisha, Rajshree Ojha / Clueless, Amy Heckerling
A film adaption of the classic novel by Jane Austen, Emma/Aisha/Cher loves to play matchmaker for people around her, but usually, her attempts cause problems and chaos that even she can’t solve. I know I am kind of cheating here, but the overall premise of the story is the same just different styles and tones. I haven’t seen Emma by Autumn de Wilde yet but based on the extravagant costumes and colorful palette, I truly can’t wait! Aisha is a Bollywood adaptation that I haven’t rewatched in a long time but remember it being funny and enjoyable. Clueless is the classic 90s high school version that has been referenced in music and other movies. All deserve a watch!