I am a self-proclaimed rom-com lover. I was raised on my mother’s favorites of John Hughes and Nora Ephron films. It is something that has remained a constant in my life. This is one of genres where you tend to see female directors and writers. This is why it helped open my eyes to many very brilliant and prolific female directors. Now that my tastes have changed I can find female directors in every genre. Yet with each award season, I am reminded of how far we have come with diversity and inclusion in film and how far we have to go. Today I would like to list some of my favorite female-directed movies so you may enjoy some excellent films while supporting women in the arts.
1. Emma, directed by Autumn de Wilde
This movie was my favorite of 2020. It is a beautiful and faithful retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma. The scenery alone is enough to make me want to drop everything and move into an English estate. I love watching this version of Emma Woodhouse grow up and fall in love. The costume designer was also praised for her accuracy of design while adapting to modern colorways. Beautifully shot, and helped by the talents of Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn. Please watch this modern masterpiece.
2. Birds Of Prey, directed by Cathy Yan
Now to take us in a very different direction. One of the few things DC movies have done right is ensuring that the stand-alone movies of female characters are directed by women. First praised by Patti Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, this was a great follow-up. Cathy Yan took Harley Quinn’s colorful persona and played with femininity and violence in a way that was super playful but poignant. The mostly female cast embodies these powerful superheroes with ease, bringing out each character’s own backstory without being too cliche or wrought with emotion. These women are wholly themselves and create a support team for each other without asking for the characters to give up their moral integrity.
3. Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke
OKAY….okay… so this might not be one of my favorite movies, but it is one of my favorite topics of discussion. This was widely praised at the time for its director, Catherine Hardwicke’s, use of blue tinted film to give the movie an even cooler, more dramatic feel. It was a direction signature of Hardwicke, and though I think at times this movie is beyond campy, it was also very well shot. Hardwicke was mostly a indie filmmaker and has always promoted young female characters in her own filmmaking in a very authentic style. Now, she was wronged by the Twilight Franchise. After the debut of Twilight‘s success with young female viewers, the studio gave the next films to male directors, who promoted more action shots and less about Bella’s relationships, ignoring everything that Hardwicke had worked for in this movie. There is a reason this is the best rated Twilight film in the franchise.
4. The Farewell, directed by Lulu Wang
This movie is a beautiful story of family and an exercise of cultural relativism. As the main character, Billi, learns that her family’s matriarch is dying and her family has decided not to tell her of her impending death. Billi goes back to China and learns to celebrate and mourn the things she has left behind in her childhood. This movie reflects Wang’s amazing eye and voice. She not only directed but wrote The Farewell. This piece is a beautiful encapsulation of family with the humor and drama that feels so real to life you can almost believe this is your own family.
5. Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola
This movie is both widely loved and widely hated. Many critiqued this film for its lack of political insight to the French Revolution that made Marie Antoinette so famous. To that I say, “MARIE ANTOINETTE WAS NEVER IN POLITICS.” Instead, Coppola looked to show how Marie Antoinette was literally just a teenager. She turned her eyes to look at the wild hardships of French court for this outsider point of view. The relationships between Marie and her beaus, plus the juxtaposition of modern items to the French rococo style, was smart and poignant. Along with a killer soundtrack, this movie was a masterful look into the bizarre real-life drama of royal families.
Now, I have finished my list. But I would like to include some of my other favorites:
- Mudbound, dir. Dee Rees
- Little Women, dir. Greta Gerwig
- To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, dir. Susan Johnson
- Booksmart, dir. Olivia Wilde
- The First Cow, Dir. Kelly Reichardt
- 13th, dir. Ava DuVernay
Please continue to seek out work done by women, because the more you do the more you’ll notice how little there is. Always make sure to support female creatives (especially female creatives of color) so their work can be more widely shared.