286 Best Movies to Watch by Female director (Page 12)

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A Ken Loach type of vibe drives The Selfish Giant  to be an interesting mix between anger,  desperation, and the beauty and humor often found in tough circumstances (think I, Daniel Blake but with kids as main characters). This sort of contemporary fable tells the story of two friends who skip school and hustle for work from a local scrap-dealer.  As they get more and more involved with him and his entourage, the grim realities of what once seemed a way out start to cast a shadow over their lives. The script is based on a short story by Oscar Wilde, it's a beautiful, ultimately sad portrayal of the British underclass.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Conner Chapman, Elliott Tittensor, Ian Burfield, Joseph Priestly, Lorraine Ashbourne, Macy Shackleton, Ralph Ineson, Rebecca Manley, Robert Emms, Sean Gilder, Shaun Thomas, Siobhan Finneran, Steve Evets

Director: Clio Barnard

Rating: Not Rated

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There is no shortage of resources—be it books, films, articles, or interviews—about the atrocities Ferdinand Marcos unleashed on the Philippines. And yet, in the years since his exile and eventual death, his family has returned to power in the country, winning the hearts and (manipulated) minds of the masses.

In The Kingmaker, director Lauren Greenfield (who earlier directed the equally revealing The Queen of Versailles) exposes how this came to be, with a focus on the titular kingmaker herself, Imelda Marcos. It’s chilling how much of Imelda’s stated goals in this documentary, which spans five years, have come true. History repeats itself, and Greenfield skillfully and delicately captures the delusion, irony, and blatant corruption of a family dead set on owning a country, as if it were another luxury to purchase (or in the case of the Marcoses, pocket). 

Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama

Actor: Andres D. Bautista, Benigno Aquino III, Bongbong Marcos, Etta Rosales, Imelda Marcos, Leni Robredo

Director: Lauren Greenfield

Rating: R

Stories We Tell got on everyone’s radar when, back in 2015, it made the list of the all-time top ten list of Canadian films. That speaks to both the caliber of this movie and its relevance to North America. It’s in fact a first-person account about (and made by) actress Sarah Polley (Mr. Nobody, Exotica, Away from Her, Take This Waltz). In the film, she investigates the rumor that she was the product of an affair, and that her father might not be her biological father. Her family and suspected fathers are all storytellers, and many of them Academy Award winners. Ultimately, the movie becomes about her family’s remembrance of her now-deceased mother (the famous actress Diane Polley). It’s an examination of how the same story can be told so differently by different people and across time. Lies get added and truths are hidden, and all of that enriches Polley’s pursuit.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alex Hatz, Alexandra "Allie" MacDonald, Allie MacDonald, Cathy Gulkin, Christine Horne, Dave Kiner, Deirdre Bowen, Geoffrey Bowes, Harry Gulkin, Jeanie Calleja, Joanna Polley, John Buchan, Lani Billard, Mairtin O'Carrigan, Marie Murphy, Mark Polley, Michael Polley, Mort Ransen, Pixie Bigelow, Rebecca Jenkins, Robert MacMillan, Sarah Polley, Susy Buchan, Thomas Hauff, Tom Butler, Tracey Ferencz, Wayne Curnew

Director: Sarah Polley

Rating: PG-13

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Rye Lane knows it’s treading familiar ground by having its charming leads fall in love as they walk and talk their way through a beautiful city. So instead of experimenting on a tried-and-tested setup, it smartly focuses on specificity. It hones in on the characters’ Gen Z woes and cranks up the British references, giving itself character and charm for days. It also finds other ways to be inventive as it trades plot twists for bold editing and camerawork. Rye Lane is a refreshing entry into romcom cinema, but it is also obviously a big fan of it as it holds plenty of homages and subversions of the genre. This one is made for and by romcom fans, and it's always nice to see a modern love story set during our times.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Hewkin, Colin Firth, Delroy Brown, Gary Beadle, Karene Peter, Levi Roots, Llewella Gideon, Malcolm Atobrah, Marva Alexander, Munya Chawawa, Sandra Daley, Simon Manyonda, Vivian Oparah

Director: Raine Allen-Miller

Rating: R

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It’s rare now to hear the phrase “girl power” without being immediately suspicious of its intentions, reduced as it were to cheesy adspeak and empty platitudes. But in the case of Rocks—a movie helmed by a predominantly female crew and co-written by the teenage cast themselves—the slogan fits. There is power in this type of girlhood: open, collaborative, and supportive, and that’s just what happens off-screen. 

On-screen, what unfolds is even more complex and beautiful. As Rocks struggles to take care of her younger brother all on her own, as she’s forced to grow up and face ethical dilemmas normally reserved for adults, she is backed unwaveringly by her friends Sumaya, Agnes, Yawa, Khadijah, and Sabina. It's their specific bond, unsentimental but deeply considerate and loyal, that keeps the film as solid and grounded as the title suggests.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Afi Okaidja, Anastasia Dymitrow, Bukky Bakray, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, D'angelou Osei Kissiedu, Kaine Zajaz, Kate Isitt, Kosar Ali, Layo-Christina Akinlude, Mohammad Amiri, Ruby Stokes, Sarah Niles, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Sharon D. Clarke, Shola Adewusi, Tawheda Begum, Umit Ulgen

Director: Sarah Gavron

Rating: TV-MA

This moving biopic is about Maud Lewis, the legendary Canadian painter who suffered from arthritis. In the film, Maud gets away from her controlling family by finding a job as a live-in housekeeper for a local fish peddler. It is there where she begins to paint, before marrying the fish peddler in spite of their different personalities. Sally Hawkins, who plays Lewis, brings undeniable spark and soul to the role, for which she had to undergo an astonishing physical transformation.

Maudie is a beautiful and uncomplicated film that challenges the conventions of marriage and relationship roles, while at the same time celebrating Maud Lewis’ paintings and life’s simple pleasures.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Billy MacLellan, David Feehan, Ethan Hawke, Gabrielle Rose, Greg Malone, Kari Matchett, Kate Ross, Lawrence Barry, Marthe Bernard, Nik Sexton, Sally Hawkins, Zachary Bennett

Director: Aisling Walsh

Rating: PG-13

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There is a lot to admire about this revenge film from director Mouly Surya—the breathtaking shots of rural Indonesia, the grisly practicality of the titular Marlina, the relevant observations on gender politics, and the simple yet stylistic way all of this is revealed. Fans of Westerns and Spaghetti Westerns are also treated with an Eastern reimagining of tropes as the film exchanges long guns for Kabeala knives and sprawling deserts for tropical hills.

Packed with so many delights, Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a near-impossible miss. But if you somehow find none of this gripping, you can always rely on the sure thrill of seeing scorned women bloodily and rightfully avenge themselves. 

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Western

Actor: Anggun Priambodo, Ayez Kassar, Dea Panendra, Egi Fedly, Egy Fedly, Haydar Salishz, Indra Birowo, Marsha Timothy, Norman R. Akyuwen, Ozzol Ramdan, Rita Matu Mona, Ruly Lubis, Safira Ahmad, Sapto Soetardjo, Tumpal Tampubolon, Yayu A.W. Unru, Yayu Unru, Yoga Pratama

Director: Mouly Surya

Rating: Unrated

True to its name, Joy Ride is a raucous delight that has everything you want out of a road trip comedy and more. There’s love, sex, adventure, and even music, but most of all there’s friendship, the interesting complexities of which are explored against the backdrop of race. There’s something meaningful keeping everything together at the core, and first-time director Adele Lim—helped by a strong script and cast—does an excellent job of holding it down. The film is also just plain funny. There are physical gags and of-the-moment jokes, plus a couple of insider quips made for and by the Asian community. But apart from the hilarity and tenderness, the film also delivers in the visual department: it looks gorgeous, not only because the characters are tourists who embark on a jet-setting adventure, but because of the inspired animation and vibrant editing. 

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Alexander Hodge, Annie Mumolo, Ashley Park, Baron Davis, Chris Pang, Daniel Dae Kim, David Denman, Debbie Fan, Desmond Chiam, Isla Rose Hall, Lori Tan Chinn, Meredith Hagner, Ronny Chieng, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Timothy Simons

Director: Adele Lim

Rating: R

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Set in 1970s Italian countryside, this is a quirky movie that’s full of plot twists.

Lazzaro is a dedicated worker at a tobacco estate. His village has been indebted to a marquise and like everyone else, he works without a wage and in arduous conditions.

Lazzaro strikes a friendship with the son of the marquise, who, in an act of rebellion against his mother, decides to fake his own kidnapping. The two form an unlikely friendship in a story that mixes magical realism with social commentary.

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Alice Rohrwacher, Antonio Salines, Carlo Massimino, Carlo Tarmati, Daria Deflorian, David Bennent, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Gala Othero Winter, Leonardo Nigro, Luca Chikovani, Natalino Balasso, Nicoletta Braschi, Pasqualina Scuncia, Sergi Lopez, Tommaso Ragno

Director: Alice Rohrwacher

Rating: PG-13

Based on the documentary short she helmed with actor Taylor Russell, Savannah Leaf’s Earth Mama is an intimate, unabashedly political, and decisively non-judgmental look at one mother’s determined attempts to regain custody of her two children. Gia (Tia Nomore) is struggling to work enough hours at her part-time photo studio job to pay for the home she needs before she can be reunited with her kids — struggling because the state also requires her to attend classes on topics like addiction recovery, which are eating into her time. What’s more, Gia is also heavily pregnant, and her looming due date sets a clock ticking on her efforts to satisfy her caseworker and decide what’s best for her new baby. 

There’s a depressingly cyclical nature to all this heartbreak, as testified to by the real people who sometimes pierce the drama to share their own experiences of the system Gia is navigating. Their contributions — along with Nomore’s lived-in performance and Leaf’s assured touch — deepen the urgency and emotion of the movie, which is as much a commentary on the dehumanizing bureaucracy of the social care system as it is Gia’s own particular story.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bokeem Woodbine, Dominic Fike, Erika Alexander, Sharon Duncan Brewster, Slim Yani

Director: Savanah Leaf

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This earnest documentary is about filmmaker and actress Maryam Zaree's journey to unravel the truth about her birth. Her parents are part of a generation of Iranian revolutionaries who were jailed, many executed, and now have taken exile in Europe. The torture and difficult prison conditions they experienced are cause for so much trauma that Maryam, born in prison, has not been told anything about her birth. Her mom, now Germany's first foreign-born mayor, cannot get past tears to tell a story that Maryam is determined to know. 

Her mom is not the only one who is unable to tell the story, as Maryam's quest uncovers more silence. In the end, Born in Evin is as much about the question of "is the truth worth getting told?" as it is about the truth itself. It's a heartfelt exploration of trauma, both for the generation that experienced it and for the generation that follows.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Marya Sirous, Maryam Zaree, Soraya Zangbari

Director: Maryam Zaree

Rating: Not Rated

That this film, an adaptation of a beloved classic and girlhood staple for 50 years and counting, is able to retain the same power, charm, and wisdom as the source material by Judy Blume is impressive in and of itself. 

Director Kelly Fremon Craig (Edge of Seventeen) turns the must-read novel into a must-see film, as urgent and relevant as ever in its frank portrayal of feminine woes and joys. Buying your first bra, getting your first period, losing a friend, doubting your faith, seeing—really seeing—your family for the first time, and knowing in your heart what you stand for...these are some of the thorny requisites of womanhood, and Craig navigates them with a bittersweet ease that never feels pandering nor patronizing. Like the book, the film honors this young person's big feelings by centering them in a sprawling story that involves other characters, who are just as fleshed-out as the lead. Rachel McAdams deserves special mention for turning in a sweetly nuanced performance as Margaret's mother Barbara, an artist attempting to balance her domestic role with her career goals. 

The film may be 50 years in the making, but it tells a timeless tale that will continue to hold the hands of teenage girls for generations to come.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Abby Ryder Fortson, Aidan Wojtak-Hissong, Benny Safdie, Echo Kellum, Elle Graham, Ethan McDowell, Gary Houston, JeCobi Swain, Judy Blume, Kathy Bates, Mia Dillon, Rachel McAdams, Sloane Warren, Wilbur Fitzgerald

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Rating: PG-13

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A movie about a 16 year old girl who gets involved with an older more sophisticated man and how the relationship changes her life. Carey Mulligan's performance is nothing short of perfect, inevitably making herself the center of the movie. The coming-of-age story is also quite exceptional, and conveys  impressive load and variety of emotions. An Education is one of those movies that make you live an experience you haven't lived yourself, but because it is so exquisitely and realistically done, the character's problems and joys will feel like your own.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Alfred Molina, Amanda Fairbank-Hynes, Bel Parker, Cara Seymour, Carey Mulligan, Connor Catchpole, Dominic Cooper, Ellie Kendrick, Emma Thompson, James Norton, Kate Duchêne, Matthew Beard, Nick Sampson, Olivia Williams, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosamund Pike, Sally Hawkins, William Melling

Director: Lone Scherfig

Rating: PG-13

The emotional sterility of modern life comes under the microscope of this understated Korean drama in which a young woman who has built self-preserving walls around her lonely existence begins to wonder if the trade-off is worth it. Outside of the soul-sucking call center job at which Jina (Gong Seung-Yeon) excels, her interactions with others are purely parasocial: she streams mukbangs on her phone as she eats alone, wakes up to the blare of her always-on TV, and checks in on her aging father via the security camera she’s surreptitiously installed in his home. When she reluctantly agrees to train the chatty, warm newbie (Jeong Da-eun) at work, Jina is confronted with a direct challenge to her aloofness, but the provocation is easily ignored until a similarly withdrawn neighbor is discovered long after his death.

This triggers a quarter-life crisis for Jina that’s predictably resolved, but Aloners transcends the neatness of this arc thanks to its quietly persistent challenging of the instinct to contort oneself to fit an inhumane world. Hong Sung-eun’s thoughtful first-time direction and Gong’s nuanced performance as a young woman waking up to the creeping dehumanization of herself make Aloners a genuinely thought-provoking reflection on 21st-century life.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Gong Seung-yeon, Jeong Da-eun, Ju Seok-tae, Kim Hae-na, Kwak Min-kyu, Park Jeong-hak, Seo Hyun-woo

Director: Hong Sung-eun

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