286 Best Movies to Watch by Female director (Page 15)

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This difficult movie is about a seventeen-year-old from the U.S. underclass who has to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. Autumn is creative, reserved, and quiet, but those are not qualities that her environment in rural Pennsylvania seems to value. On the opposite, she is surrounded by threats, including disturbing step-father and boss characters. 

Dangers escalate as Autumn decides to travel to New York to have an abortion. Never Rarely Sometimes Always is about unplanned pregnancies as much as it is about just how dangerous it is to be a teenage girl living in America.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amy Tribbey, Brian Altemus, Carolina Espiro, Christian Clements, David Buneta, Denise Pillott, Drew Seltzer, Eliazar Jimenez, Lizbeth MacKay, Mia Dillon, Ryan Eggold, Salem Murphy, Sharon Van Etten, Sidney Flanigan, Sipiwe Moyo, Talia Ryder, Théodore Pellerin, Théodore Pellerin

Director: Eliza Hittman

Rating: PG-13

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Most computer screen films take the horror film route as a cautionary tale about technology and how we use it. However, when the world was on lockdown, one screenlife film takes a look at its positive side. Simple, straightforward, and comforting, Language Lessons celebrates technology as a means for connection. Through surprise Spanish lessons purchased by his husband, Adam (Mark Duplass) forms a friendship with his instructor Cariño (Natalie Morales). At times, watching the film feels like listening into someone else’s Zoom call, however, their back-and-forth feels engaging because of Morales and Duplass’ chemistry. And when loss hits, on both sides, it’s only natural that their relationship deepens as they console each other. Expressive without being melodramatic and intimate without being too pushy, Language Lessons is a rare optimistic take towards the way we connect to each other through technology.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Desean Terry, Mark Duplass, Natalie Morales

Director: Natalie Morales

Rating: Not Rated

Romantically pairing up AI with humans is hardly new, and I'm Your Man is aware of that. Instead of spending way too much time explaining the advanced tech that makes the perfect mate possible, the movie zeroes in on its charismatic leads Tom the robot (Dan Stevens) and Alma the indifferent academic (Maren Eggert). Tom is the curious, humanoid automaton who is designed to worship Alma, and Alma is the disillusioned human who is conflicted with the authenticity of her growing feelings for Tom. I'm Your Man is smart and empathetic enough to stay afloat amidst its swirling genres and ethical dilemmas, but it is mostly the chemistry between Tom and Alma that anchors it to the love story that it actually is. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Science Fiction

Actor: Annika Meier, Christoph Glaubacker, Dan Stevens, Falilou Seck, Hans Löw, Henriette Richter-Röhl, Inga Busch, Jürgen Tarrach, Karolin Oesterling, Maren Eggert, Mignon Remé, Monika Oschek, Sandra Hüller, Sebastian Schwarz, Victor Pape-Thies, Wolfgang Hübsch

Director: Maria Schrader

Rating: R

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While primarily a showcase of endoscopic footage of various surgeries in different hospitals throughout Paris—which should already be enough to either make you queasy or inspire introspection into the fragility of our lives—this singular, experimental documentary places all this bloodshed in the context of the mundanity of the medical profession. Much of the film is taken up by muted conversation from the surgeons and footage of elderly patients wandering around, creating an even more surreal look into the lack of support these hospitals receive. It's far more abstract than it is educational, but its commitment to getting its hands dirty makes it an unforgettable experience.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel

Even with its haphazard construction and occasionally unnecessary and corny flourishes (what's with all the mellowed-out covers of pop songs?), there's a sense of intense, sincere pride and joy that shines through Every Body's many testimonials. Intersex people are barely represented whether in media or in legislation, and countless people still have very little understanding of what intersex is. But while this subject is usually viewed as uncomfortable—and this documentary definitely doesn't hold back in explaining the various ways intersex people are mutilated and mentally abused just to force them to conform to the gender binary—the film grounds everything by showing us how its main characters are as ordinary, creative, and full of good humor as the rest of us. So as Every Body skips through various aspects of the intersex experience, even its disorganization takes on the charm of a simple chat with friends. And either way, the discussions held here are the stuff of real courage—demanding our attention and earning our respect.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alicia Roth Weigel, River Gallo, Sean Saifa Wall, Steven Crowder

Director: Julie Cohen

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This Obamas-produced documentary does much to change the way we may still view people with disabilities as helpless or to be pitied. First, Crip Camp cleans up footage from a 1970s New York summer camp for disabled teens to pristine sound and video quality, allowing us to see how vibrant and lively this community has always been. Then, more importantly, the film traces how these kids—in particular, Judy Heumann—became badass faces in the movement for disability rights, staging protests and articulating themselves passionately for better accessibility in the most fundamental areas of everyday life. It's a documentary that isn't just designed to inspire, but also to advocate for safe spaces where young people with disabilities can receive the encouragement and motivation they need as early as possible.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Joseph O'Conor

Director: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham

Chile 76 takes place three years after the dictator Augusto Pinochet took over the country and cracked down on dissenting groups and rebels. There was political strife and unnecessary violence, but almost none of this plays out explicitly in the film. Instead, we mostly follow Carmen, who seems to be going through a crisis of her own, albeit an internal one. She lives a well-to-do life as she decorates a new house and volunteers at the church, but there is a deep-seated melancholia about her, which is maybe why she’s so drawn to Elias (Nicolás Sepúlveda). She exits her comfort zone and aids in his covert exchanges across town, perhaps because she’s genuinely interested in Elias’ cause, but possibly because she sees it as a way out from the humdrum of her privileged life. The beauty of the film is that it melds the personal with the political in subtle and interesting ways, allowing us viewers to draw our own conclusions to the matter.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Alejandro Goic, Aline Kuppenheim, Amalia Kassai, Antonia Zegers, Gabriel Urzúa, Germán de Silva, Graciela Tenenbaum, Marcial Tagle

Director: Manuela Martelli

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British filmmaker extraordinaire Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) draws the perfect portrait of two young American drifters who fall in love.

Star (Sasha Lane) runs away with Jake (Shia Laboeuf), a traveling magazine salesman with more experience on the road. The freedom is tempting at first, especially given her difficult situation at home, but Star is quickly confronted with the risks that come with running away.

American Honey is shot in a succession of moments that take place almost entirely during golden hour, as if to say that the best part of the day comes right before dark.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Andrea Arnold, Arielle Holmes, Chris Bylsma, Crystal Ice, Isaiah Stone, Kaylin Mally, Kenneth Kory Tucker, Laura Kirk, McCaul Lombardi, Riley Keough, Sasha Lane, Shawna Rae Moseley, Shia LaBeouf, Veronica Ezell, Will Patton

Director: Andrea Arnold, 安德里亚·阿诺德

Rating: R

Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) is a patriarch of an upper-class white family insulated from the roiling protests and violence in their suburban household outside of Johannesburg. When his gardener’s son is arrested, du Toit’s complacency is tested and he becomes embroiled in the devastating political reality outside the comforts of his gated world. 

Although it falls into the somewhat blemished category of films that center white protagonists when covering Black struggle, it does so with a piercing critical lens that confronts white denial and complicity. Euzhan Palcy’s direction is striking, depicting racism and violence with uncompromised clarity, while her unfettered dedication to getting this made even brought Marlon Brando out of retirement. Keep an eye out for him playing a beleaguered civil rights attorney - a role which notched him his final Academy Award nomination. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: David de Keyser, Donald Sutherland, Ernest Ndhlovu, Gerard Thoolen, Janet Suzman, John Kani, Jürgen Prochnow, Leonard Maguire, Marlon Brando, Michael Gambon, Paul Brooke, Richard Wilson, Ronald Pickup, Rosemary Martin, Susan Sarandon, Susannah Harker, Thoko Ntshinga, Winston Ntshona, Zakes Mokae

Director: Euzhan Palcy

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A comedy (!) that follows James (Benedict Cumberbatch) a man terminal cancer who knows that he doesn't have long to live, so he goes on a journey with his closest friends, Bill (Adam Robertson), Davy (Tom Burke) and Miles (JJ Field), to Barafundle Bay in Wales. The journey itself is funny and the characters have many issues to sort out, some lighter than others, but the film is by no means completely lighthearted, so if you aren't prepared for some tears with your laughter, maybe look elsewhere!

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Robertson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eros Vlahos, Helen Griffin, Hugh Bonneville, J.J. Feild, JJ Feild, Karl Johnson, Nia Roberts, Rupert Frazer, Tom Burke

Director: Hattie Dalton

Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

From The Babadook director Jennifer Kent comes another horror, although this one is more about the horrors of humanity. Set in 1825 Tasmania, The Nightingale follows Irish settler Clare as she seeks bloody revenge on the monsters who wronged her and her family. She teams up with an Aboriginal guide named Billy to accomplish her goal.

Because of its often violent and disturbing tone (the film is rated R for its potentially triggering scenes), The Nightingale understandably polarized audiences upon its release. But it's also an excellent conversation piece, best watched with friends or anyone up for a discussion-filled movie night.

Genre: Adventure, Drama, History, Thriller

Actor: Aisling Franciosi, Anthony Phelan, Baykali Ganambarr, Ben McIvor, Charlie Jampijinpa Brown, Charlie Shotwell, Christopher Stollery, Damon Herriman, Eloise Winestock, Ewen Leslie, Harry Greenwood, James O'Connell, Luke Carroll, Maggie Blinco, Magnolia Maymuru, Matthew Sunderland, Michael Sheasby, Nathaniel Dean, Sam Claflin, Sam Smith

Director: Jennifer Kent

Rating: R

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A quiet movie about an unpredictable convict who gets enrolled in a wild mustang taming program. These initiatives, common around the country, offer fascinating parallels: both the horses and the inmates are emprisoned, both innately fight against their condition but are actively being made to comply. The central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts is nothing short of a masterpiece. He doesn't speak much and you almost don't want him to: everything else he does communicates so much more than words. Watching this movie just for him is reason enough.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Heath Hensley, Jasmeet Baduwalia, Jason Mitchell, John Logsdon, Josh Stewart, Kelly Richardson, Kieth Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Noel Gugliemi, Santina Muha, Thomas Smittle

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Rating: R

Survivors are often painted in a brave light; they’re applauded for their resilience and toughness, and in the case of school shootings, many of them are also expected to take up arms and fight the good fight. While this is of course laudable, many survivors are simply trying to get by. Unable to process trauma and inexplicable loss, they become withdrawn, depressed, and reckless—not exactly noteworthy traits, but understandable and equally deserving of empathy.

The Fallout shifts the focus on this side of survival by following Vada in the aftermath of a school shooting. Unlike her peers, she fails to cope positively and becomes increasingly self-destructive. But it's through this unsentimental portrayal that The Fallout achieves a frankness and rawness that few films like it have. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Austin Zajur, Christine Horn, Jenna Ortega, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, Lumi Pollack, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Shailene Woodley, Will Ropp, Yindra Zayas

Director: Megan Park

Rating: R

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Through her irreverent, no-bullshit point of view, Chinese documentarian Christine Choy balances out The Exiles' painful reckoning with a traumatic event that shaped a generation of Chinese immigrants: the student-led protests and subsequent massacre of civilians in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in 1989. As Choy reconnects with the subjects of a documentary she stopped making 30 years ago, they help provide a fitting conclusion and new insights into the aftermath of the incident. And while the film eventually loses Choy's brash spirit and settles into a more conventional tone of storytelling, the testimonies and analyses of nation and home that we get to hear are still heartbreaking. After such a reprehensible violation of human rights, it becomes clear that the countries who refuse to condemn wrongdoing are just as guilty.

Genre: Documentary, History

Director: Ben Klein, Violet Columbus

With a particularly empowering tenderness and resilience, The Divine Order explores a glossed-over chapter in history wherein Swiss women could not vote until 1971. The hillside Swiss farming village in which Nora Ruckstuhl lives seems picture-perfect. But under the village’s close-knit and idyllic surface, change is stirring. When an emerging sense of autonomy pushes Nora to question her identity beyond being a complacent housewife, she publicly declares herself in favor of women’s suffrage and draws attention from both outspoken opponents and quiet supporters.

As Nora discovers herself—what she does and doesn’t like; what her body looks like; what pleasure feels like—she also uncovers a yearning for better, for more: who is she not just as a spouse and mother, but also as a friend, a member of a greater community, an independent woman?

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Bettina Stucky, Ella Rumpf, Marie Leuenberger, Marietta Jemmi, Marta Zoffoli, Maximilian Simonischek, Nicholas Ofczarek, Noe Krejcí, Peter Freiburghaus, Rachel Braunschweig, Sibylle Brunner, Sofia Helin, Therese Affolter, Walter Leonardi

Director: Petra Biondina Volpe

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