286 Best Movies to Watch by Female director (Page 16)

Staff & contributors

For kids and kids-at-heart who find Jim Henson's technical mastery of puppets riveting, this documentary on the classic and still-contemporary Sesame Street provides a ton of behind-the-scenes footage that's endlessly fun to watch. Street Gang rebuts any arguments that could be made about children's TV being low-effort—showing just how much craft is needed in a show like this. But more importantly, the film's first act illustrates the risky process of building Sesame Street from the ground-up, specifically as programming for inner-city Black children who weren't getting the education they deserved. It's nothing short of an inspiration to see this ragtag group of creatives and communication experts—none of whom wanted to take sole credit—coming together like a superhero team to create one of the most iconic and enduring TV shows in American history.

Genre: Documentary, Family

Actor: Bob McGrath, Brian Henson, Caroll Spinney, Dizzy Gillespie, Emilio Delgado, Fran Brill, Frank Oz, Fred Rogers, Holly Robinson Peete, James Earl Jones, Jesse Jackson, Jim Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Loretta Long, Muhammad Ali, Orson Welles, Roscoe Orman, Sonia Manzano, Stevie Wonder, Will Lee

Director: Marilyn Agrelo

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This Danish film which was the country's submission to the Oscars is about a delicate subject. A lawyer who specializes in defending children, and who is used to developing closeness with her clients including meeting with them in her home, starts having an affair with her teenage step-son.

There is inherent tension to this obviously very explicit plotline: how would a serious, non-erotic (or not-only-erotic) movie like this one portray such attraction. And of course, afterwards, what are the implications?

Genre: Drama

Actor: Carla Philip Røder, Elias Budde Christensen, Ella Solgaard, Frederikke Dahl Hansen, Gustav Lindh, Liv Esmår Dannemann, Mads Knarreborg, Magnus Kreppe, Magnus Krepper, Marie Dalsgaard, Mathias Skov Rahbæk, Nessie Beik, Preben Kristensen, Silja Esmår Dannemann, Stine Gyldenkerne, Trine Dyrholm

Director: May el-Toukhy

This is a revelation of a movie for its simplicity in handling a pretty serious and dark subject. It's the story of a generally immature and newly unemployed stand-up comic in New York and her unplanned pregnancy with a man that was supposed to be a fling, and it's surprisingly funny and yet rather touching. I can't think of many actresses who would've fit the bill quite like Jenny Slate. Not only is she hilarious, but her treatment of a generally sensitive issue from the honest, crass point of view of a down-on-life, New York-er leaves you drowning in empathy for her. I recommend this for anyone looking to cuddle up, have a few little clever laughs and feel all tingly in the chest-al area.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Amy Novondo, Cindy Cheung, David Cross, Elise Widerker, Emily Tremaine, Ernest Mingione, Gabe Liedman, Gaby Hoffmann, Jake Lacy, Jennifer Kim, Jenny Slate, Justin Lerner, Karen Maine, Kitty Crystal, Mary DelMarco, Michael Bonfiglio, Nicholas Cirillo, Paul Briganti, Polly Draper, Richard Kind, Sarina Roma, Stacey Sargeant, Stephen Singer, Suzanne Lenz

Director: Gillian Robespierre

Rating: R

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An electrifying portrayal of a girl growing up in a poor Paris suburb. This coming-of-age story follows Marieme, a girl struggling in high-school who learns that she will be rerouted out of academia and onto a track where she will learn a trade. Frustrated by the news and fearful of an abusive elder brother, she finds solace in a gang of girls from her neighborhood. Initially she decides against joining them but does so at the prospect of pursuing a crush. Her new friends take her into the center of Paris and to a more violent and crime-driven lifestyle. An undeniably grim movie, Girlhood compensates with an amazing character study - themes of identity and adolescent need for belonging are at the center of a type of a story that rarely ever gets any attention.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Assa Sylla, Cyril Mendy, Damien Chapelle, Djibril Gueye, Idrissa Diabaté, Idrissa Diabaté, Karidja Touré, Lindsay Karamoh, Marietou Toure, Rabah Nait Oufella, Simina Soumaré, Tia Diagne

Director: Céline Sciamma

Rating: Unrated

While most media outlets would rather talk about Taylor Swift’s love life and never-ending feuds, the fact remains that Swift is a dedicated artist. She’s a prolific songstress and an astute writer, and regardless of what you think of her, it’s always a treat to see someone with that much passion and talent delve deep into their craft. 

This is precisely what she does in Folklore. Between cozy conversations with co-producers and rustic live sessions, Swift lets her guard down to reveal how she works on each song, from the backstory to the melody. The result is a mesmerizing documentary about how Swift spent the secluded year of 2020 working on a record that would go on to win Album of the Year at the Grammys. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift

Director: Taylor Swift

Rating: TV-14

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Charming and heartfelt, Caramel captures the spirit and beauty of Beirut and its diverse and complex society. The story follows a group of women who work at a beauty salon as they navigate their relationships, dreams, and struggles in a changing and often restrictive environment. The film's lush and colorful visuals, rich cultural references, and strong performances create a warm and intimate atmosphere that invites the audience to connect with the characters' joys and sorrows. Although the ending feels listless, it is a delightful and empowering celebration of women's friendship and resilience.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adel Karam, Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Al Massri

Director: Nadine Labaki

Jane Campion’s biographical drama about the poet John Keats derives its name from one of the latter’s greatest love sonnets: Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art… / Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath/ And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Keats remains one of the most celebrated and adored Romantic poets. His writing challenged the poetic form, and revered the world for what it is at its best: wondrous, surprising, sublime. Ben Whishaw’s portrayal of Keats is rightfully distant, as we encounter the poet’s incredible aloofness through the perspective of interested suitor Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Brawne’s relationship with Keats was short but intense, providing great artistic inspiration and devastating devotion. Campion perfectly captures their fleeting relationship in this deft, crushing drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Abbie Cornish, Adrian Schiller, Amanda Hale, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Ben Whishaw, Claudie Blakley, Edie Martin, Eileen Davies, Gerard Monaco, Jonathan Aris, Kerry Fox, Lucinda Raikes, Olly Alexander, Paul Schneider, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Samuel Barnett, Samuel Roukin, Sebastian Armesto, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Vincent Franklin

Director: Jane Campion

Rating: PG

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The 1980s were not a great time to be of Pakistani descent in the UK. Hate crimes are at an all-time high and the economy is suffering. Plus, there is really no good era to be a misunderstood teenager. Javed is both those things in this coming-of-age comedy based on a true story. Javed finds solace in the music of one Bruce Springsteen, relating to his themes of small-city blues and the dreams of escaping them.

All of this makes Blinded By The Light a charming movie about a lot of unpleasantness, and while it tries to be too many things (a commentary on race, a musical, a coming of age story, etc), it succeeds where it matters: to treat the story with care and intelligence.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Aaron Phagura, Asheq Akhtar, Billy Barratt, David Hayman, Dean-Charles Chapman, Frankie Fox, Hayley Atwell, James Ballanger, Jeff Mirza, Kriss Dosanjh, Kulvinder Ghir, Lorraine Ashbourne, Marcus Brigstocke, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Nikita Mehta, Olivia Poulet, Rob Brydon, Robert Ryan, Ronak Singh Chadha Berges, Sally Phillips, Sofia Abbasi, Vincent Andriano, Viveik Kalra

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Rating: PG-13

This Swedish movie is the story of Astrid Lindgren, one of the most translated children book writers of all time. Her work of over 100 books includes Pippi Longstocking and The Brothers Lionheart.

Away from the quiet existence of the characters she would later create, Astrid had a turbulent life. Her troubles start when she falls for the editor of the paper she worked at when she was young, a man 30 years her senior. This results in an unwanted pregnancy and Astrid is pushed to immigrate.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Alba August, Björn Gustafsson, Henrik Rafaelsen, Magnus Krepper, Maria Alm Norell, Maria Bonnevie, Maria Fahl-Vikander, Sofia Karemyr, Trine Dyrholm

Director: Pernille Fischer Christensen

Rating: 12

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As Nicole Holofcener's directorial debut, Walking and Talking stands out not only for its honest dialogue and wonderful performance from the young Catherine Keener, but also for its portrayal of female friendship in a genre which too often portrays mindless cliches. The movie focuses on two best friends as one of them gets engaged and the other fears their friendship is getting lost in the middle of the excitement around her friend's marriage. Catherine Keener does a brilliant job as the likable but depressed friend and Anne Heche does an equally as good job playing her sympathetic half. A great movie if you're in the mood for something sweet, honest and sometimes sad.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Alice Drummond, Allison Janney, Amy Braverman, Anne Heche, Bettina Skye, Brenda Denmark, Catherine Keener, Harold Ramis, Heather Gottlieb, Joseph Siravo, Kevin Corrigan, Liev Schreiber, Lynn Cohen, Miranda Rhyne, Randall Batinkoff, Todd Field, Vincent Pastore

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Rating: R

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Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though -- she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Abdullrahman Al Gohani, Ahd, Alanoud Sajini, Dana Abdullilah, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Rafa Al Sanea, Reem Abdullah, Sultan Al Assaf, Waad Mohammed

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Rating: PG

Shot almost entirely in one take and on a tiny budget, and yet the central performance in this movie is still better than most big-budget dramas I’ve seen this year.

Two indigenous women, one upper-class and the other impoverished, meet on the day that the rich one gets an IUD and the other one, pregnant, finds herself kicked out of her home. They spend a few hours together: they talk, they take cabs, walk, etc; and you as a viewer, follow them throughout their intimate yet difficult moments.

If you like subtle movies that showcase how people live and interact with one another, beyond plot-obsessiveness, this is for you.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aidan Dee, Anesha Bailey, Anthony Bolognese, Barbara Eve Harris, Charles Jarman, Charlie Hannah, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, James Angus Cowan, Jay Cardinal Villeneuve, Kathleen Hepburn, Lissa Neptuno, Paul Jarrett, Sonny Surowiec, Tony Massil, Violet Nelson

Director: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn

Rating: TV-MA

19-year-old Dominican pitcher Miguel Santos, a.k.a. Sugar, dreams of making it into an American baseball team and pulling himself and his family out of poverty. He gets a chance to train for a team in Kansas, but on arrival struggles to be accepted in his new community.

Poignant and beautifully performed, Sugar is not the usual film about chasing the American dream, and it’s far from a typical baseball movie. It’s an honest portrayal, one that avoids sports-movie clichés in favor of an exploration of identity and the immigrant experience.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Algenis Perez Soto, Andre Holland, Ann Whitney, Eddie Martinez, Ellary Porterfield, Jaime Tirelli, Karl Bury, Karolina Wydra, Michael Gaston, Richard Bull, Sándor Técsy

Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Rating: R

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