410 Best Movies to Watch by Female director (Page 27)

Staff & contributors

In terms of the quality of the material delivered in Son I Never Had, this special is really just okay at best. Heather McMahan has charisma and personality, but she has a tendency to run directly into the set-ups for her jokes, without the kind of build-up between segments that would make the whole hour flow better. And the comedy here is pretty standard, lightly raunchy fare that's often amusing but never really cuts deep into the various topics McMahan brings up. Where she's really successful, instead, is in the way she uses humor to contrast the lingering but gentle grief she feels over her father's passing. Son I Never Had, in its own roundabout way, becomes a sort of extended eulogy, emphasizing how our loved ones remain with us in our every memory.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Heather McMahan

Director: Jen Zaborowski

Rating: R

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Although the sequencing of the four segments makes sense, the overall result does not land in this new installment of the Lust Stories franchise. It shines with Konkona Sensharma's 'Mirror,' an unexpected take on voyeurism and camaraderie between women. It loses touch with Sujoy Ghosh's 'Sex with Ex,' which sticks out with a weak storyline and questionable use of a green screen. The bracketing stories are engaging if only for the stark difference in tone and conclusion. They round out the film well enough, allowing for an entertaining experience but a lukewarm memory after the credits roll. 

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Amruta Subhash, Angad Bedi, Anushka Kaushik, Hemant Kher, Jugal Hansraj, Kajol, Kanupriya Pandit, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kumud Mishra, Mrunal Thakur, Mukti Mohan, Neena Gupta, Tamannaah Bhatia, Tarun Khanna, Tillotama Shome, Vibha Chibber, Vijay Varma

Director: Amit Sharma, Konkona Sen Sharma, R. Balki, Sujoy Ghosh

Rating: R

As one would expect from what's essentially a feature-length sports highlight reel, Bye Bye Barry compiles some stunning archival footage of Barry Sanders' best runs, given exactly the star treatment it deserves through a grand score and endless praise from the film's talking heads. But those who might want anything deeper—perhaps about Detroit's football culture, or the factors that may have led to Sanders' early retirement—get very little to chew on here. It's a film that still seems unsure of what it really wants to be, respecting Sanders' humility and private nature but filling the documentary with famous figures who end up forcing us to view the player as more legend than human.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Barry Sanders, Bill Belichick, Calvin Johnson Jr., Chris Berman, Dan Patrick, Eminem, Emmitt Smith, Greg Gumbel, Jalen Rose, Jeff Daniels, Jemele Hill, Jim Gray, Kevin Glover, Pat O'Brien, Rodney Peete, Tim Allen

Director: Angela Torma, Micaela Powers, Paul Monusky

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Horror likes to take a human fear and personify it. It's a winning move, materializing our worst nightmares, but what does a woman's self-doubt look like? In this case, extremely ugly and somewhat laughable, but surely not scary. The special effects team dropped the ball on this one, and the appendage's physical presence is more distracting than anything. Its concept and its aura, though, go a long way, and there are a few admirable twists and turns that make a curious point about female psychology and social expectations. Their interdependency then translates into the film's sparse backstory, tracing a journey of trauma that's surprisingly relatable. Interestingly enough, director Anna Zlokovic made a short of the same name in 2021 which teased the idea of a monster sucking your confidence in secret, but her latest feature film lacks that punch. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Horror, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Annie Pisapia, Brandon Mychal Smith, Daniel Chioco, Deborah Rennard, Desmin Borges, Emily Hampshire, Hadley Robinson, Kausar Mohammed

Director: Anna Zlokovic

Rating: R

Yet another drama designed to be emotional without actually doing the heavy lifting to get us invested, Prisoner's Daughter takes the easy way out at every turn, mistaking its use of capital-I Issues and dramatic plot points for substantial writing. This doesn't mean that the film itself isn't still watchable and competently performed (by a typically strong Brian Cox, but especially by Kate Beckinsale); it just fails to make a statement about any of its disparate parts mashed together. At the end of the day, it feels as if the film doesn't have enough faith in the already complex and difficult relationship at its center, so it attempts to dress it up with prison, cancer, drug addicts, and epilepsy—which only cheapens what's already there.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Brian Cox, Christopher Convery, Chuti Tiu, Cinthia Moura, Ernie Hudson, Jon Huertas, Kate Beckinsale, Mark Kubr, Mark Oliver Everett, Tyson Ritter, Yonel Dorelis

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Rating: R

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The latest installment of Ly Hai’s Face Off franchise has an entertaining premise with some terrible plot twists. With this premise, it’s almost expected to see the worst of the worst of people when given a jackpot, and it’s easy to feel distraught when this happens, because the initial dynamic between the six friends feels genuine. However, the fun and wacky hijinks devolve into seriously messed up plot twists. Some of these work, but certain scenes feel like it was just added for shock value at the expense of other characters. The film couldn’t choose between vilifying some characters and celebrating their friendship. Because of this, Face Off 6 feels like it missed its mark.

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Huy Khánh, Huỳnh Thi, Quốc Cường, Tiết Cương, Trung Dũng

Director: Lý Hải

With its celebration of Thai dances, excellent costumes, and two male theater actor leads, ManSuang seemed like it would be something akin to a Thai Farewell My Concubine, especially as it starts off with what could have been sex scene interrupted by a murder. The addition of the espionage storyline, as well as the dynamics between the Chinese and the mainland Thai, seemed like the film would be subtle social commentary through historical drama. However, the story feels haphazardly assembled, with characters acting contrary to their goals, and sadly, the film doesn’t showcase as much of Thai culture as we would like. Instead, the film spends more time establishing an overly complicated mystery that gets too hard to follow with its multiple plotlines. ManSuang has beautiful set design, costumes, and a handsome cast, but the writing wastes the potential the story had.

Genre: Drama, Mystery

Actor: Asavapatr Ponpiboon, Chartchai Ketnust, Duangjai Hiransri, Gandhi​ Wasuvitchayagit, Nattawin Wattanagitiphat, Nutthasid Panyangarm, Ornanong Panyawong, Phakphum Romsaithong, Pradit Prasartthong, Sornchai Chatwiriyachai, Teerawat Mulvilai, Thanayut Thakoonauttaya

Director: Bhanbhassa Dhubthien, Chartchai Ketnust, Krisda Witthayakhajorndet

Rating: PG-13

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As far as destination romantic comedies go, Irish Wish is at least self-aware enough to commit to its corniness without making its characters too insufferable to follow. For once avoidable misunderstandings don't drive the conflict, as the story progresses as one extended "be careful what you wish for" journey of self-discovery. Still, one can't help but feel like this exact same message could have been told even without the central fantasy plot device—and it probably would have earned its resolutions much more this way. Every move the film makes is predictable, but it definitely still possesses the energy of a group of filmmakers who probably enjoyed their time making it.

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance

Actor: Alexander Vlahos, Ayesha Curry, Carl Shaaban, Dakota Lohan, Dawn Bradfield, Ed Speleers, Elizabeth Tan, Jacinta Mulcahy, James Rottger, Jane Seymour, Lindsay Lohan, Matty McCabe, Maurice Byrne, Steve Hartland, Tim Landers

Director: Janeen Damian

Rating: PG

You can tell that Blaze director Del Kathryn Barton is an award-winning visual artist first and foremost. The images that she puts together in this film are frequently stunning—making use of the camera in fascinating, freeing ways, and with lots of practical and computer-generated/animated effects that paint her young protagonist Blaze's world in glitter and feathers and lush colors. The imaginary dragon, which acts as a shorthand to symbolize Blaze's complex psychological response to her trauma, is a wonderfully tactile life-size puppet that lead actress Julia Savage responds to in an entirely convincing way.

But you can also tell that this is Barton's debut feature. Ultimately her visuals don't do enough to shake off or give meaning to the graphic scene of rape and murder that occurs at the beginning of the film. And the way she structures the movie threatens to make it feel like a series of music videos or video art pieces. Despite its originality and the level of commitment displayed by both Savage and Simon Baker, Blaze has difficulty communicating a coherent message about trauma—the film strung together by heavy-handed scenes that spell out various ideas and lead to the most obvious conclusions.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Fantasy

Actor: Heather Mitchell, John Waters, Josh Lawson, Julia Savage, Morgan Davies, Remy Hii, Simon Baker, Will McDonald, Yael Stone

Director: Del Kathryn Barton

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As exciting as it sounds to have a real person transported into a fictional story, An American an Austen really doesn't do much with its protagonist's foreknowledge of the plot, nor is it particularly clear about the rules or consequences of Harriet's situation, if any. This means that much of the film consists of watching Pride and Prejudice play out in a slightly more tongue in cheek fashion, as the main character comments on things without doing too much about them. Similar to Hallmark's other recent Jane Austen-themed movies, however, there is a thoughtful message here about learning to face reality and not idealizing fictional romances—delivered in a pretty competent visual package. It's just a shame that this is buried at the end of a plot that has no stakes to speak of.

Genre: Comedy, Romance, TV Movie

Actor: Bert Seymour, Calypso Cragg, Catherine Hannay, Dominic Andersen, Eliza Bennett, Grace Hogg-Robinson, J.R. Esposito, Nell Barlow, Nicholas Bishop, Richard Gibson, Robin Weaver, Sarah Ferguson

Director: Clare Niederpruem

Rating: G

As documentaries go, They Called Him Mostly Harmless is pretty standard, if not forgettable, fare. There isn’t a lot of information regarding the case it focuses on, so it relies heavily on interviews with related persons and “internet sleuths” who have taken it upon themselves to solve the mystery of this hiker’s identity. It moves slowly, bogged even further down by unnecessary backstories that do nothing to get us closer to cracking the case. To be sure, it’s impressive that the missing man in question was able to scrub all evidence of his existence in this digital age, but the documentary fails to build on that intrigue and instead gives us something that sputters till the end.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Patricia E. Gillespie

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The Perfect Find follows Jenna (Gabrielle Union), a fashion editor trying to make a comeback after a public breakup and a high-profile firing. She lands a job at a new fashion magazine, but this is complicated when she falls for her charming and much younger coworker, Eric (Keith Powers), who just so happens to be the son of her boss. Admittedly, the plot is as cliche as can be, with a few shenanigans, quirky best friends, and an ex or two popping up in the third act. But it's also easy to fall for, especially with Union as the charismatic lead. The jokes about her character and Eric's age gap land well most times, and many parts of the film are beautiful enough, most notably: the talent, the color grading, and the eye-catching New York landscape. 

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Aisha Hinds, D.B. Woodside, Gabrielle Union, Gina Torres, Godfrey, Janet Hubert, Keith Powers, La La Anthony, Leigh Davenport, Numa Perrier, Remy Ma, Shayna McHayle, Sterling 'Steelo' Brim, Ts Madison, Winnie Harlow, Yrsa Daley-Ward

Director: Numa Perrier

Rating: R

In the sea of mommy-horror films, Run Rabbit Run would float somewhere in the middle. Despite Sarah Snook's imposing commitment to playing a mother haunted by her past, the story doesn't meet her halfway with a memorable script. The dynamic between mother and daughter gets stuck in an exhausting loop of sudden bursts of anger and angst followed by glaringly quick reconciliation. Twists and scares are present as Snook's character, also named Sarah, confronts the dark and disturbing truths of her past, but it feels more mandatory than useful. The potential for transforming gripping familial tension into horror is lost in a meandering mother/daughter fight.

Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller

Actor: Damon Herriman, Genevieve Morris, Greta Scacchi, Julia Davis, Katherine Slattery, Lily LaTorre, Michala Banas, Naomi Rukavina, Neil Melville, Sarah Snook, Trevor Jamieson

Director: Daina Reid

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Set in the capital of Peru, How to Deal with a Heartbreak is a follow-up to the mildly successful romantic comedy How to Get Over a Breakup. The titles are pretty self-explanatory, but where the first film is strictly about romance, the sequel experiments with more tender themes like family and friendship. It features everyday characters meant to seem relatable and endearing, but halfway through watching, one can’t help but wonder why any of this matters. The stakes are so low and the premise so ordinary, it feels like a huge effort to simply care about the movie. Some rom-coms are saved by a funny script or a charming cast, but this has none of that. The most rousing part of the film is when one character (I won’t divulge who) dies, and so Maria Fe is forced to grapple with the heaviness of death. It’s the one moment in the movie that feels real, but sadly it’s tossed aside to make way for more generic fare.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Ana María Orozco, Carlos Carlín, Christopher Von Uckermann, Gisela Ponce de León, Jason Day, Jely Reategui, Karina Jordán, Norma Martínez, Salvador del Solar

Director: Joanna Lombardi

Rating: R

There's a novel idea at the center of World's First Christmas, but the film's unfortunately takes it through the least interesting route available. There's a rich opportunity here to unpack what the holiday season really means to people, or to poke fun at how this occasion for togetherness and celebration has been co-opted by corporations trying to make a buck. But the film never gets there, running through a series of occasionally funny scenarios only to end up becoming an unconvincing advertisement for Christmas as a consumer holiday. The main gag here is that everyone has been left miserable by the absence of Christmas, which is an idea that falls apart immediately once you start asking even the simplest questions about it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Fabiana Karla, Ígor Jansen, Ingrid Guimarães, Lázaro Ramos, Rafael Infante, Theo Mattos

Director: Gigi Soares, Susana Garcia

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