The 50 Best Movies Directed By Women

Updated January 2, 2022 • Staff

Over the past couple of years, the number of women working in film has skyrocketed to an all-time high. And yet, female directors remain consistently underrepresented at award shows and “best-of lists”. Just consider that in the Oscar’s ninety-two years of existence, only one woman – Kathryn Biglow, the director of The Hurt Locker – has ever won Best Director, and that wasn’t until 2010. Facts like these reflect a gender divide that exists way beyond Hollywood, and the people who end up missing out are the cinema lovers who are hungry for fresh perspectives. So to balance it out, we’ve rounded up the best movies directed by women that are available to stream.

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50.

Zana (2019)

Antoneta Kastrati’s debut feature film Zana follows Lume, who appears guarded and subdued as she goes about her daily routine: milking the cows, harvesting crops and flowers, hanging laundry out to dry. Part of Lume’s routine also includes visits to the doctor, accompanied by her mother-in-law and husband, who pressure her to conceive.

When conventional medical advice does not yield a viable pregnancy, Lume is brought to a witch doctor, and later a televangelist. The former suggests Lume may be cursed, while the latter insists she is possessed by a supernatural creature called a jinn. Lume appears largely apathetic, at least outwardly. But slowly, she starts to unravel—and with her undoing comes the reveal of the war that traumatized her. 

Kastrati’s family drama has elements of horror, but the real terror here is psychological. It makes for an important exploration of a deeply patriarchal society that is only beginning to heal the collective traumas of a complicated war, and how its violence continues to ripple through time and into domestic life. 

 

Genre: Drama
Actor: Adriana Matoshi, Astrit Kabashi, Irena Cahani, Mensur Safqiu
Director: Antoneta Kastrati
49.

Winter’s Bone (2010)

A young girl is looking for her father while struggling to care for her family. The film is bleak and slow but great performances from the cast, especially the lead, will keep you engaged throughout. The story has a very real, raw, and natural feeling to it, so natural in fact that at times, you will forget it is a movie. And in many ways, it feels that Winter's Bone is to Jennifer Lawrence what The Believer was to Ryan Gosling, as her performance is nothing short of perfect.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Dale Dickey, Garret Dillahunt, Isaiah Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Kevin Breznahan, Sheryl Lee, Tate Taylor
Director: Debra Granik
Rating: R
48.

Infinitely Polar Bear (2014)

A calm and cute story about a manic-depressive father in late 70’s Boston taking care of his two daughters. Starring familiar-face Mark Ruffalo in the lead. The film is inspired by its director’s own experience as one of the two daughters, which added to the amazing performances, makes for a movie made and filled with love. But as it manages to keep a smile on your face most of the time, it also doesn’t shy away from hard and moving sequences. A Sundance movie filled with heart.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Ashley Aufderheide, Beth Dixon, Brianne Siddall, Georgia Lyman, Imogene Wolodarsky, Keir Dullea, Mark Ruffalo, Nekhebet Kum Juch, Wallace Wolodarsky, William Xifaras, Zoe Saldana
Director: Maya Forbes
Rating: R
47.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

A wonderful, witty teen comedy—possibly the best the genre has known in a long time! In a powerhouse performance, Hailee Steinfeld plays Nadine, a high school junior at peak angst and awkwardness. Her roller coaster journey through family, friends, lovers, or lack thereof, gives her that all-too-common impression for people her age that life is unbearable. Things get more complicated when Nadine's dad passes and her only friend hooks up with an unexpected person. Her temperament and humor will help her see past her demons to understand what's important in life, putting you in privileged spectator mode to this highly smart and exciting coming-of-age story.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Alexander Calvert, Ava Grace Cooper, Blake Jenner, Chris Shields, Christian Michael Cooper, Daniel Bacon, Eric Keenleyside, Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Hayden Szeto, Jena Skodje, Katie Stuart, Kavandeep Hayre, Kelly Fremon Craig, Kirsten Robek, Kyra Sedgwick, Laine MacNeil, Laura Ward, Lina Renna, Meredith Monroe, Nesta Cooper, Woody Harrelson
Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Rating: R
46.

Burn Burn Burn (2015)

A razor-sharp script and beautiful scenery make this one of the best road movies in recent memory. When their cynical best friend dies, Seph and Alex embark on a journey to scatter his ashes over four spots he wants to go back to. Tupperware of ashes in the glove-box, they start their big adventure. Burn Burn Burn, an expression their friend quotes from Kerouac, is a chance for the two friends to escape their hectic city life and to discover themselves. It’s a beautiful movie.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Alice Lowe, Alison Steadman, Chloe Pirrie, Eleanor Matsuura, Hannah Arterton, Jack Farthing, Jane Asher, Joe Dempsie, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Laura Carmichael, Matthew Kelly, Melanie Walters, Nigel Planer, Sally Phillips, Susan Wokoma
Director: Chanya Button
Rating: N/A
45.

Hail Satan? (2019)

The question mark in the title represents the central idea of this fascinating documentary: what if worshipping Satan is the only way of ensuring religious freedom for everyone?

That's what a group of young members known as The Satanic Temple believe, led by a determined and well-spoken Harvard graduate. They embark on a journey across the U.S. to challenge corrupt officials and the prevalence of religious biases in government agencies. They always request that their belief system (Satanism) is given the same favorable treatment as Christianity, effectively proving that authorities will really only accept a show of religion if it's one religion: Christianity.

But their intoxicating energy comes with costs: divisions within the organization and growing pains. This documentary perfectly illustrates not only a misunderstood religion (in the documentary it's referred to as "post-religion") but the difficulties of establishing grassroots movements in general.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: Anton LaVey, Bill O'Reilly, Cecil B. DeMille, Chalice Blythe, Charlton Heston, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Geraldo Rivera, Jex Blackmore, Lucien Greaves, Mamie Eisenhower, Nicholas Crowe, Penny Lane, Sal De Ciccio
Director: Penny Lane
Rating: R
44.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015)

This slow-burning drama is set in an Indigenous reservation in South Dakota, where Johnny is a teenager who dreams of moving to L.A. with his girlfriend. He would have to leave behind his little sister, who is just grappling with the recent loss of their father. 

Director Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Nomadland) worked with amateur actors whose lives mirror the characters, often adapting the script to the actors' stories. She filmed 100 hours of footage that she then distilled into an hour and a half. 

The result is a film shot from the outside but which is grounded in local stories. And these stories are rough, sad, complex - but so important to listen to and understand. It's an incredible feat to make an observational film that's so grounded in reality - only a genius could: that's Chloé Zhao, and this mature work is -somehow- her first feature film.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Eléonore Hendricks, Irene Bedard
Director: Chloé Zhao
Rating: Not Rated
43.

The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020)

Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania’s new movie is about an arrogant European artist who tattoos a Syrian man's back, essentially turning the man's body into artwork. 

The man, as a commodity, is able to travel the world freely to be in art galleries, something as a simple human with a Syrian passport he couldn’t do. Seems unlikely? It’s based on a true story.

But Ben Hania is not really interested in the political statement aspect of this unlikely stunt. Instead, she looks at what this would do to a human-being, to the man's self-esteem, his relationships, and the turns his life takes. It's a fascinating movie.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Christian Vadim, Darina Al Joundi, Husam Chadat, Koen De Bouw, Monica Bellucci
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
42.

Motherland (2017)

The Fabella Hospital in the Philippines is clearly overburdened and understaffed, and though it offers some of the lowest pregnancy delivery rates in the country, it remains unaffordable to most of its patients. It has been dubbed the world’s busiest maternity hospital because of this, and its boundless flurry of activity is what Ramona Diaz tries to capture in her cinéma-vérité film Motherland. 

What’s interesting and ultimately heartening about the documentary is that despite the difficulties the subjects face, they are always presented with warmth and humanity. We don’t observe them from a strict or stylized distance, but rather, we move with them when they laugh, befriend each other, worry about their babies, curse their partners, and eventually leave. Indeed, the film is a land of mothers, filled with their authentic stories before anything else.

Genre: Documentary, Drama
Actor: Anna Maxwell Martin, Diane Morgan, Ellie Haddington, Lucy Punch, Paul Ready, Phillipa Dunne
Director: Ramona S. Diaz
Rating: TV-MA
41.

House of Hummingbird (2018)

It’s 1994, and Seoul is facing massive, rapid changes. The unrest is reflected by a lot of its residents, including Eun-hee, a disaffected teen with a less-than-stellar home and school life. She manages to get by with the help of friends and lovers, that is until they change too, and Eun-hee is forced to grapple with the volatility of it all. 

Sensitively told and genuinely captivating, House of Hummingbird is a stellar debut by writer-director Kim Bo-ra. Her command shines in how young actress Park Ji-hoo dynamically portrays Eun-hee, in how the story meanders but never loses footing, and in how each frame displays a quiet gorgeousness as the primary colors of her youth pop against the faded backdrop of urbanized Seoul. The delicate balance of all these elements is sure to evoke a sincere, profound feeling in every viewer. 

Genre: Drama
Actor: Jung In-gi, Kil Hae-yeon, Kim Sae-byuk, Lee Seung-yeon, Park Ji-hu, Son Sang-yeon
Director: Kim Bora

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