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100 All-Time Greatest Films Directed By Women


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In honor of International Women's Day, IndieWire has posted this list of their picks for the 100 All-Time Greatest Films Directed By Women:

  1. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) - Chantal Akerman
  2. Beau Travail (1999) - Claire Denis
  3. The Piano (1993) - Jane Campion
  4. A League of Their Own (1992) - Penny Marshall
  5. Daisies (1966) - Vera Chytilova
  6. Lady Bird (2017) - Greta Gerwig
  7. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) - Agnes Varda
  8. Meshes of the Afternoon (1943) - Maya Deren
  9. Seven Beauties (1976) - Lina Wertmuller
  10. Daughters of the Dust (1991) - Julie Dash
  11. The Rider (2018) - Chloe Zhao
  12. Winter's Bone (2010) - Debra Granik
  13. Clueless (1995) - Amy Heckerling
  14. Yentl (1983) - Barbra Streisand
  15. Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) - Dorothy Arzner
  16. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) - Kathryn Bigelow
  17. Fish Tank (2009) - Andrea Arnold
  18. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) - Lotte Reiniger
  19. Wanda (1970) - Barbara Loden
  20. The Matrix (1999) - Lilly & Lana Wachowski
  21. Lost in Translation (2003) - Sofia Coppola
  22. Suspense (1913) - Lois Weber
  23. Persepolis (2007) - Marjane Satrapi
  24. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) - Lynne Ramsay
  25. Harlan County USA(1976) - Barbara Kopple
  26. Le Bonheur (1965) - Agnes Varda
  27. Losing Ground (1982) - Kathleen Collins
  28. The Headless Woman (2008) - Lucrecia Martel
  29. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) - Susan Seidelman
  30. Eve's Bayou (1997) - Kasi Lemmons
  31. Europa Europa (1990) - Agnieszka Holland
  32. Point Break (1991) - Kathryn Bigelow
  33. The Babadook (2014) - Jennifer Kent
  34. News From Home (1977) - Chantal Akerman
  35. Desert Hearts (1985) - Donna Deitch
  36. Sugar Cane Alley (1983) - Euzhan Palcy
  37. Fat Girl (2001) - Catherine Breillat
  38. Leave No Trace (2018) - Debra Granik
  39. Monster (2003) - Patty Jenkins
  40. Selma (2014) - Ava DuVernay
  41. Whale Rider (2003) - Niki Caro
  42. The Virgin Suicides (1999) - Sofia Coppola
  43. The Watermelon Woman (1996) - Cheryl Dunye
  44. Stories We Tell (2012) - Sarah Polley
  45. The Hitch-hiker (1953) - Ida Lupino
  46. Mikey and Nicky (1976) - Elaine May
  47. The House Is Black (1963) - Forough Farrokhzad
  48. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) - Penelope Spheeris
  49. The Hurt Locker (2009) - Kathryn Bigelow
  50. Sink or Swim (1990) - Su Friedrich
  51. Mabel's Blunder (1914) - Mabel Normand
  52. Breathe (2014) - Melanie Laurent
  53. Paris Is Burning (1990) - Jennie Livingston
  54. The Savages (2007) - Tamara Jenkins
  55. You Were Never Really Here (2018) - Lynne Ramsay
  56. Girlhood (2014) - Celine Sciama
  57. Little Women (1994) - Gillian Armstrong
  58. Zora Neale Hurston's Ethnographic Films (1920'3-1930's)
  59. My Brilliant Career (1979) - Gillian Armstrong
  60. Big (1988) - Penny Marshall
  61. Reassemblage (1983) - Trinh T. Minh-ha
  62. Bend It Like Beckham (2003) - Gurinder Chadha
  63. Real Women Have Curves (2002) - Patricia Cardoso
  64. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) - Marielle Heller
  65. A New Leaf (1971) - Elaine May
  66. Girlfight (2000) - Karyn Kusama
  67. Morvern Callar (2002) - Lynne Ramsay
  68. Cameraperson (2016) - Kirsten Johnson
  69. Portrait of Jason (1967) - Shirley Clarke
  70. Pariah (2011) - Dee Rees
  71. Wendy and Lucy (2008) - Kelly Reichardt
  72. Orlando (1992) - Sally Potter
  73. Love & Basketball (2000) - Gina Prince-Bythewood
  74. High Art (1998) - Lisa Cholodenko
  75. Thirteen (2003) - Catherine Hardwick
  76. Antonia's Line (1995) - Marleen Gorris
  77. Enough Said (2013) - Nicole Holofcener
  78. The Connection (1961) - Shirley Clarke
  79. Boys Don't Cry (1999) - Kimberly Pierce
  80. Girlfriends (1978) - Claudia Weill
  81. After the Wedding (2006) - Susanne Bier
  82. Appropriate Behavior (2014) - Desiree Akhavan
  83. Crossing Delancey (1988) - Joan Micklin Silver 
  84. One Way or Another (1974) - Sara Gomez
  85. Something's Gotta Give (2003) - Nancy Meyers
  86. Gas Food Lodging (1992) - Allison Anders
  87. The Souvenir (2019) - Joanna Hogg
  88. Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993) - Alanis Obomsawin
  89. Near Dark (1987) - Kathryn Bigelow
  90. 35 Shots of Rum (2008) - Claire Denis
  91. Outrage (1950) - Ida Lupino
  92. Nitrate Kisses (1992) - Barbara Hammer
  93. The Breadwinner (2017) - Nora Twomey
  94. Monsoon Wedding (2001) - Mira Nair
  95. Rambling Rose (1991) - Martha Coolidge
  96. The Secret Garden (1993) - Agnieszka Holland
  97. They (2017) - Anahita Ghazvinizadeh
  98. I Am Not a Witch (2018) - Rungano Nyoni
  99. Frozen (2013)  - Jennifer Lee & Chris Buck
  100. American Psycho (2000) - Mary Harron

https://www.indiewire.com/feature/female-directors-best-movies-directed-by-women-1202045399/

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I've seen 54 of them. I'm not much of a fan of several of those, but I like some others enough to own a copy (Near DarkThe Hurt Locker, Zero Dark ThirtyYou Were Never Really HereAmerican PsychoSomething's Gotta GiveBoys Don't CrySelmaThe Decline of Western CivilizationMonsterThe BabadookLost in TranslationWinter's BoneLady BirdThe Piano). And then there's The Matrix, where the directors were male when the film was made, but have since "transitioned" into women.

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Some of these titles, to be honest, are rather weak. How is an Oscar winner like THE HURT LOCKER so far down the list? Coming in at #49? No no and no. All wrong. LOL

I don't feel the Penny Marshall title deserves to be ranked at #4. It's nostalgic and entertaining, with a good cast, but it's not a masterpiece. I would put it down in the teens or twenties. I wouldn't even put BIG, which came in at #60, on this list at all. 

I'm a huge fan of EVE'S BAYOU and think that should go into the top 10 or top 15 at least. In my opinion, WANDA should be a bit higher too.

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6 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Some of these titles, to be honest, are rather weak.

I still can't figure out the critical fascination with Jeanne Dielman. I was also very unimpressed with Beau Travail. Varda's Le Bonheur is another of my least favorites.

Some of the more mainstream titles, like BigA League of Their Own, and Clueless, I found enjoyable to a degree, but would never put on a "Best of" list. 

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4 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

I still can't figure out the critical fascination with Jeanne Dielman. I was also very unimpressed with Beau Travail. Varda's Le Bonheur is another of my least favorites.

Some of the more mainstream titles, like BigA League of Their Own, and Clueless, I found enjoyable to a degree, but would never put on a "Best of" list. 

Right. Neither would I. And it has nothing to do with these pictures being mainstream. It's just that they lack overall proficiency and artistry. A movie can be mainstream and artistic, which I definitely think is the case with THE PIANO.

Ironically, something like SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, which is directed by a man (Ang Lee)-- is a better example of women's filmmaking due to it being based on a story by a female author (Jane Austen), having its screenplay written by a woman (Emma Thompson) and having its lead characters played by technically proficient actresses (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet).

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22 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Right. Neither would I. And it has nothing to do with these pictures being mainstream. It's just that they lack overall proficiency and artistry. A movie can be mainstream and artistic, which I definitely think is the case with THE PIANO.

Ironically, something like SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, which is directed by a man (Ang Lee)-- is a better example of women's filmmaking due to it being based on a story by a female author (Jane Austen), having its screenplay written by a woman (Emma Thompson) and having its lead characters played by technically proficient actresses (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet).

It's also interesting to note not only female-directed films that have a distinctive feminine, or even feminist, viewpoint, but also those films that are just character or plot driven without a specific gender message. Kathryn Bigelow's films are a good example of this. Mimi Leder directed Deep Impact and The Peacemaker in the 1990's, high-profile big-budget blockbusters. Chloe Zhao, director of #11 film The Rider, is helming The Eternals, one of the next big Marvel movies due out later this year. Unlike the previous Captain Marvel (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck) or Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins) films, The Eternals isn't going to be about female empowerment specifically, although I'm sure that will play a part. I think that it's just as important for women to direct "gender neutral" films as it is for them to tell specifically feminine stories, if the normalization of female directors in the industry is to continue. 

While I appreciate the drive to tell more diverse stories in film and television, I'm not sure about this trend to always specifically assign such stories to the "appropriate" genders, races, or sexual orientations (only a woman can directed a female-led film, or a specific race can direct a film with a star of that race, etc.).

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No the East is Red (1965) by Wang Ping? Probably a bit too propagandistic for the list but from a purely artistic point of view I would consider it one of the best (certainly above Dance, Girl, Dance at 15???) Also whether or not the Matrix is female directed is up for debate.

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On 3/8/2020 at 5:28 PM, LawrenceA said:

It's also interesting to note not only female-directed films that have a distinctive feminine, or even feminist, viewpoint, but also those films that are just character or plot driven without a specific gender message. Kathryn Bigelow's films are a good example of this. Mimi Leder directed Deep Impact and The Peacemaker in the 1990's, high-profile big-budget blockbusters. Chloe Zhao, director of #11 film The Rider, is helming The Eternals, one of the next big Marvel movies due out later this year. Unlike the previous Captain Marvel (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck) or Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins) films, The Eternals isn't going to be about female empowerment specifically, although I'm sure that will play a part. I think that it's just as important for women to direct "gender neutral" films as it is for them to tell specifically feminine stories, if the normalization of female directors in the industry is to continue. 

While I appreciate the drive to tell more diverse stories in film and television, I'm not sure about this trend to always specifically assign such stories to the "appropriate" genders, races, or sexual orientations (only a woman can directed a female-led film, or a specific race can direct a film with a star of that race, etc.).

In regards to your second paragraph, I can't help but think of EVE'S BAYOU again. With that film we have a director who is striving to present new insights about women and about mixed race culture. So some directors are addressing more than one type of diversity within the same film/thesis. 

General wisdom is that a filmmaker fares best when telling stories that he/she knows from personal experience. Or else takes a formulaic story, filled with the usual tropes, and reinterprets or filters it through said experience(s).

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