March just so happens to be Women’s History Month, which is convenient considering the fact that Jane Campion just made history. For the first time ever, two women won the Oscar for Best Director two years in a row. In 2021, Chloé Zhao won the Best Director award for Nomadland, and now in 2022, Jane Campion won her first Oscar for Best Director Power of the Dog.
With only three women who have won the “Best Director” award over the course of the Oscars’ 94 years, many people want to spend more time watching movies directed by women. So while there are hundreds of films directed by women, we’ve picked nine of our favorites to highlight. Here are nine of the best movies directed by women.
‘Promising Young Woman’ (2020)
The 2020 black comedy, directed and written by Emerald Fennell, is a true masterpiece in storytelling and character development. Emerald did win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director. Starring Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman is a true tale of female empowerment, as well as addiction, amidst a world in which sexual assault has been normalized.
The 1995 film Clueless is often shrugged off as a “chick flick,” but in fact, it is quite a revolutionary feminist story as director Amy Heckerling brought Jane Austen’s Emma into the modern day. It’s a truly iconic comedy with memorable catch phrases like “As if!” and unforgettable fashion. Plus, with Brittany Murphy’s performance, Clueless is a must-see.
Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma tells the real story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Ava made history as the first Black woman nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director, and the film itself included some truly amazing Black women on-screen as well, such as Oprah Winfrey, Tessa Thompson, and Angela Bassett.
‘The Hurt Locker’ (2009)
We can’t make a list of the best movies directed by women and leave out The Hurt Locker, which made Kathryn Bigelow the first woman ever to win Best Director at the Oscars. The film itself is a story of combat told from the perspective of journalist Mark Boal, who was stationed with an American bomb squad in Iraq in 2004. It is a truly incredible film, and Kathryn has been directing films since 1981, so it’s definitely an earned win.
‘Across the Universe’ (2007)
This 2007 musical imagining of the Beatles’ music, directed by Julie Taymor, is a beautiful love story that has transcended the hearts and minds of many artistic millennials. Across the Universe is also worth a mention here because its director, Julie, was the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Director for The Lion King.
‘A League of Their Own’ (1992)
This 1992 comedy is a legendary story directed by Penny Marshall. A League of Their Own tells a fictionalized tale of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPB) and stars Geena Davis, Madonna, and Lori Petty. There’s nothing better than a dramedy about women excelling in sports directed by a woman, so go watch it!
Yentl is Barbra Streisand. Directed, co-written, and co-produced by Barbra, starring Barbra as Yentl, the 1983 movie tells the story of an Ashkenazi Jewish girl in Poland who dresses as a boy to get an education in Talmudic Law after her father dies. A moving romance with some of the best musical performances ever captured on film, Yentl made Barbra the first woman to ever win the Golden Globe for Best Director.
‘Dance, Girl, Dance’ (1940)
Although women are finally breaking into being recognized as prestigious directors, there were many women directors during Hollywood’s silent age, such as Mabel Normand. The first female director in the early sound era was director Dorothy Azner, who churned out films from 1927 until 1943. Dance, Girl, Dance is a 1940 feminist story of backstage show business, starring Lucille Ball and Maureen O’Hara.
‘Lady Bird’ (2017)
Director Greta Gerwig effortlessly tells the story of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson coming of age in a post-9/11 Sacramento. Starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as daughter and mother, Lady Bird was the talk of the town when it was released in 2017, and it remains a favorite comedy-drama for many.
While this list of nine of the best movies directed by women can’t include everyone, it definitely includes some of our favorites. But of course, there are some incredible female directors we didn’t mention, such as Elaine May, Julie Dash, Jennifer Lee, Susan Seidelman, and so many more, so there’s no shortage of women directors to celebrate for Women’s History Month.