Skip to content

The 25 Best Movies Directed by Women

Add these films from women filmmakers to your must-watch list.

If you look at the past five years, great strides have been made when it comes to women directors in the film industry. In that time, two women have won Best Director at the Academy Awards. In 2023, the highest grossing movie, Barbie, was helmed by Greta Gerwig. Women filmmakers also have more name recognition than ever—there's Ava DuVernayChloé Zhao, and Sofia Coppola, to name just a few. But, while there has been some movement forward when it comes to acclaim, mainstream gigs, and box office success in recent years, this hasn't always been the case, and there is still a long way to go. For example, before Zhao and Jane Campion won their Best Director Oscars in 2021 and 2022 for Nomadland and The Power of the Dog, respectively, only one woman had won the award before: Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker in 2010, which was 81 years after the awards show began.

This is all to say, if you feel like you've been lacking when it comes to watching movies directed by women, you've come to the right place. Below you'll find some of the most beloved and celebrated movies from female directors, including comedies, dramas, action movies, and sci-fi. But don't stop here. Let this be a jumping off point, because 25 movies is hardly enough to recognize all of the best when it comes to women in film. (And note that some of the trailers below include adult content!)

RELATED: The 25 Best Classic Movies That Every Film Fan Needs to See.

The 25 Best Women-Directed Movies Ever

Clueless (1995)

1995's Clueless is one of the most quotable and re-watchable comedies of all time. Directed by Amy Heckerling, this updated take on Jane Austen's Emma is about a Beverly Hills high schooler, Cher (Alicia Silverstone), who attempts to be a matchmaker for those around her while also dealing with her own romantic woes and other teenage struggles.

Also directed by Heckerling: Fast Times at Ridgemont HighLook Who's Talking, National Lampoon's European Vacation

Lost in Translation (2003)

As the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola had the name recognition thing already going for her, but she's more than proven herself as a director over the past few decades. For her 2003 film Lost in Translation, she won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director—this made her only the third woman to be up for that award. The movie stars Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray as two Americans who cross paths and form a bond while they're staying in Tokyo.

Also directed by Coppola: The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, Priscilla

The Matrix (1999)

The influential sci-fi movie The Matrix and its sequels were directed by sisters Lana and Lilly Wachowski. The 1999 film stars Keanu Reeves as a computer programmer, Neo, who learns that he and the rest of human society have been living in the Matrix, a simulation created by artificial intelligence. He then trains and joins the rebellion against the computers, along with other humans, including Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity and Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus.

Also directed by the Wachowskis: Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending

Past Lives (2023)

Celine Song made waves with 2023's Past Lives, which she wrote and directed as her debut feature. The romance was nominated for Best Picture and for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards and tells the story of two childhood friends, Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), who are separated when Nora moves with her family from South Korea to Canada. Years later, they reconnect virtually as college students, and years after that they connect again when Hae Sung visits Nora and her husband Arthur (John Magaro) in New York City. Throughout the film, there's the question of whether Hae Sung and Nora's lingering feelings for each other are an undeniable romance or that they will continue down separate paths.

Also directed by Song: The upcoming film Materialists

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is not just notable for being from a woman director, but for its near total lack of male characters, too. French filmmaker Céline Sciamma wrote and directed the 2019 drama, which is set 18th century France and is about a painter, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), who falls in love with her subject, an aristocratic woman named Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), while painting a portrait that will be sent to the man she is arranged to marry.

Also directed by Sciamma: Tomboy, GirlhoodPetite Maman

RELATED: The 25 Best Coming-of-Age Movies Ever Made.

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director for her 2009 war film The Hurt Locker, which also won Best Picture. It follows a U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team deployed in Iraq during the Iraq War and explores the psychology of soldiers who work with disarming explosives. Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie star.

Also directed by Bigelow: Point Break, Zero Dark ThirtyDetroit

Nomadland (2020)

Following Bigelow's Oscar win for Best Director, Chloé Zhao became the second woman to win the category 11 years later for her film Nomadland—it won the award for Best Picture, too. The drama stars Frances McDormand as Fern, a woman who lives as a nomad and travels around the United States in a van, joining up with a community of other people who share the lifestyle. The film co-stars David Strathairn, as well as a few real-life nomads, who play characters inspired by themselves.

Also directed by Zhao: Songs My Brother Taught Me, The Rider, Eternals

Love & Basketball (2000)

The 2000 film Love & Basketball has become a cult classic for fans who can't get enough of its combination of sports and romance. From director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the movie is about childhood friends Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), who bond over their love of basketball and both set out on careers in the sport. There's also a romance between them as they get older, but they just have to figure out how to get the timing right.

Also directed by Prince-Bythewood: The Secret Life of Bees, Beyond the Lights, The Woman King

Lady Bird (2017)

2017's Lady Bird landed Greta Gerwig an Oscar nomination for Best Director. The comedy-drama is inspired by Gerwig's own experience growing up in Sacramento, California in the early '00s and stars Saoirse Ronan as the titular character, a high school senior who longs to move to the east coast, as she juggles romance and friendship issues, plus a complicated relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf).

Also directed by Gerwig: Little Women, Barbie

Anatomy of a Fall (2023)

French directer Justine Triet co-wrote and directed 2023's Anatomy of a Fall, a courtroom drama about a woman (Sandra Hüller) attempting to prove that she did not kill her husband(Samuel Theis), who was found dead in the snow outside of their home. The French filmmaker won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director.

Also directed by Triet: Age of PanicIn Bed with VictoriaSibyl

RELATED: 20 Cult Classic Movies With the Most Passionate Fans.

Paris Is Burning (1990)

The 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning shines a light on the New York City ballroom scene in '80s—an LGBTQ subculture that includes contests and parties but also serves as a support system for Black and Latino members of the community. The film from director Jennie Livingston is considered historically significant today and also inspired the TV series Pose.

Also directed by Livingston: short films Hotheads, Who's the Top?Through the Ice

Hustlers (2019)

Based on a New York magazine article, Lorene Scafaria's 2019 crime dramedy Hustlers is about a group of strippers who begin drugging the men who come into their club in order to run up charges on their credit cards. Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star as Destiny and Ramona, two women at the center of the scheme, who have a mentor-mentee relationship that sours as their crimes continue. Hustlers is rare for being a crime movie about women, directed by a woman.

Also directed by Scafaria: Seeking a Friend for the End of the WorldThe Meddler

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles made headlines in 2022 when it was named the greatest film of all time by Sight and Sound magazine, which releases a new list of top films every 10 years. Jeanne Dielman is the first movie by a woman director to top the list. The 1975 film by Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman is about the life of a widow and sex worker, Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig), and follows her over three days. The title isn't the only thing about the film that's lengthy—it clocks in at nearly 3.5 hours.

Also directed by Akerman: News from Home, Je Tu Il Elle

Atlantics (2019)

Atlantics from French director Mati Diop follows a couple in Senegal, Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) and Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), who are separated when he leaves with other men from their community to try to find work in Spain after they are not paid by the person who employed them at home. Soon, things turn supernatural as the spirits of Souleiman and the other men who left on a boat begin possessing other people's bodies in an attempt to receive their rightful pay, and Souleiman attempts to reconnect with Ada while inhabiting another person's body.

Also directed by Diop: Dahomey

Aftersun (2022)

Aftersun is the 2022 feature debut from Charlotte Wells. The drama is about an 11-year-old, Sophie (Frankie Corio), who is on vacation with her father, Calum (Paul Mescal), following her parents' separation. The haunting film explores Sophie and Calum's relationship as questions linger about Calum's state of mind and mental health. Adding to the tension is the fact that the scenes of Sophie and Calum on their trip are interspersed with scenes of Sophie as an adult and surreal scenes of an adult Sophie and Calum at a rave.

Also directed by Wells: Short films LapsBlue Christmas

RELATED: 15 Documentary Movies That Actually Changed the World.

Selma (2014)

Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma tells the story of the marches that took place in Selma, Alabama in the fight for voting rights for Black Americans. A number of famous figures from the Civil Rights Movement are featured in the movie, including David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Stephan James as John Lewis, and Common as James Bevel.

Also directed by DuVernay: 13thA Wrinkle in Time, Origin

Monsoon Wedding (2001)

Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding is centered around a large Indian wedding that was arranged for Aditi Verma (Vasundhara Das) and Hemant Rai (Parvin Dabas). But while there is plenty of drama when it comes to the planning of the wedding, the film also explores other issues in the Verma family, as well as a second romantic relationship between the wedding planner (Vijay Raaz) and the Verma family's maid (Tillotama Shome).

Also directed by Nair: Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, Vanity Fair

The Power of the Dog (2021)

Jane Campion is the only woman to be nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Director. First, she was nominated for 1993's The Piano. Then, nearly 30 years later, she won the award for The Power of the Dog. The western film is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage and is about brothers, Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemmons), who own a ranch Montana in the 1920s and the way their lives change when one of them marries a woman, Rose (Kirsten Dunst), with a teenage son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee), with whom Phil forms an unnerving bond.

Also directed by Campion: The PianoHoly Smoke!In the Cut

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Cléo from 5 to 7 from director Agnès Varda shows a couple of hours of a woman's life in real time. Singer Cléo Victoire (Corrine Marchand) waits on the results of a cancer screening, and the film shows how she keeps herself busy in the meantime, including getting a tarot card reading, going to a cafe, rehearsing her music, and facing a crisis over what the test result might be.

Also directed by Varda: VagabondFaces PlacesVarda by Agnès

A League of Their Own (1992)

The 1992 comedy-drama A League of Their Own is about the Rockford Peaches, an all-women baseball team that was part of the real-life All-American Girls Professional Baseball League founded during World War II. The Penny Marshall-directed movie stars Geena Davis, Madonna, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell, and Lori Petty.

Also directed by Marshall: Jumpin' Jack Flash, BigRiding in Cars with Boys

RELATED: 30 Travel Movies to Help Inspire Your Next Trip.

First Cow (2019)

Kelly Reichardt directed First Cow, based on the Jonathan Raymond book The Half-Life. The story follows two men, Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee), who cross paths when traveling in the western United States in the early 1800s. They hatch a plan together to steal milk from a weather trader's cow in order to sell baked gooda for money but struggle to keep their scheme going as they attempt to start new lives.

Also directed by Reichardt: Night Moves, Certain Women, Showing Up

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

In 1991, Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust became the first movie directed by a Black American woman to be released in theaters nationwide. It's about a Gullah family, who live off the coast of the southern United States as they prepare to move to the mainland and tells the story of multiple generations of women in the family.

Also directed by Dash: Illusions, episodes of Queen Sugar

Real Women Have Curves (2002)

2002's Real Women Have Curves, directed by Patricia Cardoso, follows a recent high school graduate, Ana (America Ferrera), who has a strained relationship with her controlling mother, Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros). Ana dreams of going to college and secretly applies to Columbia University, but Carmen wants her to remain in Los Angeles at work at the family business. With Real Women Have Curves, Cardoso became the first Latina director to have her film included in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Also directed by Cardoso: Lies in Plain Sight

The Farewell (2019)

Lulu Wang's The Farewell stars Awkwafina as Billi, a woman who travels to China to visit her grandmother (Zhao Shu-zhen), who's been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She also has to contend with the fact that her other family members have chosen not to disclose the diagnosis with the grandmother—a decision she doesn't agree with. The Farewell is a a true dramedy, with drama coming from the family members' grief and comedy coming into play as they go to great lengths to keep their secret.

Also directed by Wang: Posthumous

Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound from director Dee Rees, is about two World War II veterans, who return home to Mississippi and have to adjust to life back in the U.S. Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) struggles with PTSD, while Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) faces PTSD as well as racism in a different way than he did in the military. The two bond over their shared experience even though the relationship is not accepted by those in their hometown, including family members and the Ku Klux Klan.

Also directed by Rees: Pariah, Bessie

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
Filed Under