Recent Films Directed by Women

The 95th Academy Awards was last month, honoring some of the best movies and moviemakers from all over the world. However, none of the spectacular films directed by women were nominated in the Best Director category.

This comes as a surprise especially because female-driven films like The Power of the Dog and Nomadland have received such acclaim from the Academy recently, and the latest Sight and Sound magazine poll named Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles directed by Chantal Akerman, as the best movie ever made. If you’re looking to watch some recent women-led films, here are a few from a variety of genres.  

Unlike other box office hits such as Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, which were nominated for several awards including Best Picture, The Woman King received no Oscar nominations. Set in the 1820s in West Africa, the Agojie, an all-female warrior unit led by General Nanisca (Viola Davis), protect their kingdom of Dahomey. Though the film was not without historical inaccuracies, this powerful female-led movie deserved more love from awards groups, especially for director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball, The Secret Life of Bees). 

Based on the popular book (a CPL Best of the Best selection), She Said stars Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan as the New York Times journalists who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s abusive history in the film industry. Jodi Kantor (Kazan) begins investigating allegations against movie producer Weinstein from female actors and asks Megan Twohey to assist in her story. Much like The Woman King, She Said was led by a primarily female-identifying cast and crew, directed by Maria Schrader.

Till tells the devastating true story of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black child who was lynched while visiting his relatives in Mississippi. This movie mostly focuses on his mother, Mamie Till-Bradley (played by Danielle Deadwyler), and her relentless activism to receive justice for the murder of her son. Deadwyler’s performance gained widespread acclaim, while director Chinonye Chukwu masterfully edits the film to not exploit the story of Emmett Till, leaving the violence offscreen in order to center a portrait of a courageous grieving mother. 

While animated films rarely (if ever) get recognized in the Academy Awards outside of the Best Animated Film category, Turning Red was one of my favorite films of last year, simply because of the writing and direction by Domee Shi. Inspired by Shi's own childhood, the movie follows Mei, a Chinese Canadian girl, obsessed with the boy bands of the early 2000s. However, Mei has a secret. When she becomes emotional, she turns into a giant red panda. Turning Red is the first Pixar film directed solely by a woman.

While Women Talking won best adapted screenplay at this year’s Oscars, director Sarah Polley was not nominated for Best Director. The film is based on the book by Miriam Toews and is inspired by a sad but true story. The film follows a group of Mennonite women gathering to discuss what to do about the repeated assaults by the men of the colony. Their choices are stay and do nothing, fight or flee. Polley’s star-studded cast includes Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Ben Whishaw.  

What are your favorite recent films directed by women?