Cinematic Brilliance: 25 Unforgettable Movies Directed by Women

a league of their own 1

Men still dominate Hollywood, especially when it comes to directing films. It's not because of a lack of talented and inspiring female directors, however. Here are 25 of the best movies directed by women who prove they deserve as much recognition and opportunity in Hollywood as any guy.

1. Barbie (2023)

Barbie Ryan Gosling, Margot Robbie
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Of course, I have to kick off this list with the most recent film sensation: Barbie. Greta Gerwig not only created a visually stunning and socially thought-provoking movie, but she also busted the box office ratings wide open and set records as a female director. It’s safe to say Barbie will go down in history as an iconic, female-directed movie.

2. Hurt Locker (2008)

Hurt Locker Jeremy Renner
Image Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is one of the most intense and moving movies, following the story of a bomb squad soldier who has trouble integrating back into normal life after experiencing such trauma. The movie is incredibly emotional and raw in its simplicity, with some of the most subtle moments being the most artful and impactful.

3. American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho Christian Bale
Image Credit: Lions Gate Films.

Many people don’t realize that this twisted and captivating movie was directed by a woman, Mary Harron. The movie is a wild ride, and Christian Bale is a sensational creep in it. This film proves that women can direct gritty, violent movies just as well, if not better, than men.

4. Clueless (1995)

Clueless Alicia Silverstone
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Clueless is one of the most iconic movies from the 90s, directed by Amy Heckerling. It’s loosely based on the novel Emma, written by Jane Austen — but in Clueless, the story follows a vapid but well-intentioned high schooler. Everything in this movie is fabulous and funny, from the ridiculous characters to the adorable outfits.

5. The Parent Trap (1998)

The Parent Trap Lindsey Lohan
Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

Directed by Nancy Meyers, The Parent Trap is about two long-lost twins who meet and try to devise a scheme to get their divorced parents back together. It has a myriad of iconic scenes, from the feud at summer camp to the hotel elevator antics and more. It’s one of the most lovable and cute comedies ever made.

6. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Little Miss Sunshine will have you feeling every emotion within two hours. It was actually directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, a married couple, but Faris is listed first as the primary director. This tragicomedy is one of a kind, and the thoughtful cinematography and super performances make it a must-watch.

7. Wayne's World (1992)

Wayne’s World Mike Myers Dana Carvey
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Wayne’s World is supremely silly and goofy, so many people don’t expect it to be directed by a woman. Penelope Spheeris directed this successful spin-off of an SNL skit that has become a cult classic beloved by everyone from teenagers to retirees.

8. A League of Their Own (1992)

A League of Their Own Gina Davis
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

A League of Their Own, directed by Penny Marshall, is one of the most beautiful films. It tells the story of female baseball players who played while men were overseas fighting the war. It hits all the right notes, making it funny, emotional, tragic, enraging, wholesome, and more.

9. Big (1988)

Big Tom Hanks
Image Credit: 20th Century Studios.

Another Penny Marshall film, Big, stars Tom Hanks as a little boy who gets trapped in the body of a 30-year-old man. It’s a quirky and infectious movie that also has raw, emotional moments that make it unforgettable. Clearly, Penny Marshall is a talented lady who knows how to elicit emotions.

10. Point Break (1991)

Point Break Patrick Swayze Keanu Reeves
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Point Break, also directed by Kathryn Bigelow, is a high-paced, fun crime movie about an undercover agent who infiltrates a gang of surfers. It stars Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, and it’s an exhilarating and intense movie from beginning to end with plenty of stellar surfing shots.

11. Shrek (2001)

Shrek
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

Who doesn’t love Shrek? The movie was directed by Vicky Jenson with co-director Andrew Adamson. While some kids’ movies are boring for adults, Shrek is one of those rare gems that is entertaining for all and demands you watch it again and again.

12. Marie Antoinette (2006)

Marie Antoinette Kirsten Dunst
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Marie Antoinette is one of the most aesthetically beautiful movies, filled with glamor and pretty pastels. Directed by Sofia Coppola, the movie feels dreamy but tragic at the same time, as Marie Antoinette sinks into her luxurious but depressing lifestyle.

13. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Image Credit: Pyramide Films.

One online cinephile describes this film as an “utterly beautiful movie about what it means for women to really look at each other and be seen by each other. Some of the shots in the movie look like literal paintings, it’s stunning.” It’s a truly incredible movie directed by Céline Sciamma.

14. The Power of the Dog (2021)

The Power of the Dog Benedict Cumberbatch
Image Credit: Netflix.

Directed by Jane Campion, this movie is complex and unsettling in a few ways. I recall being confused for most of it, and then when the credits rolled, I felt like I wanted to start it all over again. Campion is clearly a master of nuance and raw, strong emotion.

15. Jennifer's Body (2009)

Jennifer’s Body Megan Fox
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

I had no idea this was directed by a woman, but it makes me love it all the more! Jennifer’s Body is a crazy thriller about a high school hottie who is actually a demonic succubus, eating teenage boys. It was directed by Karyn Kusama, who created a compelling and vivacious film that is unforgettable.

16. Billy Madison (1995)

Billy Madison Adam Sandler
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Billy Madison is one of Adam Sandler’s funniest and most beloved movies, and the fabulously funny Tamra Davis directed it! The first time I watched this movie, I thought it was silly, and I was right, but it’s goofy and dumb in the most delightful way that it’s now a go-to when I need something stupidly fun.

17. Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

Bend It Like Beckham Keira Knightley
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Directed by Gurinder Chadha, Bend It Like Beckham is a brilliant and inspiring movie that is fun for all ages. It tackles tough themes concerning race and familial expectations while remaining endearing and upbeat. I think it’s one of Keira Knightley’s best performances and a must-watch for every little girl.

18. Ladybird (2017)

Ladybird Saoirse Ronan
Image Credit: A24.

As someone who was an angsty teen, I love how relatable yet funny this movie is. Directed by the wonderfully clever Greta Gerwig, this movie is all about what it’s like to be a teen struggling to figure out what you want and who you are while also dealing with heavy adult situations.

19. Booksmart (2019)

Booksmart
Image Credit: United Artists Releasing.

Booksmart is another brilliant coming-of-age story about two high schoolers on the precipice of graduating. This film was Olivia Wilde’s directing debut, and she knocked it out of the park. It’s witty, hysterical, emotional, and extremely real, so I think it’s another must-watch for young girls and guys.

20. The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook (2014)
Image Credit: Umbrella Entertainment.

The Babadook is one of the scariest and most disturbing movies, and many don’t associate female directors with the horror movie genre. However, Jennifer Kent proves the naysayers wrong with this chilling and violent movie that will give you nightmares.

21. Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost in Translation Scarlett Johansson
Image Credit: Focus Features.

Every time I watch this movie, I feel unusually uneasy and calm. It’s directed and written by Sofia Coppola. The movie tackles some complex themes concerning romance, quarter-life crises, and mid-life crises, so it’s a wonderful watch for anyone feeling a little lost in life.

22. Mamma Mia! (2008)

Mamma Mia! Amanda Seyfried
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Mamma Mia! is such a fun and wholesome movie about relationships with others and yourself. Phyllida Lloyd directed this beautiful and uplifting film, and she managed to create a visually stunning movie with a heartfelt and realistic message that can resonate with many.

23. Orlando (1992)

Orlando Tilda Swinton
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

This is my plea for you to watch Orlando! Based on a Virginia Woolf book, which I also recommend, this movie is strange and compelling, following a young man who magically turns into a woman and lives for hundreds of years. Sally Potter directed this enchanting and peculiar film, and Tilda Swinton’s performance was sensational.

24. Whip It (2009)

Whip It Drew Barrymore, Elliott Page, Kristen Wiig
Image Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

While Whip It might not be an Oscar-worthy film, it’s still exceedingly fun, spunky, and inspiring. America’s sweetheart, Drew Barrymore, directed and starred in this gritty and captivating film about female roller derby teams. From body checks to politics, the movie has intense scenes and powerful themes while being humorous.

25. The Holiday (2006)

The Holiday Kate Winslet, Jack Black
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

The Holiday is one of my favorite rom-coms, offering an assortment of top-notch actors and a sweet and sometimes sad storyline. The amazing Nancy Meyers directed this heartwarming, emotional film that leaves you believing in love. It’s a true romance with genuine moments of vulnerability that will move you.

Source: Reddit.

Author: Veronica Booth

Title: Freelance Writer

Expertise: Food, Entertainment, Movies, TV, Fashion, Lifestyle, Celebrity

Bio:

Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.

If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.

She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.