Many incredible movies created by women are available to watch now, and today, we will discuss the game-changers. Throughout the history of cinema, many notable films have come out that have changed the course of history. From the best fantasy films to the best horror films to so many others – I could talk about them for hours.
However, today, we will focus on a specific group of fantastic women who have directed game-changing movies. Barbie was released in 2023, directed by Greta Gerwig, and along with this blockbuster, we’re going to go down the list and talk about 12 films that have changed lives forever, some older and some new.
Barbie (2023, Greta Gerwig)
First up on the list is Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig. If you haven’t seen Barbie yet, I’m unsure what you’re doing because it’s been everywhere the last few months. The film follows Barbie as she enters the real world when she realizes she needs to make the girl playing with her happy again for her to remain a normal Barbie.
The movie received stellar reviews and became the highest-grossing movie ever directed by a woman, with over $1 billion documented at the box office, it broke major records at Warner Bros. Now, I’m pretty sure everyone wants to be a Barbie. Me included.
Wonder Woman (2017, Patty Jenkins)
Wonder Woman was released in 2017. The first movie follows the story of Diana Prince, a female warrior known as an Amazon who takes on the role of Wonder Woman when the Amazonian’s lives are threatened by outside forces that might be caused by Ares, the Amazonian’s long-time enemy, and who just might be causing World War I.
Wonder Woman is not only one of the few female-centric superhero movies, but it was the first superhero movie directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. She returned to direct the second film, but it’s unclear if Wonder Woman 3 will happen since the shakeup at DC with James Gunn. Right now, it’s not in the works, but who knows what will happen.
While the third installment might be in question, there’s no denying the power of 2017’s Wonder Woman.
The Hurt Locker (2008, Kathryn Bigelow)
Kathryn Bigelow directed The Hurt Locker. It was an intense and gritty war movie that detailed the journey of an Iraq War Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, from their time in combat to how it affected them afterward and their PTSD.
With The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director in 2009. Since then, there have been two other winners – Chloé Zhao (who we will talk about next) and Jane Campion, who directed 2021’s The Power of the Dog. Even so, Bigelow was the first ever to win, and that in itself is a huge accomplishment.
Nomadland (2020, Chloé Zhao)
Nomadland tells the story of a widow who travels around the United States in her van, living her life as a nomad. Chloé Zhao directed the movie, and she was the second woman ever to win Best Director at the Academy Awards.
This film is impressive for so many reasons, but for me, it’s always been the fantastic cinematography that stands out as a true highlight. Zhao put in some tremendous work when making this 2021 Best Picture winner and it shows through its gorgeous imagery and wonderful performance from Frances McDormand.
American Psycho (2000, Mary Harron)
Directed by Mary Harron, American Psycho was a satirical psychological horror film starring Christian Bale. It told the story of an investment banker who spent his nights as a serial killer while keeping it hidden from his everyday life of working in NYC.
Harron created a classic with American Psycho. Not only is Bale’s performance considered one of the best in horror, but the story itself is full of hilarious black comedy that looks at themes such as yuppie culture, capitalism, and the need to consume the best of everything. There are also some awesome American Psycho behind-the-scenes facts you should check out too that make the movie even better.
Lady Bird (2019, Greta Gerwig)
Of course, I’m putting Lady Bird on here. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut was a solid coming-of-age movie that detailed the life of a young girl trying to live her life, and her complicated relationship with her mother.
I love this movie. I have for a long time. Gerwig delivered something so raw and perfect with Lady Bird that I find it hard to discover another coming-of-age film close to its greatness. It perfectly details the transition of becoming a young woman and the complex feelings that arise with not only our family but within ourselves.
The Woman King (2022, Gina Prince-Bythewood)
The Woman King was released in 2022 and was directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. The movie is based on a real group of warrior women in Africa called the Agojie that existed between the 17th and 19th centuries, and mainly follows a general as she trains the next generation of warriors against their enemies.
This film was a snub at the Academy Awards, and it deserved much more recognition. The Woman King cast is stunning, but Viola Davis was the big star. And Prince-Bythewood brought an incredible historical-action film that showed badass women refusing to back down in the face of their enemies. I love it.
The Babadook (2014, Jennifer Kent)
Arguably, The Babadook, directed by Jennifer Kent, began a trend of psychological horror movies taking over at the box office years later, such as Ari Aster’s Midsommar or Hereditary. The film tells the story of a single mother dealing with her son seeing a humanoid monster in their home, but it soon turns their lives upside down.
The movie is just utter perfection in terms of horror. Truthfully, it’s one of the best horror movies of the last 20 years, and I would re-watch it again. Kent built suspense in such a way that now, it’s imitated in many other psychological horror movies that have been released.
The Farewell (2019, Lulu Wang)
Released in 2019 and directed by Lulu Wang, The Farewell follows the story of a Chinese American family who discovers that their grandma does not have long to live. So, they decide to schedule a family gathering for everyone to celebrate her one last time, instead of telling the older woman of her fate.
The Farewell is one of those movies that comes once in a lifetime where everything fits perfectly. The film accurately depicts the lives of Asian culture. It features a stellar leading Asian cast, and it highlights Awkwafina’s talents as a dramatic actor. She’s going to be in a new movie called Quiz Lady soon, but in my mind, this movie is her best so far.
Marie Antoinette (2006, Sofia Coppola)
Sofia Coppola has been making some headlines for her new film, Priscilla, which will be released later in 2023, but my favorite of hers has always been Marie Antoinette. Released in 2006, the film depicts the life of the famous Queen of France, especially in the years leading up to the French Revolution.
Not only did the movie win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, but Coppola gave audiences a movie that had some of the best cinematography for a period piece. Marie Antoinette was a visual spectacle for the eye.
Clueless (1995, Amy Heckerling)
Clueless, directed by Amy Heckerling, was a coming-of-age teen comedy that was loosely based on the Jane Austen novel Emma and took place in Beverly Hills. The movie follows a teenager who decides to start doing more good deeds, but in doing so, she starts to learn more about herself and how much she can change too.
The film has been labeled as one of the most epic teen films ever. You can’t meet someone nowadays who doesn’t at least know a few quotes from the movie. Not to mention, Heckerling also gave audiences a great take on Emma in a hilarious, modern way.
Women Talking (2022, Sarah Polley)
Lastly, we have Women Talking. The movie, directed by Sarah Polley, is based on the 2018 novel of the same name, and it follows the story of a group of Mennonite women who discuss their future when they find out that the men of their colony have a history of sexually assaulting their women.
The movie was not only nominated for Best Picture but won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Sarah Polley, who wrote and directed it. The film talks about some serious topics, and it is considered one of the best movies of 2022. It’s also pretty funny that Polley’s daughter played a prank on her mother, saying that the Academy was asking for her Oscar back — thankfully, Polley still has her win for this incredible film.
There are so many other notable films that you should watch that women directed, but these are just some that come to mind for me. If you haven’t seen any of them, check them out.