IWD 2021: 100 Films Directed By Women That You Should Watch

Ever since our debut in 2019, we’ve celebrated International Women’s Day by highlighting women and female-identifying individuals in and surrounding the film industry. Initially starting as a collaborative piece on women we admire in film and TV, we followed this up last year with a list of 100 female directors you should be watching. Now two years later, we have no plans on stopping this tradition.

So for this International Women’s Day, I asked my incredible team of writers to share some of their favourite films directed by women – and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Whether they be personal loves, blockbusters classics, or film festival favourites, this list is full of films for everyone to enjoy, irrespective of personal taste. So though all might not be to your taste, we hope you find a new film to enjoy somewhere in here.

12 Hour Shift (2020) Dir. Brea Grant

Image from the film '12 Hour Shift' (2020). Under a green light, a woman holds an organ in her hands. Her palm and face are covered in blood.
Image courtesy of HCT Media

“Grant’s first feature is a quirky blend of dry-to-the-bone comedy and blood-splattered carnage. Angela Bettis delivers a star-making turn as drug-addicted nurse and homicidal organ dealer Mandy, who gets caught in a world of bother when her fire-cracker cousin (Chloe Farnworth) shows up one night threatening to put the whole operation into jeopardy. Organs go missing, patients leave bloody trails all over the hospital floor, and David Arquette’s cop-killing prisoner is scowling at the end of the corridor. Farnworth is the biggest surprise as the dim-witted femme fatale scrambling about for a spare organ so that the local gangsters don’t take her own, but it’s Grant’s control of the madness, and keen sense of comedic timing, that makes 12 Hour Shift an absolute breeze of genre-defying chills. There’s also room for an impromptu, incredibly well-judged musical sequence. Really, Brea Grant has got it all. This is one nightmare hospital you’ll want to check into.” – KW

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour

Image is from the film 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' (2014). In an empty street, a young woman wearing a long coat and headscarf walks alone at night.
Image courtesy of Logan Pictures

“An homage to 1950s Hollywood in the liminal space of an Iranian/American setting, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a highly stylized vampire western. Set in the ghostly town of Bad City, the film is haunted by those desperately searching for ways to cope, including a vampire Girl (Sheila Vand) who targets the town’s predatory men. Amirpour’s film has such a strong sense of place, despite existing in an in-between, purgatory land. Despite its darkness, the film also traces a love story between the Girl and young drug dealer, Arash (Arash Marandi). In many ways, its a simple boy-meets-girls coming-of-age romp… with an eerie atmosphere, morally ambiguous protagonists and and insightful feminist critique.  As she so often does, Amirpour weaves her themes throughout the films every aspect: the visuals, music and dialogue work with a clear intentionality, placing viewers exactly where she wants them. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a singular experience, providing a subversive horror tale with a hypnotic aesthetic.” – SR

A Question of Silence (1982) Dir. Marleen Gorris

Image is from the film 'A Question of Silence' (1982). Three women walk towards the camera down the center aisle of a courtroom. They are all laughing. An unamused male police officer stands behind them.
Image courtesy of Quartet Films

A Question of Silence (1982) tells the story of three formally unacquainted women who are arrested after they spontaneously murder a male sales assistant. Although the three women do not really know each other, it is clear as the film unfolds that they all understand each other. They are all women oppressed by a staunchly patriarchal society, fed up with how they’ve been treated over the course of their individual lives. Although a bit of a hard to find gem of a film, A Question of Silence is a really unique narrative take on being a woman within a patriarchal society, and is worth a watch for anyone interested in feminist film and filmmaking.” – BD

Across the Universe (2007) Dir. Julie Taymor

Image is from the film 'Across the Universe' (2007). A man stands at the left of the frame, looking away from the viewer at a poster of ‘Uncle Sam’ with the words ‘I Want YOU’ written underneath. Instead of being in his normal pose, pointing directly at the viewer, the still painterly Uncle Sam is reaching out beyond the confines of the poster to grab the (live action) man.
Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Across the Universe (2007) is a jukebox musical, weaving a story of young love, activism, and the Vietnam war with various Beatles songs covered by the film’s cast. It’s an ode to both the 60s as an era and the Fab Four’s varied discography, with director Julie Taymor’s past work in theatrical stage production and puppetry resulting in a compelling visual style utilized throughout the film’s many musical sequences. In addition to its unique visual aesthetic the film also features a strong ensemble cast fronted by Jim Sturgess and Evan Rachel Wood, who breathe new life into the many beloved Beatles songs utilized throughout the film’s runtime.” – BD

Ailey (2021) Dir. Jamila Wignot

Image is from the documentary 'Ailey' (2021). Three dances holding fans all look to the left while squatting. They are all wearing straw hats and long dresses. The image is in black and white.
Image courtesy of American Masters Pictures

“Bittersweet and beautifully crafted, Jamila Wignot’s documentary sets out to celebrate the life of legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey. With immense empathy, she chronicles the early years of his life through the very end, intersplicing his dance company’s current efforts to honor his legacy. Granting Ailey the agency to tell his own story, the film also combines his own narration and archival footage. Wignot prioritizes emotional resonance when blending these aspects together, finding innovative ways to express the multitudes of joy, pain and beauty woven throughout his life. Her film is poignantly poetic and immersive in its storytelling, providing urgent commentary on the way Black art is treated, often at the expense of the artists. With its unique approach and precise filmmaking, Ailey is able to focus on its subject’s pain without ever losing sight of his humanity.” – SR

American Honey (2016) Dir. Andrea Arnold

Image is from the film 'American Honey' (2016). Against the backdrop of a cloud-filled sky, a young woman waves her arms in the air. Her yellow vest flies in the wind, exposing her pink bra underneath.
Image courtesy of A24

“Troubled teen Star (Sasha Lane) runs away from her home to join a traveling magazine sales crew and subsequently gets caught up in a whirlwind of partying, law-breaking and love. Lane is magnificent as Star, allowing the young girl’s cacophony of emotions to bubble to the surface even in silence. Though a long watch, American Honey is startling capture of those on the poverty line losing it on the road to keep themselves together.” – GD

Appropriate Behaviour (2014) Dir. Desiree Akhavan

Image is from the film 'Appropriate Behaviour' (2014). Two women are lying on a bed looking directly at one another. They look as if they are about to kiss.
Image courtesy of Parkville Pictures

Appropriate Behaviour is a deft exploration into what it means to be a modern bisexual woman. Desiree Akhavan – who also wrote and directed the feature – stars as Persian-American Shirin, who struggles to balance her bisexual and Persian identities. Following a break-up with her girlfriend Maxine (Rebecca Henderson), Shirin embarks on a rebellious journey of self-discovery in an attempt to discover what went wrong in her last relationship. Akhavan’s debut feature is bold and unafraid, showcasing the flawed and sometimes isolating aspects of modern life. However, Akhavan’s ability to balance this with a tight-knit script full of razor-sharp wit creates for a film that is a fantastic look at to the trials and tribulations of adulthood.” – GD

Atlantics (2019) Dir. Mati Diop

Image is from the film 'Atlantics' (2019). Two people dance in an embrace. They are surrounded by green lasers, which highlight their faces in the darkness.
Image courtesy of Les Films du Bal

“Nothing can separate a young Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) and her first love Soulieman (Ibrahima Traoré), but the equally calming and ruthless Atlantic has other plans. Soulieman and his co-workers haven’t been paid for months for their work on a futuristic Dakar tower, and Ada is betrothed to an older man she does not love. When the men disappear at sea for search of a better life in Spain, the girlfriends they’ve left behind possess their spirits as a means of remembrance and revenge. Ada must find a way to handle the sudden loss of her first love while attempting to find the same freedom the men were searching for herself. Mati Diop, with her own mesmerizing filmmaking prowess begs the question that is eventually faced by every black woman that loves a black man: Once our men have been taken, what is to come of us?” – YB

Babyteeth (2019) dir. Shannon Murphy

Image is from the film 'Babyteeth' (2019). A young couple in a night club are covered by blue and orange light. The woman, who is wearing a floral shirt, looks directly at the camera whilst the man looks away.
Image courtesy of Screen Australia

“When seriously ill teen Milla (Eliza Scanlen) falls for drug dealer Moses (Toby Wallace), it feels like the beginning of her parent’s worst nightmare. However, as her love for Moses grows, her newfound lust for life has a profound effect on those around her. Babyteeth is a uniquely fierce debut from Australian director Shannon Murphy, who shows us the vivacity of living life as if there is no tomorrow. Complete with a full spectrum of bubbling emotion, Babyteeth help you find the joy in the chaos of life.” – GD

Becoming (2020) Dir. Nadia Hallgreen

Image from the Netflix documentary, 'Becoming' (2020). Michelle Obama hugs a young black girl tightly. The girl appears to be crying whilst Michelle smiles.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“The access with which Becoming ventures into the chaotic but fascinating world of Michelle Obama is enlightening. The former first-lady narrates her post-politics life in this intimate portrait, the documentary is a sincere glance at the authentically funny and warm personality of Michelle Obama. Taking this chance to talk about her experience, in her own words, Becoming is a brilliant profile from Nadia Hallgreen whose navigation of the former first-lady is done with sincere respect while maintaining an air of intrigue. ” – EM

Beginning (2020) Dir. Dea Kulumbegashvili

Image from the film 'Beginning' (2020). A woman lies on the ground, which is covered in dead leaves.
Image courtesy of First Pictures

“The studious patience that Dea Kulumbegashvili executes in her directorial debut feature, Beginning, is outstanding. Her filmmaking style is saturated with long pauses. It is this slow-burn style that allows her narratives of female isolation and contemplation to linger with an unmistakable allure. The Georgian filmmaker’s debut finds womanhood, nature and religion entangled in an interwoven narrative of internal navigation.” – EM

Bend It Like Beckham (2002) Dir. Gurinder Chadha

Image is from the film 'Bend it Like Beckham' (2002). Two young girls, who are both wearing white and red football kits, smile at one another on a football pitch.
Image courtesy of Kintop Pictures

“Eighteen-year-old Jess (Parminder Nagra) loves football and dreams of being able to play the sport professionally. However, because she is a woman, her conservative Indian family refuse to let her play. In this fiery British film, Gurinder Chadha bends the rules to create a feel-good classic which delves into the struggles of balancing cultural identity with the identity you want to forge for yourself.” – GD

Birds of Pray (2020) Dir. Cathy Yan

Image is from the film 'Birds of Prey' (2020). Harley Quinn leans on a counter wearing an exuberant confetti like jacket. In front of her sits a sandwich, which is wrapped in tin foil.
Image courtesy of DC Films

“After some commercially unsuccessful and disappointing outings into the DCCU, Birds of Prey felt like a wild breath of fresh air. Following the notorious Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) after her break-up with the Joker, Birds of Prey allows Harley Quinn to stand on her own feet in a way that is loud, proud, and authentically hers. Packed with buckets of energy, an exuberant wardrobe and snarky wit, Birds of Prey is an injection of fun into the superhero genre.” – GD

Broken Hearts Gallery (2020) Dir. Natalie Krinsky

Image is from the film 'Broken Hearts Gallery' (2020). A couple sit on a dirty yellow sofa in the middle of a busy street.
Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures

“Unabashedly earnest and charming, Broken Hearts Gallery is a glossy rom-com with a confident sense of place. Finding unique ways to weave her quirky characters into their environment, writer-director Natalie Krinsky assures that every aspect of the film reflects love for the early 20’s, Brooklyn aesthetic. The film is driven by its onscreen relationships, each with easy chemistry and excellent banter, largely due to a scene-stealing performance from Geraldine Viswanatha. As Lucy, she is embarrassed and dumped by her boyfriend, leading to the creation of an art gallery for those still clinging to objects from prior relationships. In that, the film is all about relatability — pain is universal, as is our tendency to cling to the past. Lucy navigates this alongside others, figuring out her career, her sense of self and a budding romance with hotel owner Nick (Dacre Montgomery). Broken Hearts Gallery is so full of heart, packed with empathy for flawed characters that are so clearly in their 20’s and never forgetting that each of them still has growing to do.” – SR

But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) Dir. Jamie Babbit

Image from the film 'But I'm a Cheerleader' (1999). Two teenage girls sit on the floor in matching pink uniforms scrubbing the floor of a baby blue room. They are looking at each other and smiling while a third character, whose face is out of the frame, walks behind them.
Image courtesy of Ignite Entertainment

“Jamie Babbit’s debut feature film, and arguably her best known work, But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) tells the story of a teenage girl named Megan (Natasha Lyonne) who is sent to a conversion therapy camp after her parents and boyfriend suspect her of being a lesbian. In spite of its dark setting, the film is a mostly light-hearted, cotton candy-colored satire that openly mocks conversion therapy and the people who believe in it and enforce it. In a place meant to “help” teens rediscover their gender roles and become heterosexuals, Megan instead comes to understand herself better as a lesbian and falls in love with fellow camper Graham (Clea DuVall) with whom she begins a relationship. It’s a sweet 90’s coming of age story, written with a lot of clear care and understanding for closeted gay teenagers.” – BD

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018) Dir. Marielle Heller

Image is from the film 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' (2018). A man and a woman sit beside one another in a dimly lit room. They are both holding glasses filled with alcohol. Behind them, is a corkboard full of various newspaper clippings.
Image courtesy of Searchlight

Can You Ever Forgive Me?, directed by Marielle Heller, is the true story of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a struggling, hard-drinking writer who conjures up a plan to make money by forging letters from famous authors and selling them to dealers. Complemented by a masterful supporting performance by Richard E. Grant as Lee’s best friend Jack, McCarthy fully leans into the frustration and self-destructiveness of the character, proving that she is just as capable as being a dramatic actress as she is comedic. Heller establishes a delicate balance of tone and sympathy, resulting in a compelling character study that emphasizes the talents of its actors to the highest degree.” – PK

Clemency (2019) Dir. Chinonye Chukwu

Image is from the film 'Clemency' (2019). A woman in a white blazer walks down an empty, blue, prison corridor.
Image courtesy of ACE Pictures

“As a film, Clemency is quiet yet devastating. Focusing on Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard), an executioner on death row, we see the toll that years of service has taken on her as she prepares to execute Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), who vehemently claims his innocence. Chinonye Chukwu’s direction is harrowing, creating a masterpiece that will stay will you long after the credits have finished rolling.” – GD

Clockwatchers (1997) Dir. Jill Sprecher

Image from the film 'Clockwatchers' (1997). Three women stand in an office building, reacting to something out of frame. The first woman looks to the other two, uncertain, while the other women look to be in two varying states of shock.
Image courtesy of Goldcrest Films

“Predating the male-fronted cult comedy Office Space (1999) by two years, the more dramatic (but just as delightful) Clockwatchers (1997) critiques the soul-sucking office environment and its day to day mundanity through a distinctly feminine lens. The film notably features Toni Collette in an early leading role in addition to Alanna Ubach and 90’s darlings Lisa Kudrow and Parker Posey. The actresses play the roles of four incredibly different women who nonetheless become close after working together as temp workers for the same company, but whose bond is challenged when their bosses begin to target them as the culprits for a series of in-building thefts. It’s a wonderful, character-driven film about the importance of both solidarity and individualism amongst workers who are more often than not overlooked and underappreciated.” – BD

Clueless (1995) Dir. Amy Heckerling

Image is from the film 'Clueless' (1995). In a high school classroom, Cher daydreams with a fluffy, pink pen pressed to her cheek.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Clueless— Amy Heckerling’s witty modern take on Jane Austen’s 1815 novel, Emma—is a light-hearted satire following all-American it-girl Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone) as she coasts through her charmed life in Beverly Hills, filled to the brim with hilarious and memorable moments of uniquely adolescent naïveté. Because she is rich and blonde and a big fan of the word “like,” the movie seems primed to give in to the idea that Cher is, well, clueless; but the genius of Heckerling’s writing and direction is that it understands that admitting this is not a condemnation: it’s just Cher being a teen. What Heckerling pulls off with Clueless is a remarkably difficult balancing act: making fun of someone while also taking them more seriously than most others care to. But she does it with verve and style, expertly blending satire and empathy in this endlessly rewatchable classic teen-comedy. She gets that teens are ridiculous and fun and selfish and lovely, and she celebrates it all. That we also get so many iconic looks and laughs along the way is just a happy bonus.” – BH

Cocoon (2020) Dir. Leonie Krippendorff

Image from the film 'Cocoon' (2020). Two young women stand outside, surrounded by a lush green rural landscape. They are looking directly at one another and smiling.
Image courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures

“The essence of Leonie Krippendorff’s work is centred on the pursuit of young women searching for belonging, Cocoon is no different. The film is a masterful navigation of the life of a young gay woman, embracing all the stumblings, messiness, and firsts of falling for another woman. Cocoon’s unyielding focus on queer love produces a personable and intimate story under the sun of Berlin’s hottest summer.” – EM

Daisies (1966) Dir. Věra Chytilová

Image from the film 'Daisies' (1966). Two young women lay on a bed, one horizontally across the bed’s end with her arm hanging off the edge and the other laying her chin on the first woman’s back. One has her hair in rollers, looking off-screen to the viewer’s right while the other, wearing a flower crown and pastel purple outfit, looks to the floor.
Image courtesy of Filmové studio Barrandov

“After deciding that the “whole world is spoiled” the protagonists of Daisies (1966), dubbed Marie 1 (Jitka Cerhová) and Marie 2 (Ivana Karbanová), proclaim that they will be spoiled as well. The film that follows is a series of anarchic and occasionally surreal scenes in which, among other things, the two women trick men into buying them dinners, get drunk and dance in public, and cut each other up with scissors – resulting in a sequence of floating heads and body parts playing with and teasing each other. Banned from theaters and export by its native Czechoslovakia at the time of its would-be release, Daisies (1966) was initially considered to be dangerously defiant and irresponsible, but is now widely regarded as a milestone of the Czech New Wave movement. A film unlike anything else you’ll ever see, Daisies’ visual aesthetic feels uniquely ahead of its time, and its characters are a joy to watch on-screen.” – BD

Dead Pigs (2018) Dir. Cathy Yan

Image from the film Dead Pigs (2018). A  crowd of characters look up towards a house as it prepares to be knocked down. In the centre, stands a woman wearing a leopard print dressing gown and hair rollers.
Image courtesy of Variety

“Inspired by the 2013 Huangpu River incident, Dead Pigs is a tale of six people – interconnected across Shanghai – as they fall in and out of each other’s orbit whilst thousands of dead pigs show up in the nearby river. Cathy Yan’s feature is full of flare, tenacity, and heart. It is an incredible debut from the Chinese-American director, who layers the film with critical commentary on modern Chinese society, creating an exceptionally warm yet honest film.” – GD

Dick Johnson is Dead (2020) Dir. Kirsten Johnson

Image is from the film 'Dick Johnson is Dead' (2020). An older man dressed in a polo and khakis lies on the ground outside, a box at his side and the pieces of a broken desktop computer surrounding him. Two of the computer pieces lay on either side of his head, one obscuring his face.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“An unconventional approach to documentary filmmaking, Dick Johnson is Dead (2020) attempts to grapple with the complex emotions that come with the inevitable death of a parent through humor, fantasy, and a frank confrontation with reality. Over the course of the film, director Kirsten Johnson stages a number of accidental scenarios musing on how her real life father, the titular Dick Johnson, may die as a means of coming to terms with the fact that his time on Earth could end at any time. As she films the documentary, however, she must also make peace with the fact that he is slowly losing his memory – just as her mother had shortly before her passing. The resulting film is a bittersweet love letter to Johnson’s father, and a really unique look at death and our relationship to it through a largely nonfiction lens.” – BD

Emma (2020) Dir. Autumn de Wilde

Image is from the film 'Emma' (2020). Two women stand in a garden talking to one another. One is blurred out of focus, whilst the other looks directly at her partner. They are both wearing bonnets.
Image courtesy of Perfect World Pictures

“Anya Taylor-Joy is delightful in the role of the titular Emma Woodhouse, a young woman intent on moving up the societal ranks in 19th-century England. Poised and calculated, Emma treats romance like a game she’s intent on winning, interfering in the lives of those around her to suit her own desires. A reimagined adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic romance novel, Emma. honours its source material while offering a take on it that feels more contemporary. The film’s stylized art design also makes it visually appealing, awash in vibrant hues and saccharine pastels evocative of its shrewd protagonist.” – HP

Fast Color (2018) Dir. Julia Hart

Image is from the film 'Fast Color' (2018). A woman and a young girl stand side by side in a bedroom. The woman has her arms crossed and wears a brown knit sweater. The young girl wears a bright pink headband and a striped shirt. They are watching as shards of glass levitate in front of them.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate

“The mainstream legacy of the superhero genre has become overwrought with an element called action. Julia Hart breaks tradition by making Fast Color, a gentle film that centers itself on a Black superpowered matriarchy fighting for survival in the midst of a Midwest drought. Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ruth bridges the gap between generations as both a mother and a daughter, struggling to control the abilities she was born with, and under Hart’s guidance, she is a force to be reckoned with. As more black superheroes finally step into the on-screen foray, it is a wonder why this particular story remains so underseen.” – BRD

First Cow (2020) Dir. Kelly Reichardt

Image is from the film 'First Cow' (2020). A young, bearded man stands in a woodland with a brown cow. He is wearing a worn suit and neck scarf.
Image courtesy of A24

First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt, follows two travellers in 1820s America who both dream of becoming rich and successful. Cookie (John Magaro) and King-Lu (Orion Lee) come up with a scheme to steal milk from a wealthy landowner’s cow – the first cow that has been brought over to the Northwest – and make baked goods to sell at the local market. The film relishes in quiet moments, often lingering on scenes that are simply about Cookie and King-Lu further establishing their friendship. Although the stakes are set early on in the film, they never feel high enough to warrant much stress. In setting this tone, Reichardt offers us a kindness that not many other films provide. We’re allowed to focus on the subtle and beautiful nuances, and recognize her vision of portraying an early iteration of American ideals that wasn’t inclusive of dreamers.” – PK

Fish Tank (2009) Dir. Andrea Arnold

Image is from the film 'Fish Tank' (2009). A teenage girl wearing a black polka dot vest top and hoop earrings leans against a blue wall.
Image courtesy of BBC Films

“Andrea Arnold had already made a name for herself when she created Fish Tank, perhaps her most iconic work for a multitude of reasons. One of the most deserving reasons for its success is that it’s a social realist film looking at the life of a teenage girl, Mia — played by first time actor Katie Jarvis — which was and is rare for the genre. It presents a claustrophobic world where Mia is shown little respect until her Mum’s new boyfriend, the seemingly more privileged Conor (Michael Fassbender), appears on the scene. Her gender definitely plays a big part in the trouble she faces through the film, but it’s a work that isn’t moralistic or dour but respectfully and appropriately complex.” – CM

House of Hummingbird (2018) Dir. Kim Bora

Image from of the film 'House of Hummingbird' (2018). A young girl sits on a bus, holding her yellow backpack on her knee. A large bandage covers her ear.
Image courtesy of Epiphany

House of Hummingbird is an intimate study of a young girl’s adolescence and her quiet search for love. Taking place in Seoul in 1994, we follow fourteen-year-old Eun-hee (Park Ji-hoo) and she attempts to navigate the workings of the world and her relationships with those around her; be it her family, friends or her Chinese teacher. Kim Bora’s semi-autobiographical debut tinges teenagedom with a bittersweet nostalgia and honesty, showcasing the snippets of Eun-hee’s life with raw sensitivity as a highly explored character study of the young protagonist. Unafraid to linger and allow events to simmer to their full potential, House of Hummingbird is a fantastic coming-of-age feature that showcases a young girl who is lost in her youth. ” – GD

Hustlers (2019), Dir. Lorene Scafaria

Image from the film 'Hustlers' (2019). In a night club tinged with blue light, a woman in a large fur coat and another in a leopard print shirt talk to one another.
Image courtesy of STX Films

“Sick and tired of rich men taking what they want by exploiting people and getting away with it, a group of former strippers set on owning back their narrative by scamming former clients (also known as part of the Good For Her Cinematic Universe). Lorene Scafaria constructs a thoroughly entertaining, at times moving, and visually pleasing piece, with a dazzling and authentic cast of characters.” – CH

I’m Your Woman (2020) Dir. Julia Hart

Image is from the film 'I'm Your Woman' (2020). A young woman wearing circular sunglasses and a pale yellow coat sits on a park bench next to a pushchair.
Image courtesy of Amazon Studios

“This neo-noir crime film is criminally underrated despite providing an evocative ode to motherhood that is so utterly unexpected from the mob drama genre. I’m Your Woman follows Jean (Rachel Brosnahan), a 1970s housewife whose husband mysteriously goes missing. His involvement with organized crime forces her to go on the run with their young baby, with next to no information about where her husband is and what could be coming after her. A very intentional, tightly controlled slow burn, the film holds back from the audience just as it does from Jean; between this tactic and Brosnahan’s performance, there isn’t a second where her anxiety, confusion and desperation isn’t palpable. Helming this, Hart continues her tendency to center female characters with aching complexity and understanding. This film manages an astounding level of pathos, so sorely missing from the crime genre.” – SR

Jennifer’s Body (2009) Dir. Karyn Kusama

Image is from the film 'Jennifer's Body' (2009). Jennifer levitates above an abandoned swimming pool which is covered in dirt and graffiti. She is wearing a long white dress with black accents that is stained with blood.
Image courtesy of Fox Atomic

“Though initial poorly received and grossly mis-marketed, Jennifer’s Body has found a new life as a feminist cult classic. The film follows newly possessed cheerleader Jennifer (Megan Fox) as she begins to kill her male classmates one by one and her best friend Needy (Amanda Seyfried) who tries to stop her before it’s too late. Jennifer’s Body is a self-aware and does not attempt to hide its snarky dark comedy roots, but instead leans into the camp and the cheese to present a film full of twisted entertainment.” – GD

Jinn (2018) Dir. Nijla Mu’min

Image is from the film 'Jinn' (2018). A young black girl looks directly at the camera. She is wearing hoop earrings and a hijab patterned with pandas.
Image courtesy of Sweet Potato Pie Productions

“Summer (Zoe Renee), is a carefree 17 year old, who holds her dreams of dance and graduating high school just as high as partying and hanging out with her friends. When her mother begins to convert to Islam, and brings Summer along, the young teenager must find the delicate balance between the person she is reaching out for and the person she’s becoming. Nothing makes this more complicated than Tahir (Kelvin Harrison Jr), a boy she meets from the same mosque. He shows her both community and how variant the religion can be. But the stronger their romance becomes, and the louder Summer’s old self calls out to her, the harder it becomes for her to keep up with these different sides of herself. In Jinn, the purpose of growing up is not to find a stagnant self, but to realize the fluidity of being a Muslim, of being alive, of being a teenage girl.” – YB

Kajillionaire (2020) Dir. Miranda July

Image is from the film 'Kajillionaire' (2020). Two women stand next to one another in an aisle of a supermarket. One woman is pushing a trolley, wearing a white bomber jacket and hoop earrings. The other has extremely long red hair and is wearing a black jacket.
Image courtesy of Plan B Entertainment

“Born into a life of crime, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) is used to scamming and scheming her way through the world. However, things take a turn when her parents bring Melanie (Gina Rodriguez) into the fold, as her involvement breaks old bonds— and leads to an unexpected new one. While Kajillionaire begins as a bleak heist comedy, it becomes an unexpectedly moving film that questions the very idea of family itself. Wood is especially riveting to watch as Old Dolio, whose loneliness and desperation to feel loved gives the story a real emotional gravitas.” – HP

Kingdom of Us (2017) Dir. Lucy Cohen

Image is from the film 'Kingdom of Us' (2017). Pippa Shanks sits on a windowsill and looks outside. She is wearing dark lipstick, jeans and a red flannel shirt.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“Life after death is never easy and this is no different for the Shanks family. Kingdom of Us follows the remaining members of the Shanks family as they come to terms with the sudden death of their father, and the dark secrets that uprooted themselves following the event. Lucy Cohen approaches each person with caution, capturing how each family member grieves with sensitivity and patience. The result is a documentary that is personal and raw.” – GD

Knock Down the House (2019) Dir. Rachel Lears

Image is from the documentary 'Knock Down the House' (2019). The image is of the politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has her hands over her mouth after hearing she had won her campaign.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“Amidst an incredibly dire political landscape, Rachel Lears’ Knock Down the House showcases the grassroots campaigns that are attempting to shake the very foundation of American politics. The film focuses on four working class women from around the US, who despite their limited political experience, decide to run for Congress in an attempt to diversify American politics and overthrow the male incumbents in their states. The film most notably documents that campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who would go on to win her seat and become a notorious figure in modern politics.” – GD

Lady Bird (2017) Dir. Greta Gerwig

Image is from the film 'Lady Bird' (2017). Lady Bird stands against a colourful wall that connects to a corner shop. She is wearing a plaid dress and a white top.
Image courtesy of A24

“With Lady Bird, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age dramedy set in 2002 Sacramento, Greta Gerwig came onto Hollywood’s proverbial map with a well-deserved standing ovation. The film focuses on the life of high school senior Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) as she navigates love, friendship, and college admission at her Catholic school. At the same time that she expands into her growing world, Lady Bird tries desperately to find some sort of middle ground in her strained relationship with her loving but stern mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf). Everything in the film feels indescribably authentic, like you could close your eyes and point to a house on a map and find some storyline from the movie playing out at that very moment. It’s lived-in. Gerwig’s direction is marvelous, because it’s emotional, beautiful, and astoundingly empathetic, but also because it takes time to understand every single character, no matter how minor, even when Lady Bird herself can’t. Lady Bird is truly a love letter to teenage girls and stressed-out mothers and finding love for the hometown you swore you hated. Even four years after its premiere, I am still in constant awe of the sheer miracle of it.” – BH

Lemonade Mouth (2011) Dir. Patricia Riggen

Image is from the film Lemonade Mouth (2009). Five students - three girls and two boys - standing in all school corridor look at a something placed on the wall in front of them.
Image courtesy of Disney

“Because who would not want a rated G musical take on The Breakfast Club? For five students doing detention in the basement of their high school, where all other extracurricular activities that are not sports have been banished, their voices are everything. When they decide to claim their right to free speech, they do so in song, forming a band with a name that gives the film its sour yet refreshing title. Iconic bangers such as Somebody by Bridgit Mendler, She’s So Gone by Naomi Scott, and Determinate by the ensemble cast outline the killer tracklist of one of the only Disney Channel Original Movies ever to be directed by a woman. What High School Musical needs a whole trilogy to accomplish, though, Lemonade Mouth does in a singular movie.” – BRD

Little Woods (2018) Dir. Nia DaCosta

Image from the film 'Little Woods' (2018). Two women sit on the floor of a kitchen. They are both leaning against the cabinets and appear to be in a deep discussion.
Image courtesy of Neon

Little Woods is the debut feature film from director Nia DaCosta, combining elements of crime, thriller, and neo-western genres to tell the story of two estranged sisters, Ollie (Tessa Thompson) and Deb (Lily James), who are driven to make tough choices when their mother dies and leaves them with one week to pay back her mortgage. Thompson and James give equally strong performances, playing off of their difficult relationship in a way that feels tangible. The film is tense and empathetic, portraying the kind of people in rural America that are often dismissed or forgotten. DaCosta brings nuance to her characters, adding depth to an otherwise simple story. Little Woods is a thoughtful portrait of poverty, addiction, and being bound by family.” – PK

Lucky (2020) Dir. Natasha Kermani

Image from the film 'Lucky' (2020). A young woman with blonde hair is covered with splatters of blood. She is wearing a blue pinstripe shirt and is holding a roll of duct tape to her face.
Image courtesy of Epic Pictures Groups

“Iranian-American director Natasha Kermani’s sophomore feature, Lucky, is a one-woman show from Brea Grant, whose violently resourceful final girl finds herself trapped in a time-loop nightmare involving the man who comes to her house every night and attacks her. The catch is that he can’t be killed and disappears in a blink of an eye. But Kermani’s film is a whole lot more than its surface-level home-invasion thrills, meeting the #MeToo movement head-on with a subversive, seething commentary on male oppression. The cherry on top is that Grant’s character, May, is a successful self-help author, feeding into the film’s rallying cry, its furious assault on victim-blaming, and giving power back to the women who deal with these systematic failures every day. Double bill it with Grant’s directional debut 12 Hour Shift for a chaotic night of horror-comedy with a feminine bite.” – KW

Ma Belle, My Beauty (2021) Dir. Marion Hill

Image from 'Ma Belle, My Beauty' (2021). Two women walk side by side in a French street as they chat to one another.
Image courtesy of EFI Productions

“The South of France is the perfect location for Marion Hill’s debut feature, a queer exploration of polyamory under the beating sun. Sharply written and keenly observant, Ma Belle, My Beauty lingers like the summer heat. Accounting for a myriad of emotional perspectives the film unites its characters in the desire of love in its multifaceted forms. Hill’s intimate lens frames her trio with a seductive flair, a unique perspective on a queer experience that is not widely portrayed.” – EM

Mamma Mia (2008) Dir. Phyllida Lloyd

Image from the film Mamma Mia (2008). A cast of female characters confidently stride forward as they dance to ABBA's 'Dancing Queen against the backdrop of a Greek village.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

“In a world that can be hard to face, Mamma Mia is unashamedly fun. Based around the works of Swedish pop group ABBA, Mamma Mia is not afraid to dial up the camp to present us with 100 minutes of musical joy as Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) invites three of her mother’s (Meryl Streep) former lovers to her wedding to find out which one is her real father. With an all-star cast that embraces the cheesy nature of its soundtrack, Mamma Mia is a movie sensation that you will want to sing along to.” – GD

Marie Antoinette (2006) Dir. Sofia Coppola

Image is from the film 'Marie Antoinette' (2006). Surrounded by French aristocrats, a young Marie Antoinette smirks with her hand to her lip.
Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

“Although this film got booed at when it first was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, nowadays it’s considered a cult classic. Coppola uses the real events that took place in Versailles before and during the French Revolution to mirror her own experience as a teenage girl who grew up under the constant watch of the public eye. Marie Antoinette’s (Kirsten Dunst) story starts with her feeling an inadequate queen because she can’t get the king (Jason Schwartzman) to give them a heir, and questioning her place on the French throne as an Austrian royal. Once these conflicts are solved the film quickly picks up pace as the young queen grows up and indulges in everything her status and the royal palace have to offer. Her fall is inevitable as her lavish lifestyle keeps her too busy to meet the needs of her people. Coppola’s third film is a tragedy nicely wrapped in in shiny jewellery, pretty bright dresses and the occasional 2000’s hit pop song.” – JG

Marvelous and the Black Hole (2021) Dir. Kate Tsang

Image from the film 'Marvelous and the Black Hole' (2021). A teenage girl and older woman are seen in a car. They are both happy, and are wearing different colored novelty sunglasses.
Image courtesy of Slash Film

“Kate Tsang’s Marvelous and the Black Hole (2021) premiered this January at Sundance, telling the coming of age tale of a jaded teenage delinquent (Sammy Ko, played by Miya Cech) dealing with the loss of her recently deceased mother. Sketchy, drawn overlays give the film a unique aesthetic that visually pushes its characters’ strongly felt emotions and helps it to stand out amongst other films in its genre. The culture of the film’s young Chinese American protagonist also helps to set the film apart, being naturally woven into its script through the prominence of passed down folklore.” – BD

Mustang (2015) Dir. Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Image from the film Mustang. Five sisters talk to one another in the back seat of a car. Their hair is swept over their faces as they drive.
Image courtesy of CG Cinéma

“Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut feature follows five orphaned sisters in rural Turkey, who are shut off from the world by their conservative family after being caught playing in the sea with male classmates. Primarily told from the perspective youngest sister, Lale (Güneş Şensoy), Mustang is a fiercely rebellious cry for stolen childhood that, under Ergüven’s expert direction, showcases incredible performances from the five young leads.” – GD

Near Dark (1987) Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Image from the film 'Near Dark' (1987). Four characters - two men, a women and a child - all look down the camera with an intimidating gaze. One of the men is holding a gun, the other is covered in blood. The image is in black and white.
Image courtesy of F/M Entertainment

“Kathryn Bigelow has become a major name in filmmaking with several known works to her name, but Near Dark is one that’s probably forgotten by most film fans. It was the director’s solo debut and showed immense confidence, taking the very well-established vampire genre and giving it a shot of adrenaline. This film brings vampires into the modern day — but with the rivalry and emotion of a great Western. It might still be able to provide lessons for creators of modern vampire stories in how to create the mixture of threat and beauty that often films lose, and much deserves – needs, even — to still be seen today.” – CM

Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always (2020) Dir. Eliza Hittman

Image is from the film 'Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always' (2020). The image is a close up shot of a teenage girl who is listen blue earphones and wearing a yellow hoodie whilst sat on a bus.
Image courtesy of Focus Features

“Eliza Hittman’s filmography has been slowly building titles of youth and tension which has now peaked with the stunning Never, Rarely, Sometimes, Always. In the film, which follows two teens travelling across state lines to have access to an abortion clinic, the friendship of teen girls is shown to be a force of nature. With phenomenal performances from Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder, the subtleties of teenagehood arrive with painful authenticity. It is a profoundly moving film that is simply exceptional.” – EM

Nomadland (2020) Dir. Chloé Zhao

Image from the film Nomadland (2020). An older woman in a blue dress stands in the middle of dry terrain. Behind her are a range of pinnacles.
Image courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

“Front runner for the start of the new decade, Nomadland is the finest display of Chloé Zhao’s filmography to date. In unfolding the story of Fern, played by the brilliant Frances McDormand, across the charted American West, she sheds a shaft of light on a way of life that should not be confused with escapism. The meandering nomads provide a perspective on poverty that can only echo through the rest of the country. Yet they are not without their humanity, as stories of people simply being people thrive in this landscape where one’s sole necessity is companionship. The recent winner of both the Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Director, Zhao is the first Asian female filmmaker to be the recipient of such awards.” – BRD

One Child Nation (2019) Dir. Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang

Image is from the documentary 'One Child Nation' (2019). Nanfu Wang stands under an umbrella with a child strapped to her chest. She stands in front of a wall with a mother and child painted on it. The words "One child is best" accompany the painting.
Image courtesy of Amazon Studios

“Nanfu Wang is a no-nonsense documentarian and is not afraid to get to the root of a subject, especially if it needs to be heard. Her latest venture takes her back to her native China, where she was born amidst the One Child Policy during the 1980s. Now as a mother herself, Wang and co-director Jialing Zhang, explore the effect of this policy on their native populace generations later. The result is a documentary that is an unapologetic and sobering, showcasing the disastrous effects of the government’s policies.” – GD

One Night In Miami (2020) Dir. Regina King

Image is from 'One Night in Miami' (2020). Two pairs of men sit opposite one another in a hotel room. They are all wearing suits and are deep in discussion.
Image courtesy of Amazon Studios

“Many of us are familiar with the legendary lives of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown, but legends, by their nature, do not tell the whole story. Neither does One Night in Miami, Regina King’s stunning feature directorial debut, which focuses solely on the friendship between the four men on the night of February 25, 1964. It is not concerned with biographical facts or even historical achievement, but because of that, One Night in Miami works better than almost any retelling of legend. The film is a force because the simple, pared-down setting allows the four men at its center the space to truly be themselves. It lets them worry and doubt and talk to each other as people, rather than leaders. It also gives room to a centuries-old debate—what do we, as Black people, owe ourselves and each other? Is freedom about individual success or collectivism?—without belittling either side, a rare phenomenon in films featuring Black radicalism. King does an extraordinary thing with One Night in Miami by eschewing history and emphasizing humanity, and I’m excited to see what she does next.” – BH

Paint it Black (2016) Dir. Amber Tamblyn

Image is from the film 'Paint it Black' (2016). A woman, centered in the frame, stares past the camera. Half of her face is basked in red lighting while the other half is shrouded in shadow. She has smeared makeup and mascara tears running down her cheeks.
Image courtesy of Olive Productions

“A phone call from the police alerts Josie (Alia Shawkat) to the news that her boyfriend has died of an apparent suicide. She attends his funeral, only to be attacked by his mother Meredith (Janet McTeer), who blames the young woman for her son’s death. This begins a strange relationship between the two women, alternating between drinking buddies and bitter enemies as both try to deal with their complicated feelings surrounding their shared loss. The film, Paint it Black (2016), is the feature debut of actress Amber Tamblyn as a director, and shows great promise in its compelling, original storyline and striking visuals.” – BD

Palo Alto (2013) Dir. Gia Coppola

Image is from the film 'Palo Alto' (2013).  A teenage couple are alone in a room together and look as if they are about to kiss.
Image courtesy of Rabbit Bandini Productions

Palo Alto intrigues by its atmosphere; the observant and raw manner with which it portrays its characters, grappling with teenagehood. The film feels natural, Gia Coppola captures scenes without judgment, simply letting the story unfold as if on its own, letting reality seep organically into this piece of fiction.” – CH

Pariah (2011) Dir. Dee Rees

Image is from the film 'Pariah' (2011). Lit with purple and blue lighting, a girl is seen laughing as another girl, turned away from the camera, whispers something in her ear.
Image courtesy of Focus Features

“A heart-breaking, yet beautiful, coming of age film, Dee Rees’ Pariah (2011) provides a window into the life of Alike (Adepero Oduye), a seventeen year old Black girl coming to terms with her identity as a butch lesbian. Over the course of the film, she comes into her own in her first relationship with a girl, and struggles with her parents’ disapproval of the clothes she wears and friends she keeps. In spite of the harsh realities faced by its protagonist, Pariah feels hopeful in its portrayal of a lesbian lead who chooses to live authentically rather than be pushed back into the closet by her family’s condemnation. It is a film about being yourself that never feels trite or clichéd and a film whose delicate subject matter is handled with a great deal of care by its lesbian director.” – BD

Paris is Burning (1990) Dir. Jennie Livingston

Image is from the film 'Paris is Burning' (1990). A drag queen walks in an extravagant gold gown in a ball. The gown is metallic and has big poofy sleeves.
Image courtesy of Academy Entertainment

“Taking its name from the annual ball held by drag artist Paris Dupree, Paris is Burning is a documentary that looks at drag culture in 80s New York, specifically looking at the elaborate balls that different “houses” would put on as a celebration of flamboyant fashion and performance. Alongside the extravagance of these balls, Paris is Burning also looks at the varying issues faced by these performers daily, including homophobia, poverty, racism, violence, and AIDS. Despite controversy around the film, Paris is Burning is a ground-breaking film and a must-watch in queer cinema.” – GD

Point Break (1991) Dir. Kathryn Bigelow

Image is from the film 'Point Break' (1991). Two men are stood on a beach having a conversation. One wearing a black shirt, is holding a black and yellow surfboard. The other is wearing a white shirt.
Image courtesy of Johnny Utah Productions

“On the surface, Point Break is a movie about men: bank-robbing adrenaline-junkies, surfer bros, Gary Busey. But God, is this a woman’s movie. It stars lifelong hunk Keanu Reeves as former quarterback and rookie FBI agent Johnny Utah, who begins investigating a group of thieves who call themselves the Ex-Presidents, named for the rubber masks they don as they commit their crimes. As a film about both athletes and masked men, it’s natural that Bigelow’s camera would linger on bodies and movement, but Point Break is memorable because Utah’s eyes do as well. He watches Bodhi and his crew with romantic admiration, something beyond professional respect or principled agreement. He’s enamored. It’s an oddly sensuous movie, and not just because of the way Utah kisses his surfer girlfriend Tyler (Lori Petty) on the beach the morning before a raid; Bigelow lets Utah and Bodhi fall in and out of love. Point Break is an objectively ridiculous movie (again: bank-robbing adrenaline-junkies), but it is also an incredibly rare thriller that treats the romance of male friendship with fascinating care. For that alone, it is worth the watch.” – BH

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) Dir. Céline Sciamma

Image is from the film 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' (2019). In almost complete darkness, a woman stands in the centre of the frame. The bottom on her dress is on fire.
Image courtesy of Lilies Films

“Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is an artist who has been commissioned to paint the portrait of a young French noblewoman, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), in secret. The latter knows her mother is trying to send her portrait to her possible future husband, and therefore refuses to pose for any artist. What starts as a quiet companionship between Marianne and Héloïse, ends up blooming into a whirlwind romance. With her imminent wedding looming on the horizon, Héloïse finally agrees to pose for her portrait, showing Marianne just how much she trusts her. Sciamma’s film successfully represents a sapphic love story fully stripped of any trace of the male gaze, leaving women as the only story makers.” – JG

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017) Dir. Angela Robinson

Image is from the film 'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women' (2017). Against a vibrant painted background, one women ties up another, who is dressed as the iconic character of Wonder Woman.
Image courtesy of Boxspring Entertainment

“Based on the life of William Moulton Marston, Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman tells the story of Marston (Luke Evans), his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) and their partner Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). The film explores the trio’s relationships with one another – one which eventually turns into polyamory – and how this in turn feeds into the creation of the lie detector and the iconic superhero, Wonder Woman. With references to feminism, fetish and more, this biopic is great interpretation of the secret lives of the people behind this iconic figure.” – GD

Promising Young Woman (2020) Dir. Emerald Fennell

Image is from the film 'Promising Young Woman' (2020). A blonde woman wearing a white top reads a book titled "Careful How You Go" whilst drinking a drink.
Image courtesy of FilmNation Entertainment

Promising Young Woman follows Cassie (Carrey Mulligan) on her search for vengeance against predatory men and those who enable them through conscious denial and victim-blaming. It doesn’t pull its punches, exposing the truth in its grittiest form. Emerald Fennell takes some unexpected routes in a seemingly predictable narrative, making this revenge-thriller both enticing and surprising.” – CH

Rafiki (2018) Dir. Wanuri Kahiu

Image is from the film 'Rafiki' (2018). Two women laugh whilst peddling a boat on a lake. One is wearing a yellow jumper and a pink shirt whilst the other has pastel coloured dreadlocks and is wearing a black vest top.
Image courtesy of Big World Cinema

“Led by fantastic performances from Shelia Munyiva and Samantha Mugatsia whose chemistry is exquisite, Rafiki is a small revelation. First shown at Cannes and subsequently banned from being screened in Kenya, where the film was made, Rafiki is an ode to new and all-consuming love. The bright lesbian drama is a hopeful tale amidst a turbulent LGBT Kenyan political setting. Writer-director Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki is a groundbreaking film that refuses to compromise its beautiful queer essence.” – EM

Raw (2016) Dir. Julia Ducournau

Image is from the film 'Raw' (2016). A young woman standing in a white lab coat looks menacing. Blood drips from her nose.
Image courtesy of Focus Features

Raw follows a young vegetarian’s first year at college where she soon acquires a taste for human flesh. This bold directorial debut from French director Julia Ducournau, pushes boundaries especially in the realm of gore. Described by some as an art-horror, Raw is a musical yet elegant film full of primal hunger that is expertly led under Ducournau’s direction.” – GD

Rocks (2020) Dir. Sarah Gavron

Image is from the film 'Rocks' (2020). A group of six teenager girls lean against a railing and chat to one another. Behind them is the London skyline.
Image courtesy of Fable Pictures

“Rocks is a British coming-of-age drama that focuses on in depth on the themes of friendship, showcasing the power of teenage girls and the lengths they will go to support one another, even if it means hurting them. When Rocks (Bukky Bakray) is abandoned by her troubled single mother, she struggles to take care of her younger brother Emmanuel (D’angelou Osei Kissiedu) and evade social services at the same time. Assisted primarily by best friend Sumaya (Kosar Ali) and some of their other friends, Rocks tries to stay afloat and support her brother in the best way she can. The young cast of newcomers are all exceptional, with Bakray and Ali leading the way as emotional powerhouses. Rocks is a film you do not want to miss.” – GD

Saving Face (2004) Dir. Alice Wu

Image from the film 'Saving Face' (2004). Two women stand on both sides of a chain link fence. They hold hands through the wires.
Image courtesy of Destination Films

“You may know The Half of It, but do you know the other half of it? Alice Wu’s directorial debut is about as classic as romantic comedies come, despite remaining so under the radar and in marked contrast to its recent successor. Make no mistake, though, it packs a punch. While not entirely an autobiographical endeavour, Saving Face still showcases with a candid honesty how Chinese-American culture tends to harshly react to same-sex love, going so far as to include a near exact conversation Wu had when coming out to her own mother. Dedicated to the woman that would eventually accept her for who she is, Wil and Vivian fall as gracefully to the floor of love as she could once more.” – BRD

Set It Up (2018) Dir. Claire Scanlon

Image from the film 'Set It Up' (2018). A young woman wearing a striped jumper squats on the floor holding a french fry. A man in a suit attempts to take this from her.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“Those still arguing that romcoms are dead clearly missed out on the pure joy that is Set It Up. The very definition of a rewatchable movie, this film is a joyous addition to the genre, telling a love story full of heart, chemistry and many laughs. A magnetic performance from Zoey Deutch guides the film as editorial assistant Harper Moore, who teams up with Charlie Young (Glen Powell), another assistant, to make their bosses fall in love. Should their scheme pull through, they hope to finally have time to themselves, to finally work on their personal lives. Naturally, the connection between them grows far beyond allyship – thus we have the beauty of a workplace romance. The film thrives in its understanding of the genre, hitting many beats familiar to rom-com watchers, but with such charm that everything falls into place. The all star cast allows everyone room to shine, including razor sharp lines from Lucy Liu, the irresistible presence of Taye Diggs and hilarious, if brief appearances from Pete Davidson. So many recent romances have the outline figured out but lack the spark – but Set It Up nails the genre perfectly.” – SR

Shirkers (2018) Dir. Sandi Tan

Image from the film 'Shirkers' (2018). A young woman lies on her back in a field of grass. Her eyes are closed. She wears a pink shirt, a pair of round glasses, and has a black camera around her neck.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“This documentary could couple as a horror movie if it genuinely wanted to. Ghosting alongside the origins of what would have been the first independent film to come from Singapore, Shirkers retraces the steps of then adolescent director Sandi Tan while filming a thriller with her friends about a teenage assassin by the name of S. It was an unstoppable force, until an immovable object introduced itself to the fray. When inexplicable mentor Georges Cardonas disappears with her footage, under the guise that he would piece together the complete product, all is lost. That is, until the stacks of film canisters resurface nearly twenty years later, along with a call that the man who stole her dreams is dead. Thus ensues her angered recovery, a cruel lesson never to trust anyone that is not your own self.” – BRD

Shirley (2020) Dir. Josephine Decker

Image from the film 'Shirley' (2020). A close up of the titular Shirley, who stands agape with a faraway gaze.
Image courtesy of Neon

“Decker’s work is a peer into the mind. Especially Shirley, Decker’s most recent film, which experimentally steps into the realm of psychological thriller entrenched in an exploration of the pleasures of dark characters. Shirley delves into the psychology of horror writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) from the perspective of her new assistant, Rose (Odessa Young). Delving into the psychology of women, Decker plots a fascinatingly engrossing narrative of fiction blurring with reality that is thrilling at every turn.” – EM

Shiva Baby (2020) Dir. Emma Seligman

Image is from the film 'Shiva Baby' (2020). A young woman in a shirt and blazer holds half a bagel in her hand whilst at a party.
Image courtesy of Neon Heart Productions

“While reluctantly attending a shiva with her family, Danielle (Rachel Sennott) ends up being thrust into a day of inescapable chaos. Bombarded with a seemingly never-ending barrage of questions as she attempts to navigate the various relationships in her life, Danielle faces one messy scenario after the other. The film’s events unfold in real time, making its protagonist’s anxiety palpable throughout by creating a sense of frenetic urgency and dread. A quirky and queer coming-of-age story that features memorable performances from its ensemble cast— most notably breakout star Sennott— Shiva Baby pushes boundaries and provokes laughter.” – HP

Skate Kitchen (2018) Dir. Crystal Moselle

Image is from the film 'Skate Kitchen' (2018). Five young girls climb a chainlink fence. They are silhouetted against the New York City skyline.
Image courtesy of Bow and Arrow Entertainment

“A chance meeting led to the creation of Skate Kitchen, which tells the story of an all-female skateboarding collective called “Skate Kitchen” in New York City. The cast is made of primarily non-actors, with the members of Skate Kitchen playing fictionalised versions of themselves in this indie flick. What results is a quasi-documentary hybrid that feels like a breezy reunion with friends you haven’t seen in a long time but feels as if a day hasn’t passed.” – GD

Slalom (2020) Dir. Charlène Favier

Image from the film 'Slalom' (2020). A young female athlete looks down as is if she is lost. Behind her, a male coach smiles.
Image courtesy of Mille et Une Productions

“On the peaks of the alps, Charlène Favie’s intensely intimate film about the determination of a young woman in sport paralleled by a dangerous relationship with her toxic coach takes place with terrifying claustrophobia. A powerful reckoning of the experience of young women in the world of sport. Subsect to an abusive relationship and the removal of her bodily autonomy, Slalom’s narrative echoes into our real world with affecting poignancy.” – EM

Sleeping With Other People (2015) Dir. Leslye Headland

Image is from the film 'Sleeping With Other People' (2015). A man and woman sit next to each other beside a pool. The woman looks at the man, who is wearing a black plaid shirt. She is wearing a red cardigan and shorts.
Image courtesy of IFC Films

“Lately, it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to find good romantic chemistry in film; too often, beautiful people are paired together, seemingly with no real thoughts towards the indescribable something that should be between them. Sleeping With Other People, Leslye Headland’s second feature, thankfully, does not have that issue. Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudeikis) are instantly drawn to each other, first in college when they lose their virginity to each other, then again later when they reunite at a meeting for sex addicts. In the tradition of When Harry Met Sally, Lainey and Jake become fast friends and begin spending all of their time together, wandering around New York and supporting each other through various emotional crises; but despite the obvious parallels, Sleeping With Other People is a film that deserves to stand on its own. Headland—who also wrote the screenplay—leads her actors through the landscapes of the city, creating warm and inviting bubbles of friendship even in the busiest locales, even when they aren’t together, letting them learn how to better love each other and themselves. It’s a wonderful film about accepting people completely, flaws and all. Headland’s direction is patient and caring, and she lets the chemistry between her stars shine. Sleeping With Other People is an absolute must-watch for rom-com lovers everywhere.” – BH

Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) Dir. Tamara Jenkins

Image is from the film 'Slums of Beverly Hills' (1998). A young girl wearing a large white top with a black face it hold a yellow phone to her ear.
Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

“True vulnerability in comedy is difficult to come by, especially given the sheer amount of ignorance ingrained in the genre. However, when fourteen-year-old Vivian Alonso-Abramowitz was forced to move to the fringes of the 90210 barcode, it was obvious they could coexist. Slums of Beverly Hills is one of Tamara Jenkins’s best-known works, and it is because she allows actress Natasha Lyonne’s essence to toe the line between responsibility and recklessness in a way that makes it a breakout performance to many. Her character may be the beating heart of a dysfunctional family, but first and foremost, she is her own being. As she comes to terms with her lower class lifestyle, she also confronts her ever-changing body, scrutinizing an approach to sex that any girl her age would. That is, emotionally.” – BRD

Someone Great (2019) Dir. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

Image from the film 'Someone Great' (2019). Three woman in a convenience store express various looks of shock at something across the room. Behind then are fridges full of bottles.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“As comforting as it is light, with an excellent soundtrack (Lorde’s Melodrama anyone?), Someone Great is a feel-good comedy about coming to terms with heartbreak and impending change. Jennifer Kaytin Robinson perfectly captures that specific time in life when everything you’ve been used to is on the line, and the process of accepting what is to come by embracing the present moment. Whether you’re wrestling with conflicting feelings or simply looking for a good time, Someone Great is the one.” – CH

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002) Dir. Kelly Asbury, Lorna Cook

Image from the animated film 'Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron' (2002). Two horses stand in front of a backdrop of a sunset mountain landscape. The male horse looks into the distance whilst the female horse looks at him.
Image courtesy of Dreamworks Animation

“No film mattered more to 10-year-old me than Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. As the honorary horse girl of my school, Spirit was the pinnacle of my overlapping interests: films and horses. Spirit the horse, voiced by Matt Damon, is the film’s protagonist that canters through the beautifully animated landscape of the 19th-century American West with a soundtrack by the iconic Bryan Adams. Wearing its heart on its sleeve, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron confronts America’s history of the colonisation of Native American communities as well as the domestication of wild horses in an accessible manner.” – EM

Summerland (2020) Dir. Jessica Swale

Image is from the film 'Summerland' (2020). A young woman in a burnt orange cardigan lies in a field as she's reading a book.
Image courtesy of Quickfire Films

“When reclusive writer Alice Lamb (Gemma Arterton) finds herself taking in young evacuee Frank (Toby Osmond) during World War II, she doesn’t expect her world to become completely upended. As she begins to bond with Frank, memories of her former lover, Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) resurface, causing Alice’s past and present to collide in unexpected ways. With its beautifully woven story and cottagecore-esque visuals, Summerland captures the heart while also captivating the imagination. It’s a refreshing gem of a film that offers genuine hope to its audience, and serves as a testament to the power of storytelling.” – HP

Sweet Bean (2015) Dir. Naomi Kawase

Image is from the film 'Sweet Bean' (2015). A school girl, an old woman, and a man all stand together and watch cherry blossoms fall from their branches.
Image courtesy of Aeon Entertainment

“This is both a heart-warming and honest work, a difficult approach to take but done with skill and zest by Naomi Kawase. It begins with a food stall owner, Sentaro (Masatoshi Nagase), unhappily and unsuccessfully going through the motions — until he meets the elderly Tokue (Kirin Kiki) who is eager to work and manages to impart life lessons upon her lost employer. Kawase has, as she’s stated, something of a documentarian’s approach, meaning that here the characters’ relationships feel honest — and Tokue is given more wisdom and, crucially, humanity than an elderly grandmother on screen might ordinarily get. It’s never a schmaltzy film and therefore one likely to leave you feeling authentically hopeful after watching.” – CM

System Crasher (2019) Dir. Nora Fingscheidt

Image is from the film 'System Crasher' (2019). A young girl is a pink jacket holds a jewelled bag to her chest.
Image courtesy of Port au Prince Pictures

“Nine-year-old Benni (Helena Zengel) is an aggressive child and one that is likely to fall through the cracks of the German foster care system due to her sudden and uncontrollable outbursts. However, beneath her anger is a deep-rooted need for love and affection, a need that is never quite met from the cautious adults surrounding her. System Crasher is a film full of emotional turmoil and it is made all the more heart-breaking by an exceptionally powerful performance by newcomer Zengel, who balances the lines between aggression, desperation and innocence perfectly.” – GD

Tahara (2020) Dir. Olivia Peace

Image from the film 'Tahara' (2020). Two teenage girls sit at connected desks in a classroom, one laying her head on the other’s shoulder. The image has muted colors with dreary, blue-grey lighting washing over the characters and their environment.
Image courtesy of Eye For Film

“A wonderfully unique coming of age film, Tahara (2020) takes place at a funeral and ensuing “Teen Talk-Back” session held after the suicide of a student at the Hebrew school attended by the film’s protagonists. The film grapples with the complex feelings of its young characters surrounding the death of a girl many of them barely knew, while simultaneously telling a story of budding sexuality and the ending of a tumultuous friendship marred with mismatched feelings and ideologies. Lead actresses Madeline Grey DeFreece and Rachel Sennott breathe authentic life into their characters, and have an amazing chemistry that lends believability to the pair’s long but complicated friendship. Although the film is still doing the festival circuit as of this article, it’s definitely a film to look out for in the coming year.” – BD

The Breadwinner (2017) Dir. Nora Twomey

Image is from the film 'The Breadwinner' (2017). A still from a 2D animated film with a simplistic cartoon style. Two young girls with short hair cuts, dressed in clothes traditionally worn by men in Afghanistan, sit on a crumbling brick wall looking out past the frame. A mountain can be seen in the background.
Image courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

“Three years before releasing Wolfwalkers, animation studio Cartoon Saloon released the Kabul-set animated story The Breadwinner, which tells the story of a young girl living under the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. After the unjust arrest of her father, Parvana (Saara Chaudry) and her family are left without the means to support themselves as the Taliban forbids women to go out without a male relative. Eager to help her mother and younger brother out of a bad situation, Parvana begins dressing as a boy to earn money and buy food – a ploy also utilized by her friend Shauzia (Soma Chhaya). Although family-friendly in its writing, The Breadwinner is one of the more mature children’s animated films to come out in recent years, taking its characters, and its young audience, seriously.” – BD

The Edge of Seventeen (2016) Dir. Kelly Fremon Craig

Image is from the film 'Edge of Seventeen' (2016). A teenage girl sits at a desk in a classroom. She is wearing a blue jacket.
Image courtesy of STX Entertainment

The Edge of Seventeen is a restless coming-of-age comedy that is full of a sharp, nuanced wit. Hailee Steinfeld stars as Nadine, a teenage outcast prone to melodramatics, who feels like her entire world is ending. So, when her best friend starts dating her brother, things start to spiral further out of control for the young teen. A tight-knit script and a raw yet vivacious performance from Steinfeld makes The Edge of Seventeen a clear stand out in its genre.” – GD

The Farewell (2019) Dir. Lulu Wang

Image is from the film 'The Farewell' (2019). An array of characters from a Chinese family walk together towards the camera in a Chinese street. In the centre is Billi, who is wearing a grey t-shirt.
Image courtesy of A24

“Lulu Wang’s second project as a director is a tender retelling of a family story that centered mostly the director and her grandmother. Billi (Awkwafina) is a Chinese American woman in her twenties who is struggling to figure out her life in New York. When she finds out that her grandmother, her Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) in China has terminal cancer, she decides to leave the States with her parents (Tzi Ma, Diana Lin) to attend a wedding her cousin (Chen Han) set up so that the whole family can gather and hang out with Nai Nai one last time. The wedding cover-up is necessary, seen as Nai Nai’s family has decided not to reveal to her her diagnosis, but rather let her believe that she’s in perfect health. Billi’s relationship with her grandmother is touching, as Nai Nai seems to be the only one not doubting her granddaughter’s ability to make it in life.” – JG

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020) Dir. Radha Blank

Image is from the film 'The Forty-Year-Old Version' (2020). A black woman smiles directly at the camera. She is sat in a theatre, wearing a headscarf and a tie-dyed shirt. The image is in black and white.
Image courtesy of Netflix

The Forty-Year-Old Version is the semi-autobiographical debut film from writer and director Radha Blank, in which Blank plays a playwright who decides to reinvent herself at age 40 and become a rapper. It’s a comedic yet endearingly real portrait of an artist, pulling inspiration from Blank’s real-life experiences. She doesn’t shy away from showing us exactly who she is, including uncomfortable moments of introspection and artistic endeavours that don’t entirely succeed. Blank’s perspective as a Black woman who is determined to make a name for herself with her art, even as the odds are stacked against her, is exactly the kind of perspective we need to see more of in film.” – PK

The Half Of It (2020) Dir. Alice Wu

Image is from the film 'The Half of It' (2020). On a empty road surrounded by woodland, a teenage girl wearing a blue jacket and white helmet cycles alongside a teenage boy, who is running alongside wearing jeans and a brown jacket.
Image courtesy of Netflix

“Teenager Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) immediately warns viewers that this is not a love story with a perfect ending — a take that is ultimately debatable. While The Half  Of It is by no means a painless story, the film is brimming with love and understanding. In classic coming-of-age fashion, the characters rarely get what they want, but ultimately learn the lessons they need. This loose Cyrano retelling follows high school senior Ellie as she grows close to inarticulate football player Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer). To help him, she writes love letters to his crush, Aster Flores on his behalf  — all the while, never admitting her own love for Aster. Wu’s film is delightfully self-aware, embracing and subverting YA rom-com cliches at will. Even those it falls into are utilized to great effect. The narrative is simple and familiar but Wu’s approach creates a story that is fresh, heart-warming and magnetic. Viewers are provided a window into these characters’ lives at just the right moment in time, allowing us to see how they change each other for the better, despite the messiness of youth, love and friendship.” – SR

The High Note (2020) Dir. Nisha Ganatra

Image is from the film 'The High Note' (2020). Two women walk across an airfield after having left a private plane. One woman, who is wearing a fringe jacket, in holding a black bag and two bottles of green liquid. The other is wearing a glamourous white dress and hat.
Image courtesy of Working Title Films

“Set against the glamorous backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles, this feel-good comedy follows two ambitious women in the music industry. Superstar recording artist Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) wants to revitalize her career, while her personal assistant, Maggie (Dakota Johnson) longs to become a producer. After Maggie finds a way to turn her dream into a side hustle, she tries to juggle Grace’s demands with her commitment to her new project— which results in an outcome neither of them expect. With an infectiously catchy soundtrack and charismatic performances from both of its leading ladies, The High Note ends up being an uplifting treat.” – HP

The House of Us (2019) Dir. Yoon Ga-eun

Image is from the film 'The House of Us'. Three children, Hana, Yoomi and Yujin all look as if they have been caught doing something they shouldn't. Hana is holding wrapping paper, Yoomi a box and Yoojin a large pile of clothes.
Image courtesy of Hancinema

“Yoon Ga-eun’s sophomore feature is an innate portrait into the all-consuming worries of childhood. Eleven-year-old Ha-na (Kim Na-yeon) is desperate for a family holiday, hoping that it will re-unite her warring parents whilst sisters Yoo-mi (Kim Shi-a) and Yoo-jin (Joo Ye-rim) will stop at nothing to avoid moving from their childhood home. Together, the three of them decide to take actions into their own hands to stop the world as they know it from caving in. Under the direction of Yoon, all three young actresses give performances beyond their years in this quiet yet understated feature.” – GD

The Invitation (2015) Dir. Karyn Kusama

Image from the film 'The Invitation' (2015). A cast of characters sit around a dimly lit table as they engage in an intense discussion. A birthday cake sits at the head of the table.
Image courtesy of Gamechanger Films

“Will (Logan Marshall-Gree) and Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) embark on what they think is a mundane dinner with old friends, but what ensues is much more insidious. Karyn Kusama manipulates communication and ambiguity as well as the unsettling ambiance, toying with the unsuspecting characters as well as with the audience.” – CH

The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018) Dir. Desiree Akhavan

Image from the film The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Three teenagers, one boy and two girls, sit side by side in the back of a truck. They all look directly at the camera.
Image courtesy of Parkville Pictures

“Like many coming of age films, The Miseducation of Cameron Post is full of heart. Desiree Akhavan’s second feature deftly tackles themes of religion, homosexuality and identity as it delves the subject of gay conversion therapy in 90s America. Though this topic certainly isn’t an easy one, Akhavan’s expertly balances empathy and criticism towards her subjects, creating a film full of nuance and life through its young protagonists.” – GD

The Old Guard (2020) Dir. Gina Prince-Bythewood

Image is from the film 'The Old Guard' (2020). Five people - three men and two women - stand in a medical room, looking directly at something in front of them. They are slightly lit by a red light.
Image courtesy of Netflix

The Old Guard, based on the graphic novel of the same name, follows a group of immortal mercenaries with the ability to heal themselves, who must fight to maintain their freedom when their secret is uncovered. It’s the first action film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (perhaps most known for her film Love & Basketball (2000)), who brings a new and refreshing perspective to the kind of superhero blockbuster we’ve come to expect. The fight sequences are spectacularly choreographed, led by Charlize Theron as the protagonist and oldest mercenary, Andy. Generally, the action feels controlled and meticulous, offering equal parts style and substance as Prince-Bythewood never lets us forget the core of the story – humanity.” – PK

The Parent Trap (1998) Dir. Nancy Meyers

Image is from the film 'The Parent Trap' (1998). Identical twins Hallie and Annie stand back to back as they prepare for a fencing duel. Annie wears all white whilst Hallie wears green.
Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

The Parent Trap is a feel-good classic that never seems to get old. Here, identical twins Hallie and Annie (both Lindsay Lohan) switch places in and attempt to bring their estranged parents back together. Full of mischief, fun and love, The Parent Trap is a heart-warming family film that will forever have us asking how it was made with just one Lindsay Lohan.” – GD

The Virgin Suicides (1999) Dir. Sophia Coppola

Image is from the film 'The Virgin Suicides' (1999). Four sisters peers out of a window. They all look sad and desperate, wearing very similar white clothing.
Image courtesy of Paramount Vantage

“Based on the 1993 novel of the same name, Sophia Coppola’s directorial debut follows a group of men who reminisce about five sisters who they idolised as teenagers but were shut off from the world after the youngest attempts suicide. The Virgin Suicides is melancholic and haunting, purposefully piecing together the story as a long-lost memory of fascination from these men to create a devastating tale infused with lust and longing.”

The Watermelon Woman (1996) Dir. Cheryl Dunye

Image from the film 'The Watermelon Woman' (1996). A woman wearing a nametag that reads ‘Cheryl’ shelves VHS tapes in a video store. She has one arm outstretched to the shelf in front of her while the other holds five colorful, assorted VHSes.
Image courtesy of First Run Features

“When it released in 1996, The Watermelon Woman made history as the first narrative feature film to be released by an out Black lesbian filmmaker. That filmmaker, Cheryl Dunye, also played the role of the film’s lead, a Black lesbian filmmaker and video store clerk named Cheryl, in addition to directing. The film reads as both a love letter to and a criticism of film history, as Cheryl becomes obsessed with finding out more about a Black 1930’s actress credited only as “The Watermelon Woman.” In her research, she finds that ‘The Watermelon Woman’ was likely a lesbian like her, although that fact was suppressed by both her family and the family of her white partner. It’s an interesting and nuanced exploration of both modern ideas about intersecting identities, and the representation that is lost to time due to prejudices held by families and historians. It’s also a well-written and consistently entertaining 90’s comedy with some really great dialogue writing that naturally expresses its serious themes with ease.” – BD

The World of Us (2016) Dir. Yoon Ga-eun

Image is from the film 'The World of Us' (2016). Two young girls stand apart from one another. One, wearing a purple shirt and dungarees hangs her head and holds her hands in front of her. The other, wearing a pink shirt, looks out into the playground.
Image courtesy of ATO Film

“When shy elementary student Sun (Choi Soo-in) befriends transfer student Ji-ah (Seol Hye-in), their summer of fun seems to last forever. But when the new semester begins and Sun becomes the target of bullying, their friendship doesn’t seem as solid as it once was. Yoon Ga-eun’s debut feature closes in on the inner workings of childhood in a way that is sensitive and compassionate, allowing her characters to experience friendship and longing in ways that do not pander to their young age, but rather embraces it. Bittersweet and heart-felt, The World of Us is a film that beautifully captures childhood innocence at its finest.” – GD

The World to Come (2020) Dir. Mona Fastvold

Image is from the film 'The World to Come' (2020). Two women stand close to one another in an old, wooden shed. They look as if they are about to kiss.
Image courtesy of Bleeker Street

“Set amidst the harsh, desolate wilderness of mid-19th century America, The World to Come tells the story of two women who form a beautiful and unexpected bond. Abigail (Katherine Waterston) and Tallie (Vanessa Kirby) both find themselves trapped within their respective marriages to their husbands, unable to deny the growing feelings they harbour for one another. At once poetic and bittersweet, the film soars in its most intimate moments, which arrive whenever Waterston and Kirby are given the opportunity to share the screen. And given the current situation of our world, its central theme of finding connection even while in isolation couldn’t be more timely.” – HP

Tomboy (2011) Dir. Céline Sciamma

Image from the film 'Tomboy' (2011). Two children are sat at the bottom of a staircase having a conversation.
Image courtesy of Hold Up Films

“Céline Sciamma’s films are well known for exploring the themes of gender and sexuality, particularly surrounding young girls, and her 2011 feature Tomboy is no different. Tomboy follows Laure (Zoé Héran), who after moving to a new home, decides to adopt the name Mickaël and present as male around them. Tomboy is beautifully patient, giving Laure the opportunity to discover themselves at their own pace, even despite outside pressures from their mother, who wishes they would present in a more feminine way. Héran and Malonn Lévana as younger sister Jeanne are outstanding and are key to bringing Sciamma’s quietly brilliant script to dizzying new heights.” – GD

Twilight (2008) Dir. Catherine Hardwicke

Image is from the film Twilight (2008). A teenage couple talk to one another whilst high up in the branches of a tree.
Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment

“Much of the Twilight renaissance can be credited to this film’s persistence – and for good reason. Easily the best of the franchise, Twilight is the film that introduced two of films current bright stars, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, while showing off the thoughtful work of director Catherine Hardwicke. Twilight revels in its own melodrama, self aware in ways the other films never care to be. It’s no wonder that the iconic baseball scene circulates the internet on a monthly basis – who else would pair crackling lightning with Muse’s high intensity Super Massive Black Hole? Similarly interactions between  Edward and Bella are charged with a strange mix of discomfort and undeniable allure – never quite shying aware from the creepiness beneath this story. Hardwicke’s work reflects an intentional sense of style, with melancholic cinematography and sharp, emotional editing. She had only so much to work with but with Twilight, Hardwicke breathed life into the franchise.” – SR

Unrelated (2007) Dir. Joanna Hogg

Image is from the film 'Unrelated'. In a busy street, a man and woman are sat on the floor. The woman is wearing a straw hat and the man is wearing a black vest. He is looking at her as she smiles.
Image courtesy of New Wave Films

Unrelated is not just an assured debut from Joanna Hogg but one of those most richly intelligent films you can imagine. It focuses on Anna, a woman invited on a group holiday who finds herself drawn to the company of the young Oakley – played by Tom Hiddleston in his debut role. It’s a remarkably restrained film, its camera at a remove as we witness the discomfiting and saddening development of Anna’s desire for acceptance. Hogg has created a film that speaks to the pressures placed on women and the social dysfunction that isolates many of us, making for perennially relevant and essential viewing.” – CM

Unrest (2017) Dir. Jennifer Brea

Image is from the documentary 'Unrest' (2017). Against a pink sunset and a rocky landscape, Jennifer Brea is held up by her husband in the middle of a dirt road. Behind them is Jennifer's wheelchair.
Image courtesy of Shella Films

“Unrest is a documentary that roots itself in the power of persistence and refuses to back down despite the hurdles thrown in its way. Jennifer Brea – the subject and director of the film – does not allow her condition (myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome) to get in the way of her goals, instead doing a large portion of filming for the documentary from her bedside in an effort to bring awareness to a condition that has been discredited by many. As a result, Unrest is a documentary that whilst being a sensitive look at the reality of living with a chronic illness, it is also a shouting to be seen.” – GD

Varda by Agnès (2019) Dir. Agnès Varda

Image is from the film 'Varda by Agnès' (2019). Surrounded by two dimensional seagulls, Agnès Varda sits alone in a chair on a beach, talking to someone off camera.
Image courtesy of Ciné-tamaris

“Agnès Varda’s last film, Varda by Agnès, is an emotional farewell. With ninety years of life and filmmaking to her name, Varda is a veteran of the industry and her wisdom radiates through the screen in her last feature before her death in March of 2019. Varda by Agnès is an autobiographical walkthrough of her phenomenal career. Varda tours the viewing through the museum of her own memory, charting her works with the same detail and respect as is given to precious as museum artefacts. Tender and welcoming, Varda by Agnès is a brilliant work of reflection from one of the most prestigious female filmmakers of our time.” – EM

Wasteland (2019) Dir. Jonni Phillips

Image is from the film anthology series, Wasteland (2019). An animated scene washed in pinks and purples. A strange looking humanoid character holds another character under its arm, gesturing to their surroundings. The foreground and background are filled with pyramids and tall, satellite-like structures.
Image courtesy of YouTube

“Uploaded in its entirety to YouTube, Wasteland (2019) is an independently produced anthology animation directed by Jonni Phillips, which presents five distinct stories dealing with themes of isolation, mental illness, and subjective realities, among others. The film has a unique visual style, utilizing both digital and traditional mediums in order to present its narrative in a way that is true to its various characters and themes. It is at times absurdly humorous, and at others deeply profound. Above all, Wasteland is something truly special, a one of a kind project full of clear heart and originality by a small cast and crew full of incredibly talented individuals.” – BD

Whale Rider (2002) Dir. Niki Caro

Image is from the film 'Whale Rider' (2002). A young girl wearing a green jacket with yellow straps smiles as she stands against the backdrop of the ocean.
Image courtesy of South Pacific Pictures

“Based on the 1987 novel of the same name, Whale Rider follows twelve-year-old Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), who wishes to become the chief of her Māori tribe. So, in order to claim her birth right, Pai fights against thousands of years of tradition that states she could not ascend to chiefdom due to that fact that she is female. Niki Caro’s feature is filled with an untameable spirit and deftly explores the universal themes of family, childhood and tradition with care and respect in what feels like an uplifting breath of fresh sea air.” – GD

Whip It (2009) Dir. Drew Barrymore

Image is from the film 'Whip It' (2009). A young woman in a green shirt and tights skates across an arena with her arms wide open. She is wearing a green helmet with a yellow star on it.
Image courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

“The number of actresses turned directors grows substantially by the year, but something about Drew Barrymore’s debut manages to stand out in comparison to any other. Following Elliot Page as the fledgling Bliss Cavendar, a rebel renamed Babe Ruthless for the roller derby far from the fictitious hometown of Bodeen, Whip It is an exercise in exacting precious pain through pleasurable competition. Barrymore finds the perfect balancer for the contact sport’s brutality in the women’s camaraderie, outsourcing affection from Kristen Wiig as Maggie Mayhem and even herself as Smashley Simpson, a jammer who seems to be the butt of about every bloodied and bruised injury yet handles it as any champion would. In sacrificing herself for comedic effect, she lets Page shine in this role, making rooting for the underdog seem like the smartest choice in the world.” – BRD

Yellow Rose (2019) Dir. Diane Paragas

Image from the film 'Yellow Rose' (2019). A teenage girl peers out of a door. She wears a white cowboy hat and a striped button down shirt with red stars. There is an acoustic guitar braced to her chest. On the walls outside the door hang various posters and beaded necklaces.
Image courtesy of Stage 6 Film

“Paragas brings together Filipina powerhouse Broadway singers Eva Noblezada and Lea Salonga for this engrossing tale of hardship, set against the Texan backdrop, a hub for illegal activity. Noblezada is Rose Garcia, an undocumented girl that has to watch on in horror as her mother is dragged away from their motel home one day by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Salonga is her aunt, who she briefly lives with in the aftermath before setting out on an indecisive journey of growing up. With nothing but an acoustic guitar over her shoulder and a cowboy hat in her hair, she is just trying to discover whether she was meant for the country music her heart has been set on since birth or the home country of the Philippines that her mother will soon be deported to.” – BRD

Yes, God, Yes (2019) Dir. Karen Maine

Image from the film 'Yes God Yes' (2019). A young girl sits in a dark room, wearing a polo shirt with a school crest, and looks at a computer.
Image courtesy of Maiden Voyage

“Karen Maine’s directorial debut Yes, God, Yes, explores coming-of-age sexual exploration through the eyes of Catholic school girl Alice (Natalia Dyer), who struggles to supress her newfound urges alongside her religion. This film is gentle yet awkward, capturing the off-beat innocence of Alice’s curiosities with quaint hilarity as she realises the double-standards of the world she is a part of. Dyer is fantastic as the lead and cements the film’s tone perfectly.” – GD

Featured writers:

Yashia Burrell (YB), Beca Dalimonte (BD), Bethany Datuin (BRD), Georgia Davis (GD), Justine Gaberel (JG), Caroline Harvard (CH), Bailey Herdé (BH), Paige Kiser (PK), Emily Maskell (EM), Ceridwen Millington (CM), Hayley Paskevich (HP), Shania Russell (SR) Kevin Woodley (KW)