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Top 50 women-directed movies of the last 10 years

  • Top 50 women-directed movies of the last 10 years

    The lack of Oscar nominations for women directors in the latest announcements sparked conversations about who was being overlooked and why. The Women and Hollywood initiative (using data from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film) found that of the top 1,300 films produced between 2007 and 2019, just 4.8% were directed by women. During this period, Anne Fletcher made four films while trans woman Lana Wachowski made three. Only 13 women from “underrepresented racial/ethnic groups” directed films in the top 1,300, or less than 1%. However, on the indie film circuit for movies screened at U.S festivals, 33% had women directors.

    Despite these dismal statistics, women directors produce excellent films. Stacker analyzed the top films directed by women based on a Stacker score, which weighted IMDb user ratings and Metacritic Metascores equally. The analysis focused on films with at least 1,000 IMDb ratings that were released from 2010 to today. This list features directorial debuts as well as late-career showpieces from masters of international cinema and movements.

    The films on our list create a distinct sensibility that forms the unique perspective of female artists. Their plotlines often highlight the perspectives of women, especially young women in coming-of-age scenarios. The stories are infused with universal themes about the human spirit and lauded for their empathy and relatability across culture and identity. These films are often helmed by writer-directors working with autobiographies, true stories, or fact-based and historical source material. The films on our list comprise little-known international cinemas that premiered on the festival circuit as well as blockbusters and franchises that took in more than $1 billion at the box office.

    These top women-directed films from the last 10 years often center women’s issues and lived experiences in regulated cultures and politicized bodies. Stories often examine sexual assault and its impact, usually with distinct sensitivity and less conventional plots that eschew cliché. Many of the films look at domestic work and motherhood, as well as sexuality, gender, and the experience of racial and ethnic identity within oppression. Women are often, but not always, the heroes of these films. Read on to check out the diverse group of women directors and the excellent films they’ve put out in the last 10 years.

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  • #50. Me Before You (2016)

    - Director: Thea Sharrock
    - Stacker score: 62.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.4
    - Metascore: 51

    Thea Sharrock’s adaptation of the popular novel by Jojo Moyes (who also penned the screenplay) was critiqued for what was considered an insensitive presentation of disability. Sam Claflin plays a quadriplegic man who plans to die via assisted suicide. Emilia Clarke plays his spunky hired companion who aims to cheer him up, especially after she falls in love. The romance becomes one of class divisions (he’s rich and she’s working-class) while ignoring the ableism at the core of both the plot and production. Sharrock previously directed for television and play productions screened in cinemas.

  • #49. Cloud Atlas (2012)

    - Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
    - Stacker score: 64.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.4
    - Metascore: 55

    In an interview with the AV Club in 2012, Lily and Lana Wachowski, the trans sisters who directed “Bound” and “The Matrix” trilogy were asked if “Cloud Atlas,” the novel adaptation that cost $100 million and took four years to make, is about literal reincarnation. Lana Wachowski responded that they didn’t want to limit interpretations, but that “we, in our own lives, reincarnate as well. We have new lives.” “Cloud Atlas” features a sprawling plot where actors, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, play several different characters across time.

  • #48. Unbroken (2014)

    - Director: Angelina Jolie
    - Stacker score: 65.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.2
    - Metascore: 59

    Angelina Jolie was inspired by Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling biography about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic medalist turned World War II pilot who survives an ocean crash only to end up in a POW camp. “Unbroken” was Jolie’s second outing as director, this time with a much larger budget, scale, and cast than with her first film “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” The film received middling reviews, but was a box office success and nominated for three Oscars, including cinematography.

  • #47. McFarland, USA (2015)

    - Director: Niki Caro
    - Stacker score: 67.00
    - IMDb rating: 7.4
    - Metascore: 60

    Niki Caro had an impressive directorial debut with the acclaimed “Whale Rider,” which she also wrote. Her latest as a director is the big-budget, live-action “Mulan,” which comes out in 2020. Disney’s “McFarland, USA” is a PG-rated, feel-good sports drama that rises above normal genre fare to deliver an inspiring, visually striking true story of a high school cross country team in a Mexican American community who soar to success. Although the film was critiqued for white saviorism—Kevin Costner plays real-life coach Jim White—the Latino runners take center stage as the true heroes.

  • #46. Where Do We Go Now? (2011)

    - Director: Nadine Labaki
    - Stacker score: 67.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.5
    - Metascore: 60

    Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki’s second film, the comedy-drama “Where Do We Go Now?” became the highest-grossing Lebanese and Arabic language film after its premiere. The story updates the ancient play “Lysistrata” as village women seek to dispell local Christian and Muslim men from war by hiring strippers amid other created distractions. Critic Naila Scargill at Trebuchet remarks that “whatever the genre or vague political statement, it’s a story of female camaraderie.”

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  • #45. Mr. Jones (2019)

    - Director: Agnieszka Holland
    - Stacker score: 67.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.2
    - Metascore: 63

    Agnieszka Holland is a major director of the Polish New Wave cinema who became known internationally in 1991 for “Europa Europa.” She’s directed television episodes of “The Wire” and “House of Cards,” among her many television and film credits. The historical “Mr. Jones” delivers commentary on contemporary politics through its story about the Welsh journalist who uncovered the Ukrainian Holodomor famine in 1933.

  • #44. Belle (2013)

    - Director: Amma Asante
    - Stacker score: 68.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.3
    - Metascore: 64

    Amma Asante began as a child actress and television writer in Britain before her directorial debut with the acclaimed “A Way of Life.” “Belle,” her second feature, stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, born in 1761, whose mother was an enslaved African woman and whose father was a British officer of noble standing. Dido ends up raised by a Lord and Earl (Tom Wilkinson), inheriting both money and title. The film explores race and gender through the historical markers of the slave trade and British aristocracy. Asante’s third film, “A United Kingdom” also examines an interracial relationship, this time set in 1940s South Africa.

  • #43. Megan Leavey (2017)

    - Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
    - Stacker score: 68.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.1
    - Metascore: 66

    Gabriela Cowperthwaite spotlighted the shocking treatment of orca whales in theme parks with the documentary “Blackfish,” her directorial debut. Her second film, the drama “Megan Leavey” stars Kate Mara as a marine deployed to Iraq with a bomb-sniffing dog in tow. Both experience PTSD and heal together. While some critics found the fact-based story schmaltzy, most praised the film for its power and heart.

  • #42. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

    - Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
    - Stacker score: 69.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.2
    - Metascore: 67

    “Kung Fu Panda 2” was the highest-grossing film directed by a woman until unseated by “Wonder Woman.” Jennifer Yuh Nelson worked on several major animated films and storyboarded the first “Kung Fu Panda” before she became the first woman to solo direct an animated studio feature. Its Oscar nomination in the animated feature category made her the second woman director to achieve that honor for a solo project. She went on to direct “Kung Fu Panda 3,” helming projects that collectively brought in over $1 billion at the box office, while aiming to respectfully portray kung-fu culture.

  • #41. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)

    - Director: Angela Robinson
    - Stacker score: 69.50
    - IMDb rating: 7.1
    - Metascore: 68

    Writer-director Angela Robinson told Wired magazine “the reason I started writing this movie was that I was so mad that Batman has multiple franchises and reboots…Ant-Man, lesser superheroes have gotten movies.” Robinson’s film took eight years to write and produce. It explores themes around feminism and gender identity as it tells the story of the 1940s professor who invented Wonder Woman, inspired by his wife and the couple’s lover. The film challenges conventional ideas around power and sexuality.

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