100 of the best movies directed by women

Written by:
March 22, 2022
INA

Best movies directed by women

Women directors have made lasting impacts on film since its inception, despite well-documented and persistent barriers in the form of funding, industry perceptions, distribution, and publicity.

To honor the contributions of women filmmakers across all genres and style, Stacker compiled data on the movies that topped BBC’s industry survey for best movies directed by women. BBC Culture polled 368 film experts from 84 countries in order to determine the list. They are ranked according to the BBC results, not IMDb or Metacritic data.

Women’s contributions to film have been immense, even as the number of women filmmakers has dipped considerably in recent years. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found women directors tied to the top 250 grossing movies fell in 2018 to 8% from 11% the year prior. Part of the disconnect comes from the Academy itself: Just two woman directors have ever won for Best Director in more than 90 years of the Oscars.

For these reasons, the way we compile lists about films made by women differs from the way we usually compile data. There are plenty of ways in which female-directed films have a harder chance of being on any best movies ever lists. Most big blockbusters are made by men because the industry favors male directors. Media coverage of films includes more movies made by men because they often receive the most attention from readers. Historically, films made by women have not been viewed as important and artistically impressive as films made by prominent male directors. Because of all this, data journalism looks to surveys and other research methods to get a fuller understanding of the history of women directors.

The full BBC Culture list we consulted includes two Leni Riefenstahl films, “Triumph of the Will” (ranked #45) and “Will & Olympia Part One: Festival of Nations” (ranked #37). We have declined to include them here for their highly controversial nature and Riefenstahl’s pro-Nazi sympathies.

Keep reading to learn more about this diverse pool of talented filmmakers.

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1 / 98
Focus Features

#100. The Kids Are All Right (2010)

- Director: Lisa Cholodenko
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Julianne Moore and Annette Bening star as a couple raising two teenagers, each conceived using the same sperm donor. Their relationship strains when they meet the sperm donor, who charms his way into their family. The movie, co-written by director Lisa Cholodenko, was based on many of her own experiences with her partner, Wendy.

2 / 98
BBC Films

#99. The Souvenir (2019)

- Director: Joanna Hogg
- IMDb user rating: 6.4
- Metascore: 91
- Runtime: 120 minutes

Julie is a reserved film school student from a posh family, but a relationship with an exciting yet dangerous man threatens to derail all of her ambitions. Joanna Hogg delivers a vivid look at young love and class that occupied many critics’ lists of the best movies from 2019.

3 / 98
Focus Features

#98. Somewhere (2010)

- Director: Sofia Coppola
- IMDb user rating: 6.3
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 97 minutes

In this drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, a washed-up Hollywood actor has his 11-year-old daughter dropped into his care after her mother has a breakdown. He has to learn to grow up by taking care of her while going through an existential crisis. Coppola’s film received the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice Film Festival.

4 / 98
Hungarofilm

#97. Adoption (1975)

- Director: Márta Mészáros
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 89 minutes

Kata becomes interested in adopting young children with misfortunate pasts after she meets Anna, who escapes a children’s home and moves in with Kata. Hungarian director Márta Mészáros usually made documentaries, but all of her films centered on slice-of-life stories about women.

5 / 98
Centre du Cinéma et de l'Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles

#96. The Meetings of Anna (1978)

- Director: Chantal Akerman
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Notable Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman directed this movie about a film director traveling across Europe to promote her latest movie. As she travels, people seem to be drawn to her and open up their lives to her, even though she does not seem to be very affected. The movie was originally welcomed with little fanfare in comparison to Akerman’s other, more outwardly radical movies, but has since become appreciated by many.

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6 / 98
Maya Deren

#95. Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946)

- Director: Maya Deren
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 15 minutes

Avant-garde filmmaker and choreographer Maya Deren explores the intersection between film and dance in this short film. Through disjointed storytelling and jarring camerawork, Deren shows women performing rituals on screen. One of the women featured in the film is famous writer Anaïs Nin.

7 / 98
INA

#94. News from Home (1976)

- Director: Chantal Akerman
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 85 minutes

One of Akerman’s most well-regarded films is “News From Home,” an avant-garde documentary about her time in New York City. Akerman reads letters her mother wrote to her over long-take shots of various places in New York City. The movie gives a fantastic look at New York City in the 1970s and what it means to be a transplant there.

8 / 98
Advanced Party Scheme

#93. Red Road (2006)

- Director: Andrea Arnold
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 113 minutes

Jackie sees a frightening man from her past as she works as a CCTV operator and feels compelled to confront him. This was director Andrea Arnold’s debut, and she creates the kind of dynamic thriller that would make most directors’ careers.

9 / 98
Petit Film

#92. Raw (2016)

- Director: Julia Ducournau
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 99 minutes

While Justine studies to be a vet, she develops a taste for raw meat thanks to the school’s peculiar traditions. Julia Ducournau serves up one of the most grotesque and sickening horror films from this decade in her very first theatrical feature.

10 / 98
Why Not Productions

#91. White Material (2009)

- Director: Claire Denis
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Isabelle Huppert stars in this Claire Denis movie about a woman trying to run her family’s coffee plantation during civil unrest in Africa. Huppert and Denis had known each other for years prior to the making of “White Material,” but this was their first movie together, resulting in an impressive character study and thrilling political drama.

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11 / 98
Refugee Films

#90. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

- Director: Amy Heckerling
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 61
- Runtime: 90 minutes

This is a classic teen movie that many people might not realize was directed by a woman. Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, and Phoebe Cates star as high school students in Southern California getting up to the usual antics and coming of age. Director Amy Heckerling would go on to make another famous teen movie after this one, “Clueless.”

12 / 98
Ciné-tamaris

#89. The Beaches of Agnès (2008)

- Director: Agnès Varda
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 112 minutes

French New Wave director Agnès Varda takes her audience through stories of her life via film clips and photographs from her past. As always, Varda’s playfulness and fascination with life ignites something completely different than the usual autobiographical documentary.

13 / 98
Canal Horizons

#88. The Silences of the Palace (1994)

- Director: Moufida Tlatli
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 116 minutes

In 1950s Tunisia, Alia returns to the place she grew up, a palace where her mother was a servant for a prince who has just died. Alia begins to realize the sexual exploitation her mother went through and how the class differences in the palace affected them. Director Moufida Tlatli wrote the film in response to her own mother’s sudden illness and the realization that she did not know much about her life.

14 / 98
Soudaine Compagnie

#87. 35 Shots of Rum (2008)

- Director: Claire Denis
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 92
- Runtime: 100 minutes

Claire Denis’ quiet drama focuses on the intertwined lives of four key characters who live across from one another in an apartment building in Paris, including a father and adult daughter who have always relied on each other. New York Times writer Dennis Lim called “35 Shots of Rum” one of the director’s most personal films. Denis drew inspiration from her own life and memories, including Yasujirō Ozu’s 1949 film “Late Spring,” a simple story about a father and daughter. 

15 / 98
Razor Film Produktion GmbH

#86. Wadjda (2012)

- Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 98 minutes

Wadjda is a young, mischievous girl in Saudi Arabia who desperately wants a bicycle. However, her culture believes that a bicycle will ruin a girl’s virtue, and her mother refuses to help. She enters a Quran recitation contest to raise the money on her own, but it won’t be easy. Al-Mansour’s film is the first feature-length film made by a female Saudi director and the first completely shot in the country.

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16 / 98
Ciné-tamaris

#85. One Sings, the Other Doesn't (1977)

- Director: Agnès Varda
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 120 minutes

Agnès Varda’s second movie on this list is a quasi-musical about two women who become friends at a young age when Suzanne asks Pomme to help her get an abortion. The movie chronicles their lasting friendship as they grow up and often experience life without each other. Varda tells the story of two different women with unique care and consideration.

17 / 98
Shirley Clarke Productions

#84. Portrait of Jason (1967)

- Director: Shirley Clarke
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 87
- Runtime: 105 minutes

“Portrait of Jason” was the third feature from independent filmmaker Shirley Clarke. The way she paints a picture of this fascinating man, a gay Black hustler with a lot to say, provoked strong reactions from Ingmar Bergman and legendary critic Pauline Kael.

18 / 98
TriStar Pictures

#83. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

- Director: Nora Ephron
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 105 minutes

Romantic comedy queen Nora Ephron brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together for what is perhaps their most successful partnership in “Sleepless in Seattle.” After Sam’s son calls into a radio show trying to find his dad a new wife, Annie falls in love with the idea of finding them. It contains the kind of wit and panache that Ephron is famous for—and that so many others attempting to work in the genre wish they could achieve.

19 / 98
Maya Deren

#82. At Land (1944)

- Director: Maya Deren
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 15 minutes

Maya Deren directed and starred in this experimental silent short film. She plays a woman washed up on a beach who encounters various people and different versions of herself. Deren provides a dreamy short film that questions what it means to have a personal identity.

20 / 98
Say Ahh Productions

#81. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

- Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 101 minutes

In this black-and-white Iranian horror film, a young vampire attracts a man while she feeds on other people in his life. Taking inspiration from westerns, graphic novels, and Iranian New Wave, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut became an instant hit and will be any horror fan’s perfect delight.

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21 / 98
American Entertainment Partners II L.P.

#80. Big (1988)

- Director: Penny Marshall
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 104 minutes

A young boy asks a fortune-telling arcade machine to make him big and wakes up the next day a full-blown adult, played by Tom Hanks. As he navigates being a grown-up, a woman falls in love with him, and he humbles some grumpy adults along the way. Penny Marshall creates a heartwarming story that allows us to celebrate our inner child.

22 / 98
Universal Film Manufacturing Company

#79. Shoes (1916)

- Director: Lois Weber
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 60 minutes

Lois Weber directed and wrote this early silent movie based on a short story by Stella Wynne Herron and a novel by Jane Addams. Mary MacLaren plays a woman supporting her family on her dimestore job as her shoes are falling to pieces. She resorts to sleeping with a man for money in order to get new shoes and provide for her family, but will it be worth it in the end?

23 / 98
Hubert Bals Fund

#78. The Apple (1998)

- Director: Samira Makhmalbaf
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 86 minutes

This film, Samira Makhmalbaf’s debut, is about two daughters locked in their house by their parents for 11 years. When they’re saved by social workers, they have to navigate a world they’re not familiar with together. Samira co-wrote the film with her father Mohsen, who is also an Iranian filmmaker.

24 / 98
Hold Up Films

#77. Tomboy (2011)

- Director: Céline Sciamma
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 82 minutes

Before Céline Sciamma made her French masterpiece “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” she wrote and directed this film about a young girl confused for a boy by the way she looks. She begins to go by the name Michael to adhere to people’s assumptions, making for a profound story about gender and finding your identity while young.

25 / 98
Hold Up Films

#76. Girlhood (2014)

- Director: Céline Sciamma
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 113 minutes

Céline Sciamma delivers a portrait of Black teenage girls dealing with their turbulent lives in this coming-of-age film. Audiences see Marieme, a 16-year-old girl living in a low-income Parisian suburb, forge a bond with three other girls that changes her life. “Girlhood,” which Sciamma both wrote and directed, was the opening film of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival’s Directors’ Fortnight section.

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26 / 98
Evenstar Films

#75. Meek's Cutoff (2010)

- Director: Kelly Reichardt
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 104 minutes

Set in 1845 and based on a true story, Kelly Reichardt’s exploration of America’s frontier follows a group of families on a wagon train who hire a man to guide them to Oregon. Halfway through the trip, the families begin to realize the man they trusted may not know everything about the frontier. Slate writer Dana Stevens called “Meek’s Cutoff” a “stripped-down feminist Western.”

27 / 98
Caroline Productions

#74. Chocolat (1988)

- Director: Claire Denis
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 105 minutes

A French woman in colonized Africa reflects on the cruelty of the subjugation of Black Indigenous people that occurred throughout her childhood. The film’s title refers to French slang for being cheated, a central theme of this movie dealing with race. Denis gives another fascinating look at France’s past in Africa with this film.

28 / 98
Inforg-M&M Film Kft.

#73. On Body and Soul (2017)

- Director: Ildikó Enyedi
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 116 minutes

In “On Body and Soul,” which was Ildikó Enyedi’s first film after 18 years, an unlikely romance forms between two workers at a Hungarian slaughterhouse when they believe they can communicate with each other through their dreams. Made for Netflix, this film earned a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards. 

29 / 98
BR

#72. Europa Europa (1990)

- Director: Agnieszka Holland
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 75
- Runtime: 112 minutes

This movie about a Jewish boy masquerading as a Nazi among Hitler Youth is based on the true story of Solomon Perel. Germany refused to enter this movie as their selection for that year’s Oscars, but it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay anyway. This is not Holland’s only depiction of the Holocaust—she made “In Darkness” in 2011, which also dealt with the anti-Semitism at that time, but in a different way.

30 / 98
Délia Film

#71. The Seashell and the Clergyman (1928)

- Director: Germaine Dulac
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 40 minutes

A clergyman dreams about a general’s wife, lusting after her and grappling with his profession. This film premiered a year before “Un Chien Andalou,” the Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali film that people mistakenly note as the first surrealist movie. Dulac’s film shows clear techniques associated with surrealism but also takes a feminist approach that most such films made by men did not.

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31 / 98
South Pacific Pictures

#70. Whale Rider (2002)

- Director: Niki Caro
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 101 minutes

A 12-year-old Māori girl dreams of being the future chief of her tribe, despite the fact the role is typically reserved for men. New Zealand director Niki Caro creates an uplifting film that also does the New Zealand tribe justice in its depiction.

32 / 98
Films Around the World

#69. The Connection (1961)

- Director: Shirley Clarke
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 110 minutes

Shirley Clarke’s first feature is an adaptation of a play by Jack Gelber with the same title. It follows a young filmmaker who tries to film heroin addicts, including jazz musicians, waiting for their dealer. Surprisingly, the film was not pulled into court because of the drug use in the film, but rather for its adult language. Clarke won out, and the film was not censored.

33 / 98
Trimark Pictures

#68. Eve's Bayou (1997)

- Director: Kasi Lemmons
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 109 minutes

This was Kasi Lemmons’ directorial debut after a career in acting, which included roles in “Candyman” and Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” She tells the story of Eve and her Creole American family in Louisiana. Eve keeps the secret of her father’s infidelity, but her memory evolves as she grows up. Lemmons went on to direct five movies after this, including “Harriet.”

34 / 98
Bioskop Film

#67. Marianne & Juliane (1981)

- Director: Margarethe von Trotta
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 106 minutes

Margarethe von Trotta solidified her role in the New German Cinema with this film inspired by the real lives of Christiane and Gudrun Ensslin. “Marianne & Juliane” shows two sisters fighting for women’s rights in 1970s Germany. They both approach the movement in different ways, leading to one sister’s tragedy.

35 / 98
Pathé Pictures International

#66. Ratcatcher (1999)

- Director: Lynne Ramsay
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 94 minutes

In 1973 Glasgow, the government tries to reverse the town’s deterioration by tearing down the old Victorian buildings and displacing their current residents until new buildings are completed. Lynne Ramsay, who would go on to make fantastic thrillers, creates a frustratingly human look at a poor community left to suffer.

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36 / 98
BRON Studios

#65. Leave No Trace (2018)

- Director: Debra Granik
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 88
- Runtime: 109 minutes

Will and his daughter Tom are living off the grid in a park in Portland, Oregon, until someone derails their peaceful existence. Director and co-writer Debra Granik conveys their relationship and past without ever alienating the audience. Before “Leave No Trace,” Granik made Jennifer Lawrence’s breakout movie “Winter’s Bone.”

37 / 98
Caviar

#64. The Rider (2017)

- Director: Chloé Zhao
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 92
- Runtime: 104 minutes

After a rodeo star suffers an injury, he has to reconstruct his identity and questions his masculinity in the American South. This story is based on real-life events, and Chloé Zhao weaves realist techniques, including the use of nonprofessional actors, into a beautiful and inspiring narrative. Zhao also directed the 2020 film “Nomadland.”

38 / 98
Columbia Pictures

#63. Marie Antoinette (2006)

- Director: Sofia Coppola
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 123 minutes

The second Sofia Coppola film on this list recreates the life of French queen Marie Antoinette, with some artistic differences. This candy-colored look at Antoinette’s life leading up to the fall of Versailles is filled with fantastic performances from a stacked cast and a pop soundtrack that separates this from other period pieces.

39 / 98
Lightstorm Entertainment

#62. Strange Days (1995)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 145 minutes

Lenny Nero sells data discs with recorded memories after leaving the LAPD. When he finds a disc with the memory of a murder on it, Nero is engrossed in a conspiracy amid the racial tension of 1999 Los Angeles. Kathryn Bigelow delivers a sci-fi fantasy movie different from her other films like “Point Break,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” and “The Hurt Locker.”

40 / 98
Les Films Armorial

#61. India Song (1975)

- Director: Marguerite Duras
- IMDb user rating: 6.2
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 120 minutes

The wife of a French diplomat takes on multiple lovers in order to distract her from the oppressive society of 1930s India. Director Marguerite Duras knows romance well, as she was a screenwriter on the famous French romance “Hiroshima, Mon Amour” before directing her own films.

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41 / 98
Columbia Pictures

#60. A League of Their Own (1992)

- Director: Penny Marshall
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Penny Marshall teamed up again with Tom Hanks to make this inspiring film about the first female professional baseball league. Women hardly ever get the space in sports films that Marshall created for this story, making it a landmark feminist film for the 1990s.

42 / 98
Odessa Film Studios

#59. The Long Farewell (1971)

- Director: Kira Muratova
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 97 minutes

This Soviet film centers on a woman’s relationship with her son, and how everything changes for them when he visits his father for a summer. Director Kira Muratova originally filmed this movie in 1971, but it was banned until 1987. Muratova has made several Russian dramas since, including “The Turner.”

43 / 98
Orion Pictures

#58. Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)

- Director: Susan Seidelman
- IMDb user rating: 6.1
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 104 minutes

Madonna stars as Susan, a free-spirited New Yorker for whom an unhappy housewife is mistaken after an accident leaves her with amnesia. This was director Susan Seidelman’s first film. She would go on to make more movies that blended film and pop culture and would also direct the pilot episode of “Sex and the City.”

44 / 98
Screen Australia

#57. The Babadook (2014)

- Director: Jennifer Kent
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 94 minutes

Jennifer Kent took the horror genre by storm with her debut film about a single mother desperately trying to raise her son after an eerie children’s book causes chaos in their home. The movie depicts motherhood in a way most films do not, showing the frustrating and sometimes ugly side as channeled through a terrifying monster. Kent followed this film up with the graphic thriller “The Nightingale” in 2018.

45 / 98
Forward Movement

#56. 13th (2016)

- Director: Ava DuVernay
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 100 minutes

This documentary gives an in-depth look into America’s prison system within the context of the country’s long history of racial inequality. Director Ava DuVernay gained national acclaim for her film “Selma” in 2014 and has continued working in film as well as advocating for racial equality.

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46 / 98
Media 8 Entertainment

#55. Monster (2003)

- Director: Patty Jenkins
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 109 minutes

Before Patty Jenkins would go on to direct “Wonder Woman,” she directed this portrait of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Charlize Theron won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Wournos, and Jenkins’ direction was significantly helped by the personal details Wournos shared before her execution in 2002.

47 / 98
Pathé Renn Productions

#54. Bright Star (2009)

- Director: Jane Campion
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 119 minutes

The real-life romance between famous poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne is told onscreen by New Zealand director Jane Campion. The film features Keats’ poems and letters, creating as vivid a portrait of the affair as possible.

48 / 98
Aquafilms

#53. The Headless Woman (2008)

- Director: Lucrecia Martel
- IMDb user rating: 6.5
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 87 minutes

A rich Argentinian woman begins to worry she has killed someone after she hits something with her car. She descends into paranoia when she cannot find evidence to back up her memories. This is director Lucrecia Martel’s best-known film, but she has made documentaries and other features, as well as worked in television.

49 / 98
Tempesta

#52. Happy as Lazzaro (2018)

- Director: Alice Rohrwacher
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 87
- Runtime: 128 minutes

This Italian drama about a pure-hearted peasant taken advantage of by a rich tobacco farm owner won the Best Screenplay award at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Director and writer Alice Rorhwacher creates a film well-versed in class commentary and a signature style.

50 / 98
Cabin Creek

#51. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

- Director: Barbara Kopple
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 103 minutes

Director Barbara Kopple chronicles the violent Kentucky miner strike of 1973 in this Oscar-winning documentary. The strike and the history of struggle that miners have had to deal with for years is expertly told with empathy and consideration by Kopple.

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51 / 98
The Filmakers

#50. Outrage (1950)

- Director: Ida Lupino
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 75 minutes

As one of the only working female directors in Hollywood at the time, Ida Lupino is a fascinating exception to the studio-era assumption that women could not direct. Lupino directs this film noir about a woman’s life after she is raped on her way home from work. While it is slightly exploitative in its approach, Lupino adds a perspective on the story a male director could not have.

52 / 98
Cadrage

#49. Salaam Bombay! (1988)

- Director: Mira Nair
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 113 minutes

Though this story about a boy surviving in the slums of New Delhi is fiction, all of the actors in it are nonprofessionals recruited by director Mira Nair. Her experience in documentaries is evident in the way she shoots this grim story, but she finds a way to provide hope as well.

53 / 98
Odessa Film Studios

#48. The Asthenic Syndrome (1989)

- Director: Kira Muratova
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 153 minutes

Two different stories in this film are shot in opposing ways. The first, shot in black and white, is about a woman whose husband dies after dealing with a dark depression. The second, filmed in color, shows a schoolteacher who realizes he has something called Asthenic syndrome. He’s sent to a mental hospital, and director Kira Muratova questions the relative sanity of those pushed aside compared to those who live their lives freely.

54 / 98
Hibiscus Films

#47. An Angel at My Table (1990)

- Director: Jane Campion
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 158 minutes

As a child in New Zealand during the 1930s, Janet Frame is misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and spends years in a mental institution. Once she is released, she begins to write novels that became a huge success. Her story is a true one, and the film was the first from New Zealand to be screened at the Venice Film Festival.

55 / 98
F/M

#46. Near Dark (1987)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 94 minutes

Kathryn Bigelow co-wrote and directed this horror movie about a group of vampires who travel across western America and kidnap their prey. Along with the disturbing images, this film has undeniable humor that makes it a well-rounded viewing experience.

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56 / 98
Maven Pictures

#44. American Honey (2016)

- Director: Andrea Arnold
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 163 minutes

Andrea Arnold’s take on the coming-of-age story is much more vibrant and exciting than most iterations of the formula. She takes Star on an adventure across the country with a band of traveling sales-teens who introduce Star to the support she never had in her troubled home. This indie gem is not Arnold’s first movie but it certainly put her on the map for younger audiences.

57 / 98
American Zoetrope

#43. The Virgin Suicides (1999)

- Director: Sofia Coppola
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 97 minutes

Sofia Coppola’s dazzling and heartbreaking directorial debut is about a family of teenage girls growing up with controlling parents. Coppola adapted Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel into a gorgeous film that considers the feelings and hopes of young girls in a way most movies don’t.

58 / 98
Comenius-Film GmbH

#42. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

- Directors: Lotte Reiniger, Carl Koch
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 80 minutes

This was one of the earliest feature-length animated films ever made, and it was directed by a woman, Lotte Reiniger. Based on “The Arabian Nights,” the film follows Prince Achmed on his adventures with his flying horse. The movie was made through an animation technique using silhouettes. Reiniger made dozens of films and pioneered a precursor to the multiplane camera.

59 / 98
Mooz Films

#41. Capernaum (2018)

- Director: Nadine Labaki
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Metascore: 75
- Runtime: 126 minutes

Nadine Labaki wrote the screenplay for this film, but after hiring nonprofessional actors and seeing their improvisations deviate from the script, she adapted the story to their spontaneity. The movie follows a young boy who has just gotten out of jail and sues his parents in court for negligence. This was only Labaki’s second directorial project, but she constructed it with such genius.

60 / 98
Fox Searchlight Pictures

#40. Boys Don't Cry (1999)

- Director: Kimberly Peirce
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 118 minutes

This biographical film shows the transition and life of Brandon Teena, a transgender man in rural Nebraska. Kimberly Peirce directed this feature after also making a short with the same name about the same subject. It received widespread acclaim, and Peirce went on to direct episodes of “The L Word” and the remake of “Carrie” in 2013.

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61 / 98
Lilies Films

#39. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

- Director: Céline Sciamma
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 95
- Runtime: 122 minutes

This was one of the most discussed films in 2019. Céline Sciamma creates a gorgeous tableau of lesbian love in this French period piece. She has long been a formative voice for films about the female gaze, and this is the most romantic, gut-wrenching exploration of that yet.

62 / 98
Art Matters Inc.

#38. Paris Is Burning (1990)

- Director: Jennie Livingston
- IMDb user rating: 8.1
- Metascore: 82
- Runtime: 71 minutes

This formative documentary shows the origins of “voguing” and drag balls in the Black trans community of New York City. If you loved the series “Pose,” it owes something to Jennie Livingston’s documentary. She allowed for her subjects to take center stage and tell their stories for audiences that had never before acknowledged them.

63 / 98
Field Guide Films

#36. Wendy and Lucy (2008)

- Director: Kelly Reichardt
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 80 minutes

This is by far Kelly Reichardt’s most tragic film to date and yet another fantastic collaboration with writer Jon Raymond. Wendy, played by Michelle Williams, is traveling to Alaska for a job with just enough cash to get there. When her car breaks down and she’s arrested for stealing dog food for her companion, Lucy, the only thing on her mind is survival for both of them. It’s an empathetic and realistic portrait of poverty and the sacrifices people have to make to survive.

64 / 98
Warner Bros.

#35. The Matrix (1999)

- Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
- IMDb user rating: 8.7
- Metascore: 73
- Runtime: 136 minutes

This is one of the most recognizable sci-fi action films of all time, and it was made by two trans women. Neo meets a hacker who tells him that nothing he experiences during his day job is reality, and he joins a quest through the Matrix for a thrilling human rebellion that led to several sequels. The Wachowski sisters came out publicly in the 2010s, with Lana in 2012 and Lilly in 2016.

65 / 98
Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Production

#34. Morvern Callar (2002)

- Director: Lynne Ramsay
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 97 minutes

After her boyfriend takes his life, Morvern passes his unpublished novel off as her own in order to make money and survive. She then goes on a trip to escape her grief but soon learns that's not an option. Ramsey provides another unabashed look at the human condition.

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66 / 98
Why Not Productions

#33. You Were Never Really Here (2017)

- Director: Lynne Ramsay
- IMDb user rating: 6.8
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 89 minutes

This Lynne Ramsay film gives us one of Joaquin Phoenix’s best performances ever as a veteran who tracks down missing girls for a living. He meets a young girl, and his own demons start to overcome him in this deeply emotional and thrilling movie. 

67 / 98
Lotar Film Productions

#32. The Night Porter (1974)

- Director: Liliana Cavani
- IMDb user rating: 6.6
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 118 minutes

A concentration camp survivor and former Nazi have a chance meeting at a hotel and resume their traumatizing relationship 13 years after World War II. Director Liliana Cavani ranks among famous Italian filmmakers from the 1970s, among peers like Bernado Bertolucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini.

68 / 98
Ciné-tamaris

#31. The Gleaners & I (2000)

- Director: Agnès Varda
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 82 minutes

Agnès Varda introduces the world to French people who are often overlooked when talking about the countryside’s farming culture. Gleaners, those who pick at already-reaped farmland, become much more in the hands of Varda, who shows their livelihood through the delightful yet insightful way that is her trademark.

69 / 98
Bananeira Filmes

#30. Zama (2017)

- Director: Lucrecia Martel
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 115 minutes

Lucrecia Martel directs this adaptation of the 1956 Argentinian novel of the same name. Don Diego de Zama is a Spanish officer waiting to be transferred closer to his family. As he waits, the film deals with the impact of colonialism in an elusive, dreamlike fashion. Martel is the notable Spanish-language auteur behind the well-regarded “Salta” trilogy of Argentinian films.

70 / 98
IFC Productions

#29. Monsoon Wedding (2001)

- Director: Mira Nair
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 114 minutes

A grand cast of Indian characters comes together in New Delhi for an arranged wedding. This romance film earned director Mira Nair the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, making the first woman and the second Indian director to win the award. A musical version of the movie ran on Broadway in 2014.

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71 / 98
Parc Film

#28. Le Bonheur (1965)

- Director: Agnès Varda
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 80 minutes

This is one of Agnès Varda's most quintessential French New Wave movies about a happily married man who takes up an affair with a woman, changing his life forever. She presents a tragedy of a story with luscious visuals of the outdoors, including famous shots of sunflowers. This movie shows off the range that Varda flexed over her career.

72 / 98
Pathé

#27. Selma (2014)

- Director: Ava DuVernay
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 128 minutes

Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous civil rights march through Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, is chronicled in this powerful drama by Ava DuVernay. The difficulties that King and his followers went through in order to pull off the legendary march are vividly depicted, uncovering the stories behind the still photographs we see in history books.

73 / 98
NFB

#26. Stories We Tell (2012)

- Director: Sarah Polley
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 91
- Runtime: 108 minutes

Director Sarah Polley tries to uncover the truth of her family’s secrets by interviewing family members, getting their side of every story. As Polley navigates the veracity of memory, she opens up her deeply personal family history for viewers. Before Polley directed this documentary, she acted in several films including “Dawn of the Dead.”

74 / 98
Studio Golestan

#25. The House Is Black (1963)

- Director: Forugh Farrokhzad
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 20 minutes

In this documentary short, life in a leper colony is shown to the outside world. Director Forough Farrokhzad narrates the movie in excerpts from the Bible, the Quran, and poems she wrote herself. She died not long after directing this short film, which is the only film she was able to make.

75 / 98
IAC Films

#24. Lady Bird (2017)

- Director: Greta Gerwig
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 93
- Runtime: 94 minutes

Greta Gerwig has been lighting up the independent film scene for years as an actress, but this was her directorial debut. “Lady Bird” is based on her own experiences, as well as the experiences she wishes she had growing up in Sacramento, California. Anchored with fantastic performances, this coming-of-age drama takes the audience through even the hard times to appreciate the joys of growing up.

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76 / 98
The Filmakers

#23. The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

- Director: Ida Lupino
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 71 minutes

In this Ida Lupino thriller, two men pick up a hitchhiker on their fishing trip. They soon find out that he is an escaped convict who plans to murder them as soon as the trip is over. As hostages, they have to comply with his psychotic demands and hope they can escape in the end. Lupino is known for her contributions to the noir genre, and this film fits that subset of thrillers perfectly.

77 / 98
BBC Films

#22. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

- Director: Lynne Ramsay
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 112 minutes

In one of the most harrowing dramas about motherhood, Tilda Swinton plays a mother who struggles to love her very difficult son. The movie focuses on two points in time: when she is raising her son and after a mysterious event that leaves her living alone and hated by the community. Ramsay delivers a terrifying movie that shocks audiences until the very end.

78 / 98
Anonymous Content

#21. Winter's Bone (2010)

- Director: Debra Granik
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 90
- Runtime: 100 minutes

This dark drama follows a teenage girl as she searches for her father before their house in the Ozark mountains is repossessed. She hears that her father is dead, but has to find the truth on her own. Jennifer Lawrence gives a breakout, Oscar-nominated performance in this riveting movie.

79 / 98
Paramount Pictures

#20. Clueless (1995)

- Director: Amy Heckerling
- IMDb user rating: 6.9
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 97 minutes

Amy Heckerling directed one of the most famous American teen movies, “Clueless.” Protagonist Cher goes through her privileged teenage life thinking she knows best, including who should be dating whom. When she befriends the new girl, she decides to find her a boyfriend. This stylish and fun teen comedy based on Jane Austen’s “Emma” holds a huge space in pop culture and is still a favorite today.

80 / 98
Adventure Pictures

#19. Orlando (1992)

- Director: Sally Potter
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 94 minutes

After Queen Elizabeth commands him to stay young forever, Orlando goes through several centuries experiencing lots of changes, including changes in gender. This movie is inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel “Orlando: A Biography,” and like the novel, the movie pushed boundaries in storytelling.

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81 / 98
Am Psycho Productions

#18. American Psycho (2000)

- Director: Mary Harron
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 64
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Although many people may not realize it, this crime drama revolving around an egotistical, psychopathic man was directed by a woman. Mary Harron co-wrote and directed this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel about Patrick Bateman and his increasingly violent behavior. This movie fits into Harron’s diverse filmography, proving she can direct any kind of story.

82 / 98
Medusa Distribuzione

#17. Seven Beauties (1975)

- Director: Lina Wertmüller
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 116 minutes

Pasquale narrowly escapes catastrophe and survives whatever hardship life throws at him, including World War II. He deserts the Italian army and is sent to a German prison camp. While there, he thinks about his past and how he will survive the next thing that happens to him. Director Lina Wertmüller became the first woman nominated for the Best Director Academy Award thanks to this movie.

83 / 98
Foundation for Filmakers

#16. Wanda (1970)

- Director: Barbara Loden
- IMDb user rating: 7.1
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 102 minutes

Actress Barbara Loden wrote, directed, and starred in this fiercely independent drama about a poor woman in eastern Pennsylvania. Loden felt an affinity for her apathetic protagonist, loosely basing the character on her own experiences and improvising most of the dialogue in the movie. This meandering movie had all the qualities of 1970s independent cinema but was not readily available until its restoration and rerelease in 2018.

84 / 98
4k Films

#15. La Ciénaga (2001)

- Director: Lucrecia Martel
- IMDb user rating: 7.0
- Metascore: 75
- Runtime: 103 minutes

This Argentinian drama follows two women and their families living in a dilapidated summer house. The drama of their confinement eventually leads to an epic climax that will change the family forever. This was Martel’s first feature-length film.

85 / 98
Largo Entertainment

#14. Point Break (1991)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 58
- Runtime: 122 minutes

An FBI agent goes undercover to infiltrate a group of surfers whom they believe are bank robbers. He soon makes friends with one surfer and grows fond of their lifestyle. Kathryn Bigelow fought to cast lead actor Keanu Reeves, convincing producers that he was a good investment. It paid off, and this was her highest-grossing film until “Zero Dark Thirty.”

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86 / 98
Ciné-tamaris

#13. Vagabond (1985)

- Director: Agnès Varda
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 105 minutes

One of Agnès Varda’s saddest and darkest films is about a young woman hitchhiking and barely surviving in town after town. The movie tells her story in a backward manner, showing first her dead body and then tracing each person she interacted with before her death. Varda shows humanity in both its ugliness and strange beauty through Mona’s struggles and interactions with others.

87 / 98
Columbia Pictures

#12. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 95
- Runtime: 157 minutes

Kathryn Bigelow’s film, which grossed more than $132.8 million worldwide at the box office, is about the hunt for Osama bin Laden after the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. The movie focuses on a CIA agent named Maya (Jessica Chastain) as she works through the case. For her role as Maya, Chastain won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama. 

88 / 98
Trete Tvorcheskoe Obedinenie

#11. The Ascent (1977)

- Director: Larisa Shepitko
- IMDb user rating: 8.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 111 minutes

As two Soviets search for food, they are arrested by Nazi patrollers and interrogated for hours despite knowing nothing of value. The two must do whatever they can to convince the Nazis they are worth keeping alive. This is Ukrainian director Larisa Shepitko’s most popular and final film, but she made multiple films dealing with World War II.

89 / 98
Geechee Girls

#10. Daughters of the Dust (1991)

- Director: Julie Dash
- IMDb user rating: 6.7
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 113 minutes

This film written, produced, and directed by Julie Dash tells the story of a family on Saint Helena Island outside of South Carolina who plan to leave the island and move north. It features dialogue in the Gullah language and was the first movie made by an African American woman to get a general theatrical release.

90 / 98
BBC Films

#9. Fish Tank (2009)

- Director: Andrea Arnold
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 81
- Runtime: 123 minutes

Fifteen-year-old Mia has been thrown out of school and strikes up an inappropriate relationship with her mother’s new boyfriend. He encourages the one thing she enjoys doing: dancing. Arnold shows a working-class girl’s struggle to grow up in a volatile environment, and her approach makes for an emotional experience for her viewers.

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91 / 98
Komplizen Film

#8. Toni Erdmann (2016)

- Director: Maren Ade
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 93
- Runtime: 162 minutes

Winifred doesn’t have a great relationship with his daughter Ines, despite his efforts. His latest prank is to pretend to be his alter ego, Toni Erdmann, to get into her work circle. Maren Ade creates a funny and deeply moving movie that was incredibly popular on its release. Ade has since produced a number of great international films since this movie, including “Synonyms” and “A Fantastic Woman.”

92 / 98
Voltage Pictures

#7. The Hurt Locker (2008)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 95
- Runtime: 131 minutes

Staff Sergeant William James assigns his bomb squad dangerous missions in the Iraq War. Two of his men try to deal with their reckless sergeant, but the city where they are stationed descends into chaos. With a story adapted from war journalist Mark Boal’s personal experiences covering Iraq, Kathryn Bigelow takes an intense look at serving during wartime. This film made Bigelow the first female director to win an Oscar for Best Director.

93 / 98
Filmové studio Barrandov

#6. Daisies (1966)

- Director: Vera Chytilová
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 74 minutes

This surrealist comedy is the quintessential Czechoslovak New Wave film. It follows two women as they engage in pranks and indulge in whatever they want once they realize that if the world is bad, they can be as well. Vera Chytilová made a feminist film full of gorgeous and disorienting visuals, resulting in a monumental and unique movie.

94 / 98
Focus Features

#5. Lost in Translation (2003)

- Director: Sofia Coppola
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 102 minutes

This was Coppola’s follow-up to “The Virgin Suicides.” Bill Murray plays Bob Harris, a famous American actor visiting Japan for commercial work. He meets young Charlotte at a bar, and they share their unhappiness with the lives they live, making for a melancholy meditation on life and companionship.

95 / 98
La Sept-Arte

#4. Beau travail (1999)

- Director: Claire Denis
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 91
- Runtime: 92 minutes

Officer Galoup’s life at a French Foreign Legion outpost changes when newcomer Sentain begins to gain more attention from his superiors. He plans to find a way to discredit Sentain and make him leave, but his plan backfires completely. Claire Denis uses her usual poetic, slow-burn technique to make for a satisfying ending.

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96 / 98
Paradise Films

#3. Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)

- Director: Chantal Akerman
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 202 minutes

This movie has become an arthouse classic since its original release. It shows Jeanne’s daily life over three days as she cooks and cleans for her son. She works as a sex worker out of her home, but everything she does has become routine to her now. Akerman’s contemplative approach to this woman’s life makes it an intriguing watch.

97 / 98
Ciné-tamaris

#2. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

- Director: Agnès Varda
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 90 minutes

This is Agnès Varda’s most popular film, chronicling a young woman’s day as she waits to see if she has cancer. It plays out in real time as Cleo’s day unfolds and she questions her life and what death would mean for her. Varda created a film that asked the kind of societal questions that are present throughout the French New Wave, but from a female perspective that wasn’t represented in the movement before Varda.

98 / 98
CiBy 2000

#1. The Piano (1993)

- Director: Jane Campion
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 121 minutes

Holly Hunter stars as a nonverbal Scottish woman who is sold to a New Zealand frontiersman in an arranged marriage. When her husband sells her piano to his overseer, she visits him for lessons, and soon a sexual relationship develops. The dynamic in their tiny European settlement is ruined, and the story unfolds in the most captivating way. Campion created a true masterpiece with this drama, which is why it tops our list.

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