Women directors have been woefully underemployed in Hollywood forever, but lately they're coming on strong: Last year nearly 11 percent of the top-grossing movies were directed by women — the most in more than a decade. And women helmed some of the most-anticipated 2020 blockbusters: Cate Shortland's Black Widow, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman sequel, Gina Prince-Bythewood's The Old Guard, Niki Caro's Mulan. So it's high time to catch up with the essential films of some of our most talented directors who happen to be female.
The first woman to win the directing Oscar (for 2008's Iraq War drama The Hurt Locker), Bigelow, 68, is a maverick. She took on the action flick (Point Break) and started with a vampire western (Near Dark) that garnered a cult following. Bigelow plays well with actors — from Jamie Lee Curtis in the cop drama Blue Steel to Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker to Jessica Chastain in the Osama Bin Laden/CIA saga Zero Dark Thirty — getting performances that feel like the first time we truly witness their depth.
Kathryn Bigelow Must Watches:
Disney moved Caro's presumptive hit Mulan from multiplexes to Disney+. It would have been nice to see on the big screen what this Kiwi filmmaker did with a live-action version of 1998's animated take on a Chinese folk tale. Her breakout film in 2002, Whale Rider, also featured a girl hero — a Maori girl — with wonderfully outsize ambitions. And proving W.C. Field's crabby riff on animals and children hogwash, Caro, 53, did wonders with nonactors and Kevin Costner in sports-inspiring McFarland, USA.
Niki Caro Must Watches:
As an actor, she got roughed up by critics for Godfather III, directed by dad Francis Ford Coppola. From the get-go — The Virgin Suicides — her pivot to directing has been often hailed, always taken seriously. Marie Antoinette, Somewhere and The Beguiled confirm Coppola's unique appreciation for the ways ennui masks deeper, roiling emotions. Then there was the knowing chemistry she concocted between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.
Sofia Coppola Must Watches:
RELATED: Okay, we might all agree that Godfather III wasn't Coppola's best. But where did the original 1972 film land on AARP's ranking of the best films of the 1970s? Find out and grab the whole remarkable list, here: The Best Movies of the 1970s, Ranked!
A film publicist turned newfangled mogul: directing movies and TV, fiction and docs, even as she creates room for other women directors and filmmakers of color. Selma — featuring David Oyelowo as MLK and Stephan James as John Lewis — garnered an Oscar best picture nomination. She was the first female director to helm a live-action flick with a $100 million+ budget, A Wrinkle in Time. Her turning point came when she won the Sundance directing award for the 2012 drama Middle of Nowhere, about a woman trying to do the right thing by her incarcerated husband and her own dreams.
Ava DuVernay Must Watches: