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10 Films Directed By Women To Watch This March

by Colin Luderitz

Women’s History Month is the perfect time to reflect on the incredible role women have played in the history of cinema. Be it an intimate coming-of-age story or a blood-soaked thriller, films directed by women have been endlessly influential to the culture of film and the greater pop culture of the world. These films are worthy watches year-round, but carry an even greater importance this month.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

‘Twilight’ (2008)

This film carries a lot of stigma, and for a lot of good reasons- but damn is it fun. The only film in the series to be directed by a woman, it is easy to see why Catherine Hardwicke’s “Twilight” struck a chord at the time of its release.

The teal-soaked, high contrast cinematography sets an appropriately angsty tone, the flashy editing keeps the film moving at a clip through even its dullest points and the overly dramatic dialogue does a pretty good job of capturing what it is like to be a teenager in love. The values presented are questionable, but there is no denying that this film was massively influential and ushered in a new era of camp.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

‘American Psycho’ (2000)

Mary Harron being in the director’s chair of a “sigma male” film like “American Psycho” is mostly treated as a “fun fact” nowadays, but her perspective is a crucial part of what makes the satire of the film work.

Without her vision, Patrick Bateman may very well come off as a “unique” psychopath, rather than the vision of twisted societal masculinity he is in the final product.

The violence against women in the film is horrific, make no mistake, but anyone with half a mind can see the underlying themes that condemn Bateman and his actions. (To clarify: if you idolize Patrick Bateman, you are an idiot. Please direct all complaints to somebody else because I do not care.)

Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

‘Nomadland’ (2020)

Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland” is far from the flashiest film on this list, but visually it is the most stunning and features one of the best performances Frances McDormand has ever given.

Shot on strikingly vast locations with mostly natural light, the cinematography of “Nomadland” marries perfectly to its story as it finds beauty in the brutal reality of life.

The film is also, fascinatingly, partially a documentary, as several of the “characters” featured were real nomads, either acting on screen for the first time or telling their true, honest stories. It is a very special film and never fails to tug on the heartstrings.

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

‘The Matrix’ (1999)

Women’s History Month is as good a time as any to remind everyone that trans women are, in fact, women. Although the film is credited to the Wachowskis’ deadnames, watching the film as a trans allegory turns what is already a true classic into a masterpiece.

Take the famed “red pill” sequence, for example. Neo takes the red pill, then sees a shattered reflection of himself, before awakening in his true body for the first time.

The true meaning behind this sequence clicks into place once you know that in the 1990s, the pill form of estrogen was bright red. Add that to Neo’s constant affirmation of his chosen name and you have a well-rounded trans allegory on your hands.

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

‘Julie and Julia’ (2009)

Nora Ephron’s true talent lies in her writing not necessarily her directing, but that does not mean her directing is any slouch. Look no further than her final effort, “Julie and Julia,” which carries the distinction of being the very first major feature film based on an online blog, albeit in addition to the autobiography of Julia Child.

While any Ephron films could have made the list, this film in particular has the strongest focus on the achievements of two very different but very successful women.

A script cooked up by Ephron put on the plates of actors like Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci is just as delicious as it sounds. Streep in particular is the ingredient that turns what could be a light confection into a full-bodied meal. Is that enough food puns?

Photo courtesy of A24

Photo courtesy of A24

‘Bodies Bodies Bodies’ (2022)

This film is primarily on the list as a tribute to our dearly departed former creative director, Hannah Effinger. She is not dead, she just graduated, which makes her dead to me.

Halina Reijn’s horror-comedy is a hilarious look at what a group of spoiled rich twenty-somethings would do if left to their own devices. “Below Deck” meets “Lord of the Flies,” as it were.

The result is a lot of petty infighting, backstabbing and bodies. Bodies. Bodies. Get it? The standout of the ensemble cast is undoubtedly Rachel Sennott, who plays the most fun-to-hate character in the entire film and has maybe the best line read in the film.

“Bodies Bodies Bodies” is about the most fun you can have watching a streak of incredibly bloody murders.

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Photo courtesy of Focus Features

‘Promising Young Woman’ (2020)

The directorial debut of Emerald Fennell is a darkly comedic thriller soaked in blood and rage. “Promising Young Woman” is probably the hardest film on this list to watch, but ultimately, the most rewarding.

It paints the real fears that women face on an everyday basis in such a clear light, without ever resorting to over-the-top depictions of stereotypically oafish men or hyper-violence.

Instead, the true staying power of “Promising Young Woman” is how plainly it depicts its horrors, because Fennell is smart enough to know that reality is horrific enough.

The casualty with which both men and women in power are willing to downplay and deny assault, the quickness with which men can become overwhelmed with rage and overpower a woman, they are all presented with stark honesty that even once catharsis comes in the third act, the film’s intensity has already taken its toll. “Promising Young Woman” is as brutal as they come.

Photo courtesy of Pyramide Films

Photo courtesy of Pyramide Films

‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ (2019)

On the complete flip side, Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” is an endlessly watchable film, not just for its visual splendor, but for its masterful slow-burn romance.

A sapphic tale set in 18th century France, the film is remarkable for how it portrays a passionate and at times graphic romance between two women without ever teetering into gratuitous territory.

Every frame is like a painting that burns with desire. It tells a story of two women finding comfort in each other and unity in struggles that men could never begin to understand, no matter how well-intentioned. It is a beautiful, heartbreaking love story that is impossible to look away from.

Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures

Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures

‘Shiva Baby’ (2020)

Emma Seligman’s “Shiva Baby” is allegedly a comedy, but frankly has more in common with a high-tension thriller. Another breakout role for the aforementioned Sennott, the cringeworthy comedy of “Shiva Baby” ramps up the tension to nearly unbearable levels, and every laugh feels more like a pressure cooker letting off steam than a moment of genuine hilarity.

Its deceptively slight 80-minute running time feels delightfully interminable, with every awkward interaction digging the film’s protagonist into a deeper and deeper hole. One might be forgiven for mistaking Seligman’s debut feature for an Alfred Hitchcock film.

Photo courtesy of A24

Photo courtesy of A24

‘Lady Bird’ (2017)

Of course, any list of modern feminist films would be incomplete without a film by Greta Gerwig. All three of her directorial efforts have been nothing shy of remarkable, but “Lady Bird” hits closest to home for me personally.

Following the relationship between a teenage girl, the eponymous Lady Bird, and her mother, the film is frequently hilarious without ever going for cheap punchlines, pulls at the heartstrings in honest ways and is ultimately one of the most perfect depictions of motherhood ever put to film.

It is a complicated, funny, heart-shattering film that instantly cemented Gerwig as one of the most thrilling young directors to watch, a reputation that she has more than lived up to thus far.

Narrowing this list down to just ten films was incredibly difficult, because women have played an incredible role in the history of film.

If you are a true lover of film, this Women’s History Month, take the time to watch not just these films, but find the hundreds and thousands of more brilliant and important films directed by women, or the writings of important female film critics such as Pauline Kael. The history is rich, beautiful and all at our fingertips.

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