Tea Time: 6 Female Movie Directors You NEED To Know!

When we think about renowned movie directors, most of the names that come to mind are the names of men. Why is it that women don’t get enough recognition in this field? To this day, only five women have been nominated for Best Director in the Academy Awards.

They are so few that we can even name all of them right now: Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow and Greta Gerwig. The greatest award in the film industry and only Bigelow got to take the statuette home. But, trying to spread the word about all these amazing women, we made a list of female directors whose work in movies are definitely worth checking out. 

  1. 1. Ana Lily Amirpour

    The american film director and screenwriter of iranian heritage is known for her highly stylized movies. Seriously, they look cool. She is best known for her 2014 movie “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, described as the first Iranian vampire western. The movie was shot entirely in black and white and tells the story of The Girl, a lonesome vampire. It was based on a short movie Amirpour had received the award of Best Short Film at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival.

    Her films usually have western elements and revolve around women who are considered outcasts in their world. She also tends to value music a lot in her work. “I love music and whenever I start thinking of a story or characters there’s always music that pops up”, she told IndieWire in an interview. Besides that, there isn’t a whole lot of dialogue in her movies, she prefers to value the images. It’s the classic rule of filmmaking: show, don’t tell. This is specially present in “The Bad Batch”, a post-apocalyptic cannibal love story, which barely has any dialogue through most of it and prioritizes its visuals, sound and emotion.

  2. 2. Cathy Yan

    Cathy Yan is a director, screenwriter and producer, she doesn’t have a big amount of films under her belt, but she did make a name for herself with the highly-acclaimed movie “Dead Pigs”. It’s about different people dealing with their problems while dead pigs appear floating on the river - something that actually happened in 2013 - it premiered on the Sundance Film Festival in 2018, and won the “Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Acting”.

    Besides “Dead Pigs” and a few shorts, such as “According to My Mother”, inspired by Daniel K. Isaac’s story, the lead actor and writer of the movie alongside Yan, the Chinese-American director now has a much bigger project in hands. 

    She’s responsible for DC’s new Harley Quinn film that comes out in 2020, based on the “Birds of Prey” comics, which makes her the first Asian woman to direct a superhero film, and one out of only three women to do so, joining Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”) and Ava DuVernay (upcoming “The New Gods”). 

    During the U.S.-China Entertainment Summit in 2018, she told the audience that this movie in specific drew her attention by having dark humor on the script - something that most of her work also has - and themes of female empowerment.

  3. 3. Jennifer Kent

    This australian director knows how to make very unsettling movies. “I love horror and I don’t look down on it, even the bad stuff”, she told The Guardian. Kent started her career as an actress until she decided to work as a director, her first job in the field being assistant director to Lars von Trier in “Dogville”. She later worked on a short-film called “Monster”, which eventually was adapted into her first feature-length film in 2014, “The Babadook”.

    The movie tells the story of a single mother who needs to protect her child from a threatening entity. The movie is absolutely terrifying and it was well received by both the critics and the audience, so much that’s it’s constantly present in ‘best horror movies’ lists. In “The Babadook”, she didn’t show motherhood as something easy, as the media often portrays it. She wanted to “show a real woman who was drowning in that environment”. The character, Amelia (Essie Davis), on top of having to deal with the supernatural, is also trying to overcome the death of her husband while raising a child by herself. 

    Her latest film is “The Nightingale”, released in 2018, a period thriller film set in 1800’s Tasmania (back when it was a penal colony), where Clare (Aisling Franciosi), having just witnessed the murder of her husband and child by a British officer, sets out though the Australian wilderness to seek revenge.

  4. 4. Stella Meghie

    The Canadian film director and screenwriter started her career as a filmmaker in 2012, with her short film, “Recovering Undercover Over Lover”. After that, it was only in 2016 that she made a new movie, her debut feature film, “Jean of the Joneses”, about the lives of Jean Jones and her multi-generational Jamaican-American family, it premiered at the SXSW Film Festival, already receiving nominations for different awards. 

    Stella Meghie has also directed some episodes of TV shows here and there, but she seems more focused on the movies. “Everything, Everything” is an adaptation from a book by Nicola Yoon with the same name, it was the only studio-backed film directed by a black woman in 2017, and during an interview with Deadline, the lead actress, Amandla Stenberg, said that she only did the film because Meghie was in charge.

    In 2018, she directed “The Weekend”, her third feature, an independently-financed movie that was made in a much smaller scale than her previous film. Now, Meghie has already started to work on her next two projects, “The Photograph” (2020) and “American Princess”. And in all of her projects, the main character is always a black woman, and that happens to show them as complex and multilayered human beings, with whom the viewer can relate to.

  5. 5. Olivia Wilde

    You might know her from the TV show “House”, or maybe “The OC”, Wilde’s acting career is very extensive, but did you know she just released her first movie? In “Booksmart”, Amy and Molly, best friends since childhood, focused their entire time in high school studying to get into good colleges. On the eve of their graduation day, however, they found out their classmates, who partied all these years, also got into good colleges Feeling like they missed out during high school, they decide to party all night. Things don’t go smoothly, though. She described the movie as a story about “two women who are unapologetically brilliant and so in love with each other”. It celebrates teenage girls and the chaos of being young.

    Sitting in the director’s chair, she also worked on two music videos, “No Love Like Yours”, by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and “Dark Necessities”, by Red Hot Chili Peppers. 

    Becoming a film director wasn’t always the plan, she told The Guardian, but she wishes she had done it earlier. It took her some time to get over the insecurity of not having gone to a film school like so many directors. “I just didn’t realise that my 15 years on set as an actress had actually been my de facto film school”, she said. 

  6. 6. Ava DuVernay

    The writer, producer, director and film distributor, Ava DuVernay, started her filmmaker career in 2006, when she decided to create a 12-minute film, based on her mother’s experience, about an uplifting night in the life of a single mother, called “Saturday Night Life”. A very significant number of DuVernay projects were nominated and won awards, such as her second feature film, “Middle of Nowhere”, that made her the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. 

    Some of her biggest works include “Selma”, about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march from Selma to Montgomery - she became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director because of this movie. The documentary “13th”, about the racial injustice in the US criminal justice system, and Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time”, in which, she said during an interview with NBCBLK, “a black girl as the hero attracted me to the story”, so this movie is “a love letter to our girls”.

    Ava DuVernay has the ability to make films and documentaries about the difficult reality that some individuals and groups, who are seen by many as inferiors - women, people of color - have to deal with on a daily basis. She has the ability to make those groups feel seen and be seen, by putting her heart and soul into her projects, by talking about real-life experiences and understanding that the films she makes, can and do make a difference.