From the soft, adolescent comfort of Lady Bird (2017) to the sickeningly tense The Babadook (2014), consider this a brief list of women-directed films that, I hope, can offer something for every type of cinephile.
The Breaker Upperers (2018), directed by Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek
This anti-romantic comedy is somehow cynical of love but also celebrates the magic of platonic love between women. The two leads are directors, Sami and Beek, and watching the pair onscreen is an absolute joy— their charm and clear passion for the film only adds to the dry optimism and joy that it presents to its audience.
The Invitation (2015), directed by Karyn Kusama
In my opinion, the most interesting horror films are ones about guilt and grief, and The Invitation tackles both with incredible tact and skill. It expertly manipulates its audience through misdirection and unreliable characters, leaving you, like the main characters, unable to tell the truth from paranoia. The tense build-up over a neat 100 minutes makes the final act feel earned, and all the more satisfying.
Honey Boy (2019), directed by Alma Har’el
When Shia LaBeouf was arrested and ordered to go to rehab in 2017, he worked through his PTSD by writing what would become Honey Boy: playing his own alcoholic father, LaBeouf participates on and offscreen in this loose retelling of his own childhood. Guided and shaped by Har’el’s direction, this take on child stardom and family trauma is intimate and fascinating.
The Babadook (2014), directed by Jennifer Kent
This is one of those films that I absolutely loved watching, but you couldn’t pay me to sit through again. It follows widowed Amelia as she attempts to raise her troubled son while also navigating her own grief and drug addiction. The feeling of unshakeable dread that stalks the characters through the bleak world of shadows they are forced to exist in is incomparable.
Lady Bird (2017), directed by Greta Gerwig
This coming-of-age comedy-drama follows a Sacramento teenager through her last year before University and explores the bittersweet relationship of a mother and daughter. It is incredibly moving— every time I watch it a different scene makes me cry— and visually beautiful. It is a lovingly crafted ode to hometowns, the ugly nostalgia of growing up, and high school theatre productions.