Melissa Silverstein has put together a list of films directed by women to counteract the BFI’s top 50 best of all time. It’s a man’s man world, baby. Only real men link to her piece, as Roger Ebert did on Twitter. The others? Nada. Zip. No one is covering this story except the few shriekers out there who remain unafraid. You see, griping about racism and sexism comes at a price. You aren’t as cool as the peeps who prefer to blend in.  I know this because I was once someone who wanted to blend in. Now, I still hang with the boys on Twitter and Hollywood-Elsewhere, and still gripe about inequality just for the plain fuck of it. As Stephen King once wrote, “sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”

Here is the list compiled by Silverstein and others who do give a damn. If you had to pick ten, which ones would you choose? I have bolded my favorites (but I haven’t seen all of them).

Chantal Ackerman- Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Allison Anders – Gas, Food, Lodging

Gillian Armstrong – My Brilliant Career

Gillian Armstrong – High Tide

Andrea Arnold- Fish Tank

Dorothy Arzner – Dance, Girl, Dance

Susanne Bier – After the Wedding

Kathryn Bigelow- The Hurt Locker

Antonia Bird – Priest

Catherine Breillat – Fat Girl

Jane Campion- The Piano

Jane Campion- Sweetie

Nike Caro- Whale Rider

Lisa Cholodenko – The Kids Are All Right

Sofia Coppola – Lost in Translation

Claire Denis – 35 Shots of Rum

Marleen Gorris – Antonia’s Line

Debra Granik- Winter’s Bone

Randa Haines – Children of a Lesser God

Mary Harron – American Psycho

Amy Heckerling – Clueless

Amy Heckerling – Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Agnieszka Holland – Europa, Europa

Nicole Holofcener – Walking and Talking

Courtney Hunt – Frozen River

Annamarie Jacir – Salt of the Sea

Patty Jenkins – Monster

Miranda July – Me and You an Everyone We Know

Kasi Lemmons- Eve’s Bayou

Barbara Loden – Wanda

Ida Lupino – The Trouble with Angels

Lucretia Martel – The Holy Girl

Elaine May – The Heartbreak Kid

Deepa Mehta – Water

Mira Nair- Monsoon Wedding

Kimberly Peirce- Boys Don’t Cry

Sarah Polley – Away From Her

Sally Potter – Orlando

Lynne Ramsay – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Kelly Reichardt- Meek’s Cutoff

Celine Sciamma – Tomboy

Joan Micklin Silver – Hester Street

Barbra Streisand – Yentl

Julie Taymor – Frida

Agnes Varda – Cleo from 5 to 7

Agnes Varda – Vagabond

Lina Wertmuller – Seven Beauties

Lina Wertmuller- Swept Away

It crushes me that we still live in a time when most of the celebrated films are all by men. White men, usually.  At least in the world of lit there is Jane Austen and Flannery O’Connor, and Harper Lee continually shaking things up. And Emily Dickinson trounces every other male poet who ever lived, in my opinion.  But the snooty film crowd seems to be mostly made up of males. When did this happen? How did this happen? Why does it continue? Is it because women make “women’s movies” and don’t make universal enough films? We all know what “universal” means, don’t we? Films about African Americans are “black films,” films about women are “women’s films.” Books about women are “chick lit.” It’s 2012 and this shit STILL goes on. Kim Kardashian isn’t helping matters.

But there’s hope on the horizon – with writers like Melissa Silverstein, Thelma Adams, Alyssa Rosenberg on the case maybe we can start to turn this ship around.

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  • Jeanne Dielman
    The Ascent
    The Piano
    Lost in Translation
    Beau Travail
    India Song
    The Truck
    The Beaches of Agnes

    As a tenth, A Question of Silence is such an important, but divisive film. It’s worth a watch, whatever you make of it. I both love and hate it.

    The lack of Marguerite Duras on Melissa Silverstein’s list is disappointing.

  • My personal 10 would be:

    After The Wedding
    The Hurt Locker
    Away From Her
    Boys Don’t Cry
    Winter’s Bone
    Monsoon Wedding
    The Kids Are All Right

  • Tero Heikkinen

    I’m sure this list is very incomplete. For example in Finland up to 40% of films are directed by women and in Hollywood it’s probably not even 5%.

    But out of these 50, here’s my Top Ten (I also have not seen all of them).

    1. The Piano
    2. Lost in Translation
    3. Europa, Europa
    4. Frozen River
    5. Fish Tank
    6. Seven Beauties
    7. The Kids Are All Right
    8. After the Wedding
    9. Priest
    10. The Hurt Locker

    I also think that The Prince of Tides is better than Yentl, but that could also be because the book is one of the greats. I don’t know if it’s the best directed film by Streisand, but it looks and sounds gorgeous.

  • Leocdc

    I’m surprised to know that Americhan Psycho and We Need to Talk About Kevin, both violent (physically and psychologically) but great films were made by women directors. Maybe this is like the surgery world on the Medicine, where women can hardly enter (at least you have a strong personality and don’t care about what the world thinks about you). Maybe women are not that passionate with cinema like men (at least talking about % of every gender). I think the answer is a mix between those 2 things.
    I would be happy to be continously amazed by women directors, so bring it on and show the world that women can still be different than the same cliche that most of the women see or like (And I’m not being discriminative, just pointing out a truth, a sad but real truth).

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Oh, darn. We Need to Talk About Kevin has to make one’s Top Ten, so that would take the #4 spot leaving The Hurt Locker out.

    Quite a modern list, but I guess women have gotten more room in the last two decades or so.

  • Leocdc

    By the way, my favourite ones from that list are Lost in Translation, The Kids are All Right and We Need to Talk About Kevin. Now, I need to see The Piano.
    Here in Chile, I don’t know any women director working and being recognized (100% of the good-great chilean movies I’ve seen were directed by guys), but I know a few great writers, and that’s it.

  • steve50

    (just off the top of my head – I know I’m missing some)
    Seven Beauties
    Fish Tank
    Beau Travail
    The Hurt Locker
    Away from Her
    Frozen River
    Lost in Translation
    American Psycho
    We Need to Talk About Kevin

  • steve50

    OH! It’s a documentary, but I have to count it:
    Harlan County USA

  • kasper

    Can I pick different ones from the directors listed:

    Chantal Ackerman: Jeanne Dielman, News from Home
    Andrea Arnold: Fish Tank
    Kathryn Bigelow: Near Dark
    Catherine Breillat: Fat Girl
    Jane Campion: Bright Star
    Sofia Coppola: Marie Antoinette
    Claire Denis : 35 Shots of Rum, Beau Travail, Friday Night, THE INTRUDER
    Amy Heckerling: Clueless
    Lucrecia Martel: La Cienaga
    Nicole Holofcener: Please Give
    Kelly Reichardt: Old Joy
    Agnes Varda: The Gleaners and I

  • The Great Dane

    Like in Finland, around half of our films in Denmark are directed by women. Weird that there’s SUCH a difference. That out of HUNDREDS of nominations for Best Director, only 4 women got in in the US.

    In Denmark, we have two film awards. The Academy’s and the journalists. And half of the Best Film/Best Director nominations are always films made by women.

    More women just NEEDS to direct. The Academy is not sexist when it comes to directing – if only 5% of films are made by women, logically women would get just 5% of the nominations. That means one nomination to a women every four years. So let’s say two more women get nominated before 2020, that’s keeping with statistics of the products being directed.

    I would be more angry if 20% of all American films were made by women and no one got nominated.

    The only way you can call them sexist is that a couple of Best Picture nominations for films made by women DIDN’T get nominated for Best Director.
    And sometimes films made by women are in the general Top 5 of what critics think are the 5 Best Films of the Year – and then they get snubbed by the Oscars. But that’s also the fact about films made by men, so it doesn’t count.

    The Academy isn’t sexist in any other category than Best Director, it would seem. So are they really THAT sexist? Or are there just too few female directors compared to men? I would dare to say that out of all the films made since 1928 in America up til now, the amount of films directed by women compared to men would statistically not amount to a higher percent than how many female director nominations that have happened.

    Just because a woman makes a very good film, it doesn’t mean she should be nominated just because she’s a woman. And although it’s a great Top 50 list, how many classics are there in that list, truly?

    I’m not saying women are lesser directors. I’m saying the exact opposite: WE NEED MORE FEMALE DIRECTORS NOW! Nomination will follow. 🙂

  • Of all the Ida Lupino directed films to pick, they pick The Trouble with Angels? Not Wanted, Outrage (despite its dated aspects), Hard, Fast & Beautiful, The Hitch-hiker and especially The Bigamist are all better than that one.

    My top 20 (couldn’t limit it to 10) list would be:

    The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
    The Piano (Jane Campion)
    Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
    Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt)
    The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May)
    Testament (Lynne Littman)
    Children of a Lesser God (Randa Haines)
    Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik)
    Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce)
    Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda)
    Away from Her (Sarah Polley)
    The Savages (Tamara Jenkins)
    Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (Marina Zenovich)
    After the Wedding (Susanne Bier)
    The Bigamist (Ida Lupino)
    Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair)
    Oscar and Lucinda (Gilliam Armstrong)
    Walking and Talking (Nicole Holofcener)
    Deliver Us from Evil (Amy Berg)
    The Kids are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)

  • drake

    i agree with almost all of the films you highlight Sasha. if i was forced i would pick “the piano” or “lost in translation” as the strongest. it’s a good sign that a majority of the films on this list were made recently. trending upwards for sure

  • And I forgot to put Morvern Callar in there somewhere. Damn.

  • WOOHOO!!!!

  • kasper

    And since Sasha brought up poetry, they’re all living, and all american (or at least publish in the US), and if we added dead ones, Emily Dickinson would be on the top, by miles, even if we added males to the list:

    Rae Armantrout
    Mei Mei Bressenburge
    Monica de la Torre
    Rachel Loden
    Harryette Mullen
    Eileen Myles
    Jena Osman
    Claudia Rankine
    Juliana Spahr
    Catherine Wagner

  • McRaj

    None of the films mentioned so far would get anywhere near my personal top 50 of all time, regardless if they were directed by women or not. I sometimes think it counterproductive focus on the lack of female representation in this or that. Of course a great number of deserving films will miss out on any list but if you name the top 20 that you feel were ‘snubbed’ by Sight and Sound how many were directed by women? What if you named your top 50?

    Having said that, it definitely seems like the quality (which is of course highly correlated with quantity) of films directed by women has been steadily increasing over the years as their level of opportunity in the biz grows. So there’s hope for the future.

  • harry

    No love for Liliana Cavani? Ripley’s Game is one of the most underrated movies of the past decade.

  • Patryk

    High Art


    I Like it Like That


    The Hurt Locker


    The Piano

    American Psycho

    Fish Tank

    Seven Beauties

  • Tye-Grr

    Of that lise, my Top 10 would be:

    1. The Hurt Locker
    2. American Psycho
    3. Lost In Translation
    4. The Piano
    5. Winter’s Bone
    6. The Kids Are All Right
    7. Away From Her
    8. Boys Don’t Cry
    9. Clueless
    10. Monster

  • julian the emperor

    What this list highlights is (unfortunately) that there is a curious lack of truly great films directed by women. I love Agnes Varda’s work, and I consider myself one of Kelly Reichardt’s staunchest fans (she is probably one of the most interesting directors in the world today), but there is not a lot on this list that can stand up to the “canonized” top 100. In that sense this list is counter-productive. I don’t think it will convince anyone that there should be more women-directed efforts in the canon.

    When it comes to lit and music, I think there is markedly more women that have made a big and lasting impact. As I noticed in an earlier post, the external difficulties of being a director (working with a crew, especially) tends to be male business, because men are more natural “leaders” in a traditionalist (male-centric) perspective.
    I think that alone has kept women away from getting a foothold in the realm of movies as compared to music and lit, where intimacy and introspection are more aligned with expression (and therefore women are more naturally “allowed” to express themselves within these confines of art).

    I hope that things will change. Because, of course, women should be just as capable of producing great pieces of art within the movie industry as everywhere else. The time is now.

  • lazarus

    Vera Chytilova’s Daisies (1966) is one of the key films of the Czech New Wave, and clearly inspired some of her compatriots in the French movement.

    It’s one of the most creative and innovative things that I’ve ever seen, and it also functions as a feminist rallying cry against oppressive male-controlled institutions.

    To leave it off any list of great films by women is a travesty.

  • Beau

    But where are Bright Star, Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy??!?!?

  • William F

    My favorite female director of all time has to be Agnes Varda, the grandmother of the French New Wave. Her film Sans Toi Ni Loi (aka Vagabond) was in my top ten films of all time. A list off the top of my head.

    1. Vagabond – Agnes Vard (1985)
    2. Cleo from 5 to 7 – Agnes Varda (1963)
    3. Chilly Scenes of Winter – Joan Micklin Silver (1982)
    4. Heartbreak Kid – Elaine May (1972)
    5. One Sings, the Other Doesn’t – Agnes Varda (1977)
    6. Clueless – Amy Heckerling (1995)
    7. Missippi Masala – Mira Nair (1991)
    8. Boys Don’t Cry – Kimbery Peirce (1999)
    9. Sakuran – Mika Ninagawa (2006)
    10. Whale Rider – Niki Caro – (2002)

  • Rashad

    Point Break is by far Bigelow’s best.

  • Andrew

    Where is RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS?!?!?

  • I’d throw Take This Waltz into the mix. Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, it’s the one that’s most stuck with me.

  • Dan

    From my list of 22 the other day

    Some of my favourite films directed by women, including two on my best of all time, aren’t on the list.

    The Ascent – Larissa Shepitko (#4 on my list)
    The Gleaners and I – Agnes Varda (#20)

    and in any discussion, I don have to include

    Whale Rider – Niki Caro
    The Hitchhiker – Ida Lupino (a much much better film than it’s generally given credit for being)

    and definitely, even if it’s a short film, it’s gotta be mentioned in a list of women’s films, since it’s been so influential

    Meshes of the Afternoon – Maya Deren

    which I saw once in my early twenties, and when I saw it again a few years ago, realized I remembered almost perfectly, and that I’d seen its influence in many different films and other media, up to and including Janelle Monae’s Tightrope.

  • This was a fun list to make. There are many great (and pioneering) directors left off the initial list, so I tried to remedy that here. These are my top 50 female-directed films, in this rough order:

    Seven Beauties (Lina Wertmuller, 76)
    Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 35)
    Chilly Scenes of Winter (Joan Micklin Silver, 81)
    Wanda (Barbara Loden, 70)
    Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple, 75)
    Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 75)
    Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
    The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda, 2008)
    Entre Nous (Diane Kurys, 83)
    Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham, 2010)
    Europa Europa (Agnieszka Holland, 90)
    The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 72)
    Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren, 43)
    Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)
    Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl, 38)
    Between The Lines (Joan Micklin Silver, 77)
    Little Women (Gillian Armstrong, 94)
    Dogfight (Nancy Savoca, 91)
    Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
    American Dream (Barbara Kopple, 90)
    Cleo From 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda, 62)
    The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
    We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
    Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev, 2006)
    Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 85)
    Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 91)
    Lost in Translation (Sophia Coppola, 2003)
    Friends with Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006)
    Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 97)
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 82)
    In The Realms of the Unreal (Jessica Yu, 2004)
    The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino, 53)
    Bastard Out of Carolina (Angelica Huston, 96)
    Titus (Julie Taymor, 99)
    Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 99)
    The Virgin Suicides (Sophia Coppola, 99)
    The Cool World (Shirley Clarke, 64)
    Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 95)
    The Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Love, 2009)
    Moonbird (amongst many other animated shorts) (Faith Hubley w/ John Hubley, 1959)
    An Angel at My Table (Jane Campion, 90)
    Sugar Cane Alley (Euzhan Palcy, 83)
    Beautiful Thing (Hettie McDonald, 96)
    American Splendor (Shari Springer Berman (w/ Robert Pulchini), 2003)
    Girlfriends (Claudia Weill, 78)
    Little Dorrit (Christine Edzard, 88)
    Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
    River of Grass (Kelly Reichardt, 94)
    Faithless (Liv Ullmann, 2000)
    Fatso (Anne Bancroft, 80)

  • m1

    Lost in Translation, Winter’s Bone, The Hurt Locker, and The Kids Are All Right are all fantastic films. An Education would fall under this category as well.

  • A great list…here are my 10 favorites from the list…

    Allison Anders – Gas, Food, Lodging

    Amy Heckerling – Clueless

    Amy Heckerling – Fast Times at Ridgemont High

    Sarah Polley – Away From Her

    Sally Potter – Orlando

    Lynne Ramsay – We Need to Talk About Kevin

    Miranda July – Me and You an Everyone We Know

    Jane Campion- The Piano

    Mary Harron – American Psycho

    Kimberly Peirce- Boys Don’t Cry

    and not on Melissa’s list of top 50 but most certainly on my list…

    Valley Girl!!! – Martha Coolidge

    Tiny Furniture – Lena Dunham

    Alison Anders – Mi Vida Loca

    Penelope Spheeris – Suburbia

    Beatiful Thing – Hettie McDonald

    Friends with Money – Nicole Holofcener

    Dogfight – Nancy Savoca

    An Education – Lone Scherfig

    Catherine Harwicke – Thirteen

    But I’m A Cheerleader – Jamie Babbit

    Susan Seidelman – Desperately Seeking Susan

    Tamara Jenkins – Slums of Beverly Hills

    Anne Fletcher – Step Up

    Betty Thomas – The Brady Bunch Movie

    Penny Marshall – Jumpin’ Jack Flash

  • j

    You reveal more about yourself when you say that Harper Lee is an author “continually shaking things up.” Interesting that you needed to strech to include an author who’s written ONE book in order to prove how literature’s been kinder to females.

  • julian the emperor

    Well, j, literature HAS been kinder to women (Harper Lee is just not a very good example), the world of films has just been exceptionally bad to women directors in comparison.

  • Cyrus

    This list is ok above but these films are more mainstream American, here are some more BRILLIANT DIRECTORS that were sorely omitted !!

    SAMIRA MAKHMALBAF for her Cannes Jury Prize winner BLACKBOARDS

    FOROUGH FARROKHZAD for her groundbreaking docufilm THE HOUSE IS BLACK

    MARJANE SATRAPI for her brilliant Oscar nominated PERSEPOLIS

    SHIRIN NESHAT for all her work, especially WOMEN WITHOUT MEN


    ASTRID HENNING-JENSEN for Oscar nominated PAW

    DIANE KURYS for Oscar nominated ENTRE NOUS





    CAROLINE LINK for her 2 Oscar nominated films BEYOND SILENCE and NOWHERE IN AFRICA (won)

    AGNES JAOUI for also Oscar nominee TASTE OF OTHERS





    ALICE GUY BLACHE (one of the first directors of fiction film). Often known as the first female director, her films include

    THE CABBAGE FAIRY in 1898 (one of the first scripted fictional films)

    LA FEE PRINTEMPS (one of the first color films, painstakingly hand-tinted)

    THE LIFE OF CHRIST (a big budget film)

    LOIS WEBER (directed over 100 movies in Silent age, one talkie) films include A HEROINE OF ’76 and MERCHANT OF VENICE

  • John

    I don’t believe in “greatest films”, I believe in “my favorite films”. So, my 10 favorite movies directed by women are:


    (north country and pet sematary were the runners-up)

  • I’d include more Holofcener films, especially Please Give. And I know these examples are a co-director situation with a man, but these women also did great work:

    AMERICAN SPLENDOR – Shari Springer Bergman
    SUGAR – Anna Boden
    CITY OF GOD – Katia Lund


    I would’ve loved to see GRACE OF MY HEART and BRIGHT STAR included as well.

  • knee play

    fat girl (catherine breillat)
    beau travail (claire denis)
    me and you and everyone we know (miranda july)
    somewhere (sofia coppola)
    wendy and lucy (kelly reichardt)
    the piano (jane campion)
    high art (lisa cholodenko)
    lovely and amazing (nicole holofcener)
    the hurt locker (kathryn bigelow)
    white material (claire denis)

  • Watermelons

    no particular order, here are my choices:

    • The Fourth Dimension (Trinh T. Minh-ha)
    • Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola)
    • At Land (Maya Deren)
    • My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong)
    • Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt)
    • Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik)
    • Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl)
    • The Tango Lesson (Sally Potter)
    • Water (Deepa Mehta)
    • The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

  • alan of montreal

    Where’s Julie Dash? Cheryl Dunye? Patricia Rozema?

    Anyway, my 10 (and not all represented on the list) are as follows:

    Double Happiness – Mina Shum
    Watermelon Woman – Cheryl Dunye
    Eve’s Bayou – Kasi Lemmons
    Water – Deepa Mehta
    Brødre – Susanne Bier (much better than After the Wedding)
    Hollow Reed – Angela Pope
    Boys Don’t Cry – Kimberly Pierce
    Priest – Antonia Bird
    Frozen River – Courtney Hunt
    Freida Lee Mock – Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision

    Honourable Mentions:
    Winter’s Bone – Debra Granik
    Morvern Callar – Lynne Ramsey
    High Art – Lisa Cholodenko
    The Piano – Jane Campion
    Kung Fu Panda 2 – Jennifer Yuh
    Brave – Brenda Chapman (with Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell)
    American Splendor – Shari Springer Berman (with Robert Pulcini)
    The Corporation – Jennifer Abbott (with Mark Achbar)
    I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing – Patricia Rozema
    Manufactured Landscapes – Jennifer Baichwal
    Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi (with Vincent Paronnaud)
    Women without Men – Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari
    Proof – Jocelyn Moorhouse
    Go Fish – Rose Troche
    Floating Life – Clara Law
    Lovely and Amazing – Nicole Holofcener
    Thirteen Conversations about One Thing – Jill Sprecher

    Frida definitely does NOT belong on that list!

  • alan of montreal

    forgot to add I Shot Andy Warhol by Mary Harron

  • alan of montreal

    And Laurel Canyon by Lisa Cholodenko and Half-Nelson by Anna Boden (with Ryan Fleck)

  • Ruth

    The bottom line here Sasha is that arguably none of these films deserve to make a Sight & Sound Film Top 50, regardless of bigot attitudes to films directed by women. There are lots of great films here, even some classics. But no all-time films. Why would someone want to read about all-time films directed by women when they can read about all-time films full stop (the real thing). Films removed from their creators, films just loved for their brilliance.

    Sasha, I respect your opinion pieces on inequality, and posts talking about the positive things women are doing in the film industry is the right way to go. But women honestly dont have it that bad compared to some other groups. For instance, I dont know of a lot of great transgender directors. I can think of atleast 50 privileges that Men AND women take for granted in day-to-day life when transgender people are discriminated against. Female equality also isnt in the shade, like transgender issues are in the shade of gay issues. I think this female equality vitriol needs some perspective. Attitudes are immensely better than they were 20 years ago. Yes, you will still hear some bigoted attitudes at times, but men (and women) as a whole are improving by the year. Remember that men (white men in western society especially) grow up in a world designed by them. They dont ever need to look outside the world view they were born into, as their world view is mainstream. It’s not their fault as individuals.

    There are people that find it harder to be directors than women. Women have their foot in the door, and there are currently a lot of talented female directors forging their careers. Great films directed by women will continue to increase. Posts like this help remind us how many talented directors there are out there 🙂

    I am a woman, but I would never choose to see one film over another because it is directed by a woman. Films like Vertigo and Tokyo Story arent making the all-time list purely because they are directed by men, they are making the list because they are outstanding films.

  • adunis

    I can’t comprehend the fact that The Ascent is not on a Greatest films by female directors list.

  • Dan

    adunis, I cannot agree more.

  • Rob Y.


    KUDOS for the Dickinson acknowledgement. I wouldn’t say that she “trounces every male poet ever lived” but she is near the top.

  • kasper

    Rob Y: I would say that.

  • murtaza

    I don’t how many of you people have seen but MIRA NAIR’S SALAAM BOMBAY, an Oscar nominee in 1988 was the best she ever made. That movie was an honest horror movie.

  • murtaza

    And SUSANNE BIER’S best was IN A BETTER WORLD. Very poetic and touching, delivering a very important lesson.

  • Fish Tank was fantastic, probably my favorite on the list if not the best. What strikes me is how these films are, collectively, a low-budget, largely independent bunch. Women can make good, personal films, but only with low-risk investments, right? If Zoe Kazan can write a clever flick like Ruby Sparks and shadow a talented helmer for a little while, she could direct. The brains, eye, and obvious pedigree say she has the insight. Hope it happens.

    Plenty on the list above I haven’t seen, but of the ones I did:
    1. Fish Tank
    2. After the Wedding
    3. American Psycho
    4. Lost in Translation
    5. Winter’s Bone
    6. The Hurt Locker
    7. Boys Don’t Cry
    8. The Heartbreak Kid
    9. The Kid Are All Right
    *The Virgin Suicides, even though it’s not on the list.

  • Beth Stevens

    Films directed by women that I would list among the 50 greatest of all time.

    The Piano – Jane Campion (in my Top 10)
    Vagabond – Agnes Varda (in my Top 10)

    Beau Travail – Claire Denis
    Meshes of the Afternoon – Maya Deren
    Eve’s Bayou – Kasi Lemmons
    Sweetie – Jane Campion
    The Beaches of Agnes – Agnes Varda
    The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow
    Meek’s Cutoff – Kelly Reichardt

  • Beth Stevens

    Some Honorable Mentions for Top 50: Winter’s Bone, Laurel Canyon, Cleo From 5 to 7, The Gleaners and I, An Angel at My Table, Bright Star, Strange Days, The Weight of Water, Wendy & Lucy, Swept Away, Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Your Sister’s Sister, Red Road, The Hitch-Hiker, 35 Shots of Rum, The Headless Woman, Everyone Else

  • caleb roth

    The Ascent is the best movie ever made by a woman. It is the best war movie ever made. It is one of the 10 best movies ever made by anyone.

  • Richard E

    Unfortunately there’s an elephant in this room…one filmmaker so controversial that we dare not speak her name. Yet she is arguably the only female whose achievement and influence on cinema wins her a place with the “big boys.” And as wall-to-wall television coverage of the Olympics permeates the world at this moment, her ghost can be still be felt.

  • Dan

    I think the sheer physicality of parts of The Ascent would astonish people who haven’t seen it.

  • steve50

    OK – I’m convinced. Never seen The Ascent, but I’m looking forward to it now. Thanks for the tip!

  • Robert A.

    I agree with Beth Stevens about The Piano. While The Piano wouldn’t make my Top 10 of all time, it would definitely make my Top 50.

    And we’re not alone in this assessment. Back in 1995, Time Out Film Guide did a poll on the highlights of a century of film. They polled international directors, producers, actors, programmers and critics to see what they felt were the highlights of the last 100 years in film. Only three movies from the 1990s made the list–The Piano, Schindler’s List, and Three Colours: Red–and The Piano finished the highest of the three, tied with Pierrot le Fou for #40. They also conducted a Time Out Readers poll, where Time Out readers got to submit their Top 10s, and The Piano also finished in the Top 100 on the Reader’s list, at #42, surprisingly close to how it finished on the original list.

    To argue that movies directed by women are nice and compelling and maybe even minor classics but they just aren’t great and can’t really compete with movies in the time-honored cinematic canon, is problematic. For one, obviously women have not had the directorial opportunities over the past 100 years that men have. But also, what films make the “canon” itself are largely determined by men. If these lists are being determined by directors, producers, critics and so on, and these fields are dominated more by men than by women, the choice of what is great and worthy of the “canon” is going to naturally skew toward films with male visions, because 1) way more films directed by men exist and 2) men will tend to gravitate toward films that speak to his own experience/interests/aesthetics etc.

    I guess my point is, if directors and producers and critics were predominantly female instead of male, we might see some shifting in these canonical choices. Maybe.

  • julian the emperor

    Robert A: I don’t think anyone in this forum would argue that women have had the same opportunities as men in the movie industry, so there is really nothing for you to find problematic. If they had had the same opportunities, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t have delivered masterpieces on equal footing with their male contemporaries, but they did not. Alas, they can’t really compete with the male output. Nor do they necessarily have to.

  • Mark

    1. Near Dark
    2. Point Break
    3. Strange Days
    4. Lost In Translation
    5. Morvern Callar
    6. The Hurt Locker
    7. The Virgin Suicides
    8. Ratcatcher
    9. We Need To Talk About Kevin
    10. Winter’s Bone

  • Tom Dewey

    Really? Someone chose “Jumpin Jack Flash” over Yentl? I realize Streisand is always going to be a polarizing person- but does not anyone remember what it took her to try and get this film done- and in communist Czechoslovakia at the time. I will admit it is a flawed film- but come on folks- it was a wonderful accomplishment by a woman at a time when very few films were being directed by women. Sheeesh. Give Barbra a break—- and a little credit.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    The Piano is right up there among the greats. It would’ve won Best Picture if it didn’t have to compete with an unbeatable monster that was Schindler’s List. Almost any other year it would’ve been luckier in awards front.

    It’s also one of those films – one of many – that owe a lot to its composer. Like Vertigo, for example. Some films are just like that. You are not able to write a review without mentioning the score.

    My favourite scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LyL2trGcO0

    OK? Seriously. From 2:05 onwards, you are a cold person if it doesn’t get to you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LyL2trGcO0

    But this is the best bit of music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5BLPaBGwCM

    I still can’t believe that Michael Nyman was not even nominated for Original Score. I think they just wanted to make sure that John Williams won this time. And he would have, yes. But still.

  • My 10 favorites from the list (haven’t seen all of them):

    [In No Particular Order]

    Kathryn Bigelow- The Hurt Locker
    Jane Campion- The Piano
    Nike Caro- Whale Rider
    Lisa Cholodenko – The Kids Are All Right
    Sofia Coppola – Lost in Translation
    Debra Granik- Winter’s Bone
    Deepa Mehta – Water
    Mira Nair- Monsoon Wedding
    Kimberly Peirce- Boys Don’t Cry
    Lynne Ramsay – We Need to Talk About Kevin

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