A few days ago, my husband, myself, and our friend Emmeli attended a screening at Warner Brothers. The event was for a handful of short films, and afterwards, as the three of us were discussing the movies we’d just seen, the conversation ventured into us all wondering why more women don’t direct.
Of all the films I love, there are surprisingly few that were directed by women. I don’t think that it’s necessarily my taste, I just think that there aren’t as many female directors as male. And it seems that many of the prominent women directors were born into it, like Sofia Coppola or Drew Barrymore.
The lack of female directors doesn’t depress me or anything like that, but it does make me take notice when I do find a movie I love and it’s directed by a woman. The weird thing with these directors, though, is that while they have directed movies that I adore, almost all of them have directed a movie that I really hate, too. It’s strange.
However, here are a few ladies who know their way around a set: my all-time Top Ten Favorite Female Directors.
I still remember the first time I saw Lovely and Amazing in the theater. It caught me completely off guard with its fantastic writing, charm, and amazing characters. When I found out that the same person who wrote it also directed it, I was so excited. And when I found out that the person was a woman, it made total sense. Her characters are neurotic, so girly, and worried in only a way that a woman could understand and translate onto the screen. Since the release of Lovely and Amazing, I haven’t missed a Nicole Holofcener movie, and I also caught up on her beautifully written debut film, Walking and Talking.
Sofia’s movies are so pretty and dreamy. When I heard that someone was adapting The Virgin Suicides into a movie, I was instantly jealous and upset. I had wanted to adapt it. But as soon as I went to see it, I knew that no one else could have ever done the movie except for this girl. She got it down perfectly, and then she blew me away with Lost in Translation three years later. And while I wasn’t crazy about Marie Antionette, it was definitely a visual feast. Sophia’s movies carry a hazy, dreamlike atmosphere, and she does have a way with actors. I hope she continues to make films. I’m pretty sure she will.
Awww I love Nora! Sleepless in Seattle is one of the funniest, sweetest, and most quotable romantic comedies ever made. At least it is with me and my husband. You’ve Got Mail is cute too, and Nora gets bonus points for writing the outstanding screenplays for When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, and Heartburn, among others, of course. Nora’s style is classically comic. By that, I mean that she represents a time when you could take the whole family to watch the latest romantic comedy. Now you can’t really do that, but once upon a time you could—and during that time, Nora was the queen. I respect and admire this funny lady.
Oh, Julie. I forgive you for the horrible mess that was Across the Universe. It’s okay. Sure, you totally butchered the Beatles’ music and directed one of the silliest, most eye roll-inducing movies of all time. But I still love you. Why, you ask? Because you directed Titus, my favorite Shakespeare play, so beautifully. Because you directed Frida, a gorgeous and imaginative biopic of one of my favorite artists. Because you made Broadway’s The Lion King an international phenomenon. And most importantly, because you have an incredibly strong vision that brings the movie screen to life. Let’s just never speak of Across the Universe again, okay?
Amy Heckerling would probably make my list with just Fast Times at Ridgemont High alone, but she happens to also have directed a few other great ones—Clueless and A Night at the Roxbury. You may think I’m kidding, but I love both of those. She also directed Loser, which I remember liking (it’s been awhile), as well as a handful of others. Very sadly, she also directed the horrendous I Could Never Be Your Woman, but she may redeem herself with her upcoming film Vamps, in which she will reunite with her Clueless superstar, Alicia Silverstone. I believe in this woman!
Oh, so impressive! Mary first got my attention when I was sixteen with 1996’s I Shot Andy Warhol, an incredible biopic on Valerie Solanas which happens to be perfectly acted and extremely well-directed. The film has always stayed with me. Then I heard that she was the one who directed American Psycho—a pretty brave movie for a woman. Not only did she direct American Psycho, but she directed it with immense talent. I love Mary’s choices, her style, and her courage. She took on one of the manliest and most shocking novels of all time and delivered a pretty good adaptation.
Okay: to be fair, Tamara Jenkins has only directed one movie that I love. But she makes my list because that movie happens to be ABSOLUTELY, 100% PERFECT. I am, of course, talking about 1998’s The Slums of Beverly Hills, one of the most underrated films of all time. This is a specimen of a perfect movie. Everything is flawless, including the acting, music, casting, writing, and directing—and it all comes together to form a masterpiece. I was disappointed in her follow-up movie, The Savages, but to be honest, Tamara could never make another movie in her life, and she’d still be a hero to me because of Slums.
Catherine makes my list because she terrifies me. Her movies get under my skin and stay there. They are often intelligent and moving, but they’re also very disturbing. Catherine’s films usually have something important to say, but be prepared if you decide to watch one of them. They honestly do scare me. I like them because they tend to be good studies in character and acting, and Catherine is also patient with the pacing of her movies. She very carefully chooses where to place her “shock” scenes. This is demonstrated best of all in 2001’s Fat Girl, which is my favorite of her movies (so far). She’s very original and so talented—but be careful when viewing this girl’s work.
Hmmm, Jane Campion. While I can’t say that I have loved any of her films in particular, I do find each one that I’ve seen very interesting—interesting enough to keep my eye on her. I’ve seen The Piano, Holy Smoke, Sweetie, In the Cut, and Bright Star, and each of these movies has a very distinct look and directing style. They are extremely memorable, but I think they tend to lack energy. Even so, every time I hear that Jane Campion is doing a new film, I’m intrigued and I always enjoy them. I hope she continues.
Cute little Lucrecia Martel directed a movie called The Holy Girl that I saw six years ago. Although it was awhile back, I’ve never been able to get the movie out of my mind. It’s a quiet, absorbing, and very original film, and I think it’s amazing. The story is centered around a teenage girl and her mother, who run a swanky Argentinean hotel. It’s a tense little drama that just attached itself to my brain. Lucrecia has a newer movie called The Headless Woman that I haven’t seen yet. I can’t wait to see if it can match The Holy Girl.
Drew Barrymore and Zoe Cassavetes
These two get honorable mentions because they’ve only directed one feature each, but I think they have amazing potential as filmmakers.
I’m really liking Drew’s directing path. Whip It! was charming and well done, with a really fresh atmosphere that I believe comes from understanding the way young girls think. She also directed “Our Deal”, a music video for Best Coast that is really, really cute.
Miss Zoe directed a terrific movie Broken English. I definitely hope she keeps making films. Broken English is charming, smart, and sweet. Plus, it stars Parker Posey, and that should be enough to make anyone want to watch it.
There you have it. These ladies should all get together and direct one big movie, since they’re all talented female directors. They should do it now, while there’s still just a handful of them. I’ll help.