Best films of the 2010s directed by women, ranked
The renaissance of female directors producing more films began around 2009. When Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman in Oscar history to win Best Director for the Injured locker, there has been a change. While the numbers remain incredibly low compared to male directors, films directed by women have garnered more success, bigger budgets and huge box office success – for example, Patty Jenkins and Chloé Zhao leading the way. huge superhero properties for DC and MCU, respectively. But also: thanks in part to international directors with acclaimed art house successes from the world’s most recognized film institutions, women have seen their films reach a wider audience. Like Julia Ducournau’s victory at Cannes for Titanium and the resounding success of Céline Sciamma A portrait of a lady on fire. The 2010s were a fruitful creative era for filmmakers everywhere. As such, here are the best films of the 2010s directed by women.
8 high life
French author Claire Denis has used her artistic prowess to create a psycho-sexual post-apocalyptic nightmare set deep in the darkest parts of space. Led by a somber and confident performance from Robert Pattinson and co-starring rap superstar Andre Benjamin alongside French icon Juliette Binoche, high life is as epic as it is intimate. Binoche plays a sinister scientist, playing mind games with all the inmates aboard a ship set to travel to the sun. The film is peppered with flashbacks and violent attacks as all the passers-by determine who to trust. high life is one of Denis’ best in his long and storied career.
A wispy, wispy drama of dumb young love set in the 1980s, Memory is an autobiographical look at the life of a young film student by British director Joanna Hogg. With a landmark performance of cinematic royalty, Tilda Swinton’s daughter Honor shines as a confused young artist trying to become her own. There’s not much plot, but a slow, sharp look at the puzzling moments of making a movie and navigating a love life with someone much older than you.
6 The farewell
A caring and loving look at the difficult relationships that extended families weave through generational pain and cultural differences, The farewell was Lulu Wang’s masterful entry into American independent cinema. Starring Awkwafina as the American descendant of her family’s Chinese traditions, she is forced to reconcile these differences when she discovers her grandmother is dying. The film straddles the thin line that many family dramas do, proving to be poignant, funny, and inherently universal as well.
5 zero dark thirty
Kathryn Bigelow is no stranger to brutal, frantic bursts of action. Making a career in the vein of some of the best action directors of the past 25 years, she decided to pursue her interest in America’s war in the Middle East. After his Oscar the Injured locker with zero dark thirty. A tense, claustrophobic look at the hunt for Osama bin Laden is supercharged by a career performance from Jessica Chastain as the woman who led the hunt and devoted much of her life to tracking him down. The film is full of iconic Bigelow moments, including car chases, shootings, and assassinations that add an air of trauma, caution, and tragedy.
4 first cow
Kelly Reichardt’s study of male friendships in the middle of the American frontier is also a concise and meticulous description of the Pacific Northwest during the Gold Rush. In first cow, Reichardt’s patient direction proved effective when he focused on the changing and tumultuous climate faced by many men who pass through it. The film also features winning performances from John Magaro and Orion Lee. Play two trappers on a quest for fortune. Thriving on the riches they beckon for, capitalism has to offer.
3 lady bird
Greta Gerwig’s heartfelt debut as a director showed that she had all the makings to be a great writer-director. A humorous and energetic look at the life of a high school girl whose insistence on being herself pushes her working-class mother into a wall, lady bird is honest about insecurity. With an unhinged Laurie Metcalf as the mother and the ever-reliable Saoirse Ronan as the titular character, the film is bolstered by their incredible performances, playing on the mother-daughter dynamic with humorous tension. The two are at odds, but also grateful for each other. Gerwig’s film is an unyielding look at growing into the person you will become.
2 Portrait of a lady on fire
A slow burn of secrecy, intimacy and an affair that could ruin the lives of the women involved, A portrait of a lady on fire is a transcendent period drama. Not just an investigative look at the creative process and the artist’s relationship to authenticity. Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel infuse nuanced complexities into their performances as the artist/muse relationship reaches its climax. Which makes the tragedy of their forbidden relationship all the more real, tender and heartbreaking. Céline Sciamma does her best work here as a director of careful and measured relationships about women who discover themselves.
1 We need to talk about Kevin
Lynn Ramsay’s haunting, nightmarish and darkly beautiful story of motherhood gone wrong is an epic masterpiece of tragedy. An all-too-real look at what it’s like to watch your child grow up to be a murderer under Ramsay’s sleek yet brutal guidance was sure to make your skin crawl. The depiction of violence is brutal and bloody. While the relationship between Tilda Swinton as she struggles to love a child who hates her, played psycho creepily by Ezra Miller, is as scary as it gets. As we slowly watch relationships deteriorate and the house burn down in We need to talk about Kevin.
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