52 Films By Women: A Definitive List

3. Near Dark (1987) 

Director: Kathryn Bigelow


Kathryn Bigelow is one of the few female directors on this list to direct big budget blockbuster cinema. Near Dark is her first film, and it’s a bizarre mash up of Western genre tropes, and goofy vampire horror. It’s perhaps most similar to another eighties classic, The Lost Boys.

Other films directed by Kathryn Bigelow:

4. Big (1988) 

Director: Penny Marshall


The film that made loveable actor Tom Hanks famous, Big is the story of a magical transformation. After 13 year old Josh wishes to be big at a spooky fortune telling booth at a fun fair, he wakes up the next day in the body of a thirty year old man. What follows is a sweet account of a child’s take on the adult world.

Other films directed by Penny Marshall:

5. Holy Smoke (1999)

Director: Jane Campion


Leaving the eighties behind (at least for the moment), Holy Smoke is the next film on our list. Starring Harvey Keitel, alongside Kate Winslet, Campion’s film considers themes of sexuality, control, and individuality. It places its male lead in a female dominated context, deconstructing gender politics in the process.

Other films directed by Jane Campion:

6. The Prince of Tides (1991) 

Director: Barbra Streisand


The Prince of Tides is a poignant love story about memory, loss, and sadness. Frequently melodramatic, but touching too, the film stands out for its strong central pairing. Nick Nolte stars alongside Barbra Streisand and both give excellent performances.

Other films directed by Barbra Streisand:

7. Little Man Tate (1991) 

Director: Jodie Foster


From former child star Jodie Foster comes Little Man Tate, a film about another gifted child. The narrative follows Fred Tate, a seven year old maths genius and skilled artist. But the film doesn’t shy away from the difficulties that Fred experiences coming to terms with his place in the world.

Other films directed by Jodie Foster:

8. Dogfight (1991) 

Director: Nancy Savoca


Starring River Phoenix, and Lili Tyler, and featuring Brendan Fraser, Dogfight is an all American story about a boy meeting a girl. Phoenix plays a US Marine about to head out to Vietnam. Before he goes he meets a waitress, turning what starts out as a male dominated story into something more nuanced.

Other films directed by Nancy Savoca:

9. Children of a Lesser God (1986) 

Director: Randa Haines


Another movie from the eighties, Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God stars John Hurt and Marlee Matlan. This critically acclaimed film tells the story of a teacher at a deaf school who falls in love with a gifted female student.

Other films directed by Randa Haines:

10. Orlando (1991) 

Director: Sally Potter

orlando-002Orlando takes place over the course of 400 years, starring Tilda Swinton as both a man and a woman. From the the court of Queen Elizabeth, to the present day, Sally Potter’s film details the strange life of an ageless aristocrat whose gender changes over time.

Other films directed by Sally Potter:

11. Wayne’s World (1992) 

Director: Penelope Spheeris


This comedy classic doesn’t need an introduction. From Mike Myers’ performance, to the endlessly quotable dialogue, Wayne’s World is an iconic cult hit. It’s likely been a while since you watched it – dig out your VHS copy and revisit the early nineties.

Other films directed by Penelope Spheeris:

12. Half Baked (1998) 

Director: Tamra Davis


Dave Chappelle’s ode to Mary Jane, Tamra Davis’ film is an excellent hazy cinematic indulgence. There’s a stoned police horse, bountiful medical grade marijuana, and a crazy doped up scheme to rescue a pal from prison.

Other films directed by Tamra Davis:

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