It’s a truism to say that Hollywood is a boy’s club but Dr. Stacy L. Smith of the University of Southern California put this saying into stark, empirical terms: a mere 4.4% of the top 100 box-office releases in the USA were directed by women. That’s it. It’s a percentage that should be used to describe the amount of cream in whole milk, not half the human race.
The truth is that the film industry in general, not just Hollywood, is dominated by men. In books on cinema and classes on film history, female directors frequently get overlooked.
Over at MUBI, someone aptly named Ally the Listmaker has taken great pains to counter that. She has compiled an exhaustive collection of movies by women. The list runs the gamut from popcorn fare like Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995), to foreign art house films like Chantal Akerman’s The Captive (2000), to challenging experimental movies (anything by Peggy Ahwesh).
Ally’s list contains over 1400 movie titles, mostly films made within the past 20 years. Yet within this list are others lists – “Films Directed by Danish Women,” “Actresses Who Have Tried Their Hand at Directing” – revealing a mind-boggling range and diversity of movies. Here are a few favorites:
- The Gleaners & I (2000) – Agnes Varda
A fascinating meditation on art, aging and foraging off leftovers of others. Varda turns the act of hunting for potatoes into a political act. You can watch the first four minutes of the film above.
- The Apple (1998) – Samira Makhmalbaf
The daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, one of the true trailblazers of the Iranian new wave, Samira proved to be a cinematic talent in her own right with this movie that blurs the line between documentary and narrative.
- Wendy and Lucy (2008) – Kelly Reichardt
A woman at the margins of society whose life utterly comes apart after her car breaks down. Riechardt’s direction is slow, quiet and ultimately devastating.
- The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006) – Sophie Fiennes
Slavoj Zizek, the reigning rock star/comedian of the cultural theory world, riffs on some of the greatest films ever made.
- American Psycho (2000) – Mary Harron
Perhaps the best portrait out there on the mindset of the 1%. You’ll never listen to Huey Lewis and the News in the same way.
Check out the full list here. And if you’re interested in more, take a look at this sublist – Female Directors Present on the Jonathan Rosenbaum 1000 Essentials List.
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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads. The Veeptopus store is here.