103 Essential Films By Female Filmmakers: Clueless, Lost In Translation, Ishtar and More

A great film, as we all know, is a great film, no mat­ter the age, nation­al­i­ty, or sex of its direc­tor. But as human beings, we also all know how much fun we get out of cat­e­go­riz­ing and list­mak­ing, espe­cial­ly when it comes to works of art and those who make them. And so today we give you Cin­e­ma Fanat­ic’s A Year with Women: 103 Essen­tial Films by Female Film­mak­ers, proof that, though the world of film may have pro­duced few­er female film­mak­ers than male film­mak­ers so far, their films, tak­en indi­vid­u­al­ly, hard­ly com­mand less of our inter­est.

“In an attempt to cre­ate a bet­ter, more inclu­sive list of great films by women,” writes the site’s author Marya E. Gates. “I polled over 500 crit­ics, film­mak­ers, blog­gers, his­to­ri­ans, pro­fes­sors and casu­al film view­ers, ask­ing them to tell me what films direct­ed (or co-direct­ed) by women are essen­tial view­ing. Some peo­ple only respond­ed with as lit­tle as five votes, oth­ers sub­mit­ted hun­dreds of films. In the end, I received over 7,000 votes for 1,100+ dif­fer­ent films. After tal­ly­ing up this data, with ties fac­tored in, I then had a list of 103 essen­tial films direct­ed by women.”

Gates presents her list in reverse order of votes earned, each with a still frame, a scrolling expe­ri­ence cer­tain­ly worth enjoy­ing in its entire­ty. But if you’d like to take a glance first at what end­ed up on the top ten, here you have it:

  1. Clue­less, 1995 (dir. Amy Heck­er­ling) – 147 votes
  2. Lost in Trans­la­tion, 2003 (dir. Sofia Cop­po­la) – 144 votes
  3. The Piano, 1993 (dir. Jane Cam­pi­on) – 120 votes
  4. Sel­ma, 2014 (dir. Ava DuVer­nay) – 118 votes
  5. Amer­i­can Psy­cho, 2000 (dir. Mary Har­ron) – 110 votes
  6. Cléo from 5 to 7, 1962 (dir. Agnès Var­da) – 93 votes
  7. The Hurt Lock­er, 2009 (dir. Kathryn Bigelow) – 92 votes
  8. Fish Tank, 2009 (dir. Andrea Arnold) – 84 votes
  9. The Vir­gin Sui­cides, 1999 (dir. Sofia Cop­po­la) – 84 votes
  10. Winter’s Bone, 2010 (dir. Debra Granik) – 75 votes

In the inter­view at the top of the post, Amy Heck­er­ling, direc­tor of Clue­less, the cham­pi­on of the list, talks about her career in Hol­ly­wood as the direc­tor of not just that epochal Bev­er­ly Hills teen com­e­dy but of the likes of Fast Times at Ridge­mont High and, more recent­ly, Vamps. In the clip below that, Sofia Cop­po­la and star Bill Mur­ray talk about their time mak­ing the close run­ner-up Lost in Trans­la­tion.

All these films could, of course, eas­i­ly appear on any crit­ic’s top-ten list, with or with­out a delib­er­ate focus on woman direc­tors — and most of them, in fact, won very lit­tle of their con­sid­er­able fame sim­ply by being woman-direct­ed. Chan­tal Aker­man’s Jeanne Diel­man, 23 Quai du Com­merce, 1080 Brux­elles would cer­tain­ly appear on mine, though the 103 Essen­tial Films by Female Film­mak­ers poll places it just below, at num­ber 11. And sure­ly the vig­or­ous piece of Hol­ly­wood cyber­punk Strange Days, which comes in last among the works of Kathryn Bigelow scat­tered across the list, mer­its a high­er rank­ing.

Kel­ly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cut­off and Wendy and Lucy make the list, but what of her Old Joy, sure­ly the most absorb­ing cin­e­mat­ic tale ever told of two semi-estranged bud­dies hik­ing in the woods, let alone told by a woman? And has­n’t the world come around on Elaine May’s Ishtar, which places a mere #102 but whose sta­tus as a mas­ter­work Richard Brody clar­i­fies in The New York­er video above? Then again, we don’t make these lists to agree, or even to con­vince; we make them to argue the movies, a pur­suit — to every cin­e­ma-lov­ing man, woman, and child — almost as fun as watch­ing them.

via Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Ground­break­ing Sil­hou­ette Ani­ma­tions of Lotte Reiniger: Cin­derel­la, Hansel and Gre­tel, and More

Alice Guy-Blaché: The First Female Direc­tor & the Cin­e­mat­ic Trail­blaz­er You Like­ly Nev­er Heard Of

No Women Need Apply: A Dis­heart­en­ing 1938 Rejec­tion Let­ter from Dis­ney Ani­ma­tion

Watch The Hitch-Hik­er by Ida Lupino (the Only Female Direc­tor of a 1950s Noir Film)

The First Fem­i­nist Film, Ger­maine Dulac’s The Smil­ing Madame Beudet (1922)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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