Fortunately, now more than ever, talented women are directing major films and winning major awards and nominations thanks to their commitment and hard work that bleeds through their movies as they transpire beautiful stories to the big screen — just two years ago, Chinese director Chloé Zhao won a Best Picture Academy Award for Nomadland. And while the film industry endures as a male-dominated one even today, there are lots of gifted women whose work stands out.
On the other hand, there are also extremely underrated films that deserve more love and appreciation than what they got. From intriguing dramas to compelling horrors, here are 10 overlooked movies directed by talented women that surely deserve your attention.
‘Middle of Nowhere’ (2012)
This Ava DuVernay (director of critically-acclaimed movie Selma) film focuses on Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) as she navigates through life after dropping out of medical school in order to focus on her imprisoned husband’s well-being. Ruby attempts to get Derek (Omari Hardwick) out of prison by paying the bills for lawyers and never once leaving his side.
Middle of Nowhere tells the other side of things that “prison” films usually don’t cover — or at least not as much. It focuses on Ruby’s struggles and anxieties as she finds herself stuck and imprisoned by all the responsibilities she has to deal with. A moving and realistic picture, DuVernay’s indie film amazes viewers even with its low budget.
‘Fish Tank’ (2009)
Following aspiring hip-hop dancer 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis), this Andrea Arnold 2009 coming-of-age film focuses on the character’s upbringing after she’s thrown out of school and awaits admission to a referrals unit. When her mother Joanne (Kierston Wareing) brings in her new boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender), they begin an alarming bond.
Considered a very accurate portrayal of British poverty, Fish Tank is very true to life and impactful. Exploring dysfunctional family dynamics and the dangerous effects of lacking a loving/positive male figure during childhood, Arnold’s film is at times painful and hard to watch, but a very necessary watch nonetheless.
‘The Diary of a Teenage Girl’ (2015)
Funnily enough, The Diary of a Teenage Girl also tackles the “mother’s boyfriend” sub-plot, but this time in 1970s groovy San Francisco. Bel Powley is Minnie, an aspiring comic book artist, in this Marielle Heller coming-of-age. It tells Minnie’s journey as a young girl and focuses on her turbulent relationship with self-image.
One of the most interesting things about The Diary of a Teenage Girl is undoubtedly Minnie’s character development, how she ultimately discovered herself as a woman, and how real her struggles felt. This engaging, at times bizarre movie tackles the vulnerability and anxieties that come with being a teenage girl.
This Australian treasure revolves around imaginative Celia’s (Rebecca Smart), prone to fantasies after her beloved grandmother’s death, upbringing in rural Australia during the 1950s. Brilliantly directed by Ann Turner, this dark drama fantasy movie is an uneasy but charming childhood tale that’ll make viewers feel uncomfortable and safe at the same time.
Unlike anything anyone has ever seen, Celia is an intriguing movie that focuses on the way a child deals with loss and grief. Shaken up by the death of her grannie, the character makes her way through the incomprehensible world of grown-ups.
‘Daughters of the Dust’ (1991)
The first film directed by an African-American woman to get a wide theatrical release in the United States, Daughters of the Dust is a groundbreaking movie that serves as an interesting outlook on Gullah culture — it follows the unconventional story of three generations of women living on the South Carolina Sea Islands in 1902.
Written and directed by Julie Dash, this powerful, beautiful, uniquely poetic film features lovely images and wonderful costumes throughout. Tackling themes of old and new, Daughters of Dust explores family and ancestry and illuminates the untold tales of the Gullah people.
Adepero Oduye brings Alike, a 17-year-old Black teenager from Brooklyn who is eager to be kissed by a girl and to find a girlfriend in this emotionally powerful film. Pariah reflects on Alike’s self-development journey as she slowly but surely embraces her true identity and risks friendship, family, and heartbreak.
Criminally underrated, Pariah is a wonderful film by director Dee Rees, and it features some incredibly raw performances, including from protagonist Oduye. Delievering a touching plot, Rees’ movie depicts feelings of aloneness, alienation and tackles self-discovery as it navigates through Alike’s life.
‘Seven Beauties’ (1975)
Lina Wertmüller‘s Oscar-nominated war comedy drama takes place during the WWII. When Germans capture Pasqualino Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannini) and send him to a prison camp, he does what he can to survive. In a series of flashbacks as Pasqualino looks back in time, viewers are introduced to his problematic past and family, including his seven unattractive sisters.
Considered, to some, one of the best features ever made, Seven Beauties features an unforgettable soundtrack and amazing script. Hilarious yet disturbing all the same, Wertmüller‘s movie is guaranteed to make viewers laugh, especially as one learns Pasqualino’s misadventures that brought him to the war in the first place.
‘Beau Travail’ (1999)
Loosely based on Herman Melville’s 1888 novella Billy Budd and wonderfully directed by Claire Denis, Beau Travail tells the interesting story of an ex-Foreign Legion officer, Galoup (Denis Lavant), as he looks back to his life leading troops in Djibouti. Beautifully shot and highly enigmatic, this seductive, captivating movie quietly explores the protagonist’s awaked homosexual feelings post the arrival of a promising young recruit, Sentain (Grégoire Colin).
There’s no doubt that Beau Travail is intriguing from beginning to end. Denis’ film is never short on poetic effect and beautifully explores masculinity, ego, regret, and life-destroying jealousy. Although somewhat slow-paced and brief on dialogue, everything about the astounding movie, including its complex messages, perfectly reaches its audience.
‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ (2014)
A vampire who preys on men who disrespect women? Count us in. This eerie arthouse and unconventional vampire horror depicts dark Iranian ghost-town Bad City, where a lonesome vampire is stalking its residents. Shot in black and white, the alluring A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night provides beautiful visuals as it depicts a vampiresque love story.
One of the best things about Ana Lily Amirpour‘s wonderful film is the way it offers audiences a different interpretation/twist on the popular teenage vampire genre. Enthralling and stylish, this horror drama is essential.
‘Cleo From 7 to 5’ (1962)
Corinne Marchand‘s photogenic, self-absorbed Florence ‘Cleo’ (Cleopatra) Victoire is a hit singer and hypochondriac in this iconic Agnès Varda movie. She worries, however, that she might have cancer while awaiting test results from her doctor. The movie follows Cleo for two hours while she cruises through the streets of Paris.
A fun and meaningful film all around, Cleo From 5 to 7 highlights character development at its best and is clearly meant to be a celebration of life, pinpointing how lucky one is to be alive and all the overlooked small blessings in everyday life.
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