2017 has been a year filled with some amazing films, ESPECIALLY independent films, but it’s also been a huge step forward for women working behind the camera. We’ve seen women winning awards at major film festivals, women breaking box office records with independent films, and even women directing blockbusters that have broken glass ceilings in the industry. Only four percent of directors in Hollywood are women, and this year they deviated from the status quo with monumental success.
This said, I wanted to take this time to reflect on some of the best movies I’ve seen this year that have been directed by women. I didn’t get around to seeing every female-directed movie that came out this year; this list is simply compiled of the ones I have seen and LOVED.
1) Wonder Woman – Patty Jenkins
Obviously this made the top of my list. How could it not? Patty Jenkins became the first woman to have directed a live-action movie with a $100 million budget. Now we have Ava DuVernay following in her footsteps with A Wrinkle in Time.
Wonder Woman surpassed audience, and critic, expectations when it became Warner Bros.’ most successful film from the studio’s DC universe. It did so well that its cumulative worldwide gross made eight times its budget! Now, Patty Jenkins has furthered the advancement of women in Hollywood by signing on to direct the sequel. She didn’t just sign on for it, though. She waited until they offered her as much as her male counterparts, making her the highest paid female director EVER. Onward, Patty, onward!
2) Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig
One of the biggest independent successes of this year that’s also getting a lot of Oscar attention, Lady Bird has been a success amongst critics and audiences alike. It became the Best Reviewed movie in Rotten Tomatoes history! With 164 reviews that were all “fresh,” the film remained at 100 percent for weeks on end. The film also grossed $375,612 in just four theaters, giving it the best per theater average of 2017! This was Greta’s big directing debut, as she was previously working as an actress. The amount of heart and soul she puts into this film really shows on screen in incredible performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. It’s heartfelt, relatable, and yes, I had to give my mom a gigantic hug after we saw it.
3) Detroit – Kathryn Bigelow
I’ve always been a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow. She’s the first woman to ever win the Oscar for Best Director (back in 2010 for The Hurt Locker), and continues to make incredible films. Detroit is a film that was released at a perfect time in this day and age. It has an important societal message, and Bigelow she held nothing back with conveying it. It’s something she does in all of her movies. She wants the audience to be completely enveloped into the time and place and to feel what these people felt back then. One of my favorite quotes from her is, “It’s irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don’t.”
4) Battle of the Sexes – co-directed by Valerie Faris
Another film that was released at JUST the right time, with an equally relevant message, Battle of the Sexes is the true story of a tennis match that took place in 1973 between Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carrel) and Billie Jean King (Emma Stone). The film does a phenomenal job of at balancing emotion throughout the story, making Billie Jean a wonderful, complex woman to watch on screen. We see her strengths, weaknesses, and passions play out in a beautiful combination. Plus, I’ve never been more excited watching a tennis match on screen.
5) The Beguiled – Sofia Coppola
The Beguiled is an adaptation of the original film from 1971 that starred Clint Eastwood, but from the perspective of the women. It is a great example of showing the complexities of women on screen. We got to see how each of the women, of many different ages, interacted with the situation they were faced with. Much like in real life, they all had different approaches, which adds so many layers to the film. Sofia Coppola went on to win Best Director at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival with this movie, marking the first time in 50 years that a woman has won this award. Small, but mighty, independents help break glass ceilings as well!
6) Mudbound – Dee Rees
Mudbound is an incredibly powerful story of two men coming home from World War II to work on a farm in Mississippi. It shows the various class struggles and societal struggles that they still deal with upon returning — another film that hits a little too close to home in this day and age. Dee Rees tells this story with unbelievable amounts of emotion with the assistance of powerful performances. It started its successful run at Sundance and it’s been non-stop ever since. It may even have the opportunity to be Netflix’s first Oscar contender! Cheers to THAT.
2017 has given me hope that 2018 will bring even more female directors into the spotlight. I’m excited and empowered from this past year, and I’m hoping 2018 leaves me feeling the same way!