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The 25 Best Movies Directed by Women in 2019

From ‘Booksmart’ to ‘Portrait of A Lady on Fire,’ here are 25 great new films with women at the helm.
Rewind Movies Directed By Women
By  · Published on December 17th, 2019

Frozen II


Although it’s as wacky and inconsistent as several of the blockbuster animated sequels that came before it, Frozen II is also an indelible entry into the Disney canon for both kids and adults alike. Disney’s chief creative officer, Jennifer Lee, returns to co-direct and write the second outing, which sees Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell) follow the sound of a song they once heard from their late mother, which leads them to an enchanted forest that holds many secrets. Snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) is funnier than ever — his song, “Everything Will Make Sense When I’m Older” is ironic and delightful, as well as likely comforting for young kids — but it’s the serious parts that’ll keep Frozen II on your mind once it’s over. The film tackles everything from colonialism to self-doubt and anxiety to debilitating grief, leaning into heavy topics and complicated emotions when it could have easily functioned as a victory lap. If all that’s not enough, they finally let angel-voiced Jonathan Groff sing!

Knock Down the House

Knock Down The House

Rachel Lears’ political documentary looks at the boom of non-politician candidates, many of them women, who stepped up to serve as public leaders in response to Donald Trump’s election. She tells the story through four grassroots campaigns which she follows to the finish: Minnesota’s Cori Bush, West Virginia’s Paula Jean Swearengin, Nevada’s Amy Vilela, and New York’s Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. The campaigns evolve and unfold organically, and not all of them are winners, but along the way, Lears paints a picture of a country that’s at its best when normal people who care refuse to be jaded by a system that doesn’t. Each of the four women has a good reason for investing months of her life in politics, and as the documentary reveals those reasons to us, it demonstrates that civic engagement on a local level can be as empowering as a presidential election gone wrong is devastating.



Poetry is woven into the very fabric of Minhal Baig’s introspective teen drama, another underseen gem. The film follows the titular character (Geraldine Viswanathan), a Muslim-American high schooler, through a period of extreme change as she questions her values in contrast to her parents while coming of age. Viswanathan is quietly powerful as Hala, a near-adult whose worldview is challenged by a shifting understanding of all the things she thought she knew. Hala takes on first love, first artistic passion, and perhaps most formative of all, the first true moment of disappointment in someone you thought would never let you down. Baig’s film takes all these things on while still holding the hard feelings loosely, exchanging pain for wonder as often as not.

High Life

High Life

Rumors of High Life’s horniness have been greatly exaggerated. Although Claire Denis’ latest has been a topic of indie film lover conversation this year due largely to scenes of hypnotic pleasure and space-set masturbation, the more apt h-word would be harrowing. Denis’ existential dystopia follows a crew of convicts who are launched into space on a scientific mission, a dehumanizing attempt to kill two birds with one stone. Robert Pattinson, still in his career renaissance, delivers a subtle, desperate performance. Juliette Binoche is mysterious as a ruthless researcher, while Mia Goth steals scenes as a woman whose circumstances leave her teetering past the brink of madness. Mesmerizing, fractured, and at times bone-chilling, High Life is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé


Where were you when Beychella happened? Lucky for those who missed Beyoncé’s history-making Coachella concert, the legend herself co-directed this documentary about the experience, which chronicles the creative process, rehearsals, and finally, two weekends of mind-blowing live shows that rocked the world in 2018. Beyonce herself comes across as disciplined, family-oriented, and extraordinarily talented, with a keen eye for how she’s seen on screen. She’s thoughtful about every aspect of a performance that celebrated both her 20-year career and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities that influenced the groundbreaking show.

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Valerie Ettenhofer is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, TV-lover, and mac and cheese enthusiast. As a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects, she covers television through regular reviews and her recurring column, Episodes. She is also a voting member of the Critics Choice Association's television and documentary branches. Twitter: @aandeandval (She/her)