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100 Great Movies By Women Directors That You Can Stream Right Now

Celebrate Women’s History Month with dozens of great films at your fingertips.
Obvious Child
By  · Published on March 12th, 2019

Is there any better way for a film lover to celebrate Women’s History Month–or any other time of year, really–than by watching movies made by diverse and talented women? Despite historically facing problems with funding and distribution that kept much of their work from reaching wide audiences (for more information, read the research done as part of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative or watch the documentary Half the Picture), female filmmakers have always existed. Recently, initiatives like 50/50 by 2020 and The 4% Challenge have aimed to improve these statistics and work toward achieving parity in the entertainment industry. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel just broke the record for the biggest opening box office weekend for a woman-directed movie.

The streaming landscape has also changed the way we take in media, allowing more immediate access to works by women than ever before. Hundreds of women-directed films are readily available on streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, offshoots of premium cable channels like Starz, and free U.S.-based services like Kanopy and Hoopla, both of which only require a library card to log in. Although older films are tougher to find, a significant number of newer films by diverse filmmakers are being greenlit by studios like Netflix and debuting directly to large audiences, circumventing the biases that may still factor into traditional theatrical releasing. Netflix currently has an entire section of the site devoted to films directed by women, which as of publication date in the U.S. includes at least 240 feature films. Horror streaming service Shudder also has a spotlight on female filmmakers.

If you’re looking to broaden your perspective as a viewer and explore more movies with women at the helm, here are 100 essential films you can stream right now:


13th (2016, Ava DuVernay) This seminal documentary is a crash course in the history of institutionally supported anti-Black racism in America, explaining the clear causality that has led to today’s racial climate.

Abducted in Plain Sight (2019, Skye Borgman) There are near-endless twists and turns in this horrifying true story of one child’s bizarre, years-long abuse at the hands of a trusted neighbor. Also on Hoopla.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012, Alison Klayman) This doc traces the career and life of the rebellious artist, who has publicly clashed with the Chinese government in his attempts to shed light on pressing issues. Also on Hulu.

An Education (2009, Lone Scherfig) Carey Mulligan dazzles as a precocious schoolgirl who is wooed by an older man, played by Peter Sarsgaard, in this adaptation of the memoir by Lynn Barber.

The Bad Batch (2016, Ana Lily Amirpour) A brutal post-apocalyptic desert society sets the stage for this genre-buster, which also features a cannibalistic Jason Momoa, one-legged Suki Waterhouse, and harem-leading Keanu Reeves.

Bird Box (2018, Susanne Bier) The surprise streaming hit follows survivors of a sight-based apocalyptic event and features an all-star cast led by Sandra Bullock.

Bird Box

Blackfish (2013, Gabriela Cowperthwaite) This popular conservation exposé shines a light on the controversy surrounding SeaWorld’s practice of keeping orcas, more popularly known as killer whales, in captivity.

The Breadwinner (2017, Nora Twomey) A gorgeously animated adventure story about an Afghani girl forced to pose as a boy when her father is detained, The Breadwinner was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.

Casting JonBenet (2017, Kitty Green) Green takes a postmodern approach to the murder of JonBenet Ramsay, interviewing residents of her hometown for a project that ends up revealing the profound effect the crime had on the community, along with the slipperiness of singular truth.

Certain Women (2016, Kelly Reichardt) This triptych of poetic, profound stories–all set in Montana–is anchored by powerful performances from the likes of Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Jared Harris, and breakout Lily Gladstone.

Daughters of the Dust (1991, Julie Dash) The first feature film directed by an African-American woman ever to be released in U.S. theaters, Daughters of the Dust explores the traditions and generational differences among a family living on an island off the coast of Georgia. Also on Kanopy.

The Edge of Seventeen (2016, Kelly Fremon Craig) This crackling coming-of-age comedy stars Hailee Steinfeld as a teen girl at the end of her rope.

Faces Places (2017, Agnes Varda and J.R.) France’s working-class communities come alive in this collaborative documentary made by the French New Wave auteur and her new friend, large-scale public artist J.R. The duo’s May-December friendship is the heart of this gently moving film. Also on Kanopy.

First They Killed My Father (2017, Angelina Jolie) Jolie’s fourth narrative feature tells the harrowing true story of a young Cambodian girl whose family is swept into chaos during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Happy As Lazzaro (2018, Alice Rohrwacher) Candide-like wanderer Lazzaro fakes his own kidnapping and sets out on a journey of discovery in this Italian drama.

The Hurt Locker (2008, Kathryn Bigelow) The only female-directed best picture winner in the Oscars’ 91-year history, The Hurt Locker is an almost unbearably tense look inside an Iraq war bomb unit.

Hurt Locker

The Invitation (2015, Karyn Kusama) Set at the world’s most awkward dinner party between exes, this polished, slow-burn thriller has a hell of a finish.

The Kindergarten Teacher (2018, Sara Colangelo) The strange, hungry relationship between an artist-obsessed kindergarten teacher and her pint-sized poet student is at the center of this thrilling drama.

Little Women (1994, Gillian Armstrong) This version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic book is the go-to for many fans, with a talented cast including Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Claire Danes, and Christian Bale.

Lovesong (2016, So Yong Kim) The Sundance favorite filmmaker’s latest is a wistful queer love story starring Jena Malone and Riley Keough.

Mamma Mia! (2008, Phyllida Lloyd) ABBA reigns supreme in the campy film adaptation of the stage musical, a Greece-set wedding party romp with a paternity plot for the ages.

Mississippi Grind (2015, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) Before Captain Marvel, Boden and Fleck brought us this Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn-starrer, about a gambling addict in the red. Also on Kanopy.

Mudbound (2017, Dee Rees) A period piece steeped in the failings of the American dream, Mudbound puts the focus on two families–one Black and one white, both with WWII veteran sons–who are trapped in hardscrabble lives in rural Mississippi.

Mustang (2015, Deniz Gamze Ergüven) In this French-Turkish feature, five orphan girls struggle to come of age in a traditional, socially stifling environment. Also on Kanopy.

Obvious Child (2014, Gillian Robespierre) Jenny Slate stars in this sweet, realistic comedic drama about a woman who makes the decision to have an abortion. Also on Kanopy.

On Body and Soul (2017, Ildikó Enyedi) This Hungarian Oscar nominee is a high-concept romance about slaughterhouse workers who can communicate through their dreams.

Outside In (2018, Lynn Shelton) This is a deeply felt drama about a man (Jay Duplass) adjusting to life outside of prison in the Pacific Northwest town he grew up in.

Paris is Burning (1990, Jennie Livingston) This essential queer cinema touchstone spotlights the drag ballroom scene that became home for dispossessed gay youth in the 1980s.

Paris Is Burning

Private Life (2018, Tamara Jenkins) This tender comedic drama follows an east coast couple (Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti) whose fertility struggles are thrown into sharp relief by the arrival of their vivacious young relative.

Shirkers (2018, Sandi Tan) Shirkers tells the stranger than fiction story of a group of young Singaporean film students whose debut feature film goes missing in a mysterious situation, the effects of which ripple throughout their adult lives.

Things to Come (2016, Mia Hansen-Løve) Isabelle Huppert stars in this quiet French-German drama about a professor going through unexpected life changes.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018, Susan Johnson) A Netflix hit thanks to a loveable script and charismatic central couple, TATBILB thankfully has a sequel on the way.

Winter’s Bone (2010, Debra Granik) A dark odyssey through the Ozarks, Winter’s Bone put both Jennifer Lawrence and Granik on the map as massive talents.

A Wrinkle in Time (2018, Ava DuVernay) DuVernay transformed the sci-fi children’s classic into an ode to young people learning self-love and confidence like the fate of the world depends on it.

XX (2017, Karyn Kusama, St. Vincent, Roxanne Benjamin, and Jovanka Vuckovic) Four twisted, funny, strange, and haunting tales make up this exclusively women-directed horror anthology. Also on Hoopla.

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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)