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Top 50 women-directed movies of the last 10 years

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Annapurna Pictures

Top 50 women-directed movies of the last 10 years

The lack of Oscar nominations for women directors in the latest announcements sparked conversations about who was being overlooked and why. The Women and Hollywood initiative (using data from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film) found that of the top 1,300 films produced between 2007 and 2019, just 4.8% were directed by women. During this time period Anne Fletcher made four films while trans woman Lana Wachowski made three. Only 13 women from “underrepresented racial/ethnic groups” directed films in the top 1,300, or less than 1%. However, on the indie film circuit for movies screened at U.S festivals, 33% had women directors.

Despite these dismal statistics, women directors produce excellent films. Stacker analyzed the top films directed by women based on a Stacker score, which weighted IMDb user ratings and Metacritic Metascores equally. The analysis focused on films with at least 1,000 IMDb ratings that were released from 2010 to today. This list features directorial debuts as well as late-career showpieces from masters of international cinema and movements.

The films on our list create a distinct sensibility that forms the unique perspective of female artists. Their plotlines often highlight the perspectives of women, especially young women in coming-of-age scenarios. The stories are infused with universal themes about the human spirit and lauded for their empathy and relatability across culture and identity. These films are often helmed by writer-directors working with autobiographies, true stories, or fact-based and historical source material. The films on our list comprise little-known international cinemas that premiered on the festival circuit as well as blockbusters and franchises that took in more than $1 billion at the box office.

These top women-directed films from the last 10 years often center women’s issues and lived experiences in regulated cultures and politicized bodies. Stories often examine sexual assault and its impact, usually with distinct sensitivity and less conventional plots that eschew cliché. Many of the films look at domestic work and motherhood, as well as sexuality, gender, and the experience of racial and ethnic identity within oppression. Women are often, but not always, the heroes of these films. Read on to check out the diverse group of women directors and the excellent films they’ve put out in the last 10 years.

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Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM)

#50. Me Before You (2016)

- Director: Thea Sharrock
- Stacker score: 62.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 51

Thea Sharrock’s adaptation of the popular novel by Jojo Moyes (who also penned the screenplay) was critiqued for what was considered an insensitive presentation of disability. Sam Claflin plays a quadriplegic man who plans to die via assisted suicide. Emilia Clarke plays his spunky hired companion who aims to cheer him up, especially after she falls in love. The romance becomes one of class divisions (he’s rich and she’s working-class) while ignoring the ableism at the core of both the plot and production. Sharrock previously directed for television and play productions screened in cinemas.

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Warner Bros. Pictures

#49. Cloud Atlas (2012)

- Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski
- Stacker score: 64.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 55

In an interview with the AV Club in 2012, Lily and Lana Wachowski, the trans sisters who directed “Bound” and “The Matrix” trilogy were asked if “Cloud Atlas,” the novel adaptation that cost $100 million and took four years to make, is about literal reincarnation. Lana Wachowski responded that they didn’t want to limit interpretations, but that “we, in our own lives, reincarnate as well. We have new lives.” “Cloud Atlas” features a sprawling plot where actors, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, play several different characters across time.

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Universal Pictures

#48. Unbroken (2014)

- Director: Angelina Jolie
- Stacker score: 65.50
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 59

Angelina Jolie was inspired by Laura Hillenbrand’s best-selling biography about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic medalist turned World War II pilot who survives an ocean crash only to end up in a POW camp. “Unbroken” was Jolie’s second outing as director, this time with a much larger budget, scale, and cast than with her first film “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” The film received middling reviews, but was a box office success and nominated for three Oscars, including cinematography.

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Walt Disney Pictures

#47. McFarland, USA (2015)

- Director: Niki Caro
- Stacker score: 67.00
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 60

Niki Caro had an impressive directorial debut with the acclaimed “Whale Rider,” which she also wrote. Her latest as a director is the big-budget, live-action “Mulan,” which comes out in 2020. Disney’s “McFarland, USA” is a PG-rated, feel-good sports drama that rises above normal genre fare to deliver an inspiring, visually striking true story of a high school cross country team in a Mexican American community who soar to success. Although the film was critiqued for white saviorism—Kevin Costner plays real-life coach Jim White—the Latino runners take center stage as the true heroes.

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Les Films des Tournelles

#46. Where Do We Go Now? (2011)

- Director: Nadine Labaki
- Stacker score: 67.50
- IMDb rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 60

Lebanese actress and director Nadine Labaki’s second film, the comedy-drama “Where Do We Go Now?” became the highest-grossing Lebanese and Arabic language film after its premiere. The story updates the ancient play “Lysistrata” as village women seek to dispell local Christian and Muslim men from war by hiring strippers amid other created distractions. Critic Naila Scargill at Trebuchet remarks that “whatever the genre or vague political statement, it’s a story of female camaraderie.”

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Film Produkcja

#45. Mr. Jones (2019)

- Director: Agnieszka Holland
- Stacker score: 67.50
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 63

Agnieszka Holland is a major director of the Polish New Wave cinema who became known internationally in 1991 for “Europa Europa.” She’s directed television episodes of “The Wire” and “House of Cards,” among her many television and film credits. The historical “Mr. Jones” delivers commentary on contemporary politics through its story about the Welsh journalist who uncovered the Ukrainian Holodomor famine in 1933.

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Fox Searchlight Pictures

#44. Belle (2013)

- Director: Amma Asante
- Stacker score: 68.50
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 64

Amma Asante began as a child actress and television writer in Britain before her directorial debut with the acclaimed “A Way of Life.” “Belle,” her second feature, stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, born in 1761, whose mother was an enslaved African woman and whose father was a British officer of noble standing. Dido ends up raised by a Lord and Earl (Tom Wilkinson), inheriting both money and title. The film explores race and gender through the historical markers of the slave trade and British aristocracy. Asante’s third film, “A United Kingdom” also examines an interracial relationship, this time set in 1940s South Africa.

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Bleeker Street Media

#43. Megan Leavey (2017)

- Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
- Stacker score: 68.50
- IMDb rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 66

Gabriela Cowperthwaite spotlighted the shocking treatment of orca whales in theme parks with the documentary “Blackfish,” her directorial debut. Her second film, the drama “Megan Leavey” stars Kate Mara as a marine deployed to Iraq with a bomb-sniffing dog in tow. Both experience PTSD and heal together. While some critics found the fact-based story schmaltzy, most praised the film for its power and heart.

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Dreamworks Animation

#42. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

- Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
- Stacker score: 69.50
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 67

“Kung Fu Panda 2” was the highest-grossing film directed by a woman until unseated by “Wonder Woman.” Jennifer Yuh Nelson worked on several major animated films and storyboarded the first “Kung Fu Panda” before she became the first woman to solo direct an animated studio feature. Its Oscar nomination in the animated feature category made her the second woman director to achieve that honor for a solo project. She went on to direct “Kung Fu Panda 3,” helming projects that collectively brought in over $1 billion at the box office, while aiming to respectfully portray kung-fu culture.

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Annapurna Pictures

#41. Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (2017)

- Director: Angela Robinson
- Stacker score: 69.50
- IMDb rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 68

Writer-director Angela Robinson told Wired magazine “the reason I started writing this movie was that I was so mad that Batman has multiple franchises and reboots…Ant-Man, lesser superheroes have gotten movies.” Robinson’s film took eight years to write and produce. It explores themes around feminism and gender identity as it tells the story of the 1940s professor who invented Wonder Woman, inspired by his wife and the couple’s lover. The film challenges conventional ideas around power and sexuality.

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Painted House Films

#40. Maudie (2016)

- Director: Aisling Walsh
- Stacker score: 70.50
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 65

Aisling Walsh had a 30-year career in film and television as one of Ireland’s most esteemed directors before “Maudie,” her most acclaimed film to date. Starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, the film is a mesmerizing portrait of folk artist Maud Lewis who had rheumatoid arthritis and painted from a roadside shack. The film explores the artistic mind, but also the cruel and oppressive social conventions that regulate women’s lives.

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Danmarks Radio (DR)

#39. In a Better World (2010)

- Director: Susanne Bier
- Stacker score: 70.50
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 65

Susanne Bier may be most well known for directing the Netflix horror hit “Bird Box,” but she’s had an acclaimed career since the 1990s as part of the Dogme 95 film movement. Her films have been critically and financially successful in Denmark, while “After the Wedding” received a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2007. Bier, as director, accepted the Oscar in the same category in 2011 for “In a Better World,” a drama about a Danish doctor’s experience helping in refugee camps in Africa who faces parallel conflicts with his bullied son when he returns home.

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BBC Films

#38. We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

- Director: Lynne Ramsay
- Stacker score: 71.50
- IMDb rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 68

Lynne Ramsay was considered overlooked for an Oscar nod for directing 2018’s “You Were Never Really Here,” and her work recently had a retrospective at the Toronto International Film Festival. Her earlier “We Need to Talk About Kevin” features a stand out performance from Tilda Swinton and enters a subgenre of horror about maternal anxiety and dread in its exploration of parenting a murderous psychopath.

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Automatik Entertainment

#37. Honey Boy (2019)

- Director: Alma Har'el
- Stacker score: 73.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 73

Alma Har’el shot and directed her first film, the documentary “Bombay Beach” with a handheld camera she bought at Best Buy. She is an award-winning director of music videos and advertisements, and recently started “Free the Bid,” an organization that pushes ad agencies to hire female directors and “other marginalized creatives.” “Honey Boy” is her most acclaimed feature and stars Shia LaBeouf as his own father in a semi-autobiographical film (that he also wrote) about a child actor who ends up in rehab.

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Walt Disney Pictures

#36. Queen of Katwe (2016)

- Director: Mira Nair
- Stacker score: 73.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 73

Mira Nair has made such acclaimed films as “Mississippi Masala,” “Monsoon Wedding,” and “The Namesake,” many of them known for their “vibrant multiculturalist sensibility.” Nair resides in Uganda and runs film schools throughout Africa. The Disney feature “Queen of Katwe” stars Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo and presents the true story of a young Ugandan girl who becomes an international chess sensation. Nair was praised for a film much more authentically inspiring than the usual sentimental fare of the genre.

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Sony Pictures Classics

#35. In Darkness (2011)

- Director: Agnieszka Holland
- Stacker score: 73.50
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 74

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, “In Darkness” tells the true story of Jews in a Nazi-occupied Polish city who use underground sewers as an escape route. Director Agnieszka Holland’s “Angry Harvest” (produced in Germany) was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film, and she won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “Europa Europa,” which she also directed. Holland is a preeminent Polish director known more recently for directing prestige television episodes and for her notably political feature films.

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Hold Up Films

#34. Tomboy (2011)

- Director: Céline Sciamma
- Stacker score: 74.00
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 74

Céline Sciamma is known for imbuing her films with a starkly minimal, yet arresting beauty in features that explore the fluidity of gender identity. “Tomboy” is her second feature, after the acclaimed “Water Lilies,” and it follows a 10 year old trans boy who takes on the identity of Mikäel, living as male until cruel kids and a conforming parent force him to be a girl. The coming-of-age story ends ambiguously, but was praised for giving trans children representation.

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Walt Disney Pictures

#33. Frozen (2013)

- Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
- Stacker score: 74.50
- IMDb rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 74

Jennifer Lee wrote and co-directed the powerhouse blockbuster “Frozen” (along with its sequel “Frozen II”), which became a cultural touchstone for children inspired by the idea of “letting go.” The film won the Best Animated Feature Oscar and made her the first female director with more than $1 billion in revenue from a single film. Lee’s screenplay is unique in creating princess characters with a focus on sisterhood rather than love with men or weddings.

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Samuel Goldwyn Films

#32. Bull (2019)

- Director: Annie Silverstein
- Stacker score: 75.00
- IMDb rating: 8.7
- Metascore: 63

Annie Silverstein’s feature directorial debut (which she also wrote) received accolades across the film festival circuit. Silverstein has a background in social work and documentary film. “Bull” follows a teen girl with an incarcerated mother who ransacks the home of a rodeo star. In order to make amends, he allows her to work off the debt, but she ends up learning to bull ride under his tutelage. “Bull” takes place in the underknown world of black rodeo in Texas and has been praised for its sensitive character study.

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Warner Bros.

#31. Wonder Woman (2017)

- Director: Patty Jenkins
- Stacker score: 75.00
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 76

Patty Jenkins’s directorial feature career began with “Monster,” the true story of a mentally ill prostitute who became a serial killer (Charlize Theron won the Best Actress Oscar for the role). Jenkins’s second feature, “Wonder Woman,” was a hugely popular box office success starring Gal Gadot as the superhero. The film was praised for presenting a complex, compassionate hero with universal appeal that comes from a dynamic representation of female power.

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IFC Films

#30. The Nightingale (2018)

- Director: Jennifer Kent
- Stacker score: 75.00
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 77

Jennifer Kent’s previous film “The Babadook” took on a contemporary domestic nightmare, but here she turns to the brutal colonial history of the 1820s Black War in Tasmania. Kent wrote and directed this film that pairs an Irish indentured convict (Aisling Franciosi) and an Aboriginal guide (Baykali Ganambarr) on a quest for vengeance against a sadistic British officer (Sam Claflin). The movie confronts colonial horrors through vivid depictions of rape and murder that struck some viewers as gratuitous, despite their historical accuracy.

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Annapurna Pictures

#29. Detroit (2017)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- Stacker score: 75.00
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 77

Although lauded by critics as deft handling of the 1967 citywide riots in Detroit between police and black people, critic K. Austin Collins at The Ringer offers that certain choices seem to diffuse the police brutality and racism the film seeks to expose by making those palatable for viewers. Collins advises that Bigelow’s film “isn’t really about black people as people, nor history as a lived experience, but is instead invested in a dutiful…reenactment.” Bigelow uses her signature, documentary-like camera during the film’s focus on the brutal murders at the Algiers Motel. This camera style lends itself to documenting the events and suffering, but less to capture the inner lives of the victims.

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Gracie Films

#28. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

- Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
- Stacker score: 75.00
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 77

Kelly Fremon Craig wrote and directed her debut teen comedy, a sensitive update of John Hughes' terrain, that follows an awkward 17 year old (Hailee Steinfeld) through anxiety-ridden high school mishaps with friends and crushes. Critics praised the film for a nuanced portrait of adolescent girlhood that comes to life through a fresh, vibrant presentation of familiar coming-of-age material, that’s filled with realistic, funny ache.

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22 Hours Films

#27. Angels Wear White (2017)

- Director: Vivian Qu
- Stacker score: 75.00
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 78

Vivian Qu wrote and directed this film about young girls who are sexually assaulted, and the social structure that worsens injury through cover-up and victim-blaming. The film depicts the stark anguish of suffering with striking visual depictions of human pain within clinical, cold environments. Qu uses extraordinary imagery of a giant, schlocky Marilyn Monroe sculpture at the film’s opening and conclusion as a stand-in for female objectification.

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Mandarin Films

#26. The Innocents (2016)

- Director: Anne Fontaine
- Stacker score: 75.50
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 78

Set in a nunnery, Anne Fontaine’s drama explores the history of mass rapes by soldiers during World War II. A French nurse (Lou de Laâge) is called to help nuns who are traumatized by sexual assault and the resulting pregnancies. Set in Poland, the sisters’ faith and isolated sanctuary create a sense of violation across all aspects of their lives, in which they feel they must hide offspring in tandem with the rapes that produced them. The film presents the experience of religious women and misogyny during war.

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Focus Features

#25. Pariah (2011)

- Director: Dee Rees
- Stacker score: 75.50
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 79

Writer-director Dee Rees’ first feature “Pariah” is a semi-autobiographical film about a teenager (Adepero Oduye) who explores her lesbian identity. The film depicts the discord this causes between her parents, Wendell Pierce portraying her father and Kim Wayans as her increasingly disapproving mother. “Pariah” gives a fresh, visually beautiful treatment of this story of a young woman embracing her identity and the risky, still hopeful heartache that accompanies truth.

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Bautafilm

#24. Sami Blood (2016)

- Director: Amanda Kernell
- Stacker score: 76.00
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 79

Amanda Kernell wrote and directed this portrait of “reeducation” schools that seek to indoctrinate children into the dominant culture. “Sami Blood” takes place in the 1930s in Sweden and follows a 14-year-old Sami girl, from an ethnic minority, removed from her family and placed in a state-run school where she’s subject to prejudice and cruelty. Kernell (who is of Sami descent) infuses the film with the anguished sense of self-loathing both from girlhood adolescence and discrimination toward one’s cultural identity.

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Focus FIlms

#23. A Simple Life (2011)

- Director: Ann Hui
- Stacker score: 77.00
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 78

Ann Hui is a major figure of the 1980s Hong Kong New Wave cinema, which includes John Woo and Wong Kar-Wai, and was a style that bucked convention with a distinct experimental film style. “A Simple Life” was a major box office success that looks at the relationship between a long time servant Ah Tao (Deannie Yip) and her “master” (Andy Lau) who is forced to confront his feelings for the hired help once she takes ill. The film displays Hui’s stylistic signatures, attention to detail, expressive performances, and a strong focus on characters within their larger culture, creating themes both understated and deeply emotional.

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Aircraft Pictures

#22. The Breadwinner (2017)

- Director: Nora Twomey
- Stacker score: 77.50
- IMDb rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 78

The stunning animation style of “The Breadwinner” brings to life this novel adaptation about an Afghan girl, Parvana, living under the Taliban where women cannot leave home without a male relative. After her father is arrested, Parvana passes as a boy in order to support her family. Nora Twomey co-directed “The Secret of Kells,” before taking the helm with “The Breadwinner.” Critics found it poetic and harrowing, and Twomey scored an Oscar nod for Best Animated Feature.

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TriStar Pictures

#21. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)

- Director: Marielle Heller
- Stacker score: 78.00
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 80

Marielle Heller’s debut, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” won acclaim for its innovative visual style and complex vision of teenage female desire. “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Fred Rogers biopic starring Tom Hanks, gained critical acclaim for elevating a potentially sentimental subject (being a good person) with a deft emotional complexity.

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Razor Film Produktion GmbH

#20. Wadjda (2012)

- Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
- Stacker score: 78.00
- IMDb rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 81

Haifaa Al-Mansour’s feature debut, which she wrote and directed, was the first film made by a Saudi woman and completely filmed in her home country. It was also the first Saudi Arabian film both submitted for and achieving a nomination for Best Foreign Language film. The story follows a young girl who wants a bike and was lauded for the radical themes beneath a heartwarming veneer. Al-Mansour went on to direct “Mary Shelley,” “Nappily Ever After,” and “The Perfect Candidate.”

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Annapurna Pictures

#19. Booksmart (2019)

- Director: Olivia Wilde
- Stacker score: 78.00
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 84

Actress Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut offers a female-centered update of the high school buddy comedy that was adored by both critics and audiences. “Booksmart” follows the one-crazy-night formula, but infuses brash teen comedy with a feminist bent that centers on the complicated friendship between two graduating overachievers played by Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever.

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TT Filmmûhely

#18. The Turin Horse (2011)

- Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
- Stacker score: 79.00
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 80

There’s rarely mention of Ágnes Hranitzky in discussion of the work of esteemed auteur Béla Tarr, renowned for slow, contemplative cinema and unabashed use of long-takes. Hranitzky edits Tarr’s films and received co-director credit on Tarr’s final three films. The much-lauded “The Turin Horse” dramatizes an event where Friedrich Nietzsche hugs and cries for a horse that’s been beaten by its driver. With a running time of 146 minutes, critic Daniel Green at CineVue advises viewers to “embrace…the film’s near-comatose pace” and appreciate the themes and cinematography.

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Fox Searchlight Pictures

#17. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

- Director: Marielle Heller
- Stacker score: 79.00
- IMDb rating: 7.1
- Metascore: 87

Marielle Heller’s second feature film, the adaptation of Lee Israel’s book about her life as a forger, deftly captures the intrigue of literary imitation. Heller achieves masterful performances from Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in a story less about white-collar crime and more so a meditation on loneliness and unrecognized talents.

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Boo Pictures

#16. Capernaum (2018)

- Director: Nadine Labaki
- Stacker score: 79.50
- IMDb rating: 8.4
- Metascore: 75

Variety critic Jay Weissberg calls the “power and skill” of Nadine Labaki’s direction in “Capernaum” a “major leap forward in all departments,” setting it apart from her previous films. Labaki is known for using non-professional actors and encouraging them to improvise during set-ups to achieve realism. In “Capernaum” Zain Al Rafeea plays Zain, a neglected street kid who sues his parents for giving birth to him.

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Abraxas Film

#15. Glory (2016)

- Directors: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov
- Stacker score: 79.50
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 83

“Glory” is the second film in a planned “Newspaper Clippings Trilogy” about life in post-communist Bulgaria from directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov who’ve made three acclaimed features. The film dramatizes the bureaucratic ordeal of a man who does a good deed and becomes embroiled in a PR nightmare. The film explores themes of absurdity and corruption and gives in to the dark heart of satire as things go from bad to worse.

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Armory Films

#14. Mudbound (2017)

- Director: Dee Rees
- Stacker score: 79.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 85

Dee Rees’ third feature film gave Netflix its first Oscar nominations. Rees was nominated with her co-writer for Adapted Screenplay, Mary J. Blige was nominated twice (for Supporting Actress and Original Song), while Rachel Morrison became the first (and only, so far) female cinematographer to receive a nomination. “Mudbound” centers on two families, Black and white, in 1940s Mississippi, and explores the deep racist roots that bind their lives.

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Oscilloscope Pictures

#13. The Second Mother (2015)

- Director: Anna Muylaert
- Stacker score: 80.00
- IMDb rating: 7.8
- Metascore: 82

Anna Muylaert’s fourth feature film, “The Second Mother,” takes a critical look at class divisions and caregiving in its story about a rich Brazilian family’s long time housemaid, or “second” mother. Regina Casé plays Val, who left her own daughter behind to take care of another’s child. Her grown daughter arrives, after a decade apart, and finds her mother much closer to the rich family’s son. Muylaert creates a visual style that mirrors the constrictive class structures in which all are bound.

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Ciudad Lunar Producciones

#12. Birds of Passage (2018)

- Directors: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra
- Stacker score: 80.50
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 85

Cristina Gallego divorced her husband and collaborator Ciro Guerra during the production of “Birds of Passage.” The couple gained international acclaim for their previous film “Embrace the Serpent,” which allowed them to make “Birds of Passage,” widely considered a masterpiece. The film’s visual style captures natural environments and brutal violence as it depicts the history of the Wayuu community in Colombia as it was ravaged by drug trade in the 1970s.

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Paramount Pictures

#11. Selma (2014)

- Director: Ava DuVernay
- Stacker score: 81.00
- IMDb rating: 7.5
- Metascore: 87

Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” (about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 march for voting rights) was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (the only film directed by a person of color nominated that year), but its director was overlooked for a nomination, which was widely seen as a significant and undeserved snub. DuVernay previously made two critically acclaimed and award-winning independent features before “Selma.” Since, she’s directed the big-budget “A Wrinkle in Time,” the acclaimed documentary “13th,” and the renowned TV series “When They See Us.”

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Anonymous Content

#10. Winter's Bone (2010)

- Director: Debra Granik
- Stacker score: 81.00
- IMDb rating: 7.2
- Metascore: 90

Jennifer Lawrence catapulted to stardom (securing roles in “The Hunger Games” and “X-Men” franchises) after her powerful performance in Debra Granik’s hypnotic story of kids about to lose their home after their meth-making father goes missing. Granik uses a style in which the natural environment, the Missouran backwoods, seems to emit the stress of poverty and limit.

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Tempesta

#9. Happy as Lazzaro (2018)

- Director: Alice Rohrwacher
- Stacker score: 81.50
- IMDb rating: 7.6
- Metascore: 87

Italian director Alice Rohrwacher’s third feature “Happy as Lazzaro” won Best Screenplay at the Cannes Film Festival. Rohrwarcher infuses her story of a sharecropper on a tobacco estate with elements of magical realism. Kyle Turner, at Little White Lies, writes that the film “makes for a fitting, haunting, burning testament to queerness and its surreal and material relationship to class and labour.”

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HBO

#8. The Tale (2018)

- Director: Jennifer Fox
- Stacker score: 81.50
- IMDb rating: 7.3
- Metascore: 90

Jennifer Fox’s “The Tale” is a meditation on traumatic memory. Fox wrote and directed this autobiographical film that explores her memories of sexual abuse experienced as a child, making sense of the events through the structure of the film. Laura Dern plays Jennifer as an adult, while Isabelle Nélisse plays her at 13. The film is a harrowing and compassionate directorial debut, after a long career as a producer, that enacts survivorship and speaking out.

45/
Big Beach Films

#7. The Farewell (2019)

- Director: Lulu Wang
- Stacker score: 83.00
- IMDb rating: 7.7
- Metascore: 89

Lulu Wang’s acclaimed “The Farewell” stars Awkwafina as a woman who travels to China to say goodbye to the dying grandmother who has not been told she has a terminal illness. The film examines both generational tensions and the experience of a young woman caught between two cultures. Wang, who wrote and directed the family comedy, drew from her own experiences as a Chinese American with a similar family experience in her background.

46/
Caviar

#6. The Rider (2017)

- Director: Chloé Zhao
- Stacker score: 83.00
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 92

Chloé Zhao’s pensive Western, her second feature, which she also wrote and produced, tells the story of a rodeo rider’s recovery after a devastating injury. The film hovers between documentary and fiction by dramatizing the real-life story of lead actor Brady Jandreau, who suffered a similar injury as the character he plays (also named Brady). His father and sister are played by his real family, with an effect of meditative emotion that gives a dream-like quality to realism.

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47/
Komplizen Film

#5. Toni Erdmann (2016)

- Director: Maren Ade
- Stacker score: 83.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 93

Maren Ade’s comedy is about a grown woman, an executive, and the wacky father who keeps crashing her professional life. The film was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Germany and scored several awards and accolades across the international circuit. Ade also wrote the script, which is lauded for hilarity, constant surprise, and thematic depth around father-daughter relationships rarely seen in cinema.

48/
IAC Films

#4. Lady Bird (2017)

- Director: Greta Gerwig
- Stacker score: 84.00
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 94

Greta Gerwig’s second feature, which she also wrote, earned her a Best Director Oscar nomination (one of five in total for a woman), for a film that offers an original look at the modern coming-of-age drama with its disaffected titular character (played vibrantly by Saoirse Ronan). Lady Bird brims with a sense of being young and ambitious with a wildly courageous streak, as when she leaps from a moving car at the film’s beginning. Laurie Metcalf and Tracy Letts as Lady Bird’s parents also give affecting performances.

49/
Columbia Pictures

#3. Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

- Director: Kathryn Bigelow
- Stacker score: 84.50
- IMDb rating: 7.4
- Metascore: 95

Kathryn Bigelow gained recognition with 1990s stylish cop thriller “Blue Steel,” directing films like “K-19: The Widowmaker” and “Piglet’s Big Movie” before becoming the first (and still only) woman to win a Best Director Oscar for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker.” Her follow-up, “Zero Dark Thirty,” uses a similar, crisp documentary-like camera style that hovers and observes action. “Zero Dark Thirty” puts a woman at the center of war drama with Jessica Chastain starring as a CIA investigator who brings down Osama bin Laden. 

50/
Columbia Pictures

#2. Little Women (2019)

- Director: Greta Gerwig
- Stacker score: 86.50
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 91

Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed third feature, which she wrote and directed, adapts Louisa May Alcott’s 1860s novel for a contemporary audience. Gerwig’s is the fourth major adaptation of the material and reflects the contemporary cultural zeitgeist around women’s rage, their economic status, and their options to marry or not. Gerwig’s version of Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) produces a novel, “Little Women,” but also negotiates its contract and conclusion—should the heroine end up married or dead as her publisher requires or will she invent a compromise that parallels her own story?

51/
Lilies Films

#1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

- Director: Céline Sciamma
- Stacker score: 88.50
- IMDb rating: 8.2
- Metascore: 95

Céline Sciamma’s fourth feature, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” reconfigures notions around viewing and pleasure by centering a woman’s perspective. Laura Mulvey’s “male gaze” (known as both erotic and subjugating) has roots in portraiture and painting. Sciamma’s story follows two women in 1760 France, an artist and subject; the subject requires a portrait for her fiance. Sciamma forces her audience to consider what it means to look and be looked at in new ways through the desire of her lead characters. Her cinematic style creates compositions that resemble portraiture, while also using visuals that disrupt casual looking and push against repression.

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