It’s no surprise that there is a major shortage of female directors in Hollywood. I mean, let’s be real… Natalie Portman said it best at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards:
According to a study by USC Annenberg, only 4% of directors in Hollywood are women. And the numbers are even more staggering for women of colour: Out of 1,000 movies released between 2007 and 2016, only six were directed by Black and Asian women.
But it’s getting better. Netflix recently announced their new category “Movies Directed By Women,” where they’ve curated a space to celebrate female filmmakers. Plus, the entertainment giant has released a slew of original content for women, by women. From Greta Gerwig to Ava DuVernay, there is an incredible crop of women changing the game in Hollywood. These stories are diverse, empowering and revolutionary, so we rounded up 14 of our favourites for you to binge watch again and again.
Synopsis: Five years after an ominous unseen presence drives most of society to suicide, a survivor and her two children make a desperate bid to reach safety.
Director: Susanne Bier
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich
Why you should watch it: If you thought there weren’t that many female directors in the industry, there are even fewer women directing horror films. This pee-your-pants-worthy flick just so happened to be the most talked about horror movie of 2018, which left us craving more spooky movies with a woman at the helm.
Synopsis: In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.
Director: Ava DuVernay
Why you should watch it: IMO, this needs to be mandatory viewing. Ava DuVernay—who also directed A Wrinke in Time and Selma—is one of the many women changing the film industry, and in this documentary, she powerfully takes this heavy history and makes it approachable for all.
Period. End of Sentence
Synopsis: In rural India, where the stigma of menstruation persists, women make low-cost sanitary pads on a new machine and strive toward financial independence.
Director: Rayka Zehtabchi
Why you should watch it: This documentary short just won an Oscar, which proves that the menstrual movement is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Rayka Zehtabchi’s acceptance speech was equally empowering when she said, “I’m not crying because I’m on my period.” Mic drop.
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Synopsis: When her secret love letters somehow get mailed to each of her five crushes, Lara Jean finds her quiet high school existence turned upside down.
Director: Susan Johnson
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish
Why you should watch it: Even though everyone and their mom swooned over Peter Kavinsky, we really fell hard for Lara Jean. It’s so darn refreshing to have an Asian-American woman as the lead of a hit rom-com (read: iconic Yakult scene). Plus, that strut? Get ’em girl.
Nappily Ever After
Synopsis: When a perfectionist ad exec experiences a romantic setback, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery that begins with a dramatic hair makeover.
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Ricky Whittle, Lynn Whitfield
Why you should watch it: This coming-of-age-meets-romantic-comedy captures a Black woman’s journey with her natural hair and how it not only changes her outlook on life, but her confidence within.
Synopsis: To prove a point about measuring up and fitting in, Texas teen Willowdean Dickson enters a local pageant run by her ex-beauty queen mom.
Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush
Why you should watch it: Underneath the glitter and hairspray, this dramedy is about much more than pageantry—it’s about smashing the heck out of problematic beauty standards. If you don’t tune in for Jennifer Aniston’s Southern accent, you have to watch the epic drag queen cover of Dolly Parton’s “Joelene.”
Synopsis: An intrepid high schooler in Sacramento undergoes the trials of love, family and self-discovery as she dreams of escaping to college on the East Coast.
Director: Greta Gerwig
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts
Why you should watch it: If you haven’t heard of Greta Gerwig, you must be living under a rock (sorry, not sorry). She beautifully captures teenage angst, female relationships and self-exploration in this revolutionary coming-of-age film. Plus she’s also directing the adaptation of Little Women with an all-star cast (Timothee Chamalet! Meryl Streep! Emma Watson!).
First They Killed My Father
Synopsis: A 5-year-old girl embarks on a harrowing quest for survival amid the sudden rise and terrifying reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Sreymoch Sareum, Kompheak Phoeung, Socheata Sveng
Why you should watch it: Jolie hauntingly captures what it was like during the Cambodian genocide from the eyes of young girl, which is based on the best-selling non-fiction novel by Loung Ung. This film is gut-wrenching, especially when you remember that these atrocities actually happened in real life.
Synopsis: Nadia keeps dying and reliving her 36th birthday party. She’s trapped in a surreal time loop—and staring down the barrel of her own mortality.
Directors: Amy Poehler, Nastasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland
Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Charlie Barnett, Yul Vazquez
Why you should watch it: Within the first five minutes of the first episode, you’ll have already fallen in love with Nadia. She’s foul-mouthed, witty, unapologetic—the type of comedic lead we haven’t typically seen in the spotlight… until now. This series proves that pure magic can happen when women are behind (and in front) of the camera.
Set It Up
Synopsis: In desperate need of a break from the office, two beleaguered assistants team up to trick their workaholic bosses into falling in love.
Director: Claire Scanlon
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Lucy Liu
Why you should watch it: This hilarious flick captures a more relatable kind of love where getting drunk and eating pizza together is the ultimate romantic gesture. More proof that rom-coms are so much better when they’re directed by a woman (see: The Holiday, You’ve Got Mail, Bridget Jones’ Diary—must we go on?).
Feminists: What Were They Thinking?
Synopsis: Revisiting 1970s photos of women that captured a feminist awakening, this film explores those women’s lives and examines the continued need for change.
Director: Johanna Demetrakas
Why you should watch it: Some days, activism can feel overwhelming, so for those moments when you need a little extra motivation, watch this empowering documentary. You’ll be inspired by just how far feminism has come.
Synopsis: When her father falls ill, Adaeze steps up to run the family business—alongside her uncle—and prove herself in a male-dominated world.
Director: Genevieve Nnaji
Cast: Genevieve Nnaji, Nkem Owoh, Pete Edochie
Why you should watch it: In her directorial debut, Genevieve Nnaji brings Nigerian Hollywood or “Nollywood” to Netflix. As she said in a recent interview with TIFF, she is creating “movies by us, for us,” which tell the stories of African people.
Synopsis: While searching for her ex-boyfriend, a young drifter impulsively kidnaps a baby from a neglectful mother and pretends the child is her own.
Director: Sian Heder
Cast: Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard
Why you should watch it: Juno duo Ellen Page and Allison Janney make movie magic together in this seriously underrated Netflix Original about the highs and lows of motherhood. PSA: Keep a box of tissues near by ’cause there will def be some tears.
The Breaker Upperers
Synopsis: For the right price, BFFs Jen and Mel will ruthlessly end any romance. But when one of them grows a conscience, their friendship begins to unravel.
Director: Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek
Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston
Why you should watch it: If you love Broad City, this needs to be on your Saturday night binge list. This LOL-worthy film is extra special because the directors show you their comedic genius on-and-off camera, which makes this unconventional rom-com straight fire.