10 Great Films You Didn’t Know Were Directed By Women

By  · Published on October 8th, 2009

From decrying a severe lack of female filmmakers to satirically mocking the concept of judging actresses by how much return on investment they offer, it seems like we’ve been balls-deep in feminism lately.

We realize that you, dear reader, believe that only men are allowed to direct movies, but that’s just not true! Women have a long and storied history with the art of filmmaking, and even though it will probably upset your precious little chauvinist default settings, we’re here to tell you that some of your favorite explosions, quotable comedies and fight scenes are directed by the fairer sex. In fact, some of your very favorite films had women at the helm.

Leave your Neanderthal preconceived notions about woman filmmakers at the door, and prepare for your mind to be blown.

10. Real Genius (1985)

The Director: Martha Coolidge

The Pitch: In addition to creating Introducing Dorthy Dandridge and Valley Girl, Martha Coolidge is the director who helped introduce Val Kilmer to the world by delivering a highly quotable comedy that doubles as a demonstration of gravity. Plus, Coolidge also acted as the President of the Directors Guild when she wasn’t blowing up houses with popcorn.

9. Titus (1999)

The Director: Julie Taymor

The Pitch: Roman orgies and people getting spoons shoved down their throats. It’s always nice to see something brutal, violent and sexual come from the mind of a female director, and working with Sir Anthony Hopkins on your first directing job takes brass buttons.

8. American Psycho (2000)

The Director: Mary Harron

The Pitch: For those of you who thought it took a man’s touch to have Christian Bale murder some prostitutes with a chainsaw, it took Mary Harron’s sensibilities to bring the sheer endless joy of a serial killing megalomaniac to life. Harron also wrote the screenplay, keeping the dark tone of Bret Easton Ellis’s novel very much in tact. Sort of makes the arguments that the film is sexist seem silly doesn’t it?

7. Point Break (1991)

The Director: Kathryn Bigelow

The Pitch: I realize that everyone knows The Hurt Locker was directed by Kathryn Bigelow because we’ve been shouting its praises from the rooftops, but Bigelow busted out the action early on with what may very well be the greatest movie featuring surfing robbers in presidential masks. For context, Point Break is prominently homaged right next to action auteur Michael “Awesome” Bay’s Bad Boys II in Hot Fuzz.

6. Billy Madison (1995)

The Director: Tamra Davis

The Pitch: The concept of showing some boobies for every right answer might have come from Adam Sandler’s mind, but it took a woman to shoot it. Tamra Davis delivered what might have been the most random comedy of the decade alongside her other flicks – CB4 and Half Baked. It’s clear that she was plugged into the SNL mentality of the time, and has created more than enough good movies for us to forgive Crossroads. Almost.

5. Hideout in the Sun (1960)

The Director: Doris Wishman

The Pitch: Oh, exploitation. Has a better plot ever existed than two robbers taking a girl hostage and heading back to her nudist camp to hide out? No. That’s the short answer. This film should be championed for the sheer amount of casual nudity involved no matter who was at the wheel. Doris Wishman wrote and co-directed this camp masterpiece and would go on to gain a cult following as a sexploitation filmmaker gaining notoriety as a female Ed Wood (while Ed Wood would gain appropriate notoriety as a male Doris Wishman).

4. Wayne’s World (1992)

The Director: Penelope Spheeris

The Pitch: Party time. Excellent. Coming off of the fantastic musical documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, Spheeris was tapped to direct the Mike Myers/Dana Carvey jump from sketch comedy to feature length stardom and would go on to direct Black Sheep for two other SNL alums. As such, she’s also directly responsible for us banging our heads like idiots every time Bohemian Rhapsody comes on in the car.

3. Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

The Director: Amy Heckerling

The Pitch: Widely regarded as one of the best high school movies of all time, and one of the funniest coming-of-age comedies, Fast Times was the starting point for more than a handful of famous actors, actresses and a few Academy Award winners. Cameron Crowe gets due credit for writing the script, but you should also be thanking Amy Heckerling when you order a pizza in class.

2. Big (1988)

The Director: Penny Marshall

The Pitch: Leave it to a woman to create one of the movies that resonates the most with men of every age. And a movie that technically includes some hot statutory rape. He was only 13, Elizabeth Perkins! Marshall is also the mind who brought us Tom Hanks Peeing For a Really Long Time aka A League of Their Own.

1. Pet Sematary (1989)

The Director: Mary Lambert

The Pitch: For some reason, with a shortage of female directors in the movie business, there’s a downright drought of them in the horror world. Angela Bettis is a notable example, but Mary Lambert shines through for delivering the fantastically creepy Pet Sematary which also stands as one of the rare examples where a child is made terrifying.

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