Top up your watchlist... 38 classics directed by women

See some of the best works by female filmmakers ahead of this weekend’s Woman with a Movie Camera Summit at BFI Southbank – all available with a free 14-day trial on BFI Player.

21 June 2019

Daisies (1966)

Director: Vera Chytilová

Daisies (1966)

Two self-confessed hedonists wreak wanton havoc in this visually spectacular, neo-dadaist farce. Vera Chytilová’s best known film and a stone cold classic of the Czech New Wave.

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)

Directors: Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)

An experimental classic on the demands of motherhood from British filmmaker and theorist Laura Mulvey.

Germany, Pale Mother (1980)

Director: Helma Sanders-Brahms

Germany, Pale Mother (1980)

A key work of the New German Cinema, charting a relationship, and by extension a nation, between 1939 and 1950.

Before Stonewall (1984)

Directors: Greta Schiller, Robert Rosenberg

Before Stonewall (1984)

Greta Schiller’s documentary examines the LGBTQ community at New York’s Stonewall Inn in the period leading up to the 1969 riot.

Heart of the Angel (1989)

Director: Molly Dineen

Heart of the Angel (1989)

One single day in the life of the London Underground’s Northern Line, from Canadian filmmaker Molly Dineen.

My 20th Century (1989)

Director: Ildikó Enyedi

My Twentieth Century (1989)

The sophomore feature from Hungary’s Ildikó Enyedi, who won the 2017 Golden Bear at the Berlin film festival for On Body and Soul.

Face (1997)

Director: Antonia Bird

Face (1997)

An ace British bank robbery flick from Antonia Bird. Starring Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle, a close-knit gang of professional thieves plan an intricate heist but begin to turn on each other when things go wrong.

Under the Skin (1997)

Director: Carine Adler

Under the Skin (1997)

Samantha Morton’s Iris spins out of control following the death of her mother in one of the great British films of the 90s.

Me without You (2001)

Director: Sandra Goldbacher

Me without You (2001)

A coming-of-age tale set on the Isle of Wight and in Brighton in the 1970s and 80s, with a terrific pair of central performances from Michelle Williams and Anna Friel.

Somersault (2004)

Director: Cate Shortland

Somersault (2004)

The breakout film for Cate Shortland (soon to be directing Black Widow for Marvel) with a sensational lead turn from Abbie Cornish.

Red Road (2006)

Director: Andrea Arnold

Red Road (2006)

The film that brought Andrea Arnold international attention, Red Road is a magnificent study in voyeurism, confrontation and shame.

Brick Lane (2007)

Director: Sarah Gavron

Brick Lane (2007)

Adapted from the Monica Ali novel by Sarah Gavron, Brick Lane charts the arranged marriage of a young Bangladeshi woman in 1980s east London.

Unrelated (2007)

Director: Joanna Hogg

Unrelated (2007)

With her latest film, The Souvenir, garnering raves from all directions, here’s Joanna Hogg’s debut feature, about a woman taking refuge from a broken relationship in Tuscany.

Frozen River (2008)

Director: Courtney Hunt

Frozen River (2008)

Melissa Leo leads a thriller set at the border crossing between Quebec and New York State, where a smuggling ring threatens the local Mohawk community.

Helen (2008)

Directors: Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy

Helen (2008)

Hitchcock would’ve liked this slippery, reflexive study in assumed identity, as a young girl takes on the persona of her missing classmate for a police reconstruction.

The Headless Woman (2008)

Director: Lucrecia Martel

The Headless Woman (2008)

Lucrecia Martel’s psychological stunner charts the fallout from a road accident, as María Onetto’s Verónica comes to terms with her own guilt and paranoia.

She, a Chinese (2009)

Director: Xiaolu Guo

She, a Chinese (2009)

British-Chinese director Xiaolu Guo explores the itinerant existence of Chinese arrivals to London through the story of Li Mei, a Chinese girl who drifts from affair to affair, finding herself in ever more suffocating situations in a city that supposedly offers untold freedoms.

In a Better World (2010)

Director: Susanne Bier

In a Better World (2010)

Susanne Bier’s sumptuous, Oscar-winning drama explores the duality of a doctor working in a Sudanese refugee camp and his troubled family life in rural Denmark.

The Arbor (2010)

Director: Clio Barnard

The Arbor (2010)

An inventive play on fact, fiction and reminiscence, Clio Barnard’s film about the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar is no ordinary documentary.

A Simple Life (2011)

Director: Ann Hui

A Simple Life (2011)

Ann Hui, one of the great humanists of the Hong Kong New Wave, brings a captivating story of a film executive reconnecting with the nanny who raised him.

Tomboy (2011)

Director: Céline Sciamma

Tomboy (2011)

A 10-year-old girl, settling into her new neighbourhood outside Paris, is mistaken for a boy and has to live up to this new identity since it’s too late for the mistake to be clarified.

From the Sea to the Land Beyond (2012)

Director: Penny Woolcock

From the Sea to the Land Beyond (2012)

Award-winning filmmaker Penny Woolcock’s beautiful film is drawn from the BFI National Archive. A collage portrait of Britain’s coastline with a score by British Sea Power.

My Brother the Devil (2012)

Director: Sally El Hosaini

My Brother the Devil (2012)

Sally El Hosaini’s acclaimed feature debut focuses on two teenage British-Egyptian brothers living in Hackney; their love for each other is threatened when gang life, drugs and sex come between them.

When I Saw You (2012)

Director: Annemarie Jacir

When I Saw You (2012)

Palestine’s entry for the 2013 Academy Awards follows a young boy’s attempts to be reunited with his father following the 1967 Six-Day War.

Night Moves (2013)

Director: Kelly Reichardt

Night Moves (2013)

This taut political thriller from American master Kelly Reichardt follows a trio of radical environmental activists planning an act of terrorism.

Amour Fou (2014)

Director: Jessica Hausner

Amour Fou (2014)

Jessica Hausner’s long-awaited follow-up to Lourdes is a mischievous satire on the conceits of Romantic-era fiction, in which a German poet seeks mates for a suicide pact.

Fidelio: Alice’s Journey (2014)

Director: Lucie Borleteau

Fidelio: Alice’s Journey (2014)

When Alice takes a job as a ship’s engineer her fidelity towards her shore-bound fiancé is tested when she discovers a former lover is the ship’s captain.

Second Coming (2014)

Director: Debbie Tucker Green

Second Coming (2014)

Debbie Tucker Green stages an immaculate conception in south London for one of the most original British films of recent years.

Brand: A Second Coming (2015)

Director: Ondi Timoner

Brand: A Second Coming (2015)

Russell Brand ponders his political awakening and messianic tendencies in Ondi Timoner’s perceptive and very funny documentary.

Evolution (2015)

Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Evolution (2015)

The long-awaited second feature from Lucile Hadzihalilović is a gorgeously surreal coming-of-age tale laced with bizarre body-horror.

Power in Our Hands (2016)

Director: Angela Spielsinger

Power in Our Hands (2016)

A groundbreaking documentary that uses archive film to tell the story of the British Deaf community’s fight for civil rights.

Sweet Bean (2015)

Director: Naomi Kawase

Sweet Bean (2015)

Naomi Kawase followed her acclaimed drama Still the Water with this charming, small-town drama of culinary redemption, which opened the prestigious Un Certain Regard strain of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

The Incident (2015)

Director: Jane Linfoot

The Incident (2015)

Jane Linfoot’s clinically constructed study of guilt, betrayal and responsibility concerns a comfortable family whose seemingly perfect lives are suddenly thrown into turmoil.

By the Time it Gets Dark (2016)

Director: Anocha Suwichakornpong

By the Time it Gets Dark (2016)

Anocha Suwichakornpong’s mesmerising and innovative treatise on memory, politics and cinema is a formally breathtaking piece of work. Essential viewing.

Letters from Baghdad (2016)

Director: Sabine Krayenbühl

Letters from Baghdad (2016)

Tilda Swinton narrates the extraordinary journey of Gertrude Bell, a singular woman who played a significant – often unrecognised – role in British imperial policy-making in Iraq.

Almost Heaven (2017)

Director: Carol Salter

Almost Heaven (2017)

Awarded Best Documentary at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards, Carol Salter’s film is a tender portrait of a young woman training to become a mortician at one of China’s largest funeral homes.

Gholam (2017)

Director: Mitra Tabrizian

Gholam (2017)

This mesmerising slow-burn thriller sees a man with no past, no future and no convictions get involved in the conflict of a total stranger, carrying it through to the very end.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018)

Director: Gabrielle Brady

Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018)

A therapist helps traumatised refugees detained on a remote island where powerful natural and tribal rituals prevail, in this extraordinary mix of fact and fiction.

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