It’s been a strong year for the leading ladies of the silver screen, with three of the past year’s most major blockbuster hits – Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Beauty and the Beast – featuring female actresses front and center. However, it’s also been quite a year for women behind the camera too – at least in terms of independent cinema. With some of the best films of the past 18 months having been directed by women, we can’t help but wonder what these magnificent talents could do if given a big budget movie to work with. Here are ten fierce female filmmakers who deserve to be given big-budget films to direct.
Ultimate funny girl and owner of our hearts, Alia Shawkat is having her moment following film festival success with her feature writing debut Duck Butter, about two women (Shawkat’s Naima and Laia Costa’s Sergio) who are dissatisfied with the dishonesty they see in dating and relationships and make a 24-hour sex pact, hoping to find a new way to create intimacy. Having shown her comedy chops in shows such as Arrested Development and Search Party, we would have the utmost confidence were she to helm a satirical feature flick.
Greta Gerwig has warmed our heart cockles and tickled our funny bones for years with her writing, particularly when collaborating with co-writer and director Noah Baumbach for films like Mistress America and Frances Ha. But it was her directorial debut Lady Bird that really blew the world away – a stunningly crafted coming-of-age film starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as a teenager trying to navigate herself through kidulthood in the unglamorous setting of Sacramento, California.
We were lucky enough to speak to writer-director Natalia Leite about her 2017 revenge horror M.F.A., a film that follows Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) – an art student brutally raped by a potential love interest – who takes justice into her own hands after being failed by the system. Speaking on female directors in the horror genre, Leite explained, “I hope there are a lot more women who feel empowered to go into this genre. It’s a fact that there’s not a lot of us doing these types of films.” We have no doubt Leite would absolutely slay were she to direct a major horror blockbuster.
Another leader in the horror genre, Anna Biller directed The Love Witch, proving her oddball flair with a film about a beautiful young witch on her quest to find the perfect mate. With clear visual panache and styles echoing sexploitation films of the 60s and 70s, we’re hoping to see more kooky characters from this undeniable auteur in the years to come.
Writer for hit comedies such as Master of None and The Chi and an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s recently released Ready Player One, Lena Waithe is absolutely changing the game on screens both big and small. While enjoying her moment in Hollywood, Waithe’s breaking records while she’s at it, having become the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. More of this, please!
Alice Lowe has been making us laugh with her acting roles for years, from Sightseers to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace to Hot Fuzz. But it was all about her writing & directing debut Prevenge, following a pregnant widow who finds herself at the whim of her murderous, demonic unborn child. Imagine Rosemary’s Baby as a comedy, throw in some sharp British humor, and you’re there. Lord only knows what Lowe would come up with were she in charge of a blockbuster budget – we can but dream.
Cathy Yan made her directorial debut Dead Pigs in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, focusing on a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an ambitious expat architect, and a disenchanted rich girl who collide when thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly modernizing Shanghai. It’s a unique and quirky film, but we’re rooting for the director even more since she was pitched as the unexpected director of DC Comics’s unnamed Harley Quinn film. We’re keeping our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed this dream is made a reality!
Dee Rees made Oscar history this year after becoming the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for her breakout hit Mudbound. A masterpiece in its own right, the film is an epic story of two families pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape, portraying racial conflict in postwar Mississippi. With other hits such as the 2011 drama Pariah, the outlook is strong for this skilled and determined filmmaker.
Anyone who’s bingewatched the new Brit comedy Fleabag in one sitting will know that writer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Solo: A Star Wars Story) is one talented woman. As funny as it is dramatic, the show follows a self-confessed pervert as she comes to terms with her friend’s death while dealing with life in London. Perhaps a feature length writing debut is on the cards in the near future? We sure hope so.
Although she’s best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan has been making waves with her coming-of-age drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Highly praised at this year’s Sundance, the narrative centers around a girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is sent to a conversion center after being caught hooking up with the prom queen. As Clare Binns suggested, let’s give Akhavan a blockbuster to direct. You know it makes sense!
Marvel is apparently moving forward with its Black Widow film and Deadline has reported an update on the female directors who are being considered to make it. According to the publication, Cate Shortland (Lore) is reportedly the favorite to direct the film, with Kimberly Pierce, Amma Asante (Belle), and Maggie Betts (Novitate) also in the running.
These directors were apparently whittled down from a list of 49, with Shortland, Assante, and Betts reportedly even meeting star Scarlett Johansson (Lucy) and Marvel’s Kevin Feige recently. While we can see the appeal of all four directors handling the material, there are seven specific female directors who we think could land a knockout with the Black Widow movie if given a chance. Here’s our ranking of the seven female filmmakers we’d most like to see direct the Black Widow movie.
Ergüven’s 2015 breakthrough coming-of-age movie Mustang proved her to be a talent on the rise, while her 2017 Halle Berry (X-Men) and Daniel Craig (Spectre) led movie Kings suggested she can masterfully maintain tension. A big budget superhero movie could give the filmmaker an opportunity to refine her style for a wider audience.
We realize Barrymore is a far-fetched choice considering she hasn’t directed a movie since 2009’s Whip It, but god damn we love that film and continue to believe she could do great things with a Black Widow movie if given the opportunity. Barrymore could really bring out the dry, acerbic wit of the character while providing bombastic, fun action scenes.
5. Chloe Zhao
Zhao was speculated to be one of the filmmakers being considered by Disney for the Black Widow movie back in April. The filmmaker would be an interesting choice as her style is more understated and thoughtful than the average superhero movie seems to feature. But having garnered critical acclaim for her two feature dramas Songs My Brothers Taught Me & The Rider, the director could surprise us all with her versatility by going big for her next feature with Black Widow.
4. Dee Rees
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker does wondrous things with stories centered around female leads as seen in her debut feature Pariah. Her Netflix Originals hit Mudbound further highlights Rees as a director who can handle the demands of an ensemble cast and a big story without sacrificing her rich visual palette. Just imagine a Black Widow movie from this woman! We can and it’s stupendous.
3. Amma Asante
The actor-turned-filmmaker has been rumored as a top choice for the film since April and has a bold eye for presenting emotionally charged, complex narratives. Asante recently wowed critics with her interracial marriage story A United Kingdom, but she truly made herself a name to look out for with the period drama Belle – a rare movie that interrogates the racial tensions of 18th century aristocratic England. If chosen to direct Black Widow, Asante could assuredly peel back the layers on Natasha Romanoff’s cool exteriors to reveal the complexity of the character.
2. Karyn Kusama
One of the most versatile independent filmmakers today, Kusama has made a name for herself as a confident risk-taker with an eye for genre storytelling. Her 2000 breakthrough movie Girlfight proved her prowess for action scenes with an emotional core to them while Jennifer’s Body showcased her grasp of both horror and comedy. However, it’s her 2015 film The Invitation that remains the most impressive, revealing Kusama to be the sort of taut storyteller who could infuse the Black Widow movie with tension but also lashings of wit and action to maintain Black Widow’s vibe.
We don’t care what anyone says – Punisher: War Zone remains one of the greatest R-rated superhero movies ever made. Alexander utilizes the most cartoonish displays of violence and explosions possible to really bring the comic books to life and it absolutely works. The film was foolishly maligned upon release, but it has rightfully become a cult classic – arguably the filmmaker was way ahead of her time. Since then, Alexander has continued to work as a genre director on superhero shows like Arrow and Supergirl, which suggests she’s more than ready to approach another big budget superhero movie and we think the Black Widow movie should be it.