In your Greta Gerwig era? Here are 7 more female directors you should know

From Chloé Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ to Céline Sciamma’s ‘Girlhood’, here are HUNGER’s top picks to add to your watchlist.

Mary Harron’s male gaze genius

Mary Harron should have more recognition, with the filmmaker directing some of the 21st centuries most iconic pieces of cinema. She is best known for her work on American Psycho (2000) – the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel. Yes, boys, your favourite Patrick Bateman was directed by a woman. Harron’s charm lies in her ability to sculpt personal stories into social commentary, with the likes of Charles Manson-centred drama and crime film Charlie Says (2019), Daliland (2022), and I Shot Andy Warhol (1996). Having started at Punk Magazine and being one of the first journalists to ever interview the Sex Pistols, Harron is trained in acute observations of subculture. One of her most underrated films is The Notorious Bettie Page which is a docu-drama of a struggling actress being investigated for accidentally making it big as a fetish model and subverting the youth. 

MUST WATCH: The Notorious Bettie Page, Charlie Says, I Shot Andy Warhol.

Sofia Coppola’s blank spaces

As the daughter of The Godfather’s Francis Ford Coppola and Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse’s Eleanor Coppola, Sofia was undeniably destined for cinema greatness, and boy did she live up to her potential. In the late 90s, after feeling rather lost in the modelling and fashion industry, she created her first two shorts: Bed, Bath, and Beyond (1996), and Lick the Star (1998). One year later, her first feature film The Virgin Suicides was released, encompassing a subversive view of the female experience. It was a rare insight into the feminine mystique, one that would earn her a distinct creative style that is so recognisable today. When she divorced her filmmaker husband Spike Jonze in 2003, her next feature Lost in Translation detailed the small moments of connection that follow a breakup. She followed with the stylish biography adaptation of Marie Antoinette in 2006, then narrated the story behind father-daughter relationships in Somewhere, and went on to direct the Hollywood heist extravaganza The Bling Ring in 2013. 

MUST WATCH: The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation, The Bling Ring.

Catherine Hardwicke’s romantic darkness

The Hollywood director Catherine Hardwicke is mostly known for her 2008 blockbuster version of the Twilight novel, and let’s face it – the first is the best of the entire franchise. The uneasy slow tension, the cinematic blue hue filter, and the unparalleled teen romance of werewolves and vampires. But Hardwicke is more than her iconic take on Twilight, with her first film in 2003 of Thirteen exploring her own connection to the coming-of-age genre in this semi-autobiographical portrayal. It was an innovative indie flick with a scrappy cast and minimal budget that explored drug abuse, sexuality, and mother daughter relationships. Then came her works on the 2005 skate cult classic Lords of the Dogtown (an arguable blueprint for Mid90s), followed by the romantic horror of Red Riding Hood – a completely refreshing look on the classic fairytale.

MUST WATCH: Thirteen, Lords of the Dogtown, Red Riding Hood.

Chloé Zhao’s real American Dream

Chinese writer, director, editor, producer, and two-time Oscar winner Chloé Zhao has repeatedly made history with her cinematic accolades. As the second woman ever to win the Oscar for Best Director, her 2020 film Nomadland with Frances McDormand with the soft landscapes of the American West sunrise put her on the radar. Her first feature in 2015, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, told the story of the flaws of the American Dream, and The Rider in 2017 built on this concept when a cowboy who faces a life-changing injury has to find his soul in a new purpose, with a pared-down look on big cinematic feats. Now, after recently directing and co-writing the new Marvel Studios’ Eternals, Zhao is taking on Dracula through the lens of a sci-fi futuristic western. A bloodsucking cowboy alien is something you never knew you needed, and Zhao will probably prove you wrong. 

MUST WATCH: Nomadland, Songs My Brother Taught Me, The Rider.

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s modern-day classics

“Modern-day classic” is a phrase thrown around often, but for Gina Prince-Bythewood, it is the only appropriate description. Championing authentic character-driven stories, her 2000 film Love and Basketball was described by her to the Hollywood Reporter as a “Black When Harry Met Sally”, with Disappearing Acts in the same year being about a steamy affair between a music teacher and divorced builder. Her 2020 adaptation of The Old Guard marks the first comic book movie directed by a Black woman. Her venture in 2022 combined both her signature styles, as she took on the blockbuster The Woman King which followed the story of 19th-century women warriors in the Dahomey tribe. 

MUST WATCH: The Woman King, Disappearing Acts, Love and Basketball.

Céline Sciamma’s rejection of social contracts

French director Céline Sciamma has been at the vanguard of pioneering female filmmakers since her first film Water Lilies in 2007, based on a love triangle of three adolescent girls who meet at a pool one day. Tomboy (2011) is still a staple queer coming-of-age story; whilst Girlhood (2014) was a game-changer for non-white female representation (especially when plastered on the billboards and bus stops of Paris); and her latest 2021 feature Petite Maman is essential in profound storytellings of childhood grief. Arguably one of her best films is the 2019 Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which tells the story of a lesbian sexual affair between an 18th-century aristocrat and a painter, framing the piece with a sense of community amongst women no matter their age, class, or era. 

MUST WATCH: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Tomboy, Girlhood.

Emerald Fennell: the newcomer on the block

Though she may have just played Marge in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, this doll is much more than just an actor. The British creative is now venturing into filmmaking thanks to her directorial debut with the 2020 Oscar-winning Promising Young Woman, which tells the story of a young medical school dropout played by Carey Mulligan who seeks revenge against men following a traumatic event that led her high school best friend to commit suicide. Its narrative is framed by the neglectful acts of others and the damaging consequences they can have on the psyche, rigorously evaluating both the complicity of men and women alike.  This year, Fennell will release another film to follow on from a successful debut called Saltburn, which follows a young college student who develops an infatuation with his aristocratic English schoolmate. 

MUST WATCH: Promising Young Woman.

WriterElla Chadwick
Banner Image CreditSearchlight Pictures