A very happy International Women’s Day (and, related, Happy A Day Without A Woman those exercising their ability to strike in order to help highlight the important contributions made by women in the workplace and the world at large) to all of our readers! With this important day in mind, we’ve assembled a list of films, all currently streaming online, that would not exist without the female creators (writers, directors, sometime-stars, and more) who crafted them. It’s just a taste — a nibble, really — of some of the industry’s best examples of forward-thinking, female-driven work.
Take a peek, and appreciate the power of women and their strong-as-hell creativity and drive.
“Paris Is Burning” (Netflix)
Jennie Livingston’s incisive, intimate and wildly entertaining documentary about New York City “drag ball culture” is an essential document of life during the so-called Golden Age of such events. A smash hit on the festival circuit, the film didn’t earn an Academy Award nod for Best Documentary — a shocker, really — a move that eventually helped change how docs are picked for the accolade. As relevant and wild as ever, it remains a guide post for gay youth, trans youth and their allies.
“White Girl” (Netflix)
Elizabeth Wood’s Sundance hit is wild. The film follows Morgan Saylor’s Leah, mere weeks away from her starting her sophomore year at a New York City college, as she gleefully tumbles into the city’s underbelly, thanks to her newest obsession, sexy drug dealer Blue (Brian “Sene” Marc). Leah and Blue’s connection is instant and electric, and as the two fall deeper into their charged relationship, Leah begins to risk more and more. It’s thrilling and chilling in equal measure.
“Mississippi Damned” (Netflix)
Filmmaker Tina Mabry based her 2009 drama on her own experiences growing up in the Deep South, and the result is a fiercely moving and decidedly unflinching look at coming-of-age that is rarely so honestly portrayed on the big screen.
“Meek’s Cutoff” (Netflix)
Kelly Reichardt and her often-star Michelle Williams turn their attentions to the American West in this dirt-stained 2010 drama. Bolstered by turns from Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan, the film follows a group of struggling settlers on one hell of an ill-fated journey to a new life. Tough, vicious, and entirely free of artifice, it’s an eye-opener of the highest caliber. (Also, did you like “Oregon Trail” as a kid? This will kill that for you.)
Billed as something as a “secret” film, Ava DuVernay’s free-wheeling Netflix deal allowed the “Selma” helmer to make her feature-length look at the American prison system with minimal intrusion over the course of nearly two years. The documentary, which succinctly explains the links between systematic racism and America’s swelling prison system, was kept mostly under wraps until it was announced as the opening night film at the 2016 New York Film Festival, making it the first documentary to ever earn the distinction.
“Your Sister’s Sister” (Netflix)
Lynn Shelton directs Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt as a pair of mismatched sisters kinda, sorta, not really fighting over the same guy (Mark Duplass) in this entirely winning spin on the ol’ rom-com formula. Like so many of Shelton’s films, “Your Sister’s Sister” is warm and intimate above all else, the kind of film that offers up a very happy ending that still can’t help but wrench some tears from the most hardened of audiences.
Céline Sciamma’s festival favorite gathers a stellar group of rising young stars, mixes them up with familiar emotions and situations, and tells a common coming-of-age story with pure originality. You’ve seen this story, but not like this.
“Miss and the Doctors” (MUBI)
A delightful French rom-com about a pair of brothers — both doctors! — who fall helplessly in love with the same woman (uh, miss?). It’s a modern telling of a genre the French, including director Axelle Ropert, do so very well. Fizzy, fun, and as smooth as a good glass of champagne, it’s an easy add to any romantic’s rotating heap of love stories to adore.
“Three Worlds” (MUBI)
Catherine Corsini’s 2012 drama gathers a group of seemingly disparate people together after a horrific accident changes all of their fates. It’s the kind of story that could read as overwrought or hammy, but anchored by Raphaël Personnaz’s steady performance as the woman who unexpectedly gathers the different players together, it takes on a new level. Rife with contemporary themes, including migrant workers, social class, and the weight of guilt, the film is just as necessary and prescient as it was when it first debuted.
“2 Days in Paris” (FilmStruck)
(This is a safe space to talk about Julie Delpy’s often overlooked and totally impressive filmmaking chops.) If you’ve never experienced one of Delpy’s flinty, funny relationship dramas, start here — then follow with “2 Days in New York,” her 2012 sequel.
Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Oscar-nominated drama about five sisters tackles big questions about womanhood, sexuality, and how society treats its female members — pair it with “The Virgin Suicides” for a real banger.
“Gas Food Lodging” (FilmStruck)
Allison Anders’ indie gem is all about dead-end towns, dead-end lives, one heck of a dead-end trailer park, and the two girls (Ione Skye and Fairuza Balk, a duo for the ages) bursting to break free.
Claudia Weill’s 1978 dramedy remains one of cinema’s most sensitive portrayals of the pains and pleasures of adult female friendships.
Co-directed by Marjane Satrapi, this Oscar-nominated animated outing adapts Satrapi’s own experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution — culled from her own graphic autobiography — to tell a moving and rich story that only gets better with age.
“Selma” (Amazon Prime)
Sure, Ava DuVernay’s beautiful Martin Luther King, Jr.’s biopic is focused on the civil rights leader, but DuVernay also kits out her film with major turns from a bevy of Hollywood’s most talented actresses, including Carmen Ejogo, Oprah (Oprah!!), Tessa Thompson and Lorraine Toussaint.
“Something’s Gotta Give” (Amazon Prime)
You will cry when Diane Keaton cries.
“The Arbor” (Fandor)
Clio Barnard’s blazingly original and deeply felt spin on both the documentary and biography worlds is entirely its own thing — chronicling the late playwright Andrea Dunbar’s viciously underprivileged life in one of England’s many housing estate, through very creative means — while still driving home universal emotions and experiences.
“No Home Movie” (Fandor)
Chantal Akerman’s last film goes inside the beloved filmmaker’s relationship with her mother, told through personal conversations and almost uncomfortably close access, all utilizing her own wholly impressive style. A heartbreaker.