Girl Talk is a weekly look at women in film — past, present, and future.
While 2017 was a banner year for female filmmakers — including breakouts like Patty Jenkins, who helmed the second highest-grossing film of the year, and rising stars like Stella Meghie and Amanda Lipitz — next year seems poised to exceed some very high expectations when it comes to both depth of talent and depth of choices.
From new blockbusters from some of our best filmmakers in the business to raucous comedies poised to keep up the reinvention of female-centric comedy, indies from new talents, directing pairs looking to break through, and everything in between, 2018 has a something for every film fan, directed by helmers who just so happen to be women.
Keep in mind, this list only includes films that have an announced release date for 2018, and we fully expect (and hope) that more titles will join these ranks once the festival season kicks back in to introduce audiences to a slew of new titles and talents. Here are the 15 films you can add to your calendar right now.
“The Strange Ones” (January 5)
Directed by Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff, the pair’s low-simmering thriller offers plenty of proof that they’re ready to jump into the big leagues. At SXSW, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote: “Creepy, slow-burn portraits of alienation and discordant relationships have been a recurring motif in these filmmakers’ other shorts: Radcliff’s ‘Jonathan’s Chest’ involves a teenager confronting the abrupt reappearance of a brother with a mysterious past, while Wolkstein’s ‘Social Butterfly’ finds a thieving interloper wandering through a house party and pretending to know its hosts…the journey there is compelling enough to make it worth the investment, offering further confirmation of two directors keen on bucking expectations, and likely to keep it up as they continue to hone their talent. ‘The Strange Ones’ isn’t a giant step forward for the pair, but it’s just enough to prove they have the chops to take one.”
“The Party” (February 16)
Sally Potter returns to ambitious, star-laden fare with her Berlinale premiere, which boasts such heavy hitters as Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, and Cillian Murphy in a stagey chamber piece about a very weird party. Black-and-white and clocking in at a snappy 71 minutes, the movie careens towards some wild ends and unexpected revelations, aided immeasurably by its game cast and daring director. Potter hasn’t opened a film since 2012’s “Ginger and Rosa,” and “The Party” quickly reminds it audience why she’s such a necessary, unique voice in modern cinema.
“A Wrinkle in Time” (March 9)
Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay makes the jump to big, big studio fare with her adaptation of the beloved Madeleine L’Engle novel of the same name, care of a massive budget that also offers her a major milestone — she’s become the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a production budget over $100 million — that we can only hope retains her own creative spark. The film follows a 12-year-old girl named Meg (Storm Reid) who, as DuVernay has made plain time and time again, literally saves the universe by way of a wild adventure through space and time. The vibrant sci-fi vision has already unspooled intriguing trailers that show off a star-studded cast, including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine, and a series of awe-inspiring images. If this is the future of blockbuster filmmaking, we’re in for a very big treat.
“What They Had” (March 16)
First-time filmmaker Elizabeth Chomko has been hammering away at her debut feature for years, first taking her script for “What They Had” to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2014, later picking up a Nicholl Fellowship the following year. Appropriately enough, the film will premiere at Sundance next month, bringing things full circle for the filmmaker’s passion project, before opening in March via Bleecker Street. Starring Hilary Swank and Blythe Danner, the film follows a family who are forced to deal with the heartbreaking aftermath of an Alzheimer’s-inflicted event that threatens the tenuous bonds between the entire clan. It sounds like one hell of a showcase for both actresses, with the added bonus of supporting stars that include Michael Shannon, Robert Forster, and Taissa Farmiga.
“Blockers” (April 6)
Initially titled “The Pact,” “Pitch Perfect” and “30 Rock” writer Kay Cannon will make her directorial debut with a film that sounds destined to enter the sex comedy hall of fame. Centered on a trio of parents who discover — much to their absolute horror — that their teen daughters have made a pact to lose their virginities on prom night, the comedy follows the group as they try to stop the plan from panning out, any way they can. The film stars Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Graham Phillips, June Diane Raphael, Hannibal Buress, and Sarayu Blue. Its first red-band trailer sells the high jinx, but also leans heavily into the bond between long-time pals (aww) along with plenty of deeply misunderstood teenspeak and Cena again proving his salt as a comedy MVP.
“The Rider” (April 13)
You can’t fake “The Rider.” Chloe Zhao’s lyrical docudrama blends fact and fiction into an intimate portrait of American masculinity at large and a solitary cowboy trying to find his way back to the only life he’s known. Utilizing a cast of non-actors — most of whom are tasked with playing versions of themselves, in a story pulled from their lives — Zhao’s film derives its power from the truth that both drives it and inspires it, and the final result is a wholly unique slice-of-life drama. Zhao first made waves with her 2015 feature debut “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” a festival favorite set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota that tracked the bond between a pair of Lakota siblings. It’s also where she discovered young rodeo cowboy Brady Jandreau, who makes his debut in “The Rider” as an on-screen version of himself in the worst period of his own life.
“Zama” (April 13)
As IndieWire’s Ben Croll wrote earlier this year: “Few films have done more to unite the international film community than ‘Zama.’ The minutes-long opening titles list over 20 different production companies and regional supports. The nominally Argentinian film is a joint venture between nine other countries as well, and the end credits name figures as diverse as Danny Glover, Pedro Almodóvar, and Gael Garcia Bernal among the many other who jumped on to help this project through a troubled, many year production. Finally complete, Lucrecia Martel’s film promises to be significantly more divisive. Technically an adaptation of Antonio Di Benedetto acclaimed modernist novel, “Zama” reads just as much like an open declaration of war against the line that separates form and content. The source text told the story of an 18th century magistrate driven to madness while waiting for his next post; the film forces the viewer to go mad right there with him.”
“I Feel Pretty” (June 29)
“How to Be Single” and “Valentine’s Day” scribes Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein finally take directing into their own hands with their directorial debut starring Amy Schumer as a woman who — stay with us here — gets a massive head injury and emerges with all of the (perhaps misdirected) confidence in the world. The film’s official synopsis promises that, while Schumer’s Renee looks the same to everyone else, her new sense of self actually helps propel her to big wins. The supporting cast includes Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, and Rory Scovel.
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” (July 6)
Susanna Fogel’s charming and honest “Life Partners” was a highlight of the 2014 film festival circuit, and she now appears to be bringing that same keen eye and affection for the bonds between ladies to a much bigger platform. The comedy stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as best friends who get involved in an undercover mission after Kunis’ “unassuming ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail.” Oops!
“Barbie” (August 8)
“Fun Mom Dinner” helmer Alethea Jones takes the reins on a movie literal decades in the making: a live-action twist on the Barbie mythos that follows an actual doll living in Barbieland (rumored to be Anne Hathaway, after Schumer dropped out due to “I Feel Pretty” scheduling conflicts) who is expelled from her home for not living up to the plastic ideal expected by her pointy-footed sisters.
“The Nightingale” (August 10)
Not to be confused with the other female-directed “Nightingale” set to hit theaters in 2019 (Michelle MacLaren helms that one, a WWII drama based on the novel of the same name), this particular “Nightingale” is Jennifer Kent’s long-gestating followup to her beloved “The Babadook.” This one is also a historical drama, but with a brutal twist set in the wilds of 1825 Tasmania. Aisling Franciosi stars as a young convict woman who joins up with a young Aboriginal male to wreck total havoc and revenge on the men who murdered her family. While details remain scarce, one thing has stayed clear throughout early reports: this one is gonna hurt.
“The Darkest Minds” (September 14)
Oscar-nominated director Jennifer Yuh Nelson dives into live-action filmmaking with this adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s popular YA series of the same name. The film’s plotline sounds relatively standard — a dystopian world where teens develop superpowers and are herded up into camps, with one very special young girl making a stand against the status quo — but Yuh Nelson’s talented young cast is one worth getting very excited about. Led by breakout Amandla Stenberg (herself no stranger to big-time YA fare) and “Beach Rats” star Harris Dickinson, “The Darkest Minds” also includes Mandy Moore and Gwendoline Christie in major roles. Maybe the YA franchise world isn’t dead?
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (October 19)
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” helmer Marielle Heller snagged a slew of potential projects after her 2015 breakout, but this long-gestasting fact-based feature is the first one to hit screens. And what a movie to remind people how talented Heller is, thanks to a wild true story and the canny casting of Melissa McCarthy in a role that demands drama. Based on Lee Israel’s autobiography of the same name — and with a Nicole Holofcener script to boot — the film unspools the crazy story of Israel (McCarthy), once a lauded celeb biographer who turned to fraud and plagiarism when her coffers dried up. And it wasn’t just stories or books she faked, but letters from famous people, which she then sold to unsuspecting buyers (and when she couldn’t fake a good letter, she’d steal and sell a real one). It’s a story screaming for a movie from someone like Heller, who knows how to blend honesty with empathy at every turn.
“Mulan” (November 2)
Disney’s live-action take on their classic princess tale will come to life thanks to long-time Mulan admirer Niki Caro and a cast of all Chinese leads. When IndieWire spoke to Caro earlier this year, she confessed to being a tremendous fan of the character. “She’s my favorite princess,” Caro said at the time. “Mulan kicks ass.” Despite the large scale of the film – it’s expected to cost north of $100 million to make – the filmmaker was enthused about the next step, drawing similarities to her first feature. “It has a lot of similarities to ‘Whale Rider,’ which is this very, very important part of my life,” she said. “I feel like I’m revisiting territory that I already kind have an in my DNA, but I get to flex the filmmaker muscle in a really big way. I think I’ve always had a really big vision.”
“Mary, Queen of Scots” (November 2)
The feature directorial debut of Josie Rourke, artistic director of The Donmar Warehouse, this starry royal drama follows this year’s Oscar contenders Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in a face-off as two of history’s most compelling queens. The period drama explores the turbulent life of Ronan’s Mary Stuart, who became Queen of France at age 16 and widowed at 18. Robbie plays Mary’s biggest rival, Elizabeth I. Each young Queen is fearful and fascinated by the other, but their loyalty to their countries is threatened when Mary asserts her claim to the English throne. You already know who is going to win, but the path there should be a dazzling one.