While 2018 was another banner year for both female filmmakers (like Marielle Heller, Ava DuVernay, Kay Cannon, Josie Rourke, and Mimi Leder) and female-centric stories (as studies continue to show that movies that put women at the center of their stories are box office gold), 2019 seems poised to only exceed steadily rising expectations for women behind the camera.
From much-hyped blockbusters, indies from rising talents, acclaimed filmmakers trying something new on the big screen, and everything in between, 2019 has a woman-directed project for every movie buff.
Keep in mind, this list only includes films that have an announced release date for 2019, and it’s safe to assume that more titles will join these ranks once the festival season kicks in. Here are the 12 of the most anticipated female-directed films that you can add to your calendar right now.
“Miss Bala,” directed by Catherine Hardwicke (February 1)
After taking a three-year break from feature filmmaking, the “Thirteen” and “Twilight” director is back behind the camera for an English-language remake of Gerardo Naranjo’s 2011 Mexican feature of the same name. The propulsive drug drama is ripe for revisiting, and this one stars Gina Rodriguez as the eponymous Miss Bala (well, sort of, it’s one hell of a nickname), an American who gets mixed up with some bad dudes after a horrific kidnapping forces her to become a double agent. The film’s first trailer is a snappy, stylish affair that features Rodriguez kicking ass and taking names on both sides, but Hardwicke’s involvement signals that there will be plenty of emotional stakes at play, too.
“Birds of Passage,” co-directed by Cristina Gallego (February 13)
Colombia’s official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar category is billed as “a sprawling epic about the erosion of tradition in pursuit of material wealth,” but anyone familiar with Gallego and her co-director Ciro Guerra’s work knows just how completely they can subvert the most basic of loglines. Their previous film, “Embrace of the Serpent,” which Guerra directed and Gallego produced, earned the country’s first ever Oscar nomination in 2015. An ambitious black-and-white adventure set in the Amazon, the feature was a sterling example of the pair’s dedication to telling unpredictable stories in a unique cultural context. “Birds,” which debuted at Cannes in May, is a crime thriller that follows another misunderstood tribe: a Wayuu family mixed up the drug trade.
“The Rhythm Section,” directed by Reed Morano (February 22)
Cinematographer and director Reed Morano (best known for an already-diverse array of projects, including films like “Meadowland,” “I Think We’re Alone Now” and her Emmy-winning stint on “The Handmaid’s Tale”) has been hacking away at her newest film since November of 2017 (filming was waylaid by an injury to its star), but the action-revenge tale sounds like it will be worth the wait. Starring Blake Lively as a woman bent on avenging the orchestrated death of her family (an official synopsis explains it was by plane crash, which sounds terribly twisted in a number of ways), the film is based on Mark Burnell’s Stephanie Patrick book series, which sounds like the exact kind of franchise-starter the multi-faceted star can make her own, and to which Morano can add her trademark style.
“Captain Marvel,” co-directed by Anna Boden (March 8)
Filmmaker Anna Boden and her long-time writing and directing partner Ryan Fleck have always excelled at making nuanced dramas about broken people, from “Half Nelson” to “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” so Marvel’s decision to set the pair as directors of their Brie Larson-starring feature spoke to the blockbuster machine’s desire to add emotion to a complex character. Set in the ’90s, “Captain Marvel” will introduce Larson’s Carol Danvers to the moviegoing world — one still very hungry for comic book tentpole features — and the MCU at large, but it will also expose millions of fans to Boden and Fleck’s unparalleled skills behind the camera.
“High Life,” directed by Claire Denis (April 12)
In his TIFF review, David Ehrlich wrote of Claire Denis’ wholly unique first venture into English-language filmmaking: “In many respects, the mesmerizing and elusive ‘High Life’ is a first for writer-director Claire Denis: the first of her films to be shot in English, the first of her films to be set in space, and the first of her films to follow Juliette Binoche inside a metal chamber that’s referred to as ‘The Fuckbox,’ where the world’s finest actress — playing a mad scientist aboard an intergalactic prison ship on a one-way trip to Earth’s nearest black hole — straddles a giant dildo chair and violently masturbates in a scene that’s endowed with the tortured energy of a Cirque du Soleil routine. Needless to say, ‘High Life’ isn’t your average science-fiction movie. In fact, Denis rejects the genre designation outright, insisting that her latest and most elliptical opus is far too grounded to be lumped in with the likes of ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Solaris.’ That logic doesn’t quite hold up to scrutiny in a film where Robert Pattinson and Andre 3000 ride a flying matchbox past the outer limits of our solar system, but no matter. The results are heavenly all the same.”
“Little,” directed by Tina Gordon Chism (April 12)
“Peeples” director and “Drumline” screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism is about to have a very big 2019, as Tina Gordon Chism is preparing to bow both the Adam Shankman-directed remake “What Men What,” which she penned, and her own second directorial outing, the charming-sounding “Little.” Centered around “Black-ish” lead Marsai Martin, “Little” probes an age-old (and movie-ready) question: what would you do if you could do it all over again? In the film, the elder version of Martin’s character is an overworked adult, but “Little” imagines what happens if/when she’s tossed back in time to relive her younger years. Laughs will likely be had, but expect plenty of deep truths to get unearthed, too.
“The Sun Is Also a Star,” directed by Ry Russo-Young (May 17)
Indie filmmaker Ry Russo-Young was best known for features like “Nobody Walks” and “You Wont Miss Me” before taking on a seemingly offbeat gig with the YA adaptation “Before I Fall.” The moody, “Groundhog Day”-esque feature ended up being a stellar fit for the director, who took her dramatic chops and used them to make an honest, emotional coming-of-age tale in some high concept packaging. That’s she back for another YA adaptation is very good news for the genre indeed, and this time around she’ll be tackling a Nicola Yoon novel (the same writer behind the charmer “Everything, Everything”), a canny combination if there ever was one. Starring Yara Shahidi and Charles Melton, the romance follows a pair of teens who find love during a strange time in their lives — but anyone who knows Yoon’s work knows that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and one Russo-Young is well-equipped to navigate.
“Booksmart,” directed by Olivia Wilde (May 24)
Actress-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde has been honing her craft for years now, boning up on filmmaking by working with some of cinema’s most exciting auteurs (she starred in Morano’s “Meadowland,” and the pair seemed to have adored working alongside each other) and helming short films and music videos (include a 2016 banger for the Red Hot Chili Peppers). It’s high time she made her feature directorial debut, and “Booksmart” sounds like a hell of a fit for the budding director. With a screenplay that includes contributions from rising comedic stars like Katie Silberman and Susannah Fogel, the film stars indie faves Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as a pair of besties who realize during the waning days of high school that they didn’t have as much fun as they should have. So they set about fixing that, in the minimum of time. It sounds fun and frisky, but with so much talent behind the camera, we’re betting it will also have a ton of heart, too.
“The Kitchen,” directed by Andrea Berloff (September 20)
The “World Trade Center” and “Straight Outta Compton” screenwriter steps into directing with a star-powered adaptation of the Ollie Powers comic. Featuring Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish, and Melissa McCarthy as a motley crew of would-be criminals who are forced to takeover their husbands’ mob empire in 1970s New York. It sounds a bit like this year’s underseen gem “Widows,” but Berloff’s film promises to deliver a similar story with plenty more laughs, and early reports hold that Berloff snagged the directing gig after writing the script because she offered some fresh edge to the story.
“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” directed by Marielle Heller (October 18)
With just two films under her belt, “Diary of a Teenage Girl” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” director Marielle Heller has proven her ability to tackle prickly characters and tough situations with the maximum of care. That should make her latest film, a currently untitled feature about beloved TV star Fred Rogers (played by no less than Tom Hanks) easy-peasy for the director. The Rogers narrative feature was originally reported to be titled “Are You My Friend,” and the screenplay (written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster) focuses on the real-life friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, played by “The Americans” Emmy winner Matthew Rhys. Rogers was all the rage at this year’s doc box office, thanks to smash hit documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” and Heller’s likely poignant feature should only add to his growing mythos (and her growing stature).
“Frozen 2,” co-directed by Jennifer Lee (November 22)
The long-awaited Disney sequel is finally set for a November release, reuniting the original film’s stars Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff, as directed by returning filmmakers Lee and Chris Buck. The plot has been kept under wraps, but presumably it will be another charming winter fable with catchy songs and a timeless message about the power of family (and maybe global warming?).
“Little Women,” directed by Greta Gerwig (December 25)
The term “indie darling” gets thrown around quite a bit when it comes to actor-director-writer Greta Gerwig, but the multi-hyphenate only continues to prove her might with her prodigious output. Last year’s “Lady Bird,” Gerwig’s solo feature directorial debut, was beloved enough to earn five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and that’s in addition to coming-of-age film being a critical favorite. For her next film, Gerwig has reteamed with her “Lady Bird” star Saoirse Ronan for an adaptation of the classic novel “Little Women.” Ronan will star alongside Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, and no less than Meryl Streep. It’s an early (and obvious) entry for next year’s Great Holiday Movie.