The Best Films Directed by Women on Netflix

By Benedict Seal

Whether you’ve made the 52 Films By Women pledge or are just looking for a great movie to watch, this list of the best films available on Netflix UK that are directed by women is a great place to start. For a conclusive rundown of every female-directed film on Netflix UK, look to this impressive list from Letterboxd user Ewan.

Note: Some of the selections may not be available in your country! For all movies and shows on Netflix in your region please see the following links:
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13th (Ava DuVernay)

Celebrated filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores 21st-century slavery in a supposedly liberated America. Her documentary went straight to Netflix around the world, which allowed it to be nominated for Best Documentary at both the Oscars and the Emmys, winning the latter. It’s a very powerful film from an immensely eloquent and passionate director. Also look out for the film’s companion piece, which features an extended conversation between DuVernay and god of American entertainment Oprah Winfrey.

See where you can watch “13th” on Netflix

Blackfish (Gabriela Cowperthwaite)

Another devastating documentary, “Blackfish” concerns SeaWorld’s treatment of captive killer whales and is a testament to the power of non-fiction filmmaking. The film contributed to the changing view of SeaWorld in the public eye. Since the film’s release in 2013, the attractions giant has seen revenues drop and business partners flee. Most impressive are the changes in legislation, with the likes of the American Animal Welfare Act being amended to account for the revelations of Cowperthwaite’s film.

See where you can watch “Blackfish” on Netflix

City of God (Kátia Lund and Fernando Meirelles)

The vital role of “City of God” co-director Kátia Lund has tragically been etched from history. When this furious Brazilian crime epic was nominated for an amazing four Oscars, only Lund’s directing partner, Fernando Meirelles, was nominated for Best Director. And so much of the film’s international success has thus been attributed to him, but Lund’s voice must not be diminished.

See where you can watch “City of God” on Netflix

Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash)

1991’s “Daughters of the Dust” was the first feature film directed by an African-American woman to receive distribution in US cinemas. Let that sink in for a minute. For that reason alone, Julie Dash’s film deserves to be in the global film canon. It also happens to be a beautiful tone poem about family and finding your place in the world.

See where you can watch “Daughters of the Dust” on Netflix

Divines (Houda Benyamina)

“Divines” lit up the film festival circuit with its energetic leads and exhilarating coming-of-age crime drama, but Netflix didn’t match that with a deserving marketing campaign. The silver lining is that the film’s still easily accessible for people to catch up on best friends Dounia and Maimouna as they navigate the criminal hierarchy of a Parisian ghetto.

See where you can watch “Divines” on Netflix

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling)

Amy Heckerling offers a female perspective on an 80s high school comedy, and the result is one of the most iconic examples of the genre. Making her directorial debut, Heckerling successfully wrangled an ensemble of future superstars, including Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Phoebe Cates and Nicolas Cage.

See where you can watch “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” on Netflix

First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie)

After a couple of more traditional directorial offerings, megastar Angelina Jolie teamed with Netflix on “First They Killed My Father,” a project very close to her heart. It was while filming “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” in Cambodia that Jolie was inspired to begin her humanitarian work. And, since then, she’s developed a very close relationship with the country that has since awarded her citizenship. Following a young girl during the deadly Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, Jolie made the film for a Cambodian audience with a Khmer script and cast. But the film’s sensitive portrayal of an under-represented period of world history crosses borders in ways she could never have imagined.

See where you can watch “First They Killed My Father” on Netflix

Hot Girls Wanted (Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus)

This eye-opening and impassioned documentary explores the role pornography plays in our newly interconnected, and yet increasingly alienated, world. The film received some pushback from members of the adult industry, but “Hot Girls Wanted” is less concerned with grand preachy statements than it is with the very human consequences of the proliferation and technological advancements of the adult industry.

See where you can watch “Hot Girls Wanted” on Netflix

Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson)

“Kung Fu Panda” is one of the most delightful and rich animated franchises ever, and Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s sequel is possibly the best of the bunch. “Kung Fu Panda 2” still holds the record for the highest budget film directed by a solo woman. Keep an eye out for Nelson’s upcoming YA adaptation, “The Darkest Minds” starring Amandla Stenberg, this summer.

See where you can watch “Kung Fu Panda 2” on Netflix

Miss Stevens (Julia Hart)

Expect big things from director Julia Hart. Her latest, superhero film with a twist “Fast Color”, premiered to rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival this year and her debut, “Miss Stevens,” is an effortlessly charming comedy-drama about a teacher taking a group of students to a drama competition. Look out for early performances from Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) and Lili Reinhart (“Riverdale”).

See where you can watch “Miss Stevens” on Netflix

Mudbound (Dee Rees)

Dee Rees’ American epic is an incredible achievement. “Mudbound” was a breakthrough film for Netflix during last year’s awards season, but deserved even more than the four Oscar nominations it received. Rees rewrites the sweeping post-war Southern drama with a story of two returning soldiers, one white and one black (Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell, both excellent), as they readjust to life away from the front.

See where you can watch “Mudbound” on Netflix

Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston)

Jennie Livingston’s fascinating documentary explores the undercover world of the drag balls frequented by the LGBTQ community in 1980s New York. It’s an incredible, and beautifully filmed, insight into a hidden subculture. Livingston handles the film’s subject with supreme delicacy and belies the surface specificity to tell a wholly American story.

See where you can watch “Paris is Burning” on Netflix

Selma (Ava DuVernay)

The only director with two films on this list, Ava DuVernay’s vital role in Hollywood will only become more significant. The success of her David Oyelowo-starring Martin Luther King biopic, “Selma,” led to her becoming the first woman of colour to be given a $100m+ budget for her fantastical “A Wrinkle in Time” (out later this month in the UK). On the eve of her new film’s release, Ryan Coogler, the incredible director responsible for “Black Panther,” wrote a beautifully moving letter to his “big sister” that perfectly explains just how much DuVernay means to people.

See where you can watch “Selma” on Netflix

Shrek (Vicky Jenson and Andrew Adamson)

Vicky Jenson’s role in the creation of animated masterpiece “Shrek” has been written out of history somewhat. (To the point that I had no idea that there was a second director involved.) It’s Andrew Adamson that went on to helm huge Hollywood blockbusters (the first two “Chronicles of Narnia” films), while Jenson’s career faded somewhat after working on the Will Smith-led “Shark Tale.”

See where you can watch “Shrek” on Netflix

The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)

Jennifer Kent draws an amazing performance out of Essie Davis in “The Babadook.” It’s the Australian actor’s portrayal of a mother doing her best to bring up her son as they mourn the death of the boy’s father that really sells the film’s chilling terror.

See where you can watch “The Babadook” on Netflix

The Fits (Anna Rose Holmer)

Royalty Hightower stuns as a young tomboy who struggles to fit in at her local dance troupe in Anna Rose Holmer’s thrilling feature debut. The fits of the title provide a crucial mystery, as the young dancers begin to suffer from increasingly dangerous convulsions. Holmer seizes the audience and propels them through the film with incredible energy.

See where you can watch “The Fits” on Netflix

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama)

This expertly crafted thriller from director Karyn Kusama brings fresh nightmares to the dinner party. A couple is invited to the house of the man’s ex-wife. The already uncomfortable situation begins to flare up as the hosts’ behaviour becomes increasingly erratic. Kusama lets the tension swell and swell before delivering a blistering sucker punch of a finale.

See where you can watch “The Invitation” on Netflix

The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola)

This late 90s book adaptation announced Sofia Coppola’s arrival as a filmmaker in her own right. Conversation still turns to her hugely influential father (Francis Ford Coppola, him of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”), but Sofia has blazed a totally unique trail of her own. As comfortable telling stories of worn-out men as she is precocious women, Coppola is one of the major filmmakers working today.

See where you can watch “The Virgin Suicides” on Netflix

Their Finest (Lone Scherfig)

Lone Scherfig’s low-key drama was overshadowed by the bombast of “Dunkirk” and “Darkest Hour” when it came to last year’s cinematic Operation Dynamo evacuations. But “Their Finest” is a thoroughly engaging watch thanks to a handful of great performances: notably from Gemma Arterton, as a young screenwriter battling against the grimly sexist British film industry to elevate a series of mind-numbing propaganda films, and Bill Nighy, as the crinkled matinee idol.

See where you can watch “Their Finest” on Netflix

Weiner (Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman)

This exposing documentary tells the stranger-than-fiction story of the disgraced American politician Anthony Weiner. An ever determined figure, Weiner is cursed with the overwhelming compulsion to sext younger women. Weiner makes for a fascinating subject, but Elyse Steinberg and Josh Kriegman aspire to more than toilet humour and present Weiner as a compelling case study of the masculine insecurity at the heart of the American political system.

See where you can watch “Weiner” on Netflix

White Girl (Elizabeth Wood)

Elizabeth Wood’s ferocious debut feature is well worth your time. A brilliant Morgan Saylor plays Leah, a college student tempted by the edgy world outside the window of her New York apartment. By the time she falls for the sweet local drug dealer, she’s already in too deep and her desperate journey out is one drenched in tragedy. Wood’s intimate camera gets deep inside Leah‘s mind to tell a breathless tale of modern youth.

See where you can watch “White Girl” on Netflix

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)

Arguably the most established female filmmaker in the world, Kathryn Bigelow has obliterated the glass ceiling in so many ways. One of only five women ever to have been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, she’s the only one to win, for her 2008 masterpiece, “The Hurt Locker” (beating her ex-husband, and “Avatar” creator, James Cameron, no less). Bigelow stuck with the military theme for her follow-up, the equally compelling “Zero Dark Thirty”. One development was the switch to a female lead character. A powerhouse Jessica Chastain plays Maya, a fictional CIA operative leading the search for public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden.

See where you can watch “Zero Dark Thirty” on Netflix

 

Are there any films you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below.

About MaFt

Film and TV fan, creator of New On Netflix (UK, USA, Australia and Canada), dad of two amazing children, code geek and passionate about autism.

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