The Best Women-Directed Films of 2019

Kaitlyn Dever stars as Amy and Beanie Feldstein as Molly in Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart, an Annapurna Pictures release.

There were so many films released during the past year but the following are among the best women-directed films of 2019.

Booksmart

If there’s one film that I believe will still be talked about in a decade, it’s Booksmart. This is a film that re-defines what female friendship means for a new generation. Less than ten years earlier, Bridesmaids came out in theaters. This film does exactly what that film did except for young women making the transition from high school to college. There aren’t that many people to hit a home run on the first try but Olivia Wilde is one of them.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers’ story was already told so beautifully in last year’s documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Marielle Heller directs a script adapted by Tom Junod’s Esquire article. It may be surprising to many but Fred Rogers is not the main star in this film. Regardless, he’s the man who preaches kindness and finds a way into Lloyd Vogel’s heart despite Vogel’s cynicism. Tom Hanks does a solid job as the childhood hero and yet he approaches this role in a way that’s different from what we’d expect from him. He’s not playing it as a full-on impression.

Captain Marvel

Marvel finally did it. With Captain Marvel, they’ve finally released a film that showcases a female superhero in a leading role. Brie Larson stars in the film co-directed by Anna Boden. We’ve had a few Captain America films where Black Widow takes on a supporting role but this is a first for Marvel. Unfortunately, it came two years after Wonder Woman so the film’s impact is nowhere near what it should be. At the same time, it sends the message that yes, women can also be superheroes and lead films.

Blinded by the Light

Bruce Springsteen. Need I say more? Okay, I’ll say more. I’m a Bruce Springsteen fan and naturally, Blinded by the Light was on my Sundance list this past year. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find time to see the film until it was almost too late. I fell in love with the Gurinder Chadha-directed film. The film is based on the book by Springsteen super-fan Sarfraz Manzoor. Appropriate, the film delivers one of the best soundtracks of the year.

Greener Grass

Without a doubt, Greener Grass is one of the wildest experiences anyone will have watching a film during the entire year. It’s the most “out there” that a film can be. To say that co-directors/writers Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe hit it out of the park on their first feature would not be an understatement. While filmmakers generally advise against working with young children, they’re some of the best parts of the film.

Late Night

Amazon Studios hit a home run when they acquired Late Night out of Sundance. Mindy Kaling wrote one of the best films during the entire festival. Unfortunately, the Nisha Ganatra-directed film wasn’t able to find an audience when it was released. Portraying a late night talk show host with an all-male writers’ room, Emma Thompson delivers one of her best performances in years.

Little Woods

If Little Woods doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because it’s the very definition of independent film. The film only brought in $150K while playing at 33 theaters. This is one of two April 2019 releases deserved better. Maybe it was because Avengers: Endgame sucked all the air out of the room but this grim story should have found an audience. There are awards-worthy performances from both Tessa Thompson and Lily James in the small film, which also marked the feature directorial debut of Nia DaCosta. Don’t forget DaCosta’s name because she’s a filmmaker to watch. The film is currently on Hulu.

Fast Color

I can go on and on about the many ways that Fast Color was wronged by the distributor. The film, directed by Julia Hart, took in just under $77K at the box office while playing 25 theaters. Co-written with Jordan Horowitz, Fast Color tells the story of Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a woman with super powers and running from the law. Premiering a few weeks after Black Panther, this film is the post-modern superhero movie. And yet, this film was wrong in so many ways that it hurts. It’s currently on Hulu.

If I extend my top films to also include those written or co-written by women, the list would also include 1917, Long Shot, and Wild Rose.

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Danielle Solzman is a Chicago-based film critic and an aspiring filmmaker if she can ever put enough time aside to work on her feature-length trans-led political comedy script. When not in Chicago, she attends various film festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and Toronto. She graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a BA in Public Relations while earning a Masters in Media Communications from Webster University after writing a thesis paper on comic books against the backdrop of the American political culture. Film Critic, Solzy at the Movies Member, Broadcast Film Critics Association Member, Galeca: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics Member, Alliance of Women Film Journalists Member, Online Association of Female Film Critics Member, Online Film Critics Society Member, Online Film & Television Association Tomatometer Critic
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