Check Out The 24 Best Female-Led Films Of All Time

Despite the fact we live in a patriarchal society, women have been leaving their mark in basically every field, and the film industry is no exception. In this list, we’ll go over some of the greatest female-led films that you simply cannot miss. Worrying cause you don’t have any plans this Friday? Stay home and watch #9, #5, and #2!

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#24. We Are The Best!

Directed by Lukas Moodysson, We Are The Best! is a Swedish musical drama that tells the story of three young misfits who decide to form a female punk band, despite lacking any musical instruments and talent.

Photo: Courtesy of BFI

Alienated by their society, these three girls start using music as a creative outlet and as a means of canalizing their frustrations and ordinary teenage problems. The story is both funny, inspiring, and touching. You just can’t miss it!

#23. Girlhood

Girlhood is a French coming-of-age drama film that follows the life of Marieme, a young teenager who struggles to deal with her neglecting family and her boring school. One day, she meets a group of bohemian girls with whom she bonds with, and she soon engages in a gang lifestyle.

Photo: Courtesy of BFI

As she joins this new gang, Marieme begins to re-gain her self-confidence, but she soon realizes that her new lifestyle does not make her happier. Director Céline Sciamma brilliantly explores the relationship between gender, race, and social class.

#22. The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden is an erotic psychological thriller directed by Chan-Wook Park, one of the greatest South Korean filmmakers of these past decades. Set in the 1930s, it tells the story of a woman who is hired to work as a handmaiden for Lady Hideko, a Japanese heiress, who lives isolated from the world in an estate in the countryside.

Photo: Courtesy of YouTube

However, things really get interesting when we discover that the handmaiden is secretly involved in a plot to defraud the heiress. This BAFTA Award-winner film will surely leave you baffled with its many plot twists!

#21. Whip It

Directed and starred by Drew Barrymore, Whip It is a fun and silly sports comedy that will surely brighten up your Friday night. It revolves around Bliss, a former beauty pageant and indie misfit who struggles to fit in her small rural Texas town until she enrolls in a nearby roller derby league.

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Bliss soon befriends a group of roller derby girls as she slowly begins to reinvent herself. She experiences her first true love and becomes a way more self-confident person, all with the help of her new peer group.

#20. Therese And Isabelle

Directed by Radley Metzger, Therese and Isabelle is a 1968 French coming-of-age film about a young student named Therese, who begins to fall for one of her boarding school classmates, Isabelle. The story takes a dramatic twist when Isabelle’s parents send her off to another school, but the story doesn’t end here!

Photo: Courtesy of 57th New York Film Festival

20 years later, Therese tries to relive her teenage sexual awakening by revisiting her former school, which was by then nothing but an old abandoned building. We gain insight into Therese’s past as she reminisces the feelings from her school days.

#19. The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

Are you ready for yet another coming-of-age movie? The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a 2015 comedy-drama film set in San Francisco during the 1970s, in the wake of the punk movement. It centers on Minnie, a teenage artist who goes through a process of sexual experimentation and liberation.

Photo: Courtesy of The Atlantic

Things start getting a bit dramatic when she starts having feelings for her mother’s boyfriend and they eventually begin a secret affair. The problems she goes through as she experiments with teenage awakening is easily relatable for any teen of any decade. For a similar and equally dramatic plot, slide to #6!

#18. The Edge Of Seventeen

If you’re really into teen dramas, then this is your pick! The Edge of Seventeen follows the life of Nadine, a 17-year-old misfit who lives in Portland, and who just like millions of teens of her age, feels disillusioned with her school, her family, and her life in general.

Photo: Courtesy of The Edge

However, her life turns more unbearable when Krista, her best friend, starts dating her older brother. It’s most likely that you’ll emphasize with Nadine’s conflicts and sorrows and you’ll definitely have a laugh at the series of terrible decisions she makes.

#17. Bridesmaids

Possibly one of the funniest films of this last decade, Bridesmaids narrates the competition between the maid of honor and one of the bridesmaids, who fight over who is the bride’s best friend. The main character, Annie, is an unemployed baker whose life begins to fall into pieces once her best friend tells her about her engagement.

Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Reporter

Each of the four bridesmaids is hilariously unique and together they make a great yet bizarre team. Thus, this comedy hit is both hilarious and infinitely quotable, and the best part is that it counts with Melissa McCarthey’s brilliant Oscar-nominated performance!

#16. Pariah

Pariah is a fabulous teen drama that follows the steps of Alike, a 17-year-old girl who struggles through adolescence while trying to discover and embrace her sexual identity very much in spite of her religious family background.

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Throughout the film, this Brooklyn teenager risks both friendship and family in her quest to attract another woman. From heartbreak to laughter, this film will trigger all sorts of contrasting feelings, so you better keep the tissues near!

#15. Mustang

Set in an isolated Turkish village, this Oscar-nominated drama film tells the story of five young girls who struggle growing up in an extremely religious and conservative world. The conflict begins when these girls are seen playing with boys on the beachside, which triggers a major scandal among their reactionary guardians.

Photo: Courtesy of Variety

After such an incident, the girls’ guardians arrange them forced marriages, and that’s when the drama really breaks out. The film delves into the complex relationship between culture, religion, and politics, shedding light on the gender inequalities that women face in that (and every other) country.

#14. Lady Bird

Lady Bird is a touching teenage drama film about a 17-year-old misfit who comes of age in Sacramento, California. The movie looks into the complexity of female bonds as Lady Bird struggles to fit in her school, to relate to her mother and to sort out her love life.

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I’m not gonna lie, this film will make you shed a few tears, but I assure you it has its fair share of funny moments as well! One thing is for sure: whether you love it or you hate it, you’ll probably feel like giving your mother a call once you finish watching it!

#13. Persona

One of Ingmar Bregman’s greatest classics, Persona is a complex film that follows the life of a young nurse who is put in charge of a famous actress who has suddenly stopped speaking. But what happens next?

Photo: Courtesy of BFI

As the days go by and as the nurse begins to confide in her patient, both their identities begin to merge, and that’s when the film evolves into an authentic psychological drama. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not an easy watch, so you have to really pay attention!

#12. 20th Century Women

20th Century Women is a 2016 comedy-drama set in California during the late 1970s. It explores the life of a teenage boy, his free-spirited mother, and her two best friends, and the way in which these three women raise him.

Photo: Courtesy of Film

The film represents the social and cultural transformations of American society during the 70s, and it also depicts the complexity of a society’s generational gaps. This family drama is truly a must-watch, I promise!

#11. Two Days, One Night

Two Days, One Night is a French drama film about a factory worker named Sandra, who discovers that her workmates have accepted a thousand-euro bonus in exchange for her layoff. Therefore, she has just a few days to convince them to change their minds so she can keep her job.

Photo: Courtesy of Variety

This heart-wrenching drama portrays the hardships faced by the working class, and you can’t help but empathize with the lead character. Cotillard’s brilliant performance earned her her second Academy Award nomination, which she truly deserved to win.

#10. Tangerine

This 2015 crime comedy-drama revolves around the life of a female transgender sex worker who finds out that her boyfriend and pimp was having an affair with another woman. After that, together with one of her friends, she spends Christmas Eve looking for the man.

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The film will surely captivate you with its hilarious yet vigorous characters as they roam the streets of LA in search of vengeance. Oh, and did you know this film was shot on an Iphone5?

#9. Mulholland Drive

Directed by David Lynch, Mulholland Drive is a 2001 neo-noir mystery drama that has come to be one of the greatest cult films of this century. The plot is both complex and bizarre, and it follows the paths of two young women who are caught in an eerie mystery.

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The two women embark on a terrifying journey as they meet strange characters and try to put together distant and missing memories. One thing’s for sure: once you finish it, you’ll be left with more questions than answers, but I think that’s kind of the point!

#8. Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone is a 2010 mystery-drama film about a single-minded Ozark Mountain girl who tries to track down her missing father while trying to protect her family and save it from being evicted. The film earned Jennifer Lawrence her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

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The film deals with different social issues that are often related to poverty, such as drug abuse, police violence, and housing precariousness, among others. It also explores the intricacies of both distant and close family ties. It’ll probably make you cry, but I swear it’s worth it.

#7. Three Colors: Blue

The second part of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s famous trilogy, Three Colors: Blue is a 1993 drama film that tells the story of a young woman who struggles to move forward and find happiness after the death of her husband and son.

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Portrayed by French actress Juliette Binoche, the woman moves to Paris but only to seclude herself from all her former relationships. The film is both dramatic and somber, and you won’t help but empathize with the lead character as she tries to re-find the meaning in life.

#6. Fish Tank

Fish Tank is a 2009 British drama film about a 15-year-old girl whose live turns upside down once she meets her distant mother’s new boyfriend. Distant with her family, isolated by her friends and excluded from school, she struggles through while she contemplates her sexual awakening.

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The film is subtle in its social criticism, as it depicts the troubles of a young teenager victim not only of family psychological and emotional abuse but also of an absent state that fails to protect and include its citizens.

#5. Carol

Directed by Tom Haynes and starred by Hollywood legend Cate Blanchett, Carol is a 2015 period drama film about the secret and forbidden love that develops between an aspiring photographer and a much older aristocratic woman.

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The film captures both the glamorous lifestyle and the social conservatism of 1950s New York, as these two women try to explore their mutual attraction during an unplanned road trip. As you can imagine, both women must face the social consequences that exploring their sexuality in a heteronormative society entails.

#4. Amélie

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and nominated for a whopping 5 Academy Awards, Amélie is a 2001 romantic-comedy film that one can’t help but love. It follows the steps of an innocent young woman who faces adulthood after being raised in a homeschooled Paris home by some rather unique parents.

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Amélie is a socially awkward and imaginative person, as she lives submerged in her own fantasy world. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she finds out that her purpose in life is to help the lives of others, but along the way, she’ll discover a love of her own.

#3. Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures is a 2016 period drama that tells the life of three black female mathematicians and the role they played during the Space Race working for NASA. Based on real-life events, this film not only arouses deep emotions but it also sheds light on the United States’ tragic unjust and discriminatory past.

Photo: Courtesy of Time

Probably one of the most inspiring films ever made, you won’t help but love these three brilliant and resilient women, who made an invaluable contribution to the field of aeronautics while at the same time battling against racial segregation.

#2. Thelma & Louise

Directed by Ridley Scott, Thelma & Louise is a 1991 crime-drama about two best friends who embark on an unplanned yet adventurous road trip that evolves into mayhem.

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While they meant to escape their unhappy housewife lives, they end up committing a series of violent crimes that will make them into infamous outlaws searched by the police. Fasten your seatbelts, cause your in for a bumpy ride!

#1. The Hours

The Hours is a 2002 drama film that tells the story of how Virginia Woolf’s famous novel Mrs. Dollaway affected the lives of three women in three different historical periods, including the author herself.

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Considering it counts with the brilliant performances of Hollywood legends Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore, it comes as no surprise that it received a whopping 9 Academy Award nominations!

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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