Happy March and Happy International Women’s Day 2024! We here at GGA celebrate women all day, every day, but in honor of IWD, we thought we’d put together a list of some of our favorite genre movies directed by women. So, going from newest to oldest, if you’re looking for something to watch, you’ll find some great options here. 

Barbie (2023) – Directed by Greta Gerwig 

Barbie (Margot Robbie) drives her car in Barbie

Margot Robbie in Barbie

Of course you knew this would make the list. Few movies in history have spawned the kind of popular craze and, in this case, conversation that this one has. What could have been a nearly unfilmable idea ended up being a beautifully realized kids’ fantasy and a study on what it means to be not just a woman but a human being. But it also never became so pretentious that it lost its grounding in comedy. It’s a terrific flick that really does appeal to everyone.  

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Candyman (2021) – Directed by Nia DaCosta 

Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul Mateen II) takes photos in Candyman

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Candyman

Nia DaCosta’s version of the cult horror classic not only updated the story for the current day but also made the urban legend’s history richer by taking it further back in time. Viewed through the lens of racism throughout American history, the Candyman becomes a serial killer/boogeyman and an avenger. With its unique visual style (especially its beautiful paper cut-out animation), Candyman feels like a brand-new story while respecting what came before and never losing its grounding in horror.  

Eternals (2021) – Directed by Chloé Zhao 

The Eternals (Ma Dong-Seok, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Lia McHugh) arrive on Earth

Ma Dong-Seok, Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Lia McHugh in The Eternals

Although it’s primarily viewed as a critical flop and didn’t make the huge box office that Marvel was used to, Eternals stands as a strong alternative to the Avengers-style of filmmaking. Eternals has a much more mystical vibe, with its story of ancient alien supers coming to Earth to protect the human race against the Deviants.

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During their thousands of years on the planet, the Eternals question their purpose and existence. But while it certainly deviates from the norm, Eternals also has a stunning visual style and its own sense of fun that deserves a second watch. 

 A Wrinkle in Time (2018) – Directed by Ava DuVernay 

Meg (Storm Reid) explains her father's work in A Wrinkle in Time

Storm Reid in A Wrinkle in Time

In another case of a movie that underperformed at the box office and garnered mostly middling reviews, Ava DuVernay’s take on the classic children’s fantasy tale nevertheless was a visually stunning update. DuVernay introduced us to the fantastic young actor Storm Reid and went full-on into telling an epic tale whose genuine wholesomeness may have been what people weren’t buying. That said, it’s still a wondrous journey propelled by color and emotion that, like Eternals, definitely deserves a second look. 

Wonder Woman (2017) – Directed by Patty Jenkins 

Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) crosses No Man's Land in Wonder Woman

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

Director Patty Jenkins did for DC what many thought was impossible – create a flick that was not only excellent quality but also a box office smash. Her take on what could’ve been unfilmable was an epic story, a satisfying romance, a war drama, a fish-out-of-water comedy and a superhero flick all rolled into one impressive package. Wonder Woman set the bar for female superheroes and let us all know it isn’t just about the guys saving the world.  

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Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) – Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson 

The Furious Five ready for action in Kung Fu Panda 2

Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen in Kung Fu Panda 2

In 2008, Kung Fu Panda came out and was an instant smash, being a terrific flick not only for kids but also for adults. Some of the movie’s best parts were storyboarded by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who rightly went on to direct the sequel. The loveable and goofy hero, Po, discovers what really happened to his parents and what it means to be a leader while battling a new and dangerous foe. Nelson gifted her remarkable style to a story with a much more complex plot and deeper emotional heft and came out the other side with another huge hit. 

American Psycho (2000) – Directed by Mary Harron  

Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) wields an axe in American Psycho

Christian Bale in American Psycho

Mary Harron directed and co-wrote this adaptation of the infamous novel — an incredibly difficult and disturbing story to bring to life. But Harron smartly used humor to balance against the story’s extreme violence and brutality, turning it into the darkest of dark comedies.

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That may not have been what the author intended. It’s unclear in the book whether Patrick Bateman is actually a multiple murderer or just imagining it all. Even though Harron’s version has an ending as ambiguous (and sadly unsatisfying) as the book, the flick is still an admirable effort and a razor-sharp satire of alpha males in late ’80s/early ’90s culture.

The Peacemaker (1997) – Directed by Mimi Leder 

Col. Devoe (George Clooney) and Dr. Kelly (Nicole Kidman) try to stop a nuclear attack in The Peacemaker

George Clooney, Nicole Kidman in The Peacemaker

It’s significant and a bold statement that a woman directed DreamWorks’ first major feature. And even though it didn’t turn out to be a huge box office success, director Mimi Leder delivered a solid, hard-hitting, action-packed political thriller that put George Clooney on the map as a movie star. Its globe-trotting, epic storytelling was as good as (or better than) anything the guys could produce and still holds up beautifully, even 25-plus years later.  

Strange Days (1995) – Directed by Kathryn Bigelow 

Mace (Angela Bassett) comforts Lenny (Ralph Fiennes) in Strange Days

Angela Bassett, Ralph Fiennes in Strange Days

Written by colleague and producing partner James Cameron, Strange Days was dystopian before dystopian became cool. Kathryn Bigelow, who would go on to be the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker (2008), brought a unique, techno feel to Los Angeles at the end of 1999, back when we all thought that every computer in the world might explode as the date clicked over to 2000 and there would be anarchy in the streets.

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A near-futuristic vision with the widespread use of virtual reality as a sort of replacement for drugs, the story’s portrayal of racism is sadly just as timely now as it was then. Strange Days is a harsh, sleazy and sad vision of the future, but with Bigelow’s smart direction, it’s also not entirely devoid of hope. 

Big (1988) – Directed by Penny Marshall 

Macmillan (Robert Loggia) and Josh (Tom Hanks) dance on the piano in Big

Robert Loggia, Tom Hanks in Big

The story of the tween boy who gets his wish to be a grown-up from a fortune-telling machine adds a bit of fantasy to the average coming-of-age comedy. Penny Marshall’s excellent direction led to Tom Hanks’ first Oscar nomination for lead actor. Big is filled with innocence and wholesomeness that we don’t see much of anymore (including the iconic dancing-on-the-giant-piano-at-FAO-Schwarz scene) but is never cheesy or cliché. It has just as much heart as it has fun, and even though it looks a little dated by today’s standards, its message and magic are timeless. 

If you’re looking for more information on International Women’s Day, visit their website. Before you go, let us know some of your favorite female-directed genre flicks in the comments below! 

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