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Best Films Directed by Women, Reaching Consensus

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 3, 2012 at 4:06PM

While we pore over the latest Sight & Sound film critics poll of the Top 50 Movies of all time, it's not surprising that most of the films are directed by men. The notable exception is Chantal Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman," which I saw in college but barely remember. On the other hand, I recall every frame of Maya Deren's "Meshes in the Afternoon." The poll, as many have commented, is dominated by older films, most of them pre-1960, a time when few women were directing, unless they were Ida Lupino, Dorothy Arzner or Leni Reifenstahl, who did not make the S & S list.

Chantal Akerman Jeanne Dielman

Suzana Amaral The Hour of the Star

Allison Anders Gas Food Lodging

Andrea Arnold Fish Tank

Dorothy Arzner Dance Girl Dance

Drew Barrymore Whip It

Hava Kohav Beller The Restless Conscience

Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini American Splendor

Antonia Bird Priest

Catherine Breillat 36 Fillett

Vera Chytilova Daisies

Niki Caro Whale Rider

Martha Coolidge Rambling Rose

Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation

Julie Dash Daughters of the Dust

Claire Denis Beau Travail

Maya Deren Meshes in the Afternoon

Marguerite Duras India Song

Nora Ephron Sleepless in Seattle

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton Little Miss Sunshine

Anne Fletcher The Proposal

Jodie Foster  Home for the Holidays

Marleen Goris Antonia's Line

Randa Haines Children of a Lesser God

Mary Harron American Pyscho

Amy Heckerling Fast Times at Ridgement High

Agnieszka Holland Europa Europa

Nicole Holofcener Walking and Talking

Ann Hui Boat People

Courtney Hunt Frozen River

Patti Jenkins Monster

Tamra Jenkins  The Savages

Angelina Jolie In the Land of Blood and Honey

Miranda July Me and You and Everyone We Know

Nicole Kassell The Woodsman

Kasi Lemons Eve's Bayou

Phyllida Lloyd Mamma Mia!

Barbara Loden Wanda

Ida Lupino Outrage (for On Dangerous Ground, she filled in for sick Nicolas Ray,  uncredited)

Penny Marshall Big

Lucrecia Martel The Headless Woman

Elaine May The Heartbreak Kid

Deepa Mehta Water

Marzieh Meshini The Day I Became a Woman

Nancy Meyer What Women Want

Rebecca Miller Peronsal Velocity

Euzhan Palcy Sugar Lane Alley

Kimberly Pierce Boys Don't Cry

Sarah Polley Away from Her

Sally Potter Orlando

Gina Prince-Bythewood Love and Basketball

Lynne Ramsay  We Need to Talk About Kevin

Dee Rees Pariah

Kelly Reichardt Meek's Cutoff

Leni Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will

Marjane Satrapi Persepolis

Nancy Savoca Household Saints

Lone Scherfig An Education

Lynn Shelton My Sister's Sister

Larisa Shepitko  The Ascent

Joan Micklin Silver Hester Street

Penelope Spheeris Wayne's World

Agnes Varda One Sings, The Other Doesn't

Anne Wheeler Bye Bye Blues

Juanita Wilson As If I Am Not There

This article is related to: Women in Film

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.