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The 270 Best Movies Directed By Women of the 21st Century

To make the list, we looked at the top Certified Fresh films rated 90% and above directed by women since 2000, including those in directing teams. Among 2023’s additions include Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall and Celine Song’s Past Lives (each nominated for the 2024 Best Picture Oscar), Kelly Fremon Craig’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret., Emma Seligman’s Bottoms, Raine Allen Miller’s Rye Lane, Sammi Cohen’s You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, and Adele Lim’s Joy Ride.

Enjoy the following list as a guide to some of the best movies by women directors so far this century. No two movies are alike in their ability to entertain, inform or reach us.


Page 1: Movies from 2020-present | Page 2: Movies from 2010-2019 | Page 3: Movies from 2000-2009

#240
#240
Adjusted Score: 94985%
Critics Consensus: Equal parts edification and entertainment, Kempner's tender tribute to a forgotten pioneer of American entertainment is both richly deserved and long overdue.
Synopsis: Gertrude Berg rose to prominence in the 1930s as the star of "The Goldbergs," a pioneering radio program and, later,... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Aviva Kempner

#241

An Education (2009)
93%

#241
Adjusted Score: 100867%
Critics Consensus: Though the latter part of the film may not appeal to all, An Education is a charming coming-of-age tale powered by the strength of relative newcomer Carey Mulligan's standout performance.
Synopsis: Despite her sheltered upbringing, Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is a teen with a bright future; she's smart, pretty, and has aspirations... [More]
Directed By: Lone Scherfig

#242
Adjusted Score: 97495%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This acclaimed documentary provides insight into the actions of Daniel Ellsberg, a leading American military strategist who leaked the Pentagon... [More]

#243

Sweetgrass (2009)
97%

#243
Adjusted Score: 98852%
Critics Consensus: At once tender and unsentimental, Sweetgrass gracefully captures the beauty and hardships of a dying way of life.
Synopsis: This spare documentary follows a group of shepherds as they guide hundreds of sheep through endless miles of Montana wilderness.... [More]
Starring:

#244

Afghan Star (2009)
100%

#244
Adjusted Score: 101807%
Critics Consensus: An enlightening and sobering documentary on Afghanistan's very own X-Factor.
Synopsis: Director Havana Marking dives into the booming, but still young and growing, world of pop culture in Afghanistan. Newly liberated... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Havana Marking

#245
#245
Adjusted Score: 99895%
Critics Consensus: A heartbreaking, haunting historical document, A Film Unfinished excavates particularly horrible chapter of Holocaust history, and in doing so, the film provides a glimpse into the Nazi propaganda machine.
Synopsis: Israeli director Yael Hersonski examines a recently found film reel from an unfinished Nazi movie entitled "Das Ghetto" in this... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Yael Hersonski

#246
#246
Adjusted Score: 98422%
Critics Consensus: This incredible documentary displays the tragedy and mismanagement of Katrina along with the heroism of strangers and survivors.
Synopsis: As Hurricane Katrina raged around them, Scott and Kimberly Rivers Roberts took shelter with some neighbors in their attic in... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Carl Deal

#247
#247
Adjusted Score: 98287%
Critics Consensus: An enchanting self-portrait by a veteran director, Beach of Agnes is equal parts playful and profound.
Synopsis: In this autobiographical documentary, celebrated French filmmaker Agnes Varda provides a window into her eventful life as she revisits various... [More]
Directed By: Agnès Varda

#248

35 Shots of Rum (2008)
97%

#248
Adjusted Score: 99062%
Critics Consensus: This slow-moving French family drama is rich, complex, subtle and emotionally eloquent.
Synopsis: Lionel (Alex Descas), a widower, has raised his daughter, Josephine (Mati Diop), on his own since she was young. The... [More]
Directed By: Claire Denis

#249

The Hurt Locker (2008)
96%

#249
Adjusted Score: 108148%
Critics Consensus: A well-acted, intensely shot, action filled war epic, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is thus far the best of the recent dramatizations of the Iraq War.
Synopsis: Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner), Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) are members of... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow

#250

Persepolis (2007)
96%

#250
Adjusted Score: 102298%
Critics Consensus: Persepolis is an emotionally powerful, dramatically enthralling autobiographical gem, and the film's simple black-and-white images are effective and bold.
Synopsis: Based on Satrapi's graphic novel about her life in pre and post-revolutionary Iran and then in Europe. The film traces... [More]

#251
#251
Adjusted Score: 97402%
Critics Consensus: The Devil Came on Horseback is both a strong primer on the complexities of the situation in Darfur and a harrowing first-person doc.
Synopsis: While serving with the African Union, former Marine Capt. Brian Steidle documents the brutal ethnic cleansing occuring in Darfur. Determined... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg

#252
#252
Adjusted Score: 94061%
Critics Consensus: Blame it on Fidel is a charming comedy of manners, class, and politics, elevated by a remarkable performance from lead child actor Nina Kervel.
Synopsis: Anna must deal with losing her privileges when her well-off parents become leftist activists.... [More]
Directed By: Julie Gavras

#253

Deep Water (2006)
96%

#253
Adjusted Score: 97519%
Critics Consensus: Equal parts mystery and biography, Deep Water is both an engrossing documentary and an affecting treatise on human folly and obsession.
Synopsis: In 1968, Donald Crowhurst, an inexperienced British sailor, puts up his home as collateral, gains financial backing and enters the... [More]
Starring: Tilda Swinton

#254

Blindsight (2006)
98%

#254
Adjusted Score: 99290%
Critics Consensus: A powerful glimpse of the possibilities for transcendence in straightforward documentary filmmaking -- and extreme physical disability.
Synopsis: Six blind Tibetan teenagers, shunned by their culture as sinners or possessed by demons, band together to climb the north... [More]
Directed By: Lucy Walker

#255

The War Tapes (2006)
98%

#255
Adjusted Score: 99977%
Critics Consensus: Candid, eye-opening footage gives viewers a close-up -- and educational -- look at the experiences of American soldiers in Iraq, a viewpoint not normally seen.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Deborah Scranton provides three U.S. soldiers with cameras so they can document their experiences during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Deborah Scranton

#256

Away From Her (2006)
94%

#256
Adjusted Score: 99595%
Critics Consensus: An accomplished directorial debut by Sarah Polley, Away From Her is a touching exploration of the effects of Alzheimer's, in which the tender wisdom of Polley's script is beautifully complemented by a wonderful performance from Julie Christie.
Synopsis: Long married, Fiona (Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) find their mutual devotion tested by her struggle with Alzheimer's disease.... [More]
Directed By: Sarah Polley

#257
Adjusted Score: 98969%
Critics Consensus: An emotionally blunt and gripping drama, Grbavica deftly explores the emotional toll that all wars take upon those who survive them.
Synopsis: A full decade after the ethnic conflict that left the city of Sarajevo in ruins, the widowed Esma (Mirjana Karanovic)... [More]
Directed By: Jasmila Zbanic

#258

Control Room (2004)
95%

#258
Adjusted Score: 98203%
Critics Consensus: A fascinating, enlightening behind-the-scenes look at the Al Jazeera network.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim provides a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of Al-Jazeera -- the most prominent television news network in... [More]
Directed By: Jehane Noujaim

#259
#259
Adjusted Score: 98052%
Critics Consensus: A powerful and uplifting documentary.
Synopsis: Documentary photographer Zana Briski journeyed into Calcutta's underworld to photograph the city's prostitutes. In return, she offered to teach the... [More]
Directed By: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman

#260
#260
Adjusted Score: 100449%
Critics Consensus: Exhilarating both stylistically and for its entertaining, moving portrayal of an everyman, American Splendor is a portrait of a true underground original.
Synopsis: Underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar, portrayed by Paul Giamatti but also appearing as himself, is the subject of this... [More]

#261
#261
Adjusted Score: 103400%
Critics Consensus: Effectively balancing humor and subtle pathos, Sofia Coppola crafts a moving, melancholy story that serves as a showcase for both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
Synopsis: A lonely, aging movie star named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a conflicted newlywed, Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), meet in Tokyo.... [More]
Directed By: Sofia Coppola

#262
Adjusted Score: 98832%
Critics Consensus: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is as persuasive and engrossing as it is unapologetically biased.
Synopsis: In April 2002, the democratically elected Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, faces a coup d'état by an American-backed opposition party. The... [More]
Starring: Hugo Chavez

#263
Adjusted Score: 97063%
Critics Consensus: Delightful and strangely moving.
Synopsis: In Mongolia's Gobi desert, a camel belonging to a group of nomadic shepherds gives birth to a white calf. It's... [More]

#264
#264
Adjusted Score: 95713%
Critics Consensus: The Lost boys of Sudan works as both a riveting documentary and scathing indictment of colonialism.
Synopsis: Santino Majok Chuor and Peter Nyarol Dut are two orphaned Sudanese boys whose lives have been ravaged by civil war... [More]
Directed By: Megan Mylan, Jon Shenk

#265

Since Otar Left (2003)
96%

#265
Adjusted Score: 97270%
Critics Consensus: A drama that's both funny and moving.
Synopsis: Elderly Eka (Esther Gorintin) lives with her daughter, Marina (Nino Khomasuridze), and granddaughter Ada (Dinara Drukarova) in a depressed Georgian... [More]
Directed By: Julie Bertuccelli

#266
Adjusted Score: 98143%
Critics Consensus: Interesting and appealing as both a study of man and nature.
Synopsis: A homeless musician's life is transformed after he discovers a flock of wild South American parrots living in San Francisco.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Judy Irving

#267

Open Hearts (2002)
93%

#267
Adjusted Score: 94257%
Critics Consensus: Pulsing with honesty, this film lays bare the rawness of human emotion with a story made all the more believable thanks to its gritty, low-budget approach.
Synopsis: Cecilie (Sonja Richter) and Joachim (Nikolaj Lie Kaas) are engaged to be married, when tragedy strikes: Joachim is the victim... [More]
Directed By: Susanne Bier

#268

Monsoon Wedding (2001)
95%

#268
Adjusted Score: 99525%
Critics Consensus: An insightful, energetic blend of Hollywood and Bollywood styles, Monsoon Wedding is a colorful, exuberant celebration of modern-day India, family, love, and life.
Synopsis: The exuberant ensemble comedy unites a Punjabi family for the wedding of a family member. Relatives from all over the... [More]
Directed By: Mira Nair

#269

Promises (2001)
96%

#269
Adjusted Score: 96952%
Critics Consensus: A heartbreaking and illuminating look at the Israeli and Palestinian conflict through the eyes of children.
Synopsis: Rather than focusing on political events, the seven children featured in "Promises" offer a compelling human portrait of the Israeli... [More]
Starring:

#270
#270
Adjusted Score: 99760%
Critics Consensus: The Taste of Others is a fresh, witty comedy about the attraction of opposites. The characters are well-drawn and engaging and their social interactions believable.
Synopsis: Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a successful businessman caught behind the fast-changing times. More out of boredom than out of interest,... [More]
Directed By: Agnès Jaoui

#271
#271
Adjusted Score: 94070%
Critics Consensus: The Gleaners and I takes a compassionate look at a rarely considered subculture whose individualism resonates powerfully with director Agnès Varda's humanistic approach.
Synopsis: An 1867 painting by Jean-Francois Millet inspired septuagenarian documentarian Agnes Varda to cross the French countryside to videotape people who... [More]
Directed By: Agnès Varda

#272
Adjusted Score: 99725%
Critics Consensus: The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg is an affectionate, often very funny portrait of a baseball pioneer.
Synopsis: "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" is a humorous and nostalgic documentary about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended... [More]
Directed By: Aviva Kempner

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