Subvert your gaze

Pop some corn for female representation, in front of and behind the camera

<i>The Consequences of Feminism</i>

The Consequences of Feminism

It’s no secret that directing movies has been a male-dominated profession since the dawn of cinema. It’s the reason Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was so groundbreaking in 2017. Before then, a woman directing a major superhero blockbuster was unheard of, but as a result, the titular hero’s portrayal was empowering rather than exploitative, subverting our expectations. It could be argued that the mere act of a woman directing in a medium that has been shaped by the male gaze is subversive in and of itself—but enough film theory. Here’s a list of great movies—directed by and about women—that deserve a screening, or two or three.

The Consequences of Feminism

Previously overlooked by film historians, Alice Guy-Blaché was a pioneer of cinema right up there with the Lumière brothers and Thomas Edison. Starting out as a secretary at a camera manufacturing company in 1894, Guy-Blaché eventually began writing, directing and producing, leaving behind a catalog of some 1,000 films that pushed the boundaries of the medium. Her 1906 silent comedy The Consequences of Feminism is a winking, satirical rebuttal to male criticism of first-wave feminism. In it, we’re given an outlandish prediction of the future, where men are delicate caregivers and women are uncouth drunks—truly a victory for feminists everywhere.

The Apple

Samira Makhmalbaf’s 1998 directorial debut is the kind of film that knocks the wind out of you. In 1998 Iran, it was reported that a man had, out of religious devotion, isolated his two 12-year-old daughters from birth to protect them from the evils of the outside world. Drawn to this story, Makhmalbaf set out to meet the family and portray each member’s perspective, particularly the two sisters as they explore the realm beyond their house for the first time. Part documentary, part fictitious re-imagining of the “The Fall of Man,” Makhmalbaf merges multiple realities to reveal deeper truths about the necessity of human connection.

Double Happiness

<i>A League of Their Own

What would we do without our Lord and Savior, Sandra Oh? Before her iconic role as Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy, there was Double Happiness in 1994. Written and directed by Mina Shum, the story follows aspiring actor Jade Li (Oh) as she struggles to live up to the expectations held by her traditional Chinese family when all she really wants is to win an Oscar. Shum’s first feature-length film is as dynamic as its lead, with fourth wall-breaking monologues, dynamic camera movements and colorful backdrops. Watching it today, it’s clear: not only does Oh deserve an Oscar, she deserves to host the damn show.


In writer-director Dee Rees’ lushly photographed 2011 semi-autobiographical film, Brooklyn teen Alike (Adepero Oduye) has one foot in the closet and one foot out. Breaking away from typical coming-out narratives, Pariah is less about self-discovery and more about someone who already knows who they are, but clashes with the rigid gender roles thrust upon her. Too masculine by her church-going mother’s standards, but not butch enough to fit into the gay scene, Alike is forced to carve out her own path in order to express who she really is.

A League of Their Own

Yes, you are correct: The greatest baseball movie of all time is the late Penny Marshall’s 1992 heartfelt comedy about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, established in 1943 after concern that World War II would shut down Major League Baseball indefinitely. We root for the Rockford Peaches, sharing in their trials and triumphs as they seek to not only win the World Series, but to be taken seriously as ballplayers. Geena Davis embodies the role of Dottie Hinson with grace and poise, while Lori Petty plays her scrappy kid sister. Oh yeah, Tom Hanks is also there to tell the women, “There’s no crying in baseball.”

Skate Kitchen

<i>The Apple</i>

In 2018, there were some great films directed by women, including a little skateboarding indie by Crystal Moselle. With a story based on the real-life all-girl skate collective Skate Kitchen and starring the group’s actual members, Skate Kitchen is a coming-of-age tale that doesn’t feel inauthentic or forced. We just see girls being girls—smoking weed, falling in love, falling out of love, landing tricks, failing tricks and getting “credit-carded.” I’m not going to explain it, just know that it hurts. A lot.

Paris is Burning

Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary explores 1980s New York City ballroom culture and the lives of drag queens, gay men and transgender women who directly impacted pop culture and the world as we know it. More than that, it highlights the extremes of America’s class system, where queer people of color—obstructed from the avenues of success typically reserved for a straighter, whiter upper class—are pushed to the margins. Within those margins are women like Venus Xtravaganza, who had dreams of her own, but was murdered before Livingston finished shooting. Her legacy lives on, immortalized in celluloid for generations to come.

Tortilla Soup

The only thing objectified in María Ripoll’s 2001 adaptation of Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman is the lavish abundance of Mexican cuisine, and even then it’s lovingly depicted. A retired chef (Hector Elizondo) faces the changing of the times when his three daughters (Elizabeth Peña, Jacqueline Obradors, Tamara Mello) start to leave the nest. Each daughter is a force to be reckoned with, but they’re also given moments of vulnerability that make them fully realized, flesh-and-blood characters. A heartwarming story about family, Ripoll’s stellar direction brings it all together to make a cinematic feast for the soul.