March is Women's History Month – though it goes without saying that it is impossible to contain all of the contributions that women have made throughout human history to only 31 days. Still, it's as good a reason as any to add some movies by, for and about women to your watchlist.
Below, A.frame presents 50 films fit for Women's History Month, culled from recommendations from female directors, writers, actors and more, as well as movies that made Oscars history, and some of our personal favorites. The list includes everything from historical biopics and documentaries to dramas, comedies, thrillers and rom-coms.
Directed by Jane Campion
"When you talk about film experiences, The Piano was, for me, transcendent. It's a beautiful film. It's an astonishing love story. I was overwhelmed by it and it remains one of my favorite films. I had the incredible privilege of meeting Jane Campion at an Academy event a year ago, and I literally had to say, 'Maestro, I fall at your feet.'" -- Misan Sagay, screenwriter
Directed by Jane Campion
Jane Campion made Oscars history with The Power of the Dog, becoming the first woman ever to be nominated for Best Director a second time. The Western drama about ranchers in 1920s Montana also features a Best Supporting Actress-nominated performance from Kirsten Dunst and cinematography by Ari Wegner, only the second woman to ever be nominated for Best Cinematography.
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
"This is a film I often revisit. [Director] Jonathan Glazer builds a world that feels seductive and real, as well as surprising, and then introduces an outrageous thesis just as Nicole Kidman's character, Anna, is about to remarry after the death of her husband. Her husband has reappeared inside the body of a young boy... One of my favorite moments in the film is an emotional slow track into Anna’s face at the opera as we see her thinking about the boy as her dead husband’s reincarnation." – Jane Campion, director/writer/producer
Directed by Chloé Zhao
Chloé Zhao became the second woman and first woman of color to win Best Director, while simultaneously making history as the first woman to be nominated for directing, writing, editing and producing. Meanwhile, Frances McDormand, who plays the nomad at the center of this film, won her third Oscar for Best Actress – and her fourth overall – for Nomadland.
Directed by Emerald Fennel
Emerald Fennell took home the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for her feminist revenge fantasy – about a med-school dropout (Carey Mulligan) who seeks vengeance on predatory men -- but she also made history alongside Chloé Zhao as the first time two women have been nominated for Best Director in a single year.
Directed by Barbra Streisand
"I think it's the best directorial debut ever. It's pretty shocking, when you watch it, to think this was Barbra Streisand’s first film. It’s beautiful and so well shot and cut and directed… [It is] so clearly from the female gaze in a million different ways: in the way that she wants to pursue her career, in the way that she’s looking at her male love interest, in the way she’s talking about jealousy and looking at Amy Irving’s character. And the movie was such a beautiful film that explores gender and gender performance." -- Emma Seligman, writer/director
Directed by Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig's adaptation of author Louisa May Alcott's beloved classic earned six Oscar nominations, including a nod for the writer-director's Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress nominations for Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh, respectively. (Little Women ended up winning the Oscar for Costume Design.)
Directed by Greta Gerwig
"It's funny. It's funny, it's messy and it's utterly truthful." -- Coky Giedroyc, director
Directed by Claudia Weill
"A film that explores the unique bonds of female friendship in New York and what happens when that bond breaks. It's the quintessential story about a woman with professional and creative ambition in the Big City and fear of marriage and domestic suburban expectations that surrounds her." -- Eliza Hittman, director
Directed by Lena Dunham
"There's a rawness and a uniqueness to the voice of that film... Her voice, from the first second of that movie, is so specific and so clear. She really allows room to breathe in that movie, and is really unafraid to be messy – which I love!" – Megan Park, actress/writer/director
Directed by Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde's directorial debut casts Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as best friends who spent high school following the rules... but, on the night before graduation, they decide to cram four years of fun into one night.
Directed by Ridley Scott
"Exceptional screenplay by Callie Khouri. Remarkable ensemble cast led by two of the most inspirational performances ever: from Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. The music is outstanding, the cinematography breathtakingly simple and accessible — clinched by that final shot. All of this and welcome, Brad Pitt, please come in." -- Thea Sharrock, director
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
"[Penélope Cruz] and her daughter go into a chilling and hilarious journey that made me cry and laugh and surprised me at every turn. A road trip from Madrid to La Mancha, with truth in every location and every character. And at the heart of it, a love story between a mother and a daughter." -- Patricia Cardoso, director
Directed by Julie Taymor
The life of iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo — as portrayed in director Julie Taymor's eponymous biopic — boldly resists simple classifications, depicting Kahlo's pride in bucking gender norms through her art, her fashion and even her grooming. Salma Hayek earned her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of the artist.
Directed by Wayne Wang
Wayne Wang's seminal drama, adapted from Amy Tan's novel of the same name, centers on a group of Chinese women in 1980s San Francisco who meet regularly to play Mahjong and trade stories about their lives. The Joy Luck Club explores complicated relationships and cultural conflict through the depiction of Chinese immigrant mothers and their first-generation Chinese American daughters.
Directed by Spike Lee
"When I saw it for the first time, it gave me this permission to show the kinds of women that I knew, friends that I knew, women like me — to have a more cerebral Black woman figuring things out on-screen... To be able to see myself in a film that aesthetically was so exciting to me changed me as a filmmaker." -- Stella Meghie, director
Directed by Andrew L. Stone
"Really celebrated the top of Black talent, music, and dance — and showcased it." -- Whoopi Goldberg, actress
Directed by Otto Preminger
The trailblazing Dorothy Dandridge made history as the first Black woman nominated for Best Actress. She plays the title role in director Otto Preminger's update of the George Bizet opera, which showcases her alongside an all-Black cast including Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey and Diahann Carroll.
Directed by Sidney J. Furie
"It was one of the first times I saw myself reflected, not in Billie Holiday's story, but by seeing a Black woman leading a film, besides Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones. That movie really meant a lot to me — and it was about one of our iconic Black singers. I remember when Diana Ross was nominated for an Academy Award for that movie. I wasn’t alive when that happened for Dorothy Dandridge, but I remember when it happened for Diana Ross. I remember what a good feeling that was." – Halle Berry, actress/director/producer
Directed by Charles Vidor
"Rita Hayworth had it all. As a young lady in Pozzuoli, I would marvel at how she moved, how she danced, how beautiful she was, but always in control of her destiny. When I met her one of the first times I came to Hollywood, I told her what an admirer I was and she was very gracious. I loved Gilda because Rita was strong and powerful in it and yet showed a lot of fragility." -- Sophia Loren, actress
Directed by Robert Wise
"Julie Andrews is everything. I think that might have been one of the first movie musicals I really saw and fell in love with. I think the children being in it were also a gateway for me into falling in love with that particular one." -- Lea Salonga, actress
Legends Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin play secretaries who turn the tables on their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" of a boss. The comedy served as Parton's big screen debut and earned her a Best Original Song nod for the catchy title song.
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
"A perfectly written and constructed film. There is not a single piece of casting that doesn’t sing. When I was 11 years old I watched it nearly every night for a year. I loved this erudite, hot mess of a group of grown-ups, and wanted to be a part of it – for better or worse." – Rebecca Hall, actress/director
Directed by Herbert Ross
"There is an amazing cast in Steel Magnolias. Julia Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, Daryl Hannah to name only a few. Sally Field, who I admire tremendously! I’m a huge fan of hers. I’m from Texas, neighbor to Louisiana, so I could relate to these women, their story, their families. The film was based on the life of Bobby Harling, the role played by Julia was his sister, who did pass away, and Sally played his mom. Knowing him makes the film and characters even more special." -- Eva Longoria, actress/director/producer
Directed by Rob Reiner
"That's the film I’ve probably seen the most often with my mom. We love it. We basically know every single word. That one is more just for the fun of watching the film." -- Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer
Directed by Mike Nichols
"It’s just pure genius, pure Carrie Fisher-Mike Nichols-Meryl Streep genius. A great, great movie about Hollywood. I've seen it many, many times. I will rewatch it again. It is just so funny. " -- Jennifer Todd, producer
Directed by Penny Marshall
Arguably the crown jewel of Penny Marshall's sparkling career, A League of Their Own enlists a downright iconic ensemble of Geena Davis, Tom Hanks, Madonna, Lori Petty, Rosie O'Donnell and more to portray the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. The film has been inducted into the Library of Congress' National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Susannah Grant – who received a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nom – the biographical drama stars Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich during a time in her life when she was a single mother who became an unlikely champion for the plaintiffs against a major energy corporation. Roberts, who had previously been nominated for Steel Magnolias and Pretty Woman, won Best Actress for her performance.
Directed by Michael Showalter
Jessica Chastain's longtime passion project sees her producing and starring in this biopic of the infamous televangelist, whose scandal-filled marriage overshadowed her messages of love and her work spearheading LGBTQ acceptance in the Christian conservative mainstream. For her performance, Chastain was nominated for Best Actress.
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Jennifer Hudson is no stranger to combining the power of her voice with her acting – she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for acting and singing in Dreamgirls – and here, she uses all of her talents to portray the woman Rolling Stone once called the greatest singer ever: Aretha Franklin.
Directed by Pablo Larraín
Acclaimed Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín, who directed the 2016 drama Jackie, returns to tell another story of an iconic woman of history. Kristen Stewart plays Princess Diana at a turning point in the royal's life. For her performance, Stewart was nominated for Best Actress.
Directed by Sofia Coppola
"I love that movie. The whisper at the end… I love not knowing what’s said. I love allowing characters privacy and their own sacred moments. I cried a nice beautiful cry in that moment." -- Nikole Beckwith, writer/director
Directed by Lina Wertmüller
Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmüller's film follows everyman Pasquale Frafuso (Giancarlo Giannini) who comes from a family of seven sisters. Seven Beauties makes this list, however, due to Wertmüller becoming the first woman to ever be nominated for Best Director for this dark comedy. She won the Academy’s Honorary Award in 2020.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar when she won for this Iraq War drama. (As a producer on the film, Bigelow won another Oscar that year when the film took Best Picture.) "There's no other way to describe it," Bigelow said while accepting her award. "It's the moment of a lifetime."
Directed by Lucrecia Martel
"[Lucrecia] Martel is one of the best directors alive. She creates films you can feel on your skin and in your throat from the very first moments. She latches that onto you and never lets go. Even after her films have ended, they linger within you forever. " – Justine Bateman, director
Directed by Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Muffie Meyer
"Big Edie and Little Edie living in the decay of the once beautiful Hamptons family estate endlessly charmed me and saddened me for decades." – Selma Blair, actress
Directed by Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, RBG looks at the life of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman ever confirmed to the Supreme Court, a pioneer of women's rights and gender equality and a bona fide pop culture icon.
Directed by Nathan Grossman
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg gets the documentary treatment in I Am Greta, which shows how she went from a 15-year-old skipping school to strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament to gaining global recognition.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Daniela Vega's fierce performance is the indisputable anchor of this colorful, hypnotic drama, winner of the Oscar for International Feature Film. Vega plays Marina, a trans woman living in Chile who grapples with the death of her boyfriend and all of the injustices she endures as she attempts to get his affairs in order.
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Brave introduced Pixar's first female lead, the strong-willed Disney Princess Merida. Brenda Chapman, who co-directed with Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell, became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.
Directed by Mira Nair
"I just watched this movie recently and really enjoyed it... I love stories about someone succeeding when all the odds are against them, especially when it’s a smart, strong, minority female character that I think gets overlooked a lot. I’ve loved Lupita [Nyong'o] in everything I've seen her in, but this might be my favorite performance of hers. Even better, it's a true story!" -- Millicent Simmonds, actress
Directed by Patty Jenkins
DC's first superhero movie fronted by a female stars Gal Gadot as the Amazonian warrior and princess of Themyscira, who must brave the world of men to put an end to World War I. Patty Jenkins directs, with her jaw-dropping "No Man's Land Battle" sequence helping the film earn a whopping $822 million worldwide.
Directed by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Marvel Studios' first solo vehicle for a female hero stars Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, an Air Force pilot-turned-high flying comic book superhero caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle. Captain Marvel also marks the first MCU installment helmed by a woman, co-director Anna Boden.
Directed by Theodore Melfi
From superheroes to real-life heroes: Taraji P. Henson stars as Katherine G. Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, NASA mathematicians who were instrumental to the U.S. during the Space Race. Hidden Figures was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer).
Directed by George Cukor
"Mamma [Ingrid Bergman] won the first of the three Academy Awards with this role. The film deals with a subject still very present in today's social debate: female abuse, in particular psychological abuse." -- Isabella Rossellini, actress
Directed by Barbara Loden
"Barbara Loden plays this character almost without judgment, but with a lot of compassion… It’s perhaps one of the only portraits of an unredeemable female antihero we have. You watch it now and think there are only a few performances, a few films even, that have captured a woman in her rawness, in her inability to fit into the world in which she finds herself." -- Andrea Riseborough, actress
Directed by Josephine Decker
"I recently saw Shirley by Josephine Decker and was so impressed. It has such a beautiful cinematography and manages to show the inner world of these two women, and the inner world of two creative processes: of a pregnancy and a writing process, and the demons that surround them. It’s also about two women who are the life forces that feed each other, as they are confronting this patriarchal society." -- Petra Costa, director
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
"It's one of those films that I think total artsy folks have seen, but I don't know if everyone has seen it. It's just stunning." – Josephine Decker, director
Directed by Dee Rees
Director Dee Rees' drama may tell the story of men returning from war, but it made history for women in film three times over with Rees becoming the first Black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Rachel Morrison becoming the first woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography, and Mary J. Blige becoming the first person to be nominated for acting and music in the same year (Blige was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song).
Directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
"It is about how a passionate devotion to art can make the rest of your life very complicated. It reflects the way I feel about the job I love as an editor of Martin Scorsese's films, and how it has at times created strains in my personal life – but I wouldn't change my devotion to Scorsese’s films for anything." -- Thelma Schoonmaker, editor