The Best Female-Directed Movies Of The Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

The 2010s were a banner decade for female directors. Despite the still abysmally low number of women working behind the camera, women directors have made significant strides in Hollywood and across the globe, earning as much or even more acclaim — and now, as much money — as their male counterparts.

In just the past decade, which came off of Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, Greta Gerwig became the new generation's rising star, Patty Jenkins became the highest-paid female director working in Hollywood, and acclaimed indie filmmakers like Chloe Zhao and Ava DuVernay used their weight to land high-profile superhero jobs or boost other rising diverse directors. We still have a long way to go, but the glass ceiling has already started to accumulate plenty of cracks.

So without further ado, here are the best female directed movies of the decade, listed in alphabetical order.

American Honey – Andrea Arnold

Directed by Andrea Arnold, American Honey follows Star (Sasha Lane in her breakout role), a teenage girl from a troubled home who runs away with a traveling sales crew to sell magazine subscriptions door-to-door across America. A meandering road trip movie that recalls the boho culture of Jack Kerouc, American Honey is a sweet and organic snapshot of millennial Americana.

The Breadwinner – Nora Twomey

In The Breadwinner, director Nora Twomey uses soft, gorgeous animation to mask a savagely harsh story about a young girl living under Taliban rule who must fend for her family after her father is arrested. Thrilling, horrifying, and enchanting by equal measure, The Breadwinner is both a fable and a portrait of a far-too-harsh reality.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Marielle Heller

Darkly funny and deeply affecting, Can You Ever Forgive Me? proved that Melissa McCarthy is a stellar dramatic actress and that Marielle Heller is a deft and incredibly skillful director. Adapting the true story of down-on-her-luck celebrity biographer Lee Israel who resorts to fraudulently selling famous letters, Can You Ever Forgive Me? weaves a melancholic tale of regret and loneliness.

The Farewell – Lulu Wang

Based on the wild but true story of director Lulu Wang's family's decision to hide a cancer diagnosis from her grandmother, The Farewell is a frank, funny, and emotionally uplifting tale of family grief. Led by Awkwafina's stunning turn as a Chinese-American caught between two worlds, The Farewell is one of the most nuanced depictions of that cultural clash between diasporic and homeland Asians put to the screen.

Faces Places – Agnès Varda

Co-directed and co-starring the semi-anonymous street photographer named JR, Faces Places was a fitting swan song for Agnes Varda, one of the pioneers of the French New Wave movement. Like many a Varda documentary, the film is as much about Varda as the people that she happens upon, following the filmmaker as she embarks on a journey through France to document the lives of the ordinary people.

The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Chodolenko

A comedy-drama film directed by Lisa CholodenkoThe Kids Are All Right was among the first mainstream movies to show a same-sex couple raising two teenagers. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening star as longtime lesbian couple whose adopted children surprise them with the revelation that they've found their biological father. A witty and warm exploration of found family, The Kids Are All Right is more than alright.

Lady Bird – Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig's semi-autobiographical love letter to her hometown and teenhood, Lady Bird is an intensely personal, wildly funny dramedy anchored by a fearless performance by Saoirse Ronan. Gerwig's striking direction and graceful representation of turbulent mother-daughter relationships makes Lady Bird a coming-of-age film for the ages.

Leave No Trace – Debra Granik

A quietly moving and profound portrait of the burdens we bear and the trauma we can't afford to share, Leave No Trace is a l0w-key survivalist film about a PTSD-suffering father (Ben Foster) who lives in the forest with his young daughter (Thomasin McKenzie). Debra Granik never sensationalizes her portrait of broken America, instead delivering a haunting, achingly beautiful father-daughter film.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire - Céline Sciamma

French director Céline Sciamma somehow condensed hundreds of years of love poetry into a two-hour film, resulting in the ravishing, exquisite romantic drama that is Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Featuring tremendous performances from Noémie Merland and Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a slow-burning love story that follows a female artist commissioned to secretly paint the wedding portrait of a capricious countess' daughter.

The Rider – Chloe Zhao

A contemplative and dreamy take on the American Western, The Rider is a stunning achievement by director Chloe Zhao, whose acclaim eventually earned her the attention of Marvel Studios for their cosmic project The Eternals. But before she was headed to space, Zhao achieved a spectacular intimacy with The Rider, which follows a rising star of the rodeo circuit who is forced to retire after an accident leaves him brain-damaged.

Selma – Ava DuVernay

A stirring depiction of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches and a powerful tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, Selma put Ava DuVernay on the map as one of the premiere female directors working today. Her assured direction and David Oyelowo's humanizing portrayal of the Civil Rights leader resulted in one of the most breathtaking biopics ever.

Toni Erdmann – Maren Ade

The offbeat German-Austrian comedy is an absurd and oddly affecting character study smoothly directed by Maren Ade. Starring Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller, Toni Erdmann follows a divorced music teacher with a passion for pranks who visits his business consultant daughter and shakes up her life by taking on several bizarre personas. Toni Erdmann is a weird, wildly funny treat of a movie whose three-hour runtime flies by.

Wonder Woman – Patty Jenkins

The cultural impact of Wonder Woman cannot be stressed enough, nor can the power of Patty Jenkins' earnest and empowering superhero film. Gal Gadot is revelation as Diana of Themyscira, an idealistic Amazonian warrior who ventures into the real world to save humanity from the ravages of World War II. Part rom-com, part swashbuckling adventure, part eye-opening war drama, Wonder Woman is a wonder to behild.

You Were Never Really Here – Lynne Ramsay

A lean, mean action film that withholds any sense of catharsis, You Were Never Really Here upends our expectations for the hitman thriller and instead delivers a haunting portrait of a man (Joaquin Phoenix) worn down by the violence of life. In her typically brutal directing style, Lynne Ramsay puts us on an edge that we never get down from, and teases a peace that will never come.

Zero Dark Thirty – Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow's chilling depiction of the hunt for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks is a hard film to watch, unforgiving in its thrilling action sequences and its portayal of the use of torture by the U.S. Army. Anchored by a cold and calculating performance by Jessica ChastainZero Dark Thirty is a queasy, grim affair that confronts the spectrum of moral ambiguity.