You can count on one hand the number of female directors who have been nominated for a Best Director Oscar in the award’s 90-year history. You can count on one finger the number of female directors who have won the Best Director prize. But despite their meager showing at awards ceremonies, female directors are thriving in the independent and film festival circuit, with films like Lynne Ramsay‘s lean thriller You Were Never Really Here winning the Cannes screenplay prize or Debra Granik‘s quietly devastating survival drama Leave No Trace earning raves at Sundance. Marielle Heller helmed the Telluride Film Festival darling Can You Ever Forgive Me, which earned a whopping three Oscar nominations for acting and screenplay.
But despite the inroads female filmmakers have made, the Best Director category found itself reverting back to the all-male status quo once again.
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At the beginning of 2018, Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig became only the fifth woman in history to be nominated for a Best Director award at the Oscars. “That’s one hand!” she enumerated to USA Today following her indoctrination into the sadly small mile-high club. It’s a club that unfortunately looks to remain small as most female directors remain out of the awards conversation and new reports emerge that female filmmakers saw their numbers shrink in 2018.
But before you write off 2018 as a bad year for women — or at least a step backwards after 2017’s industry-shattering breakthrough success with Gerwig, Patty Jenkins, and more — I implore you to take a closer look. Last year saw Anna Boden, along with Ryan Fleck, taking the helm for Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel, and the announcement of Cathy Yan directing Birds of Prey for DC and Warner Bros. And the slate of Sundance darlings were overwhelmingly female-fronted — from Sarah Colangelo‘s unnerving The Kindergarten Teacher, to Desiree Akhavan‘s ebullient The Miseducation of Cameron Post, to Jennifer Fox‘s harrowing abuse drama The Tale. Lynne Ramsay, Josephine Drecker, and Chloe Zhao achieved some of the highest critical acclaim of the year for their films You Were Never Really Here, Madeline’s Madeline, and The Rider, respectively. Hell, there were two movies about Ruth Bader Ginsburg directed by women in 2018.
The numbers may not be speaking, but the quality remains unquestionable. Female directors are slowly making inroads in Hollywood, and while they may not be breaking the Top 100 — or may get unjustly snubbed by the Oscars yet again — don’t believe anyone when they say there are no female directors. Here 18 movies directed by women in 2018 that you should watch.
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When Marvel was eyeing Chloé Zhao to direct Black Widow back in April (among others like Amma Asante and Deniz Gamze Ergüven; the job eventually went to Cate Shortland), the pairing seemed like a long-shot. A unique voice like Zhao’s doesn’t immediately seem like it would gel with the Hollywood studio system. We’ve seen Edgar Wrights and Lord & Millers a-plenty — Ant-Man and Solo would go on to be directed by Peyton Reed and Ron Howard respectively — but on the other hand, Disney’s own recent efforts like Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson), which both fit the mold of blockbuster filmmaking while allowing their creators a personal stamp, make speculating from this side of the studio gates a fool’s errand.
When it was announced on Friday that Zhao would not only be tasked with a Marvel movie, but with cosmic opera The Eternals of all things, reactions were understandably mixed. Some were enthusiastic, while others lamented a distinct eye being lost to the Marvel machine (this writer is optimistic, albeit cautiously) because alas, speculation is all we have in this 24×7 Disney-dominated news cycle. One can hardly begrudge anyone their extreme responses — for every Patty Jenkins leaving Thor: The Dark World due to creative differences, there’s Patty Jenkins knocking Wonder Woman out of the park and negotiation a seven-figure salary on the sequel — so the best we can do is look at the what’s what and the who’s who and hope for the best behind-the-scenes. Every creative partnership is different, after all. Read More »
Chloe Zhao has been tapped to direct Marvel’s The Eternals.
Zhao, the director of the acclaimed indie Western film The Rider, was initially on the short list to direct Marvel’s Black Widow movie, which ultimately went to Cate Shortland. Now as The Eternals director, Zhao will be helming Marvel’s next potential franchise that could help shepherd the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the cosmic realm.
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Update: Variety reporter Justin Kroll just revealed that Marvel Studios has met with over 65 directors for the directing job on this movie.
Our original article from April 27, 2018 continues below.
Avengers: Infinity War is now in theaters, and it will certainly keep Marvel fans occupied for a little while. Later this summer, we’ll have Ant-Man and the Wasp arriving in theaters, and the debut of Captain Marvel in March of 2019. But after Avengers 4 hits theaters on May 3, 2019, the only movies that are confirmed to be on the way in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are a Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel in July of 2019 and Guardians of the Galaxy 3 sometime in 2020.
Beyond the summer of 2019, Marvel Studios is being tight-lipped about the future so as not to ruin the suspense of who will survive the culmination of this era of Marvel movies. But one project that we know is in development is a solo outing for Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow. Fans have wanted the SHIELD agent played by Scarlett Johansson to get her own movie for years, and Marvel appears to finally be giving her a chance, and they’re looking for a female director to get behind the camera to make it happen. Read More »