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9 Classic Movies Directed By Women

We always hear about the greatest movies of all time, with the majority of the directors being men. But what about the women? What about the classics they contributed to the world of film? Luckily, women have been contributing quite a bit to the industry despite the lack of recognition.

Here are 9 classic movies directed by women:

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1. The Consequences of Feminism (1906) – Alice Guy-Blache

Directed by Alice Guy-Blache, The Consequences of Feminism was a movie far ahead of its time. Released during the time of Women’s Suffrage, this classic silent film examines the reversal of gender roles at a time where it was not spoken of. Women went out and did the heavy lifting while men stayed home to take care of the children and ‘wifely’ duties.

2. Salome (1922) – Alla Nazimova

Two years before the movie released, Alla Nazimova was already the highest paid actress in Hollywood. The movie was actually an adaption of Oscar Wilde’s play, billed as being directed by Charles Bryant. Rumors circulated that Nazimova, the person who actually was behind the camera, hired an all-gay cast as a nod to the author.

There were also whispers she had an affair with Natacha Rambova, the costume and set designer, who was married to Rudolph Valentino at the time.

3. Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) – Dorothy Arzner

This woman earns herself the title of sole female director/filmmaker of the 1940s. Because she was the only female director of her time, her movies caught flak and were often tossed aside as something for women, despite the keen perspective of her films.

The film was an attentive exploration into class and gender.

4. Outrage (1950) – Ida Lupino

Lupino had originally gained fame as a starlet in the film noir genre, the classic black-and-white crime drama from the 1920s to the 1950s. Although she obtained notoriety as a movie star, the limited options it presented eventually led her a new career: successful independent filmmaker.

Outrage was the first ‘film noir’ created by a woman. A psychopath holds two men hostage on pain of death until they get him to Mexico, something they find out only after agreeing to drive him.

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5. Love Letter (1953) – Kinuyo Tanaka

Tanaka was lucky enough to follow in the footsteps of Sakane Tazuko, the first Japanese woman to work as a film director. While it was Keisuke Kinoshita (The Ballad of Narayama) that wrote the screenplay, it was Tanaka’s directorial vision that brought the wartime drama to life. She explored the power and need to forgive in addition to the limits love can have.

Set against the backdrop of post-WWII Japan, troubled Reikichi Mayumi finds himself a post-war job writing love letters on behalf of others and finds himself debating reconnecting with a former girlfriend, Michiko.

Will he stick to his principals or will Michiko shake the foundation he’s built his life on?

6. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) – Agnes Varda

The story of the film takes an existential look at the life of a pop star in the early 60s. The film asked the way in which women were regarded in French society.

Varda told us the story of a young singer, Cleo, who was once on top of the world, now awaiting test results to confirm or rule out cancer. The number of mirrors gives an allusion to the obsession that is stereotypical of someone in the singer’s position.

7. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976) – Barbara Kopple

The film, directed and produced by Kopple, won the 1976 Oscar for Best Documentary Film.

Harlan County U.S.A. told the story of a strike against the Brookside Mine and Prep Plant, managed by a division of the Duke Power Company. 180 coal miners and their spouses were documented by Barbara Kopple, demanding fairer working conditions and better pay.

Kopple herself felt that the presence of her crew and cameras helped keep tensions low.

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8. Ishtar (1987) – Elaine May

Directed by Elaine May, Ishtar is widely regarded as a box office ‘flop,’ with its budget far outweighing anything in brought in. The film shows us the mishaps of Chuck Clarke and Lyle Rodgers as they attempt to make a gig.

Their ineptitude eventually leads them to stopping a war and gaining a successful gig that leads to a full feature album.

9. Daughters of The Dust (1991) – Julie Dash

Dash was the very first African-American woman to have her film gain a national release, though it took at least a decade for her work to be recognized. The film tells the story of a Gullah family living on an island off the Georgia Coast. We see how generations deal with the legacy of slavery that has followed their family.

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