Special Report

Most Influential Movies Directed by Women

Christopher Polk / Getty Images

Women directors have been making compelling feature films since the dawn of cinema. However, the lack of recognition that they face in the industry has persisted since day one. It wasn’t until 1976 that a woman was nominated for the Best Director Oscar. It would take over 30 more years for a woman to finally win the award, when Kathryn Bigelow received the honor for her 2009 war thriller “The Hurt Locker” (which certainly counts as one of the 50 best movies directed by women).

The last decade has seen dozens of critically acclaimed movies from female filmmakers, with four more receiving a Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards, including Greta Gerwig for her coming-of-age drama “Lady Bird.” (Gerwig’s highly anticipated new feature “Barbie” premiered July 9.) With more women than ever directing major films, the impact that women are having on cinema is only increasing.

To determine the most influential movies directed by women, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on syllabus citation counts from the non-profit Open Syllabus, an open-source project tallying the number of times a movie, book, or other media has been assigned across a corpus of millions of college syllabi. Movies directed by women (in two cases co-directed with men) were ranked based on the number of times they appear as assigned films on university syllabi, on the theory that those that have been most assigned may be considered the most influential. (Documentary films were not included.) Supplemental data on IMDb user reviews and Rotten Tomatoes audience and Tomatometer rankings are current as of July 2023. Only movies with at least 2,000 IMDb user ratings were included. Director information is from IMDb.

Click here for a list of the most influential movies directed by women

The list includes four films by Sofia Coppola, including her unconventional take on the romantic comedy, “Lost in Translation.” Claire Denis, Julie Taymor, and Kathryn Bigelow each have two films featured, and Academy Award-winning director Jane Campion appears on the list with her 1993 period drama “The Piano.” The box-office hit “The Matrix” from the Wachowskis tops the list. (These are the 50 highest grossing film directed by women.)

40. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 37
> IMDb user rating: 6.8/10 (166,942 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 75% (297,398 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 75% (60 reviews)
> Directed by: Nora Ephron

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39. Away From Her (2006)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 40
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (21,845 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 81% (114,775 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 94% (145 reviews)
> Directed by: Sarah Polley

38. Eve’s Bayou (1997)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 43
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (9,428 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 89% (8,317 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 82% (57 reviews)
> Directed by: Kasi Lemmons

37. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 43
> IMDb user rating: 6.7/10 (234,096 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 81% (496,007 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 80% (162 reviews)
> Directed by: Sharon Maguire

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36. The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 44
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (6,550 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (1,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 100% (21 reviews)
> Directed by: Lotte Reiniger

35. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 44
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (454,829 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 91% (427,295 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 91% (218 reviews)
> Directed by: Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton

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34. Wendy and Lucy (2008)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 45
> IMDb user rating: 7.1/10 (17,645 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 67% (12,195 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 85% (185 reviews)
> Directed by: Kelly Reichardt

33. Salaam Bombay! (1986)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 47
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (9,826 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 93% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 93% (30 reviews)
> Directed by: Mira Nair

32. Point Break (1991)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 47
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (169,007 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 79% (133,782 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 67% (63 reviews)
> Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

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31. Strange Days (1995)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 52
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (69,470 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 73% (35,285 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 65% (49 reviews)
> Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

30. Orlando (1992)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 53
> IMDb user rating: 7.1/10 (17,822 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 82% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 84% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: Sally Potter

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29. The Bling Ring (2013)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 54
> IMDb user rating: 5.6/10 (88,847 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 33% (31,723 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 60% (209 reviews)
> Directed by: Sofia Coppola

28. Chocolat (1988)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 61
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (4,095 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 67% (2,500 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 71% (14 reviews)
> Directed by: Claire Denis

27. Twilight (2008)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 61
> IMDb user rating: 5.2/10 (443,020 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 73% (626,307 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 49% (222 reviews)
> Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke

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26. Frida (2002)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 62
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (91,068 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (54,115 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 75% (158 reviews)
> Directed by: Julie Taymor

25. The Namesake (2006)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 63
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (20,111 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 79% (64,315 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 85% (136 reviews)
> Directed by: Mira Nair

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24. Days of Glory (2006)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 66
> IMDb user rating: 7.0/10 (14,921 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 79% (10,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 83% (88 reviews)
> Directed by: Rachid Bouchareb

23. Girlhood (2014)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 67
> IMDb user rating: 7.0/10 (9,722 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 72% (2,500 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: Céline Sciamma

22. The Virgin Suicides (1999)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 69
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (149,086 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 81% (192,575 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 77% (102 reviews)
> Directed by: Sofia Coppola

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21. Lady Bird (2017)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 70
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (260,681 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 79% (22,988 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 99% (398 reviews)
> Directed by: Greta Gerwig

20. Ratcatcher (1999)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 71
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (11,289 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 86% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 86% (43 reviews)
> Directed by: Lynne Ramsay

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19. Vagabond (1985)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 72
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (12,577 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (1,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 100% (23 reviews)
> Directed by: Agnès Varda

18. Wonder Woman (2017)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 72
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (611,008 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 83% (135,481 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 93% (470 reviews)
> Directed by: Patty Jenkins

17. Tomboy (2011)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 76
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (21,633 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 83% (5,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (71 reviews)
> Directed by: Céline Sciamma

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16. Water (2005)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 84
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (15,175 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 90% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 91% (96 reviews)
> Directed by: Deepa Mehta

15. The Whale Rider (2002)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 86
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (43,362 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 88% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 91% (156 reviews)
> Directed by: Niki Caro

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14. Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai Du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 88
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (11,476 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 80% (1,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 95% (56 reviews)
> Directed by: Chantal Akerman

13. Beau Travail (1999)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 92
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (13,246 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 77% (2,500 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 86% (44 reviews)
> Directed by: Claire Denis

12. Titus (1999)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 93
> IMDb user rating: 7.1/10 (20,240 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 86% (20,529 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 68% (75 reviews)
> Directed by: Julie Taymor

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11. American Psycho (2000)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 99
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (525,565 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (304,898 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 69% (150 reviews)
> Directed by: Mary Harron

10. Winter’s Bone (2010)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 100
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (139,279 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 76% (51,807 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 94% (175 reviews)
> Directed by: Debra Granik

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9. Fish Tank (2009)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 105
> IMDb user rating: 7.3/10 (63,924 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 79% (10,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 91% (151 reviews)
> Directed by: Andrea Arnold

8. Marie Antoinette (2006)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 119
> IMDb user rating: 6.5/10 (113,465 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 56% (262,562 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 57% (214 reviews)
> Directed by: Sofia Coppola

7. Boys Don’t Cry (1999)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 128
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (99,183 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 87% (70,021 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 89% (79 reviews)
> Directed by: Kimberly Peirce

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6. Lost in Translation (2003)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 166
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (432,805 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (337,639 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 95% (232 reviews)
> Directed by: Sofia Coppola

5. The Tempest (2010)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 178
> IMDb user rating: 5.4/10 (7,708 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 28% (19,176 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 30% (89 reviews)
> Directed by: Julie Taymor

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4. Persepolis (2007)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 203
> IMDb user rating: 8.0/10 (91,738 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 92% (50,465 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 96% (162 reviews)
> Directed by: Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud

3. Daughters of the Dust (1991)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 272
> IMDb user rating: 6.7/10 (3,028 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 65% (1,291 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 93% (76 reviews)
> Directed by: Julie Dash

2. The Piano (1992)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 285
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (92,028 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 86% (25,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 90% (71 reviews)
> Directed by: Jane Campion

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1. The Matrix (1999)
> Est. no. times assigned on college syllabi: 338
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (1,759,161 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience rating: 85% (33,324,202 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer rating: 88% (155 reviews)
> Directed by: Lana & Lilly Wachowski

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