#52FilmsByWomen 2020 Ranked & Reviewed

When I first learned of the #52FilmsByWomen pledge in late 2016, I was horrified to discover that I hadn’t reached the “challenge’s” quota naturally that year, despite my voracious movie-watching habits. Promoted by the organization Women in Film, #52FilmsByWomen is merely a pledge to watch one movie a week directed by a woman for an entire calendar year. It’s not at all a difficult criteria to fulfill if you watch movies on a regular routine, but so much of the pop culture landscape is dominated by (white) male voices that you’d be surprised by how little media you typically consume is helmed by a female creator until you actually start paying attention to the numbers. Having now taken & fulfilled the #52FilmsByWomen four years in a row, I’ve found that to be the exercise’s greatest benefit: paying attention. I’ve found many new female voices to shape my relationship with cinema through the pledge, but what I most appreciate about the experience is the way it consistently reminds me to pay attention to the creators I’m supporting & affording my time. If we want more diversity in creative voices on the pop media landscape, we need to go out of our way to support the people already out there who work outside the white male hegemony. #52FilmsByWomen is a simple, surprisingly easy to fulfill gesture in that direction.

With this pledge in mind, I watched, reviewed, and podcasted about 52 new-to-me feature films directed by women in 2020. The full inventory of those titles can be found on this convenient Letterboxd list. Each film is also ranked below with a link to a corresponding review, since I was using the pledge to influence not only the media I was consuming myself, but also the media we cover on the site. My hope is that this list will not only function as a helpful recap for a year of purposeful movie-watching, but also provide some heartfelt recommendations for anyone else who might be interested in taking the pledge in 2021.

5 Star Reviews

Fatal Frame (2014) dir. Makoto Shibata – An unfaithful video game adaptation that’s half J-horror ghost story and half lesbian boarding school melodrama. I loved it. It’s surprisingly creepy and super, super gay.

Mädchen in Uniform (1931) dir. Leontine Sagan 

Marjoe (1972) dir. Sarah Kernochan

4.5 Star Reviews

Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore (1997) dir. Sarah Jacobson – A no-budget coming-of-age cautionary tale that subverts the Conservative 1950s road-to-ruin teen pic by transforming it into genuinely healthy sex education for 90s punx.

Birds of Prey (2020) dir. Cathy Yan

Emma. (2020) dir. Autumn de Wilde

4 Star Reviews

Ticket of No Return (1979) dir. Ulrike Ottinger Simultaneously an on-the-surface political statement that discusses its gender theory & alcoholism themes in plain academic terms and an enigmatic gaze into a drunken abyss that’s just as mysterious as it is playfully meaningless.

Water Lilies (2007) dir. Céline Sciamma

Shirley (2020) dir. Josephine Decker

Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig

Yentl (1983) dir. Barbara Streisand

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2020) dir. Céline Sciamma

Wolf Devil Woman (1982) dir. Pearl Chang

Sugar & Spice (2001) dir. Francine McDougall

Kajillionaire (2020) dir. Miranda July

Electric Swan (2020) dir. Konstantina Kotzamani

The Bigamist (1953) dir. Ida Lupino

Olivia (1951) dir. Jacqueline Audry

Little Women (1994) dir. Gillian Armstrong

Now and Then (1995) dir. Lesli Linka Glatter

Family (2019) dir. Laura Steinel

Varda By Agnès (2019) dir. Agnès Varda

Circus of Books (2020) dir. Rachel Mason

Mucho Mucho Amor (2020) dir. Cristina Costantini

She Dies Tomorrow (2020) dir. Amy Seimetz

Sea Fever (2020) dir. Neasa Hardiman

Blow the Man Down (2020) dir. Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy

Matching Escort (1982) dir. Pearl Chang

3.5 Star Reviews

Limbo (1999) dir. Tina Krause A warped-VHS headtrip that’s all disoriented disgust with the world and nothing remotely resembling coherence. It’s more of a cursed object than a Movie, so that AGFA’s restoration feels less like a standard home video release than it does a black magic spell.

Dark Angel: The Ascent (1994) dir. Linda Hassani

I Was a Teenage Serial Killer (1993) dir. Sarah Jacobson

Just One of the Guys (1985) dir. Lisa Gottlieb

Never Fear (1949) dir. Ida Lupino

The Assistant (2020) dir. Kitty Green

Hustlers (2019) dir. Lorene Scafaria

Dick Johnson is Dead (2020) dir. Kirsten Johnson

The Giverny Document: Single Channel (2020) dir. Ja’Tovia Gary

The Other Lamb (2020) dir. Małgorzata Szumowska

The Lodge (2020) dir. Veronika Franz

Sibyl (2020) dir. Justine Triet

Tomboy (2011) dir. Céline Sciamma

Troop Zero (2020) dir. Bert & Bertie

Nobody May Come (2020) dir. Ella Hatamian

Dildo Heaven (2002) dir. Doris Wishman

3 Star Reviews

Tito (2020) dir. – Seeking a middle ground between sensory-assaultive arthouse horror and broad stoner comedy, it’s often more of a genre experiment than a proper narrative film. I almost want to describe it as the unlikely overlap between Josephine Decker and Cheech & Chong but that’s probably overselling it.

Black Christmas (2019) dir. Sofia Takal

Not Wanted (1949) dir. Ida Lupino

Marona’s Fantastic Tale (2020) dir. Anca Damian

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (2020) dir. Karen Bernstein

Cuties (2020) dir. Maïmouna Doucouré

Would Not Recommend

Selah and the Spades (2020) dir. Tayarisha Poe

The Matrix: Revolutions (2003) dir. Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

-Brandon Ledet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s