20 most anticipated films by female directors coming in 2020
Misbehaviour (d. Philippa Lowthorpe)
As International Women's Day approaches, we've put together a list of some of the most exciting women-directed films coming our way this year
By women, about women, for everyone. This is the main theme of our top 20 list, as we take a look at the upcoming cinema and streaming releases directed by female filmmakers, exploring topics and narratives that revolve around motherhood, womanhood and selfhood.
Numerous films has adapted the story of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan but now Oscar-winner Brenda Chapman – who brought us one of the best Disney 'princesses' ever, Merida in Brave – set out to make a movie with starring both of the main characters: Alice and Peter. The two iconic characters join forces in a heartwarming and uplifting family drama, with Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo in leading roles. Come Away? tells the story of two siblings, Alice and Peter, who try their best to help their parents after a tragedy by inventing stories to help them overcome their grief. The film is said to be a 'prequel-esque' piece to the well-known magical tales.
The fierce Natasha Romanoff's own Marvel instalment is long overdue. Despite Scarlett Johansson having been repeatedly vocal about her interest in playing the lead role in a standalone film about her character Black Widow, who made her first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2010, the project has taken over a decade to be realised. The film finally landed in the hands of Australian director Cate Shortland, who has already been proven to create strong female characters and give them deep and interesting stories. Her films Lore, Berlin Syndrome and Somersault have been screened at film festivals such as Cannes, London, Locarno and Sundance. This origin story will focus on Natasha's time as a KGB spy, when she found herself alone against a major conspiracy. Johansson is joined by Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz, amongst others.
The second feature film by actress-turned-director Clea DuVall is a light romantic comedy with Alison Brie, Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis and Aubrey Plaza. With a cast like that, how can we not get excited? The movie revolves around a couple who're planning to get married but, on the night of the proposal, one realises that the other has never come out to her parents. To make it worse, it turns out that the parents are firmly conservative, so this happy family gathering could turn into a nightmare pretty quickly.
Robert Kolker's 2013 true crime book is adapted for the small screen by director Liz Garbus for Netflix. She's more than familiar with crime stories and thrillers, having worked on over 40 similar projects already. Kolker's piece and the film of the same name follows a still-open investigation for the Long Island Serial Killer who has yet to be captured and charged with the murder of five sex workers. The gripping movie is led by Amy Ryan, who plays a concerned mum conducting her own investigation after the disappearance of her daughter, which ultimately sheds light over a dozen cases of missing girls.
Sami Blood-director Amanda Kernell returns with yet another powerful film that has been nominated for Sundance's Grand Jury Prize. This time the Swedish filmmaker tells the story of a mother who has just been through a divorce and is not allowed to see her children while she waits upon the custody verdict. One night, however, her son calls and she decides to go against the law: she gets her kids and they travel to the Canary Islands. But can they hide forever? Featuring the amazing Ane Dahl Torp (The Wave, The Quake), Kernell depicts an impossible situation with a desperate mother fighting for her children.
Never Really Sometimes Always
Director Eliza Hittman has already proven on multiple occasions that she knows her teenagers. Both It Felt Like Love and Beach Rats dealt with how young people cope with social pressures, drugs, sex and growing up. This time she puts two girls at the centre of her film, sending them on a trip to New York in search for help with an abortion. A powerful drama with strong acting from Talia Ryder and Sidney Flanigan.
Miranda July's crime drama, which had its premiere at Sundance in January, is a unique depiction of a criminal family. It centres around Old Dolio, played by Evan Rachel Green, whose life is turned upside down when her robber parents join forces with an outsider for a major heist they are planning. The impressive cast includes Gina Rodriguez and Richard Jenkins, and with Brad Pitt as one of the executive producers working on the project. After July's heartfelt and multi-award-winning Me and You and Everyone We Know, we're excited for how she'll be taking things to the next level.
After a string of pointless self-adaptations, Disney finally tries to mix it up a little by giving Mulan a more serious tone, stunning visuals and a song-less narrative – not to mention a refreshingly low number of CGI animals. The idea for the live action feature was born in 2010 but only got the green light years later. The film will reportedly be based on the original Chinese folklore and with the shootings taking place in China and New Zealand, it's understandable why we have such high hopes for this adaptation. Niki Caro (Whale Rider, North Country) is in charge of directing, while the leading role is taken on by Liu Yifei. She is joined by Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Yoson An, Gong Li and Jet Li.
On the Rocks
Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray are filming together once again, and we could not be happier. After their magical collaboration which resulted in Lost in Translation and the very funny Christmas piece A Very Murray Christmas, Coppola's new film sees Rashida Jones play a young mother meeting up with her estranged father (Murray) in New York. The adventure-comedy drama follows them through the Big Apple as they try to figure out their relationship.
Set during the 1970 Miss World pageant, BAFTA-winner Philippa Lowthorpe's film offers a special insight into the lives of both the contestants and the small group of women who protested the contest. The pageant was held in London and was surrounded by numerous controversies, from the feminist backlash against the pageant's perceived sexism to the contest's ultimate winner, Jennifer Hosten from Grenada, who was the first black woman to win the crown. Allegations were made that the entire competition was rigged and that Miss Sweden should have won. Needless to say such a story screams for the big screen. Hosten is portrayed by Gugu Mbatha-Raw while Keira Knightley and Jessie Buckley are the ladies leading the protest.
Ever since Hustlers stormed the cinemas and our hearts last year, we've been desperate to see Jennifer Lopez on the screen again; lucky for us, Kat Coiro has got it covered with a funny romantic comedy. In an unexpected and original twist, the film sees JLo's pop star character Kat Valdez left by her fiancée just minutes before walking down the aisle. To salvage the situation, she grabs the first man she finds in the crowd and marries him instead. Lopez is not only joined by Owen Wilson, Sarah Silverman, Utkarsh Ambudka and Jimmy Fallon, but she also provides the soundtrack for the film alongside singer Maluma.
Promising Young Woman
Actress and writer Emerald Fennell is finally making her first feature film after the huge success of short film Careful How You Go and after writing multiple episodes for Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Killing Eve. Fennell, who also plays Camilla in The Crown, directs Carey Mulligan in this powerful drama about vengeance. Following in the footsteps of the best exploitation movies with women in the leading role, like Faster, Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill! and Ms .45, the movie is about young Cassandra who takes revenge on all the men who had previously harmed her.
Josephine Decker's Sundance-winning film is yet another fine addition to her repertoire of works exploring the female psyche. Elisabeth Moss portrays real life American horror author Shirley Jackson who, among other great works, wrote The Haunting of Hill House, which Mike Flanagan adapted for Netflix and earned high acclaim in 2018. In Shirley, the author and her husband – played by the ever-perfect Michael Stuhlbarg – take in a young couple who are just looking to start a new life together. What first seems to be a convenient and working arrangement turns into a nightmare, as Jackson begins using them as inspiration for her next horror novel.
No doubt we're living in an age when making a musical biography cannot be anything but a great idea: riding on the huge successes of Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, the time has come for Aretha Franklin to get her life and work adapted to the screen. With the talented singer-actress Jennifer Hudson playing the iconic artist in Liesl Tommy's directorial debut, Respect promises to be a worthy homage to the goddess of soul and R&B.
Although Frida director Julie Taymor's new film has been tainted with the latest news of rape accusations towards actor Timothy Hutton, the biographical film remains a must-see. With Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander and Janelle Monáe leading the cast, the film depicts the life and work of feminist icon, Gloria Steinem. The adaptation is based on a book by the activist herself, who has been at the forefront in the struggle for women's rights for decades.
Since Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement swept the world, numerous films have taken on the topic of sexual harassment, misconduct and rape cases. This time it's documentary filmmaker Kitty Green who tackles the issue with an immensely powerful drama featuring Julia Garner. The quiet, yet all the more effective movie follows the assistant of a powerful executive for one day. We can see how she faces everyday sexism and intimidation in an environment where everyone looks the other side; a film highly praised at the Berlinale for those who always ask 'Why did she not say anything?'
It's always special to see siblings share the big screen, but putting Dakota and Elle Fanning together is not the only reason we're awaiting this gem. French actress-director Mélanie Laurent is adapting Kristin Hannah's bestseller of the same title, which tells the story of two sisters in France during the Second World War. The girls are separated from each other at the start of the war and have to face the horrors of the German occupation on their own: one tries to keep her family alive, while the other joins the resistance to actively take part in the war.
A nuanced and sensitive astronaut drama by César Award winner Alice Winocour, which opened this year's Glasgow Film Festival. With Eva Green in the leading role, the film explores the emotional struggle of a mother who cannot seem to find the impossible balance between being there to her daughter and being away on a mission in space. A heartfelt mixture of visually striking images, strong performances and a touching narrative.
The Old Guard
Gina Prince-Bythewood's film is a great example of life beyond Marvel and DC when it comes to comics and their film adaptations. The story revolves around a group of immortal mercenaries with the ability to heal from any wound or injury. The centuries-old mutants – who are led by Andromache of Scythia, also known as Andy and played by Charlize Theron – have to face a grave danger when someone figures out their secret and threatens their freedom. The film also features KiKi Layne, Marwan Kenzari, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. We don't know about you, but we can't wait to see Theron in another badass role, similar to her parts in Mad Max: Fury Road or Atomic Blonde.
Wonder Woman 1984
Following the critical and commercial success of the first instalment, Patty Jenkins has set Diana Prince's next adventure in the 80s. Gal Gadot reprises in the leading role while Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen also return. They are joined by newcomers Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig, who play the main antagonists of the film. Though it is obviously a sequel to the first movie on some level, it is also said to be a stand-alone piece with a brand new storyline and music composed by Hans Zimmer.