You Were Never Really Here

Letterboxing: Highest-Rated Films By Female Directors 2018

Don’t let the Oscars fool you. Whether awards voting bodies recognize it or not, female directors are consistently bringing their A-game to screens

2018 brought us female-helmed movies ranging from Melissa McCarthy’s Golden Globe-nominated dramatic turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me? to Kay Cannon’s virginity raunch-com Blockers. Amid a year of Time’s Up and more attention to women behind-the-camera, Hollywood’s movers and shakers failed to produce much change in terms of gender representation in cinema.

In a year where only 3% of major studio movies were directed by women – down from 8% in 2017 – 2018 delivered projects by the least amount of women in a five-year span. Ouch.

You may have had to look a little harder for female-directed films at the box office, but Letterboxd members were out in force, devouring films by women in every genre.


Of the year’s highest-rated films by women directors on Letterboxd, documentary Free Solo co-directed by Meru’s Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin claimed the number one ranking. The film, which chronicles Alex Honnold’s attempt to become the first person to solo climb Yosemite’s El Capitan Wall without ropes or safety gear, captured audiences’ attention regardless of their interest in climbing.

In the second spot is Sandi Tan’s utterly compelling Netflix doc Shirkers which explores a nostalgic head-scratching mystery of her first film which vanished without a trace in the hands a mysterious stranger.

Two more documentaries make the cut for Letterboxd’s list: Marina Zenovich’s portrait of the late comedian, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, and Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG.

Fiction features by women also proved popular with Chloe Zhao’s The Rider landing the number three spot and Laura Dern’s showpiece The Tale by Jennifer Fox. Highly-regarded foreign-language features Capernaum by Nadine Labaki and Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro also feature on the list.

It’s no surprise two of the year’s most well-regarded films – by male or female directors – have a home on the list.


Debra Granik’s moving father-daughter indie drama Leave No Trace makes the list after garnering acclaim from multiple critics’ circles for its director and breakout star Thomasin Mackenzie.

Lastly, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here with Joaquin Phoenix comes in at the tenth spot on the list. The film earned major buzz following its debut at Cannes where it took home the award for Best Actor and Best Director.

How many of these films directed by women have you seen? Share your picks for the best films directed by women in 2018 on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below.
Check out more of Letterboxd’s year-end lists here.