Been to the movies recently? If so you can’t have missed the posters and trailers for the latest DC Comic to be adapted for the big screen. Starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine the movie is directed by Patty Jenkins and tells the story of an Amazonian princess who emerges from her secret community to help bring an end to the First World War. It’s probably not likely to win any major awards but it is a highly entertaining romp that helps distract us from the realities of the world. If only all conflicts could be ended by a kick-ass woman with a unique sense of style. Right?
Well unfortunately that isn’t reality, but something we can all celebrate is that yet another fierce and feisty female main character is carrying an entire Hollywood movie. At current time of writing it seems that Wonder Woman is strongly expected to fulfil its promise as one of the biggest releases of the year. Costing an estimated $149 million to produce, the movie made back $103,251,471 in the US on its opening weekend. Internationally the film has crossed the $600 million mark and has only been released for three weeks.
This is great news for those of us who want to see more female feistiness hitting the big screen, but it is also great news for the women calling the shots behind the camera of this hit, Patty Jenkins. With that in mind we thought we’d celebrate some of the greatest female heroes from the movies and female film directors.
Ellen Ripley – Alien Franchise
Sigourney Weaver takes on perhaps the first ever female lead role in an action/adventure/sci-fi film and battles to save her team from the titular alien. The movies and the role of Ripley have become iconic. Arguably this will be the role Sigourney Weaver is remembered.
Thelma/Louise – Thelma & Louise
Another Ridley Scott film. This one sees Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon take up the title roles. This classic film sees two women break out of their rut, head out on a road trip and evade the police.
Agent Clarice Starling – The Silence of the Lambs
Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name remains a chilling piece of modern cinema. While Anthony Hopkins turn as the hungry cannibal is much parodied many forget the excellent performance Jodie Foster puts in as the unshakeable Agent Clarice Starling, determined to succeed in a field dominated by men.
Bridget Jones – Bridget Jones’s Franchise
Ok so the latest installment of the franchise may have underwhelmed at the box office and she may not be as much of a “kick-ass” character as those we’ve already mentioned but there’s something to be said for the average every-woman suffering many women’s self-confidence issues. There’s also something to be said for a female star, Renée Zellweger, who wanted the role so much that she willingly put on weight and ignored fears of being judged by a Hollywood obsessed with female weight, size and body issues.
Buffy – Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Yes, it’s better known as a TV show which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year but before that it was a movie which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. The movie stars Kristy Swanson as the slayer who attends high school between bouts of kicking vampire butt. Sarah Michelle Gellar would later take on the role for the TV show which explored issues relating to women, same sex relationships and responsibility in much greater detail.
Dana Scully – The X Files: I Want to Believe
All right, the first movie was very much a Hollywood blockbuster in the traditional mould with the heroic male rescuing the heroine (in this case from evil alien overlords). But by the time the second movie was released the character of Dana Scully had returned to the feisty roots of the TV show. Originally inspired by the character of Agent Clarice Starling from The Silence of the Lambs, Dana Scully ends up saving Mulder in The X Files: I Want to Believe by stylishly bringing an axe down on the bad guy, no less.
Successful Female Film Directors
Nora Ephron has passed away but will probably be best remembered for her romantic comedies. She was one of the writers on When Harry Met Sally and stepped up to direct the hugely popular Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.
Phyllida Lloyd scored a major hit with the cinematic adaptation of the hit broadway musical, Mamma Mia, featuring songs by Abba. A great ensemble of genuinely talented actors proved not to be a daunting prospect for Phyllida as she steered stars such as Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth to box office success.
The director of I Shot Andy Warhol, Mary Harron, proved again that she could handle controversy when she took on American Psycho. The story is that the studio offered the film to Oliver Stone after Harron had already agreed to do it. But she saw Stone off to keep control of the film and guide it to commercial, if not critical, success.
Elizabeth Banks has proved she is just as talented behind the camera as she is in front with Pitch Perfect 2.
British director Lynne Ramsay has had critical success for decades but scored a significant hit with the thought provoking and unsettling We Need to Talk About Kevin. The film explores the mother/son relationship and focuses on a mother’s determination to love her child despite his increasingly disturbing behaviour over a number of years.
Jane Campion had an unexpected hit movie with The Piano and has continued to make intelligent, sensitive and visually compelling cinematic masterpieces, such as Holy Smoke.
No celebration of female film directors would be complete without mention of Kathryn Bigelow. She has proved herself versatile by directing huge commercial successes such as Point Break (which was recently remade) and Strange Days as well as more topical movies such as Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker.
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