Let’s take a moment to reflect on the kickass women in Hollywood who have spoken up for themselves and not let the movie machine roll over them, shall we? From the #MeToo movement and the Patty Jenkins-directed film Wonder Woman, which grossed over $800 billion worldwide, to writer and director Greta Gerwig taking home a Golden Globe for her film Lady Bird, women are starting to see things change. And thanks to these kickass women in film, we’re continually reminded of one very important fact: Some of the best movies of all time were written by women.
Let’s honor the female screenwriters who have not only given a voice to strong female characters on the big screen but also, by doing so, written the best movies of our time. Here is a list of our favorite films that benefited from a woman’s touch.
A version of this article was originally published in January 2018.
Synopsis: "A 13-year-old girl's relationship with her mother is put to the test as she discovers drugs, sex and petty crime in the company of her cool but troubled best friend." — IMDb
You might have known that Twilight star Nikki Reed starred in Thirteen alongside Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood, but did you know Reed also helped write the movie, with director Catherine Hardwicke? But that wasn't the end of their professional relationship. Hardwicke went on to direct Twilight and is currently wrapping up the film Miss Bala, which she also directed.
‘E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial’
Synopsis: "A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home world." — IMDb
Melissa Mathison was a longtime collaborator with director Steven Spielberg, and together, they created magic. E.T. is one of the best films of all time, but it wasn't the only hit for Mathison. She also wrote The Indian in the Cupboard and The BFG screenplays. She was married to actor Harrison Ford from 1983 to 2004, and together they had two children. Mathison died of cancer in 2015 at the age of 65.
‘Thelma & Louise’
Synopsis: "Two best friends set out on an adventure, but it soon turns around to a terrifying escape from being hunted by the police, as these two girls escape for the crimes they committed." — IMDb
Callie Khouri won the Oscar for Best Screenplay in 1992 for Thelma & Louise. Though many people saw the ending as bleak, she insists it was supposed to be symbolic. She addressed these sentiments when she accepted her Oscar, saying, "For everybody that wanted a happy ending for Thelma & Louise, this is it." Khouri's also known for creating the TV series Nashville.
Synopsis: "Competition between the maid of honor and a bridesmaid, over who is the bride's best friend, threatens to upend the life of an out-of-work pastry chef." — IMDb
Former SNL actress Kristen Wiig and Angie Tribeca actor Annie Mumolo are the masterminds behind Bridesmaids, one of the funniest wedding movies of all time. Mumolo and Wiig met when they were studying improv at The Groundlings in Los Angeles.
Synopsis: "Elle Woods, a fashionable sorority queen is dumped by her boyfriend. She decides to follow him to law school, while she is there she figures out that there is more to her than just looks." — IMDb
Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith adapted Amanda Brown's novel to create the blockbuster comedy Legally Blonde. These powerhouse female writers are also behind 10 Things I Hate About You, She's the Man and The House Bunny.
‘When Harry Met Sally’
Synopsis: "Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship." — IMDb
A masterful writer, Nora Ephron is known for writing both powerful and hilarious films. Silkwood, cowritten with Alice Arlen, told the true story of Karen Silkwood, a labor union activist who died under mysterious circumstances. Her other screenplays include Julie and Julia, You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. Ephron's screenplay for When Harry Met Sally… was nominated for an Oscar in 1990. Ephron died in 2012 from leukemia.
‘The Shape of Water’
Synopsis: "In a 1960s research facility, Elisa, a mute janitor, forms a relationship with a mysterious aquatic creature." — IMDb
Vanessa Taylor, along with director Guillermo del Toro, wrote the screenplay for the captivatingly brilliant film The Shape of Water. They are both nominated for Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes. Taylor is also known for writing the film Hope Springs and two seasons of Game of Thrones.
‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’
Synopsis: "The story of psychologist William Moulton Marston, and his polyamorous relationship with his wife and his mistress who would inspire his creation of the superheroine, Wonder Woman." — IMDb
Angela Robinson is known for writing and directing the film D.E.B.S and for TV shows such as How to Get Away with Murder and True Blood. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is currently nominated for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture by the Image Awards.
Synopsis: "Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George." — IMDb
Tina Fey has been dazzling us for years with her comedic writing talent, from SNL to 30 Rock to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Her movie Mean Girls became an instant classic teen film. The Writer's Guild of America awarded Fey Best Screenplay in 2005.
‘Real Women Have Curves’
Synopsis: "Freshly graduated from high school, Ana receives a full scholarship to Columbia University. Her very traditional, old-world parents feel that now is the time for Ana to help provide for the family, not the time for college. Torn between her mainstream ambitions and her cultural heritage she agrees to work with her mother at her sister's downtown LA sewing factory. Over the summer she learns to admire the hardworking team of women who teach her solidarity and teamwork. Still at odds with what her mother expects of her, Ana realizes that leaving home to continue her education is essential to finding her place proudly in the world as an American and Chicana." — IMDb
Based on Josefina López's original play, the author wrote the screenplay for Real Women Have Curves with George LaVoo. At the Sundance Film Festival in 2002, the film won the Audience Award and the Special Jury Prize. López continues to write plays and films.
Synopsis: "Two girls have an intense fantasy life; their parents, concerned the fantasy is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge." — IMDb
Fran Walsh and husband Peter Jackson have collaborated on many screenplays, including the Lord of the Rings movies (with Philippa Boyens) and have won numerous awards. The screenplay for Heavenly Creatures was nominated for an Oscar and introduced actor Kate Winslet to the world.
‘The Iron Lady’
Synopsis: "An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene." — IMDb
Abi Morgan is known for writing about real women, particularly women who influenced politics and society. Her other films include Suffragette, about the British women who fought to get the vote, and The Invisible Woman, about Nelly Ternan, the mistress of Charles Dickens. Morgan won Best Screenplay for The Iron Woman at the 2012 British Independent Film Awards.
Synopsis: "An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman in 1950s New York." — IMDb
Phyllis Nagy adapted the beautiful film Carol from the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith. A well-known playwright, Nagy's Carol was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2016 Academy Awards.
Synopsis: "When attending their son's college graduation, a couple reignite the spark in their relationship. But the complicated fact is they're divorced and he's remarried." — IMDb
Nancy Meyers began her screenwriting career with Private Benjamin starring Goldie Hawn back in 1980 and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1981 Academy Awards. She's been writing female-centered comedies ever since, including Something's Gotta Give, The Holiday and It's Complicated.
‘Lost in Translation’
Synopsis: "A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo." — IMDb
Sofia Coppola won the Oscar in 2004 for Best Screenplay for Lost in Translation. Given that she's the daughter of distinguished film director Francis Ford Coppola, talent is clearly in her genes. She's also known for writing and directing The Bling Ring, Marie Antoinette and the recent remake of The Beguiled.
‘Sense and Sensibility’
Synopsis: "Rich Mr. Dashwood dies, leaving his second wife and her three daughters poor by the rules of inheritance. The two eldest daughters are the titular opposites." — IMDb
We all know Emma Thompson is a remarkable actor, but she's also an amazing screenwriter. Her script for Sense and Sensibility (based on the novel by Jane Austen), won her an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1996. Other movies she's written include Nanny McPhee, Effie Gray and Bridget Jones's Baby (with Helen Fielding and Dan Mazer).
Synopsis: "A young boy is raised within the confines of a small shed." — IMDb
Though it's rarely done, Emma Donoghue adapted her own novel of the same name into the screenplay for Room and was even nominated for an Oscar. Brie Larson took home the Oscar for Best Actress in 2016.
Synopsis: 'In the early 2000s, an artistically-inclined seventeen year-old comes of age in Sacramento, California." —IMDb
Actor Greta Gerwig has cowritten several films, including Frances Ha and Mistress America, both with Noah Baumbach. Lady Bird is Gerwig's first outing as a solo writer and director. Her screenplay is currently nominated for Best Screenplay by the Golden Globes.
‘Saving Mr. Banks’
Synopsis: "Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen."— IMDb
Screenwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith are primarily known for writing British TV shows, but they collaborated on Saving Mr. Banks in 2013, winning Movie of the Year at the 2014 AFI Awards. As a solo writer, Marcel is known for writing the screenplay for E L James' hit book Fifty Shades of Grey and the upcoming live-action version of 101 Dalmatians called Cruella.
‘The Joy Luck Club’
Synopsis: "The life histories of four Asian women and their daughters reflect and guide each other." — IMDb
Amy Tan wrote the screenplay (with Ronald Bass) based on her book The Joy Luck Club. The National Board of Review named the film one of the top 10 of 1993. Tan has written numerous books about the Chinese-American experience and has won numerous literary awards.
Synopsis: "An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord." — IMDb
Katie Dippold is known for writing the show Parks and Recreation and the 2016 film Ghostbusters (with Paul Feig). Her screenplay for The Heat won Best Comedy Screenplay at the American Comedy Awards in 2014. She is currently working on The Heat 2.
Synopsis: "A mute woman is sent to 1850s New Zealand along with her young daughter and prized piano for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, but is soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation." — IMDb
From New Zealand, writer/director Jane Campion won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for The Piano at the 1994 Academy Awards. She has since gone on to write/direct the film Bright Star and create the TV show Top of the Lake.
Synopsis: "Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war." — IMDb
Dee Rees wrote the screenplay for Mudbound (based on the novel by Hillary Jordan) with Virgil Williams. Rees also directed Mudbound and won the Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards. Rees is also known for writing and directing Bessie about legendary blues performer Bessie Smith.
‘Love & Basketball’
Synopsis: "Monica and Quincy love and play basketball together through many life challenges from childhood to adulthood." — IMDb
Gina Prince-Bythewood won Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2001. She has gone on to write/direct The Secret Life of Bees based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd and create the TV show Shots Fired.
Synopsis: "Faced with an unplanned pregnancy, an offbeat young woman makes an unusual decision regarding her unborn child." — IMDb
Diablo Cody, whose real name is Brook Busey-Maurio, won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2008 for Juno. She went on to create the TV show The United States of Tara and is working on the upcoming film Barbie about the classic doll.
Synopsis: "About a recent college grad who returns home while she tries to figure out what to do with her life." — IMDb
Since writing and directing Tiny Furniture in 2010, Lena Dunham's career has blown up. She created, wrote and acted in the HBO show Girls, even winning several Emmy Awards. Dunham has also become an advocate for the gay community and Hillary Clinton.
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