7 movies helmed by phenomenal female filmmakers to watch this year

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow, directed by Cate Shortland

From electrifying new writing to major superhero sequels, KATIE BERRINGTON shares seven of 2021’s most-anticipated movies with emerging and established female directors at the helm


Black Widow

After several pandemic postponements, Scarlett Johansson’s reprisal of her role as Natasha Romanoff (a.k.a. Black Widow) is set to arrive in cinemas this year. Cate Shortland directs the superhero-origin story (the first film in Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe), which also stars Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour. In cinemas May 7, 2021 (US)

Nia DaCosta’s Candyman, starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II


Nia DaCosta directs this supernatural slasher (a sequel to the cult 1992 film and horror franchise of the same name), which she wrote alongside director Jordan Peele (Get Out) and screenwriter Win Rosenfeld. “The original was a landmark film for Black representation in the horror genre,” said Peele when the movie was announced in 2018. “Alongside Night of the Living Dead, Candyman was a major inspiration for me as a filmmaker – and to have a bold new talent like Nia at the helm of this project is truly exciting.” DaCosta has also been revealed as the director of the upcoming sequel to Captain Marvel, which will make her the first Black woman and youngest-ever filmmaker to direct a Marvel film. In cinemas August 27, 2021 (US)

Frances McDormand in Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland


One of the year’s much-speculated awards contenders is Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, a masterpiece of struggle, solitude and community, which she wrote, directed and produced. The critically acclaimed film stars Frances McDormand in a phenomenal performance, playing a widow in her sixties who, having lost everything in the 2008 economic crash, leaves her small town and sets out on a journey – living as a modern-day nomad, as she travels though the American West. In cinemas February 19, 2021 (US)

Director Regina King and actor Aldis Hodge on the set of One Night in Miami

One Night in Miami

Regina King directs this vivid and resonant on-screen adaptation of the stage play by Kemp Powers, which brings together Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay Jr.), Jim Brown and Sam Cooke in an imagined meeting in a hotel room in 1964. These four remarkable and prominent figures (played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.) are united to celebrate Ali’s historic win over Sonny Liston. What follows is an exploration of their individual and collective struggles, and the roles they were each playing – and still went on to play – in the civil rights movement. King, already an Emmy and Academy Award winner in the acting categories, is receiving deserved awards-season buzz for this directorial-feature debut. On Amazon Prime from January 15, 2021

Jennifer Hudson takes on the role of Aretha Franklin in Liesl Tommy’s Respect


One of the biggest biopics of the year comes from award-winning stage director Liesl Tommy. Her first major feature film details the life of Aretha Franklin, with Jennifer Hudson in the leading role, from the early days of the late legendary singer’s career to the soaring height of her stardom as the ‘queen of soul’. Before her death in 2018, Franklin herself was involved in the production, which also features Mary J. Blige, Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, Audra McDonald and Tituss Burgess in the cast. In cinemas August 13, 2021 (US)

Carey Mulligan and Adam Brody in Promising Young Woman, directed by Emerald Fennell

Promising Young Woman

2020 was a huge year for Emerald Fennell. As well as starring as Camilla Parker Bowles in the fourth season of The Crown, her directorial debut, Promising Young Woman (which she also wrote and produced), won major plaudits for direction, the plot’s social commentary in the #MeToo era, and Carey Mulligan’s leading performance. Following a young woman seeking revenge against predatory men after a traumatic event, it is a thriller for our times. Available on video-on-demand streaming services, including Amazon Prime, iTunes and GooglePlay, from January 15, 2021


Another, and rather different, release from Chloé Zhao this year will be the filmmaker’s first foray into the superhero genre. She has directed the upcoming and much-anticipated Marvel saga Eternals, about an immortal race that has hidden itself for thousands of years but must reunite to protect the Earth from its Deviant counterparts. It features a star-studded ensemble cast that includes Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Angelina Jolie, Kit Harington, Salma Hayek, Kumail Nanjiani and Lauren Ridloff. In cinemas November 5, 2021 (US)

Please note that all cinema release dates may change due to Covid-19 restrictions


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