Not so recently, an idea struck me while looking at a consensus/canonical list of the greatest films ever made. I noticed how few of the films featured central female protagonists, and how many omitted the presence of women entirely. I wasn’t angry, but rather somewhat dismayed that my experiences as a woman were not being represented in my favourite art form. It’s not surprising, as most filmmakers are men, most popular stories are about men, and most critics are also male. It’s hardly something I can help, and at least behind the lens things seem to be moving forward as many women are taking the opportunities to make their own films, and are doing a damn good job at it at that.
Instead of lamenting the state of affairs, I thought why not celebrate what we already have? My goal is to make a list of 100 films that celebrate women and the screen. It’s not exclusively a list of films made by women, if anything I’d be surprised if they dominated the list, but rather taking a moment to celebrate the lives and characters of women through film history. I honestly don’t know how anyone could hope to make a list of the greatest women’s films while omitting the best of Ingmar Bergman or George Cukor. It seems unfair to punish them for being men, and unfair to punish the actresses who worked for them. As a result, the only qualification for the list is that it features a central female protagonist. In some cases this is more difficult to determine, as in films like Bonnie and Clyde, where two characters are on such equal grounds, that choosing one above the other is near impossible. Or else, a film like Jules et Jim, where it’s unclear if the film is about the friendship of two men, or the woman who tears them apart.
When I celebrate the lives of women, I don’t mean championing only the positives of personality or experience. The dark and gritty, the disgusting and repulsive is just as much a part of womankind as it is of mankind, and I don’t want to omit those portraits.
I’m not planning on ordering my list, and I’m not going to claim it’s definite in any way. I only hope it inspires some discussion, as well as inspiring some new favourites and viewings.
I’m planning on unveiling my own list sometime in July if all goes according to plan. What I’m asking for you are recommendations, and suggestions. Post-1960 and foreign cinema is not my strong point, so if you could especially focus them during those eras I would be most appreciative. I also challenge you to come up with your own lists, be it 10 or 100, choose your favourites and tell us why.