Women in Film & Video's List of 40 Women-Made/Women-Centric Films for the National Film Registry

Women in Film & Video’s List of 40 Films for the National Film Registry

August 1, 2019

Women in Film & Video (WIFV) celebrates its 40th Anniversary in late 2019, so we decided to develop a list of 40 women-made and/or women-centric films deserving of inclusion in the National Film Registry. The period for Public Nominations for 2019 will be open until September 15, 2019.  You may recommend up to 50 titles per year through the Library of Congress’ online nomination form.

The full list of 40 is below! Thanks to WIFV Interns (Summer 2019) Lucia Fox-Shapiro, Julia Hay, and Nicole Spriggs-Moye for their research, descriptions, advocacy, and promotion of the 2019 nominations. To get you started on your 50 nominations we encourage you to consider these women-made films (descriptions provided for the first 10):

A Woman’s Error (1922)

Tressie Sounders, Writer & Director

A Woman’s Error was written and directed by Tressie Souders and is considered to be the first film directed by a black woman in the United States. The short film was distributed by the Afro-American Film Exhibitors’ Company based in Kansas City, Missouri. Billboard Magazine published an announcement that A Woman’s Error was the first film produced by a young black woman and has been labeled by critics as a “picture true to Negro life.” Public records document her as having spent most of her life as a domestic worker.

He’s Only Missing (1978)

Robin Smith – Writer, Director, and Producer

He’s Only Missing is a short documentary that looks into the issues that families had to deal with during the Vietnam War regarding their “missing” loved ones. The strong narrative structure is supported by several interviews with government officials, yet the film is centered on revealing the filmmaker’s deeply personal insights on the issue. The film’s writer/director Robin Smith emphasizes the “accepting the closest thing to reality” struggle that her family had to endure, as well as questioning the government’s intentions in the closing minutes of the film. This film brings a highly personal perspective to the Vietnam War era and would be the first such examination in the National Film Registry.

Losing Ground (1982)

Kathleen Collins – Writer & Director

Losing Ground is a film written/directed by Kathleen Collins that centers around the life of a young black couple in New York. Sara (Seret Scott) is a philosophy professor that is admired by her students and Victor (Bill Gunn) is a successful painter. This feature talks about tension in marriage, and shows growth within Sara becoming a more independent person. They decide to rent a house for the summer, and Victor becomes enamored with a local Puerto Rican women he is painting. This causes jealousy and grief within Sara who, in response to this, starts to go out of her comfort zone and participate in a student film. This film ends with Sara feeling like she is on shaky ground, which is a different feeling than her normal steady presence. This film was semi-autobiographical, and won First Prize at the Figueroa International Film Festival in Portugal.

Yentl (1983)

Barbra Streisand – Co-writer, Director, & Co-producer

Yentl is a musical drama directed, co-written, co-produced, and starring Barbra Streisand, making Streisand the first woman to direct, write, produce, and star in a major studio film. In 2013, Streisand was the recipient of the Charlie Chaplin Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Film Society of Lincoln Center as the only female artist to do so. Yentl tells the story of an Ashkenazi Jewish woman in Poland who dresses as a man to study Talmudic law. It received the Academy Award for Best Original Score, and the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture and Best Director, making Streisand the first and only woman to win the Golden Globe for Best Director. Yentl explores the misogyny in traditional Jewish culture and rebels against Judaism’s forced gender roles.

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Nora Ephron – Director & Screenplay co-written with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch

Sleepless in Seattle was Nora Ephron’s breakout film as a director, and it remains to this day an influential romantic comedy. Ephron charms her audience when a recently widowed man’s son calls a radio show in an attempt to find his father a partner. The film was nominated for two Oscars: Best Writing- Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen and Best Music- Original Song in 1994. Sleepless in Seattle is Meg Ryan’s and Tom Hanks’ second on-screen collaboration – out of four total. Sleepless in Seattle, co-written and directed by Ephron, captures her distinctive voice and style, making it the quintessential Ephron romantic comedy.

Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

Kimberly Peirce – Writer & Director

Boys Don’t Cry was the first feature written and directed by Kimberly Peirce based on her short of the same name. With its main theme about finding the courage to be who you truly are, the story is about female born Teena Brandon who adopts the male identity of Brandon Teena, and attempts to find himself and discover love in Nebraska. The film has outstanding performances from the cast including Hilary Swank’s win of the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role and Chloë Sevigny’s nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. At the Golden Globes, in the same year, Swank won for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and Sevigny was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture. Boys Don’t Cry is one of the first films to realistically and respectfully explore transgender identity.

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1999)

Aviva Kempner – Writer, Director, and Producer

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg is a feature length documentary film written and directed by Aviva Kempner about an extraordinary baseball player who transcended ethnic and religious prejudice to become a hero for all Americans. Hank Greenberg’s achievements during the “Golden Age of Baseball” in the thirties and forties rivaled those of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. As America’s first Jewish baseball star, he helped break down the barriers of discrimination in American sports and society. Greenberg was a beacon of hope to millions of American Jews who faced bigotry during the Depression and World War II. It received 8 nominations, including one for an Emmy Award, and 12 wins, including a Peabody Award.

Erin Brockovitch (2000)

Susannah Grant – Writer

Erin Brockovitch is a biographical film directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Susannah Grant. Portrayed by Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovitch, a single mother with few employment prospects, fights against the energy company PG&E for contaminating a California town’s water supply. Roberts won the Academy Award, BAFTA, Golden Globe Award, and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Soderbergh was nominated for best director at the 73rd Academy Awards. The film made famous the real Erin Brockovitch, turning her into a 20th century icon. She continues her activism work in the Erin Brockovich Foundation, which advocates for social welfare and social justice.

Love & Basketball (2000)

Gina Prince-Bythewood – Writer & Director

Love & Basketball is the feature directorial debut of writer/director of Gina Prince-Bythewood and explores the multi decade relationship between Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), two highly competitive basketball players. This drama shines a different light on gender norms, particularly in athletics, by showing the different treatments and experiences of male and female athletes. This star-studded cast of primarily African-American actors and actresses is a fan favorite and has a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and won Prince-Bythewood a Film Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

Under the Same Moon / La Misma Luna (2007)

Patricia Riggen – Director

Ligiah Villalobos – Writer & Producer

Under the Same Moon / La Misma Luna is a Mexican-American drama film directed by Patricia Riggen, written and produced by Ligiah Villalobos. Under the Same Moon tells the story of Rosario, a single mother who illegally immigrated to the United States in order to provide for her son, Carlos. After his grandmother dies, Carlos leaves his small Mexico town to go find his mother in Los Angeles, California. This film was the recipient of the American Latino Media Arts Award in 2008 for Outstanding Spanish Language Motion Picture and multiple Imagen Foundation Awards in 2009 for Best Film, Best Actor in a Film, Best Actress in a Film, Best Supporting Actor in a film, and Best Director. This heartwarming tale speaks to the bond between a mother and her child while humanizing immigrants who cross the US-Mexico border illegally.

WIFV celebrates its 40th Anniversary in late 2019 so we decided to develop a list of 40 women-made and/or women-centric films deserving of inclusion in the National Film Registry.  The full list of 40 is here!

  1. A WOMAN’S ERROR (1922) written and directed by Tressie Souders
  2. THE CHAMP (1931) written by Frances Marion
  3. THE MIRACLE WORKER (1962) about Helen Keller
  4. THE WOMEN’S HAPPY TIME COMMUNE (1972) directed by Sheila Page
  5. HE’S ONLY MISSING (1978) directed by Robin Smith
  6. OTHELLO (1980) directed by Liz White
  7. LOSING GROUND (1982) written and directed by Kathleen Collins
  8. VICTOR VICTORIA (1982) starring Julie Andrews
  9. YENTL (1983) written, directed, and produced by Barbra Streisand
  10. DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN (1985) written by Leora Barish and directed by Susan Seidelman
  11. DIRTY DANCING (1987) written by Eleanor Bergstein
  12. CROSSING DELANCEY (1988) written by Susan Sandler and directed by Joan Micklin Silver
  13. MYSTIC PIZZA (1988) written by Amy Holden Jones
  14. FAST FOOD WOMEN (1992) directed by Anne Lewis
  15. JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE IRT (1992) written and directed by Leslie Harris
  16. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993) written and directed by Nora Ephron
  17. MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION (1994) written and directed by Freida Lee Mock
  18. CLUELESS (1995) written and directed by Amy Heckerling
  19. MATILDA (1996) screenplay by Robin Swicord and Nicholas Kazan
  20. THE WATERMELON WOMAN (1997) written and directed by Cheryl Dunye
  21. SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS (1998) written and directed by Tamara Jenkins
  22. THE PARENT TRAP (1998) directed by Nancy Meyers
  23. BOYS DON’T CRY (1999) written and directed by Kimberly Peirce
  24. BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER (1999) starring Natasha Lyonne
  25. ERIN BROCKOVICH (2000) written by Susannah Grant
  26. LOVE AND BASKETBALL (2000) written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood
  27. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HANK GREENBERG (2000) directed by Aviva Kempner
  28. 5 GIRLS (2001) written and directed by Maria Finitzo
  29. LEGALLY BLONDE (2001) screenplay by Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith
  30. BACK TO GOMBIN (2002) written and directed by Minna Packer
  31. FRIDA (2002) written by Hayden Herrera and directed by Julie Taymor
  32. REAL WOMEN HAVE CURVES (2002) based on the play by Josefina Lopez and directed by Patricia Cardoso
  33. SISTERS IN CINEMA (2003) written and directed by Yvonne Welbon
  34. D.E.B.S. (2004) written and directed by Angela Robinson
  35. MAKING TROUBLE: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women (2006) directed by Rachel Talbot
  36. STEPHANIE DALEY (2006) written and directed by Hilary Brougher
  37. BILLY THE KID (2007) directed by Jennifer Venditti
  38. HER NAME IS SABINE  (2007) written and directed by Sandrine Bonnaire
  39. UNDER THE SAME MOON / LA MISMA LUNA (2007) written by Ligiah Villalobos and directed by Patricia Riggen
  40. WHIP IT (2009) written by Shauna Cross and directed by Drew Barrymore

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