Movie Lists

The 20 Finest Documentaries Directed By Women

For a lot of these female directors, their documentaries provide voice to the unheard and stimulate conversations on crucial topics.

Whether it is an imaginary landscape or documentary functions, the world of movie has actually long been controlled by male directors. However with voices like Greta Gerwig, Emerald Fennell, Celine Tune, and Ava DuVernay getting here with their dazzling stories, a new wave of talented women directors has actually progressively been making a mark and bringing fresh viewpoints to both markets.

The effect of female storytelling is felt a lot more increasingly in the art of documentary filmmaking. As a category driven by independent production, where the power of providing a message matters more than huge spending plans or fancy marketing, documentaries have actually handled to pave a method for numerous female artists to shine through.

For a lot of these directors, their canvases have actually mirrored their desire to provide voice to the unheard and stimulate crucial conversations about topics that are frequently neglected. At the very same time, their movies expose why representation of people, race, compassion, and nature, matters tremendously. In this list, we commemorate the accomplishments of 20 female directors through their sensational documentaries.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist (2018 )

Directed by Lorna Tucker

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist is an intimate picture of the early life and increase in popularity of the famous British designer Vivienne Westwood. Besides being the supervisor of the Sex Handguns, she was likewise the chief designer of the punk motion along with Malcolm McLaren. The documentary exposes early video footage from her defiant days, when she utilized to be simply as unapologetic as today, developing intriguing street designs in 1970s London.

From maturing in Derbyshire to protecting a considerate put on the runways of Paris, Westwood has actually come a long method. And the movie provides an expert take a look at her journey. Beyond fashion, she contributes increasingly to environment action. Lorna Tucker’s documentary is a vibrant and enthusiastic homage to her transmittable character, style, advocacy, and the cultural transformation that can begin when simply someone works for it.

Stream Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist on The Roku Channel

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Traffic signal Children (2004 )

Directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman

Taking you to the red-light districts of Kolkata is Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Traffic signal Children, a disconcerting documentary about a youth broken and warded off by generations-long cycles of hardship and exploitation. Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman go into Calcutta’s underworld with hopes of fulfilling the kids and photographing them. As soon as there, they offer a workshop for the trainees rather, advising them to pursue their dreams.

Briski’s stunning photography abilities and skillful storytelling shine light where it was required most– in the lives of lovely kids. Through her, we understand the kids, their truth, and their hopes. A testimony to non-fiction’s capacity to bring change, the movie is caring and touching in every method. It likewise truly won the Academy Award for Finest Documentary, back in 2005.

Stream Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids on Hoopla

No Put On Earth (2012 )

Directed by Janet Tobias

No Place on Earth

No Place on Earth

Release Date

September 10, 2012.


Janet Tobias


Saul Stermer.

, Sam Stermer.

, Sonia Dodyk.

, Sima Dodyk.

, Yetta Stermer.

, Sol Wexler.



Main Category


This painful documentary came as much a surprise to the audience as it did to Janet Tobias since of its story. Adjusted from Esther Stermer’s narrative We Battle to Endure, it informs the story of Ukrainian Jews who made it through 511 days residing in the Priest’s Grotto caves to avert the Nazis throughout The Second World War. Led by matriarch Esther Stermer, there were an overall of 38 survivors living in the dark.

Related: 10 War Documentaries That Will Have You in Tears

No Put On Earth exposes archival video footage and survivor testaments that carry us 20 meters underground and illustrate among history’s most suffocating hours. The movie stands as both a long-lasting memorial and a tip of our determination versus all chances. Director Janet Tobias crafts a deeply psychological homage by utilizing matching tones for various aspects of the story.

Stream No Place on Earth on Hoopla

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (2012 )

Directed by Shola Lynch

In the early 1970s, couple of names sounded louder in the Black Power motion than Angela Davis. She was a college teacher in California who was apprehended for being associated with a messed up kidnapping, which resulted in the death of 4 individuals. However following her arrest and year-long jail time, her defend justice ended up being a sign for bigger require racial equality. Director Shola Lynch unloads Davis’ story as a young teacher along with the social advocacy that made her a basic name in history.

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners is a well-edited and well-told movie about a time when a number of battles went undetected. Beyond recording the one chapter that landed her in jail, Lynch concentrates on narrating that resonates with the audience. Seeing history through fresh eyes, her movie honors political art and mass demonstration that can move a system that is stiff and not responsive to alter.

Stream Free Angela and All Political Prisoners on Tubi

One Kid Country (2019 )

Directed by Nanfu Wang

Nanfu Wang’s awesome function documentary checks out the severe repercussions that resulted after China imposed the notorious “one-child policy” in the nation. The motion lasted over 35 years, and throughout that time, a number of households were impacted, with generations of moms and dads and kids still reeling from the routine. Wang utilizes interviews of households (including her own moms and dads), along with of those associated with bring it out.

One Kid Country is the ideal example of what occurs when a state intervention fails. However moreover, it stands as a design of how specific stories can shed much better light on problems focusing on universal styles of liberty and control. Deeply individual however never ever indulgent, this acclaimed documentary is a must-watch.

Stream One Child Nation on Prime Video

Pray Away (2021 )

Directed by Kristine Stolakis

Directed by Kristine Stolakis, Pray Away is an effective documentary that checks out the deeply damaging practices of “conversion treatment” that impacted 5 guys in the 1970s. As members of a Bible-believing neighborhood, they had a hard time to reveal their identity and, rather of accepting themselves, they formalized Exodus International, the biggest conversion treatment company on the planet. Concentrating on both leaders and survivors of the “hope the gay away” motion, this movie shines light on neglected journeys.

By being delicate to injury and sharp towards the reality, Stolakis discovers engaging stories to inform. From internalized homophobia to abuse and redemption, these tales stimulate discussion and emphasize individuals’s complex has a hard time. Plainly, her launching function documentary provides us an insight into Stolakis’ cinematic look, and we’re just eagerly anticipating seeing more of her work.

Stream Pray Away on Netflix

Shirkers (2018 )

Directed by Sandi Tan



Release Date

January 21, 2018.


Sandi Tan.


Sandi Tan.

, Jasmine Kin Kia Ng.

, Philip Cheah.

, Sophia Siddique Harvey.

, Georges Cardona.

, Ben Harrison.



Main Category


This documentary about shooting an indie thriller discovers a sure area on this list. Cult filmmaker and Los Angeles author Sandi Tan uncovers a buried time pill from her time as a defiant teen in 1990s Singapore. Obviously, at the time, she ‘d shot the nation’s very first roadway film with her American coach, Georges. Twenty years later on, the 16mm video footage, most likely lost at the time, is discovered.

Shirkers sees Tan locating aging pals and reviewing unclear memories as she digs the secret of what really occurred to her coach and how he took her video footage. Her story is so gloriously lovely and interesting it nearly feels fictitious. However unlike a police procedural, we do not get the cathartic sensation of having all the responses, since life’s not like that. Winner of the World Movie Theater Documentary Directing Award, Shirkers is a work of art.

Stream Shirkers on Netflix

Waste Land (2010 )

Directed by Lucy Walker

Waste Land

Waste Land

Release Date

January 24, 2010.


Lucy Walker.

, Karen Harley.

, João Jardim.


Vik Muniz.



Main Category


Holding the capability to completely immerse its audience into the frame, Waste Land is an extraordinary documentary directed by Lucy Walker. It burrows into the lives of catadores who live in the stretching trash dumps of Jardim Gramacho, a garbage dump simply outdoors Rio de Janeiro. The lead character is a modern-day artist called Vik Muniz, who chooses 6 trash pickers to function as topics for his pictures.

Related: The Best Documentary Oscar Winners of All Time, Ranked

More than a years after its release, Waste Land stays seared in memory for magnifying the voices of those who constantly go unheard. The movie is Walker’s 3rd feature-length task, and it premiered at the Sundance Movie Celebration in 2010. It likewise got a nod at the Oscars for being poetic, intimate, heartrending, and active in storytelling.

Stream Waste Land on Kanopy

Professional Athlete A (2020 )

Directed by Bonni Cohen & & Jon Shenk

When it concerns documentaries, Netflix has had a winning streak in informing terrible however crucial stories. Professional Athlete A is one such galvanizing movie that focuses around the U.S.A. Gymnastics group and their constant efforts to bring Dr Larry Nassar’s abstruse acts of abuse to light. From the reporter of The Indianapolis Star who broke the news, to the survivors who lastly discovered the guts to speak up– the documentary covers everything.

Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, 2 of the most appealing documentary filmmakers working today, provide a story that strikes at the core of the #MeToo motion, and lines up in tone and regard with other movies like Making It Through R. Kelly and Tricks of Playboy As poignant as any drama, it leaves an enduring mark on the audience.

Stream Athlete A on Netflix

What Took Place, Miss Simone? (2015 )

Directed by Liz Garbus

Winner of an Emmy for Impressive Documentary or Nonfiction Unique, What Took Place, Miss Simone? is a stirring movie about the famous Nina Simone and the highly complicated life she led. As a generally skilled pianist, jazz icon, and civil liberties activist, she had the 2 things it requires to end up being well-known– genius skill and an extreme spirit. Nevertheless, at the height of her life, she ignores everything. Why? And what triggers her psychological health to decrease?

Even if you’re not a fan of jazz music or are brand-new to documentaries, Liz Garbus’ incredibly unusual display screen of art is a must-watch. Luckily for her, Garbus gets complete gain access to from Simone’s friends and family, so the first-hand accounts of her story feel genuine. More than simply a homage, the movie works as a diverse picture of an artist who defied expectations after jumping off of social barriers with grace.

Stream What Happened, Miss Simone? on Netflix

Free Solo (2018 )

Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vaserhelyi and Jimmy Chan

El Capitan’s large 3000-foot cliff had actually long been unclimbed by an individual. However when expert athlete Alex Hannold imagined scaling the pride of Yosemite National forest alone– and without ropes– it ended up being a psychological and physical obstacle that even the most bold climbers on the planet would not take part in. Directors Elizabeth Chai Vaserhelyi and Jimmy Chan file Honnold’s years-long preparation with exact information.

From the decision to the physical danger, every element is caught with a spectacular look, with the focus constantly remaining on Honnold. It likewise concentrates on his individual life and relationships and the toll his pressure handles them. As stressful as the experience can be, viewing Hannold achieve this fantastic accomplishment in Free Solo really ends up being extremely rewarding.

Stream Free Solo on Disney+

Fire of Love (2022 )

Directed by Sara Dosa

A visual love letter to volcanoes and friendship, Fire of Love is really among the most tear-jerking documentaries of perpetuity. It focuses around French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who committed their lives to residing on the edge of volcanoes. Through their experiences, we ‘d get close-up documentation of the natural wonders of the world and the secrets that are lava-filled cracks.

Director Sara Dosa does the honor of providing their story to the world with the aid of archival video footage and interviews, twenty years after the set passed away in the 1991 Mount Unzen eruption. Their youth was filled with marvel for science, and as they aged together, their love for each other never ever decreased that of their enthusiasm for the work. In a manner, Fire of Love is a modern-day fairy tale about weding one’s dreams.

Stream Fire of Love on Disney+

Beyond Paradise (2023 )

Directed by Madeleine Gavin

Among the very best documentary to come out of the Sundance Movie Celebration in 2023, Beyond Paradise showcases the brave endeavors of Pastor Seungeun Kim, a South Korean human rights activist, who has actually been working vigilantly given that 2000 to save North Koreans concealing from the world and living in worry and injustice.

Related: The 23 Best Documentary Films of 2023, Ranked

Madeleine Gavin utilizes improvised first-hand camerawork to immerse us in the painful experience. Experiencing their battles and awful lives, one finds that, for some, paradises do not exist outdoors far-off dreams. Living under a police state and having somebody continuously spy on you is frightening, and as dismissive and incorrect as it sounds, Beyond Paradise shows otherwise.

Rent Beyond Utopia on Apple TV

Citizenfour (2014 )

Directed by Laura Poitras

When the reality about the United States federal government’s mass security programs was exposed, there were 3 individuals at the center of the news– Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Edward Snowden. When reporter Laura Poitras got a lot of encrypted e-mails from somebody specifying they knew she ‘d have an interest in showing the world, she looked for press reporter Greenwald and together, they followed the high-stakes story as it unfolded.

The documentary, as directed by Poitras, provides you an account of the watershed minute with both seriousness and gravitas. A masterwork in cinematography, the movie positions its rely on the topics and provides reality in all its tones of gray. Citizenfour is, above all, a thriller that is powered for every single tense 2nd and postures concerns about Ed’s truth. Is he a whistle-blower– or a traitor?

Stream Citizenfour on The Roku Channel

13th (2016 )

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Ava DuVernay is amongst the leading female directors in the market. She’s given us films like Selma and restricted tv series like When They See United States, both of which have actually brought her tremendous appreciation. With 13th, she opens eyes to a loophole in the 13th change which perpetuates slavery “in all however name” and criminalizes black Americans throughout history.

From redlining and lynching to the war on drugs and the jail commercial complex, the documentary requires its audiences to check out in between the lines. DuVernay’s extensive storytelling relocations minds and hearts. She utilizes a range of talking heads, truths, and stats to showcase several instances of history and how they were adjoined at the time. That stated, 13th discovers a safe and secure location amongst the most significant non-fiction works.

Stream 13th on Netflix

Blackfish (2013 )

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite



Release Date

June 7, 2013.


Gabriela Cowperthwaite.


Kim Ashdown.

, Ken Balcomb.

, Samantha Berg.

, Dave Duffus.

, Daniel Dukes.

, Daniel Patrick Dukes.



Main Category


Following the questionable death of SeaWorld fitness instructor Dawn Brancheau, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite turns the clock back in time and ends up being a piercing voice of factor versus keeping animals in captivity. Blackfish records a captive whale called Tilikum and its participation in the deaths of 3 individuals. It likewise demonstrates how precarious and dishonest it is to keep smart beings as performers.

Few documentaries are vibrant adequate to hold individuals liable for particular scaries with such directness as Blackfish While the truths are what grips audiences, its well-crafted watershed world is an accomplishment in filmmaking. The movie sparked massive discussions and cause numerous reforms that provided voice to the voiceless.

Stream Blackfish on Prime Video

Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles (2023 )

Directed by Sally Aitken

The Wiggles, as a cherished Australian kids’s group, brought an abundance of happiness to millions throughout the world. However couple of understand that their roots were far from their predestined success. Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles has a look back at Anthony, Murray and Greg’s life as preschool instructors and how they coordinated with their pal Jeff to make music merely for the enjoyable of it.

Informed through a caring lens, the movie assists us comprehend their vibrant characters. From their health emergency situations to the toll popularity handles their psychological wellness, director Sally Aitkens provides us whatever in a tone that is captivating and easy going. With a great deal of optimism to extra, this documentary is so classic and wholesome that it will make you sob delighted tears a minimum of as soon as.

Stream Hot Potato: The Story of The Wiggles on Prime Video

Deep Water (2006 )

Directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell

British documentary filmmaker Louise Osmond has actually been composing and directing movies for a long period of time now, and her impressive look for selecting stories that require to be informed has actually been rewarding for audiences. With movies like Nova and Dark Horse winning honor, the very same treatment needs to extend towards Deep Water, a documentary that sees an amateur sailor called Donald Crowhurst starting the world’s biggest continuously boat race.

Related: 10 Lesser-Known Docuseries Worth Checking Out

Amongst 8 others, Crowhurst is most likely the least ready, with his ship being unsuited to endure the treacherous open ocean. And yet, it is his self-respect and decision that carries him forward. Deep Water is a gripping tale, shot wonderfully in a landscape that is fascinating and hazardous, with Tilda Swinton functioning as an effective storyteller.

Stream Deep Water on Tubi

My Octopus Instructor (2020 )

Directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed

Another Netflix documentary, My Octopus Instructor follows Craig Foster, a biologist and filmmaker who creates an unforeseen bond with a wild octopus by diving in a cold undersea kelp forest in South Africa and visiting her every day. He witnesses her intelligence and interest and quickly acquires her trust. Directors Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed record this relationship with an artistic level of sensitivity like no other.

My Octopus Instructor is what The Forming of Water would have appeared like had it been a genuine story set deep in the ocean. The awesome surroundings and natural knowledge bestowed upon the audience from an unusual perspective is what makes it stick out from other nature or thriller documentaries.

Stream My Octopus Teacher on Netflix

The Everlasting Memory (2023 )

Directed by Maite Alberdi

Director Maite Alberdi, whose 2020 movie The Mole Representative was an Academy Awards candidate, returns with a heartbreaking portrait of love shared by Augusto and Paulina. The 2 were important to the Chilean demonstrations following the Pinochet dictatorship as reporters and artists, and have actually been together for 25 years. 8 years earlier, Augusto was identified with Alzheimer’s illness. The Everlasting Memory files their life in the face of disease.

Alberdi’s observational lens communicates a great deal of feeling and insight merely by bearing considerate witness. Whether it is the excellent days, when Augusto remembers their shared history and how far they have actually come, or the bad days, when he battles with determining his love for Paulina, the movie discovers poetry in information. The documentary is likewise reassuring to a fault, as it narrates of the love, laughter and light that brings all of us till completion.

Stream The Eternal Memory on Paramount+

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