10 Favorite Romantic Films Directed by Women

RomanceFemaleDirectors

Firstly, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, everyone! I wish you love, good health and good movies… today and every single day of the year :D

Now, this list is long overdue, but lately I’ve been thinking about all the romantic films that I love… and you know what, a lot of them are directed by female directors! When I mean romantic, it doesn’t always mean a romance genre or rom-com, though many of them certainly are in this category, but it could be from other genres so long as there is some kind of love story involving the protagonist. As with list of this kind, obviously it’s not complete, there are a bunch from female filmmakers I still haven’t seen yet, i.e. Across the Universe, After the Wedding, Monsoon Wedding, etc. That’s where YOU fellow bloggers and dear readers come in, I ask that you recommend one or two of your own picks.

1. Austenland (2013) | Jerusha Hess (full review)

Top10Austenland
I know the critics aren’t fond of this but I had such a blast watching this. The entire theater seems to have a good time as well, even the male moviegoers around me were laughing constantly. It’s a Disneyland-type resort for Jane Austen fans, filled with one hilarious scenario after another. I’m not saying it’s a perfect movie, some of the mindless slapstick stuff are indeed cringe-worthy, but I was caught up in its fluffy buoyant spirit, and the ending is pure escapist romance any Darcy fan would appreciate. All things considered, it’s a pretty good debut from Jerusha Hess who was a writer of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre.

2. Bride & Prejudice (2004) | Gurinder Chadha

Top10BridePrejudice
Another Austen-related movie that offers a fun twist to the classic period drama. I first saw Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham which was fun, but I REALLY love this one and Aishwarya Rai is absolutely stunning. Yes she’s obviously too gorgeous to play the supposedly plain-looking Elizabeth Bennett-inspired character Lalita, but she made it work somehow. Martin Henderson is surprisingly endearing as Mr. Darcy, his dimples made me forgive his rather stiff acting style, ahah. If you need a mood-lifting movie, I can’t recommend this one enough! Watch out for the Snake Dance scene ;)

3. Dear Frankie | Shona Auerbach (full review)

Top10DearFrankie
Ok, this is not a romantic film per se but the relationship between Frankie’s mother and the Stranger alone is enough to make this one eligible for this list. Emily Mortimer has a scorching chemistry with Gerry Butler [in one of my all-time favorite roles] despite their rather icy first meeting that’s not exactly a *meet-cute* variety. But man, that doorway scene… slo-burn romance doesn’t get more tantalizing than this. I also love that the ending is open-ended which makes it even more intriguing. Not sure why British director Shona Auerbach hasn’t made another film since. Now if only Butler could find another script as good as this, likely buried under a pile of rubbish he’s constantly picking on lately :(

4. Little Women (1994) | Gillian Armstrong

Top10LittleWomen
I love this story of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. The cast is fabulous, including a young and vivacious Christian Bale (before he went to the brooding and dark side) and Gabriel Byrne as dashing professor Friedrich Bhaer. On top of the sweet and poignant love story of the four sisters, it’s also a warm celebration of family as they endure trying times in times of war. This reminds me I need to check out more works by miss Armstrong, most notably Mrs. Soffel and Oscar & Lucinda.

5. Lost in Translation (2003) | Sofia Coppola

Top10LostInTranslation
I’ve only seen two Sofia Coppola films so far but I think this would likely remain my favorite. I’ve always been fond of unlikely pairings in movies… a faded movie star and a neglected young wife hits it off as their paths crossed in a foreign land. The Tokyo backdrop gives the film a quirky yet strangely melancholic mood that works well for the story. I can see that it’s not a film for everyone as my friends have said it bored ‘em to tears but I find it delightful and hilarious.

6. Return to Me (2000) | Bonnie Hunt 

Top10ReturnToMe
I’ve dedicated a post for this a couple of years ago and it pains me that a lot of people still haven’t seen this. I’ve re-watched it recently and I’m still in love with it. The story starts out pretty sad but not in a depressing kind of way, in fact, you want these two characters to find love again after what they’ve been through. Thank you Bonnie Hunt for making an unabashedly romantic movie that’s genuinely heartfelt, enchanting and funny. I love the effortless chemistry between David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, and the supporting cast of James Belushi, David Alan Grier, Carol O’Connor and miss Hunt herself are delightful.

“When she met you, her heart beat truly for the first time. Perhaps it was meant to be with you always.”

Oh that line gets me every time. You’ll know why when you see the film. I also have to mention the lovely soundtrack with the likes of Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. In fact the movie is named after Martin’s song of the same name.

7. Sleepless In Seattle (1993) | Nora Ephron

Top10SleeplessInSeattle

Oh how I miss Nora Ephron. This is the first film of hers I saw and I fell in love with her witty dialog and fun but relatable characters. Of course the genius is in the casting of Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan, even when the two protagonist barely have a screen together, we are so invested in them and really root for them to be together. I have seen this countless times and I also fall in love with the city it’s set in, not to mention the timeless music that fits the film so perfectly. The supporting cast is wonderful, even Hanks’ own wife Rita Wilson has a scene-stealing hilarious moment when describing the finale of An Affair to Remember. This movie is chock-full of memorable scenes!

8. Water (2005) | Deepa Mehta

Top10Water

This is the last film of Mehta’s Elements Trilogy, set in 1938 when India was still under British rule. The film deals with a heart-wrenching topic of gender inequality for women, especially widows, who must live their lives abandoned in an ashram. There is so much cultural and political depth to this film that was tough to process at times, but it’s definitely worth a watch as it’s such a powerful and beautiful story. There’s a theme of unlikely friendship and forbidden romance, especially the relationship between a beautiful young widow Kalyani (Lisa Ray), who’s forced to prostitution to support the ashram, and Narayan, an idealistic follower of Ghandi from a higher caste. Mehta’s films are rife with controversy, there were intense protests when she was filming this that she had to relocate to Sri Lanka to work on this film. It deservedly earned an Oscar nominated for Best Language Film.

9. What Women Want (2000) | Nancy Meyers

Top10WhatWomenWant

Regardless of what one may think about his personal life, Mel Gibson was undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s bonafide movie star in his prime. He can effortlessly do action, drama AND comedy. This role shows his movie star charm as a chauvinistic advertising exec who gains an ability to hear women’s thoughts following a fluke accident. Ok so the premise is wacky but this part fantasy, part war-of-the-sexes comedy does deliver the laughs and there’s actually more substance to the story than meets the eye. Helen Hunt is utterly believable in the tough but vulnerable female exec and makes for a great sparring partner for Gibson.

10. You’ve Got Mail (1998) | Nora Ephron

Top10YouveGotMail

Another winner from miss Ephron. It has the spirit of rom-coms of the 40s and 50s like Howard Hawks’ Bringing Up Baby or even Vincente Minnelli’s Designing Woman with the two eventual lovebirds’ bantering with each other. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks reunited five years after Sleepless in Seattle and actually share lots of screen time together this time around.

I actually saw the original movie it’s based on, The Shop Around the Corner, and though I enjoyed that one, I didn’t love it as much as this one. Again, I love the witty script, thanks to the Ephron sisters Nora and Delia, and of course the two leads are as charming as ever. It’s also beautifully shot in New York City, which almost become a character in itself, especially during the gorgeous Christmas season.

Honorable Mentions:

    • Mansfield Park | Patricia Rozema
      Top10MansfieldParkThis is a serious oversight on my part, it should’ve been on my MAIN top 10 list instead of Honorable Mentions. Thank you Dave for mentioning it, I can’t believe I’ve forgotten about that one. It’s one of my favorite period dramas of all time, I LOVE the tentative love story between Fannie Price (Frances O’Connor) & Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller). It’s a darker tone of a Jane Austen adaptation as Fannie challenges Edmund’s father of his dealings with slavery in the Regency era, but ultimately, it’s a lovely and compelling love story that holds a special place in my heart.

    • Bend It Like Beckham | Gurinder Chadha
    • Bright Star | Jane Campion
    • ‘Bastille’ segment in Paris, Je T’aime | Isabel Coixet


    • The Holiday | Nancy Meyers

This Cockeyed.com article shows a great list of female filmmakers and their movies. We obviously need more of them in Hollywood!


So is your favorite romantic-themed movie on this list? Please do add YOUR own picks that you’d recommend!

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92 thoughts on “10 Favorite Romantic Films Directed by Women

  1. Agree with many on your list (Sleepless, You’ve Got Mail, and Return to Me). Funny that Sleepless/Mail are informed or reboots of some old H’wood classics. Nora sure could do it right! I still have yet to see Austenland. Can’t wait. I liked Bride and Prejudice but found it more enjoyable than romantic, but I see where you are coming from.

    I would contribute the following to the list – Children of a Lesser God (hardly remember it though). It seems funny that there are not more films of the genre by female directors but then again not really. I think a lot of ladies feel that they need to avoid it for that very reason (maybe?).

    • Hi Iba! We need another Nora Ephron, her rom-coms are really the best! Oh Austenland is a hoot, I really love it, fluffy, fun and hysterical. Sure some purists have their quibbles but I thought it was a lot of fun.

      I hardly remember Children of a Lesser God, is that even a romance??

      • I’m not sure I’d call Children of a Lesser God romantic but it’s a tumultuous love story to be sure. Marlee Matlin (only 21) was certainly fiery, passionate and independent but she was also stubborn, challenging and closed off. It’s worth seeing again just for her brilliant Oscar winning performance.and Michael Convertino’s emotive score. It’s one of my absolute favorite soundtracks ever. How ironic that Marlee’s costar, William Hurt, presented her with the award after winning the Best Actor award the previous year for Kiss of the Spider Woman.

        Check out the main title.

  2. Dear God, Bright Star may actually be the most romantic movie I’ve ever seen, period. Like, I’m a dude and I was seriously in love with every scene, which was dripping with sensual romance. No nudity or sex was exchanged and yet the film caused me to lose my breathe so many times.

    Oh, and I absolutely LOVE After the Wedding, but it is not romantic in the least.

    Love this list by the way, even though I haven’t seen half of these.

  3. Great idea for a post, Ruth! I love, love, love many of the movies on this list – especially Bride and Prejudice and Dear Frankie. You’ve also given me lots of ideas for ones I need to watch – haven’t seen Return to Me or Water – thinking they might be a good way to spend Valentine’s Day!

    • Hi Janet! Glad to hear we share our mutual love for B&P and DF! Ooooh you MUST watch Return to Me, it’s such a delight. Yes, it’s be a great way to spend V-day.

  4. Cool topic. Hmmm… I have to think about this one. Lost In Translation for sure. When Night Is Falling and Mansfield Park by Patricia Rozema. Miranda July with Me and You and Everyone We Know also come to mind.

    • I am kicking myself for forgetting Mansfield Park!! I LOVE LOVE that movie. It’s now added under special Honorable Mention, ahah. Thank you for mentioning that Dave, and glad you love that one too!

  5. Hey, Ruth. By a female director? My favorite is probably Lost in Translation.

    My favorite romance themed movie, by a male or female? That would be Casablanca, followed closely by Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.

      • I have seen 4,5,7,9 & 10. So exactly half of them. I am about to see Austenland, though. Netflix is already sending the disc.

        And Eternal Sunshine is one of my Top 5 Favorite Movies Ever. I might even still own it. If I do, I’ll bring it with me when we meet in March.

        • Oooh curious to hear what you think of Austenland. Hope you’re at least entertained by it, there were a few guys at the screening who seemed to like it :D

          Oooh yes I’d like to see ‘Eternal Sunshine’ if you have the dvd, thanks in advance Josh!!

  6. This just reminds me that I need to watch move films directed by women. The only one that came to mind when I saw the title was ‘Lost in Translation’ I need to change that.

    • Hi Brittani! I feel that I haven’t seen enough films by female directors either. There are so few of them that I feel we need to support them more, y’know. Plus they do make awesome movies, romantic or otherwise :D

  7. I think ‘You’ve Got Mail’ is genius.
    As our friend The Kid in the Front Row once said “If it (You’ve Got Mail) was made in the 1950s and had Billy Wilder’s name as Director, it probably would have won some oscars.

    Have a great night!

  8. This is such a good list – I absolutely love both Lost in Translation and Sleepless in Seattle. It was lovely to see Bend it Like Beckham on this list, I haven’t seen the film for years but I remember absolutely loving it when I was younger.

    • Hello Caitlin, welcome to FC! You should give Bride & Prejudice a shot, it’s by the same director as Bend It Like Beckham. It’s quite hilarious and lovely, a cute twist on a classic Jane Austen story!

    • I love those two by Ephron, but not as much as the ones on my list :) Hope you’d check out the ones you haven’t seen, esp. Return to Me and Dear Frankie :D

  9. My shame is such that I almost skipped responding! ;) I have only seen two of the ten you list – Lost in Translation and Sleepless. That’s pretty bad. On the positive side it does look like there are some good movies I need to see.

    Oh, it’s cool that you mentioned Paris, Je T’aime. As a Paris junkie that film has a permanent spot on my DVR. Not all of the segments work (a couple are pretty bad), but some of them are fantastic including Cioxet’s, the Coen’s, Payne’s, etc. etc. etc. Great honorable mention.

    • Ha..ha.. yes, there are lots of recommendations here for you Keith, and I think you and your wife would love ‘em ;)

      Paris, Je T’aime is wonderful. The concept has been copied so many times but w/ less-than-stellar results. This Bastille segment is no doubt one of my faves.

  10. As you know I’m not the biggest fan of this genre but I’ve seen some the movies on your list, Lost in Translation, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail; really enjoyed the Hanks and Ryan combo films. Another movie I thought was good but no one seems to agree with is their first movie together, Joe Versus The Volcano, it’s a dark comedy but I thought it’s quite entertaining.

    I really like Benny & June starring Johnny Depp. Also, I know many people hated it but I love Meet Joe Blacks, I’ve seen it many times.

      • I like Benny & Joon, but sorry Ted Meet Joe Black bored me to tears! I recommend What Women Want, I think you might enjoy that one, it’s Mel at his most charming and he’s quite hilarious as well. There’s a scene of him shaving his legs!!

        • Oh I forgot, I did see What Women Want and yes I liked it a lot and even bought the DVD and watched it a few times!

          What’s funny is that I didn’t want to see Meet Joe Black but my then girlfriend wanted to and we went to see it in theater and she was bored and I ended up liking movie. LOL. I love weirdness and the look of that film but yeah I know many people I know thought it’s boring. I also love Randy Newman’s beautiful soundtrack.

    • Ted It’s taken me years to find anyone who has even seen Joe Versus The Volcano, let alone written in praise of it, but it is one of my all-time favourites.
      The comedy is blacker than black at times, but sitting in the theatre, watching it with a riveted audience I never experienced anything other than pure joy.

      • Yeah, I think Joe Versus The Volcano was just way beyond its time, I think had it come out today, it might have been better received. I also love Lloyd Bridges’ role in the film, he’s hilarious.

  11. I’ve seen some of these films of the list as one of them is my all-time favorite. I do like Dear Frankie which I think is a very underrated film and one where Gerard Butler was good before he became Gerard Buttwad. I love Little Women and I enjoy those films by Nora Eprhon who is still missed. Return to Me and Brde & Prejudice are alright though I much prefer Bend It Like Beckham. I’m not a fan of Nancy Meyers’ work as I find them to be sappy at times and very overblown. What Women Wants is alright while The Holiday is only half good because of Kate Winslet and Eli Wallach though Jack Black was OK. I just didn’t care for the rest of that film.

    • Ahahahaha, Gerard Buttwad! Well I can’t blame you for thinking that as he’s been picking one terrible movie after another, though I gotta give him credit for picking Machine Gun Preacher. I just wish he didn’t become jaded so quickly when people didn’t go see that film.

      I’m glad you have seen a lot from this list, Steven, bravo!! Yes The Holiday is only half good because of Winslet and Jude Law, I actually like Jack Black there but I still don’t care for Diaz.

  12. Oh someone who also had a great time watching Austenland!! It’s such a fun movie. Also a Ephron fan, so Sleepless in Seattle (and An Affair to Remember) , You’ve Got Mail (and liked The Shop Around the Corner very much!), yes and yes, and also love Lost in Translation, very beautiful. So besides these I’d probably pick… Pride and Prejudice (2005), Jane Eyre (2011), Ball of Fire, Notorious, and though sad, Brief Encounter, too.

    I need to see Mansfield Park!

    • oh but I wasn’t thinking of female directors, just romance in general. Specifically from women, I’ve been loving Last Night by Massy Tadjedin lately. It’s not exactly romantic, but it’s about love, and very beautiful.

    • Hello Sofia, welcome to FC!! I just rewatched Austenland again and enjoyed it the 2nd time around too! Looks like we have a lot in common… outside of female directors, I LOVE P&P by Joe Wright as well, even more than the original if I may boldly say. I haven’t seen Last Night yet, I’m curious about that one though, I should check it out!

  13. Great list! I enjoyed Austenland as well – it was fun and such a dream vacation for Austen fans, not to mention Keri Russell was charming. Dear Frankie was great! I loved the chemistry between Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler.

    • Hi Whirlwind! I wish we could go to an Austenland vacation, oh what fun would that be!! I LOVE Dear Frankie, I still wish there’s a sequel to it, I want to know what happen w/ The Stranger!!

  14. Hi, Ruth:

    Well laid out and intriguing list!

    Not surprised with the inclusion of Norah Ephron.

    I’ll go back even further with the director who could laid claim to being Ms. Ephron’s mentor.
    Joan Micklin Sliver.

    And her triple play of ‘Between The Lines’, ‘Crossing Delancy’ and the made for TV film ‘Finnegan Begin Again’. A sweet romantic comedy with Mary Tyler Moore and Sam Waterson shot on location in Richmond, VA.

    ‘Between The Lines’ is a tight little ensemble and romantic comedy circling around a Rolling Stone type newspaper selling out and becoming part of a corporate owned business.

    ‘Crossing Delancy’ has Peter Riegert falling in love with Amy Irving with the aid of a Jweish matchmaker.

    Nice catches on ‘Austenland’ and ‘Little Women’!

    • Hi Kevin! I was hoping you’d give me a recommendation of classic romantic films directed by women! Those films you mention sound delightful. Oooh you love Austenland too? There’s a reason I like you, my friend :D

  15. I wouldn’t exactly be the most qualified person to ask about romantic movies, as I tend to find the majority of them either sappy or overwraught.
    I haven’t seen the majority of these titles, but of the ones I have seen, I cant say I disliked What Women Want and the two Nora Ephron films starring Hanks and Meg Ryan.
    The only one that truly got to me was Lost in Translation, which probably speaks to my taste. The other day I was able to catch an interview by Charlie Rose to Bill Murray. The actor said that directors seek him to avoid cheesy or sappy characters that could easily become that given the way in which they are written. This is the kind of romance I prefer. Without the big gestures and without the romantic lines, but rather with two people whose attraction evolves until it becomes apparent and undeniable.

    Nice list!

    • Hi Niels, long time no *see,* glad to have you here! I hope you give one of the ones you haven’t seen here a shot, some are not a straight romantic films (I’m actually averse to the truly sappy ones like Nicholas Sparks’ adaptations). Dear Frankie is essentially about a young deaf boy who lives with her single mother.

      I like Lost in Translation for the same reason as you. The story lends itself to the romance without the big gestures and romantic lines like you said. That’s kind of how I feel about the romance in DF as well.

  16. Lost in Translation came to mind for me. I found the first third of the movie quite bravely done by Coppola; she keeps our main characters apart from each other in order for the audience to understand both Bob and Charlotte until they finally meet. What I find so interesting about when they first glance at each other in the Elevator is how it makes you think of how many life-changing connections you’ve missed in your past by just being passive.
    Great list overall!

    • Hi Jack! Yeah I like Lost in Translation for similar reason. It’s the small gestures that made it work I think, and that elevator scene is wonderful.

  17. Great list, Ruth! Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers are musts. I’m a huge fan of both of them. I’d recommend Adrienne Shelly’s “Waitress”. It’s a very warm comedy starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion. Whatever buzz it gained when it was released was overshadowed by Shelly’s tragic murder :( If Waitress is any indication, she was very talented and could’ve gone on to greater things.

    • Hello Fernando!!! High five man, so glad to see a guy who love Ephron and Meyers. Oh I have seen Waitress! I should’ve put that under Honorable Mention had I remember it was directed by a woman. It’s so tragic what happened to Shelly’s, yeah if only she were still around to make another film.

        • Did they ever find out who murdered her? Yeah, I really enjoyed it too, thanks for reminding me about it. I’m not a big fan of pies but that movie could easily change my mind! :D

            • ONLY 25 years??! If he were indeed the killer, he should’ve gotten life in prison at least. It’s really a shame that such a good film is tainted by news like this. I didn’t know about her murder until after I saw the film and I was flabbergasted.

              • Yes, ONLY 25 years :( And I agree. So sad that this film will be forever associated with that terrible crime. I didn’t know until after I saw the film as well and it was very disturbing.

  18. This is a really great article! And a nice idea :) Too bad I haven’t seen some of the films, but I think I’m going to look for them now! Thanks, Ruth :D
    Some of the commenters have already recommended other great films, so maybe I would recommend some Indonesian films, there are a few female directors who made some great romantic drama movies here (in my opinion), but maybe it would be hard to find these films in the US. If maybe somehow you can find them, try Nia Dinata’s ‘Love for Share (stories about women whose husbands practice polygamy) and Ca-Bau-Kan (love story set in colonial Indonesia between an Indonesian woman and a Chinese courtesan) or Mouly Surya’s Don’t Talk Love (love stories of deaf and blind girls). Well, as I said, it might be hard to find these films, just throwing em out for recommendations :)

    • Hi Fariz! I figure I should shine a spotlight to the very few female filmmakers in Hollywood who clearly make very good movies.

      THANK YOU for recommending Indo films! I will try to look for ‘em somehow, though yeah it’ll be tough here in the Upper Midwest US where foreign films are not easily accessible, let alone those from Indo. Nice to see there are a few female directors in our country!

  19. Surprisingly, I have seen 4 movies in your list :)

    Bride and Prejudice was something I watched on TV and for the good looking main actor only ;)

    I would love to see that one with Duchovny….I really like him as Mulder.

    • Hey, good that you have seen almost half on the list considering you don’t like romance. Ahahahaha, Martin Henderson in B&P is gorgeous isn’t he?? He actually was in an indie w/ Cate Blanchett called Little Fish and he’s quite good in that. Oh you MUST see Return to Me, Duchovny is soooo charming in it and he has a great chemistry w/ Minnie Driver.

        • Oh there are plenty of comedic aspect in Return to Me, but not the crude or silly humor seen in today’s rom-coms. Give it a shot Nov, I think you’d be pleasantly surprised by it.

  20. Thank you. It’s a great list you have here. Very good choice I must say. Many of them I havent seen yet but heard of quite a lot. I’m looking for nice romantic films to check out and quite stuck. Rom-com nowadays is really boring, hardly find a decent one. Your list saves me.

    • Hi Windy! Thanks for taking the time to comment here. Is there any from this list that you have seen? I hope you give some of these films a try :D

  21. Hey Ruth! Glad to see Lost in Translation on here. I’m also quite partial to Nancy Meyers’ films, even if she only makes romantic comedies. ;)

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