2015 had some record-setting box office releases as well as some amazing feminist films. However, equality in the film industry is far from realized, which is why recognition is especially important. Personally disappointingly so, this was the year that a woman director gave us 50 Shades of Grey, so it was important for me to find and include films that not only are on here because women directed them, but films I sincerely enjoyed. The following is a list of the best films released in 2015 (wide release, or limited, but omitting festival premieres)

Related: Your Favorite Films: Then &…Wow, I Didn’t Realize That’s Sexist

Advantageous

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Directed by Jennifer Phang

Advantageous tells the story of Gwen, a single mother in the not too distant future. A beautiful film about an uneasy subject, albeit a touch on the nose at times, the film is set in a future where women are heavily disadvantaged though it’s never apparently stated. With themes of sexism, workplace inequality, and the societal pressures, Phang delicately captures a beautiful and heartbreaking mother-daughter relationship against an opulent, seemingly utopian backdrop.

Selma

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Directed by Ava DuVernay

I appreciated the big budget feel of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life. Oyelowo plays Dr. King with a pitch-perfect balance of strength and vulnerability. Selma’s tactile feel and raw approach to an already difficult subject still had a dusting of style.

The Wolfpack

Directed by Crystal Moselle

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The Angulo brothers are the personification of yearning. Spending 14 years locked away from the outside world by their father, they lived vicariously through the movies they saw. Moselle’s heavy metal score perfectly captures the “rat in a cage” lifestyle the boys had as she tells a cautionary tale of what happens when you hold onto something too tight, letting expectations overcome reality.

Hot Girls Wanted

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Directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus

The most powerful part of this documentary is its natural and perfectly paced story arc. Hot Girls Wanted explores the world of amateur porn from the POV of new girls in the industry. Bauer and Gradus pick particularly innocent moments but pair it with these girls’ working lives and the influence the internet age has been to their careers. The film, at first, glamorizes the porn industry touting it as easy money until it takes a deeper look at the darker side of the porn industry.

Infinitely Polar Bear

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Directed by Maya Forbes

The most captivating and humanizing parts of this film are watching the relationship between Mark Ruffalo, a father suffering from bipolar disorder, and his daughters trying their best to sit with him, help him heal, and recognizing that he is his own person, not a disorder. Forbes, who also wrote the film, gives tender and intense notes in her dialogue that Ruffalo delivers with a sort of sincere fragility that keeps the film together. The patriarchy-challenging themes are also really fun to watch.

Thought Crimes

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Directed by Erin Lee Carr

Carr’s HBO documentary about Gilberto Valle AKA “The Cannibal Cop” is a unique one, which follows the story of a former New York City police officer convicted of conspiring to kidnap and cannibalize young women in 2013. Carr’s storytelling is visceral and in your face, yet, and the end, you feel braver to for having experienced it.

Diary Of a Teenage Girl

Directed by Marille Heller

A young woman’s sexuality is most commonly captured on film one of two ways: a heavy-handed coming of age story about heartbreak and disappointment, or as some man’s fantasy. This film is neither of those things. Heller’s fuzzy, introspective choices are realized in wide angles of San Francisco circa 1974 and lead actor Bel Powley’s, snark and magnetism. I could not look away from Powley for a second, and felt every single emotion stewing behind those captivating doe eyes. 

Girlhood

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Directed by Céline Sciamma

Girlhood takes its time and begs you to stay in the moments as long as you can in this coming of age drama about Marieme, a young, black, and French girl living on the outskirts of Paris. Sciamma’s sweeping shots following Girlhood’s star Karidja Touré are kinetic, airy, but still very connected. This is a slow, methodical, film, so don’t expect all of the gasp-worthy moments to pummel you like American films. Rather, soak in fleeting moments of joy that pepper all of the struggles of growing up.

Breathe (Respire)

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Directed by Mélanie Laurent

Laurent shoots Breathe like a delicate lace love story that has all the potential to be that coming-of-age drama with the one risqué moment (usually at the top of the third act) with a slow wind down of girls spinning. This isn’t the case. Breathe is intense, and a beautifully painted portrait of loneliness and betrayal. It’s also, plot point for plot point, a horror-thriller. You cannot prepare yourself.

 The Voices

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Directed by Marjane Satrapi

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this film especially because the only other Satrapi films I saw was Persepolis. However, I can see how the dark, blunt humor, coupled with a non-glamourous Ryan Reynolds is reminiscent of the coming of age film set in 1970’s Iran. Reynolds, post-heartbreak, is all of us in the deepest recesses of our minds when our feelings are the most friable: awkward, spastic, and insane.

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