Favorite Comedies Directed by Women

by Onicia Muller (@OniciaMuller)

This summer, movie lovers are looking forward to a comedy directed by Lucia Aniello. In Rough Night, a group of friends are horrified when the male stripper they hire for a wild bachelorette party in Miami winds up dead. The film is described as The Hangover meets Weekend at Bernie’s with stellar comedic talent. In honor of this new comedy starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoe Kravitz, I asked some women in entertainment to share their favorite comedy films directed by women.

Big (1988) – Directed by Penny Marshall

“This is a film I can’t pass up whenever it’s on TV. It’s a triple threat comedy; funny, romantic, and poignant. I watched it with my daughters (6 and 9 years) recently and now I love it even more because it made them laugh, too. There are so many memorable scenes and images and Tom Hanks is just perfection in a very difficult role. I think Big is the movie where he became the Everyman movie star he still is today.” — Tania Richard, actor/writer/podcaster Mom in Real Life

“I remember watching it as a kid and laughing but also crying because it was so sweet. It’s a genuinely funny movie, but even as a young child I could feel the sense of pain the adults were going through. I felt so sad for Elizabeth Perkins’ character when she realized that Tom Hanks was a child and she couldn’t be with him long term. I later found out that it was only Penny Marshall’s second film as a director, and that it was the first film directed by a female to gross over $100 million. I love me some lady trailblazers! She went on to direct A League Of Their Own. I appreciate her ability to direct genuinely funny movies with heart.” — Robyn Lynne Norris, actor/writer/improviser #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment

Clueless (1995) – Directed by Amy Heckerling

“I have to go back to Clueless. Amy Heckerling gives us a beautifully twisted point of view and biting truths disguised as frothy silliness. Dawn Powell said humor should cut like a knife, and this one skewers American culture in a way that has become classic instead of dated. Forever emblazoned on my heart are lines like, ‘Dionne and I are both named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials’ and ‘Why am I listening to you? You’re a virgin who can’t drive.’ The pacing is light and tight. Oh, and if you think a 1995 film can’t speak to today’s issues, ‘May I remind you that it does not say RSVP on the Statue of Liberty.’” — MT Cozzola, playwright Eye of the Sandman and Dance for Beginners

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) – Directed by Patricia Rozema

“It’s quirky, honest, real, hilarious, and it has great directing. This film had a big impact on me. I even based my Masters thesis on it.” — Rebecca Roos, producer/director By Her Hand

Something New (2006) – Directed by Sanaa Hamri

“I am fond of this comedy/romance partly because it shows the lead actress taking risks in her life when normally she would follow the safe road, and it’s directed by a black woman. Surprisingly, the director and lead actress share names.” — Adrienne Brandyburg, comedian/actor/writer Autumn Daze and Dude That’s Not What I Meant

Simon Fuller and Sanaa Lathan have terrific chemistry in Something New. I’m a woman of color, and it’s nice to see one of ‘us’ be a little neurotic and still get the guy.  We don’t often get to do that. More! More!! More!!!” — Mariann Aalda, writer/producer/performer Talk to Me, Ginger!

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) – Directed by Valerie Faris

“One of my favorite comedies was co-directed by a woman, Valerie Faris, as part of a husband-wife directing team. What I love about this comedy is the depth of each of their characters, such that on their journey, the comedy is specific to each of them. When Olive gets the call that she’s qualified for Little Miss Sunshine, the squeal she lets out — the unexpected loudness and length — is extremely funny. The timing and pace of the struggles and surprises in their journey kept audiences engaged. And what’s a road trip without car trouble, and in this case, VW van trouble? Pushing the van and running alongside to jump in, and the unending horn? It’s forever etched in my memory!” — Winnifred Jong writer/director Tokens

It’s Complicated (2009) and Something’s Gotta Give (2003) – Directed by Nancy Meyers

“Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton are women my age and to see them as sexually viable leads in romantic comedies like It’s Complicated and Something’s Gotta Give is pure heaven.  Thank you, Nancy Meyers!!!” — Mariann Aalda, writer/producer/performer Talk to Me, Ginger!

The Big Steal (1990) – Directed by Nadia Tass

“I’m going back to my roots for one of my favorite comedic films directed by a woman. The Big Steal came out when I was about 12 but I don’t think I watched it for the first time until I was about 15 — home alone one night and rented it from the local Blockbuster. It’s only as I got older that I was really able to appreciate the fact that it was directed by a female director, Nadia Tass, and in 1990. For me, The Big Steal really encapsulated the teenage experience. I absolutely related to the protagonist and his struggle with high school and building relationships with others and himself. All of this teenage angst was packaged in self-deprecating humor which is intrinsically the Australian way of dealing with the uncomfortable times in life. And something that has stuck with me, for better or for worse as an artist.” — Laura E. Bray, writer Undocumented and Casting Call

If you’re interested in discovering more films by women, Women In The Director’s Chair (WIDC) released a list of 220 alumnae of their professional development program. You can also join Women In Film’s #52FilmsByWomen project.

Rough Night opens June 16. Lucia Aniello is also attached to write the all-female spinoff of 21 Jump Street. 

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Created on St Maarten. Based in Chicago. Onicia writes, says funny things, and enjoys hanging with creative minds. You can read her weekly column, Just Be Funny in The Daily Herald’s Weekender or on her blog. She pays her bills as a creative project manager. Find her online at OniciaMuller.com or @OniciaMuller

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