There was one stark statistic that jumped out from the results of last year’s BBC Culture poll to find the 100 greatest foreign-language films of all time: just four out of that 100 were directed by women. And the same paucity of female directors has been a feature in each of our annual surveys: in 2017’s poll of the 100 greatest comedies there were four. Twelve films from female directors made it into the 100 greatest films of the 21st Century in 2016, but none of those films featured in the top 20. And in our first poll of film critics, to find the 100 greatest American films – just two were co-directed by a woman.

Read more about BBC Culture’s 100 greatest films directed by women:

-       What the critics had to say about the top 25
-       Who voted? Critics A-K
-       Who voted? Critics L-Z
-       Why The Piano is number one
-      
Why Agnès Varda was the most popular director

So in 2019 we set out to focus the spotlight firmly on women directors. The result is BBC Culture’s biggest and most international poll yet: 761 different films were voted for by 368 film experts – critics, journalists, festival programmers and academics – who came from 84 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. We asked the same number of women to contribute as men to create a gender-balanced poll, with 185 female voters, 181 male voters, one non-binary person, and one who preferred not to say. Each voter listed their 10 favourite films directed by women, which we scored and ranked to produce the top 100 listed below.

The result is a stunning collection of films that demonstrates the power, creativity and diversity of cinema made by women around the world, from Lois Weber’s silent film Shoes (1916) – right up to 2019 highlights The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg) and Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma). The majority of films on the list were made since the 1990s, and although the US, France, UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Canada were the most popular countries of production, films from Argentina, Iran, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, India, Tunisia and the Czech Republic all appear in the top 100. The late, great Agnès Varda was the most popular director overall, with six films in the top 100, followed by Kathryn Bigelow, Claire Denis, Lynne Ramsay and Sofia Coppola. Jane Campion’s masterpiece, The Piano (1993), was a worthy winner, with nearly 10% of critics placing it as the top film on their ballot. In her essay on the winning film, Hannah Woodhead praises its uniquely New Zealand sensibility and difficult, real female characters, in “a piercing fable that speaks to the universal desire to love and be loved”.

So what’s on the list? A film of a mute piano player rediscovering passion sits alongside the existential crisis of a Parisian girl-about-town; a subversive surrealist Czech comedy banned in its home country; three days in the life of a single mother in Belgium; repressed sexuality and jealousy in the French Foreign Legion and an odd-couple friendship between an ageing film star and a young graduate in a Tokyo hotel – and that’s just the top five. In the coming days, BBC Culture will publish a series of features that reflect on the results, the genius of women directors and the power of their storytelling. First of all, you can read more about the winning selection as international film critics argue why each film in the top 25 deserves to be there.

As ever, we don’t expect this list to be definitive but a starting point for discovery, discussion and debate. Tell us what you think – and what you think is missing – using the hashtag #100FilmsbyWomen on BBC Culture’s social channels. We hope you are as inspired by this list as we are; it’s a celebration of the brilliance and remarkable variety of filmmaking by women.

100. The Kids are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
99.    The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019)
98.    Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)
97.    Adoption (Márta Mészáros, 1975)
96.    The Meetings of Anna (Chantal Akerman, 1977)
95.    Ritual in Transfigured Time (Maya Deren, 1946)
94.    News From Home (Chantal Akerman, 1977)
93.    Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006)
92.    Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)
91.    White Material (Claire Denis, 2009)
90.    Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982)
89.    The Beaches of Agnes (Agnès Varda, 2008)
88.    The Silences of the Palace (Moufida Tlatli, 1994)
87.    35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008)
86.    Wadjda (Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2012)
85.    One Sings, The Other Doesn’t (Agnès Varda, 1977)
84.    Portrait of Jason (Shirley Clarke, 1967)
83.    Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993)
82.    At Land (Maya Deren, 1944)
81.    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014)
80.    Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)
79.    Shoes (Lois Weber, 1916)
78.    The Apple (Samira Makhmalbaf, 1998)
77.    Tomboy (Céline Sciamma, 2011)
76.    Girlhood (Céline Sciamma, 2014)
75.    Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)
74.    Chocolat (Claire Denis, 1988)
73.    On Body and Soul (Ildikó Enyedi, 2017)
72.    Europa Europa (Agnieszka Holland, 1980)
71.    The Seashell and the Clergyman (Germaine Dulac, 1928)
70.    Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002)
69.    The Connection (Shirley Clarke, 1961)
68.    Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)
67.    The German Sisters (Margarethe von Trotta, 1981)
66.    Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, 1999)
65.    Leave no Trace (Debra Granik, 2018)
64.    The Rider (Chloe Zhao, 2017)
63.    Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
62.    Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)
61.    India Song (Marguerite Duras, 1975)
60.    A League of their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992)
59.    The Long Farewell (Kira Muratova, 1971)
58.    Desperately Seeking Susan (Susan Seidelman, 1985)
57.    The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014)
56.    13th (Ava DuVernay, 2016)
55.    Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)
54.    Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
53.    The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
52.    Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)
51.    Harlan County, USA (Barbara Kopple, 1976)
50.    Outrage (Ida Lupino, 1950)
49.    Salaam Bombay! (Mira Nair, 1988)
48.    The Asthenic Syndrome (Kira Muratova, 1989)
47.    An Angel at my Table (Jane Campion, 1990)
46.    Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)
45.    Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935)
44.    American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
43.    The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999)
42.    The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Lotte Reiniger, 1926)
41.    Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, 2018)
40.    Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999)
39.    Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
38.    Paris is Burning (Jennie Livingston, 1990)
37.    Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl, 1938)
36.    Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
35.    The Matrix (Lana and Lilly Wachowski, 1999)
34.    Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002)
33.    You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay, 2017)
32.    The Night Porter (Liliana Cavani, 1974)
31.    The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2000)
30.    Zama (Lucrecia Martel, 2017)
29.    Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001)
28.    Le Bonheur (Agnès Varda, 1965)
27.    Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014)
26.    Stories we Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
25.    The House is Black (Forugh Farrokhzad, 1963)
24.    Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
23.    The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino, 1953)
23.    We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
21.    Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010)
20.    Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)
19.    Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992)
18.    American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)
17.    Seven Beauties (Lina Wertmüller, 1975)
16.    Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1970)
15.    The Swamp (Lucrecia Martel, 2001)
14.    Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991)
13.    Vagabond (Agnès Varda, 1985)
12.    Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)
11.    The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1977)
10.    Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1991)
  9.    Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
  8.    Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)
  7.    The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
  6.    Daisies (Věra Chytilová, 1966)
  5.    Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
  4.    Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)
  3.    Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975)
  2.    Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)
  1.    The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993)

Read more about BBC Culture’s 100 greatest films directed by women:

-       What the critics had to say about the top 25
-       Who voted? Critics A-K
-       Who voted? Critics L-Z
-       Why The Piano is number one
-       Why Agnès Varda was the most popular director

How many of the films have you seen? Let us know using the hashtag #100FilmsbyWomen on our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

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