The list of 'Movies: Written by Women About Women' has come as a result of the conversation with my friend, the focal point of which was the movie 'Bridget Jones Diary' (2001) and how it only gets better every time you watch it. And it is while talking to my friend I realised that actually the movie was based on the novel Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) written by Helen Fielding. The fictional character is so real that every woman in one way or the other can identify with her. And then, I thought of other movies based on novels and screenplays written by women about women and the present list of the last three decades has emerged. In it, the movies are arranged in a chronological order and not in order of any preferences or other such merit. I intentionally highlighted only the information about authors or screenwriters and not directors of the listed movies for I want the focus to be on female creators of the written word.
The movies are grouped in three parts: 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. This allows to see the common traits for each decade and also ponder over each period and what was chosen to be produced. For the ease of recognition and reference the list does not include independent or arthouse movies, but internationally known films that have been seen by many.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
Screenplay by Callie Khouri
Thelma: Louise shoot the radio… [Louise fires a shot at the radio] Thelma: The POLICE radio, Louise…
About Callie Khouri:
Carolyn Ann Khouri (born November 27, 1957) is a screenwriter, director, producer, feminist, lecturer, and author of non-fiction. She also worked as an actress, lecturer, and waiter in Nashville.
While working for a company that made commercials and music videos, she began writing Thelma & Louise, her first produced screenplay. Thelma & Louise won Khouri the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, a Golden Globe Award, and a PEN Literary Award, as well as the London Film Critics Circle Award for Film of the Year and a nomination for Best Original Screenplay from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. It was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry in December 2016.
Khouri described her experience filming her first major film, Thelma & Louise in an interview by David Konow:
'While I was writing Thelma and Louise, it was the most fun I had ever had in my life, bar none. It was such a pure experience. I loved every moment I got to spend time with those characters. Nothing came close to it, including winning all the awards and everything else.'
Khouri's most recent movie, Mad Money, was released in 2008. On October 10, 2012, Khouri's television country music drama series, Nashville, premiered on ABC. The critics awarded it strong reviews. In 2016, Nashville moved to CMT.
Screenplay based on the novel 'Orlando' by Virginia Woolf
Orlando: If I were a man... Shelmerdine: You? Orlando: I might choose not to risk my life for an uncertain cause. I might think that freedom won by death is not worth having...
About Virginia Woolf:
Adeline Virginia Woolf (née Stephen, 25 January 1882 – 28 March 1941) was an English writer who was considered one of the most important modernist 20th century authors and also a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.
In 1912, she married Leonard Woolf, and in 1917, the couple founded the Hogarth Press, which published much of her work. During the interwar period, Woolf was an important part of London's literary and artistic society. In 1915 she published her first novel, he Voyage Out,T through her half-brother's publishing house, Gerald Duckworth and Company. Her best known works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928). She is also known for her essays, including A Room of One's Own (1929), in which she wrote the much-quoted dictum:
'A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.'
Woolf became one of the central subjects of the 1970s movement of feminist criticism and her works have since garnered much attention and widespread commentary for 'inspiring feminism'. Her works have been translated into more than 50 languages. A large body of literature is dedicated to her life and work, and she has been the subject of plays, novels and films. Verginia Woolf is commemorated today by statues, societies dedicated to her work and a building at the University of London.
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Screenplay based on the novel 'The Age of Innocence' by Edith Wharton
Newland Archer:You gave first glimpse of a real life and then you ask me to carry on with the false one. No one can endure it. Countess Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it…
About Edith Wharton:
Edith Wharton, (née Edith Newbold Jones, January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, and designer. Wharton drew upon her insider's knowledge of the upper class New York aristocracy to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age. In 1921, she became the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. The three fiction judges— literary critic Stuart Pratt Sherman, literature professor Robert Morss Lovett, and novelist Hamlin Garland — voted to give the prize to Sinclair Lewis for his satire Main Street, but Columbia University's advisory board, led by conservative university president Nicholas Murray Butler, overturned their decision and awarded the prize to 'The Age of Innocence'. Edith Wharton was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928, and 1930.
Edith Wharton was friend and confidante to many gifted intellectuals of her time: Henry James, Sinclair Lewis, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide were all her guests at one time or another. Theodore Roosevelt, Bernard Berenson, and Kenneth Clark were valued friends as well.
She spoke fluent French, Italian, and German, and many of her books were published in both French and English.
Edith Wharton was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Piano (1993)
Written and directed by Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion
Ada McGrath: The voice you hear is not my speaking voice, but my mind's voice. I have not spoken since I was six years old. No one knows why, not even me. My father says it is a dark talent, and the day I take it into my head to stop breathing will be my last...
About Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion:
Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion DNZM (born 30 April 1954) is a New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and director. She is the second of five women ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and the first and only female filmmaker to receive the Palme d'Or, which she received for the acclaimed film The Piano (1993), for which she also won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
From the beginning of her career, Jane Campion's work has received high praise from critics all around. In V.W. Wexman's Jane Campion: Interviews, critic David Thomson described Campion 'as one of the best young directors in the world today.'
Similarly, in Sue Gillett's 'More Than Meets The Eye: The Mediation of Affects in Jane Campion's 'Sweetie',' Campion's work is described as:
'Perhaps the fullest and truest way of being faithful to the reality of experience', by utilising the 'unsayable' and 'unseeable,' she manages to catalyse audience speculation.'
Jane Campion's films tend to gravitate around themes of gender politics, such as seduction and female sexual power.
Written and directed by Amy Heckerling
Cher: She’s my friend because we both know what it’s like to have people be jealous of us.
About Amy Heckerling:
Amy Heckerling (born May 7, 1954) is an American film director. An alumna of both New York University and the American Film Institute, she directed the commercially successful films Fast Times at Ridgemont High, National Lampoon's European Vacation, Look Who's Talking, and Clueless.
In 1995, she wrote and directed Clueless, reworking and updating Jane Austen's Emma as a 1990s teen comedy about wealthy teenagers living in Beverly Hills. Heckerling originally thought of Clueless as a television show because she loved to write the character of Cher who she described as a 'happy, optimistic, California girl', and wanted to explore all of her adventures, but after she pitched it to her agent she was told that it would make a great feature. As with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it quickly caught on with teenagers and went on to become a significant pop culture reference point.
When asked about the fact that only 5% of movies are directed by women, Heckerling states:
'It's a disgusting industry. I don't know what else to say. Especially now. I can't stomach most of the movies about women. I just saw a movie last night. I don't want to say the name – but again with the fucking wedding and the only time women say anything is about men.'
Amy Heckerling is a recipient of AFI's Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal celebrating her creative talents and artistic achievements.
You've Got Mail (1998)
Screenplay co-written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron
Directed by Nora Ephron
Kathleen Kelly: And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void.
About Nora Ephron:
Nora Ephron (May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American journalist, writer, and filmmaker. She is best known for her romantic comedy films and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally.... She often co-wrote scripts with her sister Delia Ephron. Her last film was Julie & Julia (2009). Her first produced play, Imaginary Friends (2002), was honoured as one of the ten best plays of the 2002 - 2003 New York theatre season. She also co-authored the Drama Desk Award – winning theatrical production Love, Loss, and What I Wore.
In 2013, Nora Ephron received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy.
About Delia Ephron:
Delia Ephron, sister of Nora Ephron, (born July 12, 1944) is an American bestselling author, screenwriter, and playwright. Delia Ephron was born in New York City, the second eldest of four daughters of screenwriters Phoebe and Henry Ephron.
Her movies include You've Got Mail, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Hanging Up (based on her novel), and Michael. She has written novels for adults (Hanging Up, The Lion Is In and the recent Siracusa) and teenagers (Frannie in Pieces and The Girl with the Mermaid Hair), books of humour, (How to Eat Like a Child), and essays.
Delia Ephron collaborated with her elder sister, Nora Ephron, on Love, Loss, and What I Wore, which ran for over two and a half years Off-Broadway. It has played in cities across the U.S., as well as in cities around the world including Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Manila, and Sydney.
Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, Vogue, More, The Wall Street Journal, and The Huffington Post. In 2011, she won an Athena Film Festival award for creativity and panache as a screenwriter.
10 Things I hate About You (1999)
Screenplay by Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith
Patrick: So what's your excuse? Kat Stratford: For? Patrick: Acting the way we do. Kat Stratford: I don't like to do what people expect. Why should I live up to other people's expectations instead of my own?
About Karen McCullah Lutz:
Karen McCullah Lutz (born in 1967) is an American screenwriter and novelist. She was born in the Philippines, where her father had been assigned with the United States Navy performing counterespionage duties. She grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, and graduated from Indian Hills High School in her hometown of Oakland, New Jersey. As a high school student, she maintained in her diary 10 Things I Hate About Anthony, her boyfriend at the time, which ultimately led to the title of her 1999 film, 10 Things I Hate About You.
She is a graduate of James Madison University in Virginia where she was a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. She wrote most of the published screenplays with her screenwriting partner Kirsten Smith. In 2005 she also wrote her first novel The Bachelorette Party.
About Kirsten Smith:
Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith (born August 12, 1970) is an American screenwriter and novelist whose credits include Legally Blonde and Ella Enchanted. She has written most of her screenplays with her screenwriter partner Karen McCullah. Most of the scripts seem to follow the Girl Power movement of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
A native of Port Ludlow, Washington, she moved to Los Angeles in 1988 to attend Occidental College. There, she studied English and Film, and also got an internship at CineTel Films, an independent film company. Initially planning on pursuing poetry and academia as a career, she began working for CineTel reading scripts and writing coverage for them. This led to a full-time job there as a Director of Development in 1995; it was there she began pursuing screenwriting in earnest. One of the scripts she happened to read and cover was written by Karen Lutz, an aspiring writer living in Denver, Colorado. The two women formed a friendship over the phone, and when Lutz came to Los Angeles, they met in person, and began writing their first script on cocktail napkins that night. That script never sold, but it inspired the women to write together again, and they embarked on a teen comedy called 10 Things I Hate About You, inspired by William Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew.
Having published more than 40 poems in various literary magazines in the 1990s, Smith published her first novel-in-verse, The Geography of Girlhood, in 2006. The coming-of-age story of a teenage girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest, it contains a smattering of the poems Smith wrote and published in her early twenties.
Virgin Suicides (1999)
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Mrs. Buell: That girl didn't want to die, she just wanted out of that house.
About Sofia Coppola:
Sofia Carmina Coppola (born May 14, 1971) is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and former actress.
Sofia arrived at a career in filmmaking with a background by means of acting, modelling, and design. All of which have influenced her directorial work. Her background in fashion, especially, has played a large part in the aesthetic tones of her films and has heightened the roles of design and style in her work. She made her feature-length directorial debut with the coming-of-age drama The Virgin Suicides (1999).
After winning an Oscar for Lost in Translation (2004) and becoming the third woman to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, Sofia Coppola was accused by some critics of displaying the social and cultural privileges of her own childhood.
In 2006, Coppola directed the historical drama Marie Antoinette, starring Dunst as the title character. In 2010, with the drama Somewhere, Coppola became the first American woman (and fourth American filmmaker) to win the Golden Lion, the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. In 2013, she directed the satirical crime film The Bling Ring, based on the crime ring of the same name which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Coppola became the second woman in the festival's history to win the Best Director award, for the drama film The Beguiled.
Sofia Coppola has cited her own perceptions of gaps in the film industry as her own inspiration, explaining that she has always made the films that she herself would have wanted to see as a younger person. She has described this younger demographic of girls as deprived of high-quality videography and as disrespected as an audience. She has also said that she likes making films for a young audience because she perceives them as smarter and more sophisticated than they are often given credit for.
She is currently working on her next major motion picture, titled On the Rocks.
Based on the novel 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris
Vianne Rocher: Things could be different for you, Josephine. Serge doesn't run the world. Josephine Muscat: He might as well. Vianne Rocher: Is that what you believe?"
About Joanna Harris:
Harris began writing at an early age. She was strongly influenced by Grimms' Fairy Tales and Charles Perrault's work, as well as local folklore and Norse mythology. She was educated at Wakefield Girls' High School, Barnsley Sixth Form College, and St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where she studied modern and medieval languages.
Her first novel, The Evil Seed, was published in 1989, with only limited success. A second novel, Sleep, Pale Sister, shows the way in which her style developed from horror-pastiche to literary ghost story. In 1999 her third novel, Chocolat, a darkly magical modern folk-tale, thematically based on food and set in the Gers region of France, reached No. 1 in the Sunday Times bestseller list. The book won the Creative Freedom Award in 1999 and was shortlisted for the 1999 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award. The film rights were sold to David Brown and developed by Miramax Pictures. The success of the motion picture, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, brought Harris worldwide recognition, and in 2012 she became one of only four female members of the "Millionaires Club", the elite group of authors who have achieved a million sales of a single book in the UK since records began.
She is currently Chair of the Society of Authors, and sits on the Board of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.
List compiled by Seraphima Bogomolova