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.
Bridget Jone's Diary (2001)
Based on the novel 'Bridget Jones' Diary' by Helen Fielding
Directed by Sharon Maguire
Mark Darcy: I like you, very much. Bridget: Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother and... ah, the verbal diarrhea. Mark Darcy: No, I like you very much. Just as you are.
About Helen Fielding:
Helen Fielding (born 19 February 1958) is an English novelist and screenwriter, best known as the creator of the fictional character Bridget Jones, and a sequence of novels and films beginning with the life of a thirty something singleton in London trying to make sense of life and love. Bridget Jones's Diary (1996) and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (1999) were published in 40 countries and sold more than 15 million copies.
The two films of the same name achieved international success. In a survey conducted by The Guardian newspaper, Bridget Jones’s Diary was named as one of the ten novels that best defined the 20th century.
Fielding’s first novel, Cause Celeb, whose title derives from the expression cause célèbre, was published in 1994 to great reviews but limited sales. She was struggling to make ends meet while working on her second novel, a satire about cultural divides in a fictional African country when she was approached by London’s The Independent newspaper to write a column as herself about single life in London. Fielding rejected this idea as too embarrassing and exposing and offered instead to create an imaginary, exaggerated, comic character.
Writing anonymously, she felt able to be honest about the preoccupations of single women in their thirties. It quickly acquired a following, her identity was revealed and her publishers asked her to replace her novel about the Caribbean by a novel on Bridget Jones’s Diary. The hardback was published in 1996 to good reviews but modest sales. The paperback, published in 1997, went straight to the top of the best-seller chart, stayed there for over six months and went on to become a worldwide best-seller.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy was published in autumn 2013 with record-breaking first-day sales in the UK exceeding 46,000 copies. It occupied the number one spot on The Sunday Times bestseller list for six months. Late 2016 saw the release of the third movie: Bridget Jones's Baby. On 11 October 2016, and the publication of Fielding's sixth novel, Bridget Jones' Baby: the Diaries based on Fielding's original columns in The Independent newspaper on which the movie — which broke UK box office records — was based.
In December 2016, the BBC's Woman's Hour included Bridget Jones as one of the seven women who had most influenced British female culture over the last seven decades.
About Sharon Maguire:
Sharon Maguire (born 17 August 1960) is a film director who came to prominence with Bridget Jones's Diary. The film was based on the book by her close friend Helen Fielding.
In 1987, she began a career in television, working as a researcher for The Media Show (C4) and then as a producer/director at BBC's The Late Show. She then went on to direct several documentaries for BBC's Omnibus and Bookmark, before leaving the corporation to direct commercials. Bridget Jones's Diary marked Maguire's feature directorial debut.
In 2016, she co-founded the television production company, 7 Stories, which creates scripted drama for TV
Girl With A Pearl Earring (2003)
Screenplay by Olivia Hetreed
Based on the novel 'Girl With A Pearl Earring' by Tracy Chevalier
Griet: He saw things in a way that others did not, so that a city I had lived in all my life seemed a different place, so that a woman became beautiful with the light on her face...
About Tracy Chevalier:
After receiving her Bachelor's degree in English from Oberlin College in 1984, she moved to England, where she began working as an editorial assistant with Macmillan's Dictionary of Art, then later joined St. James Press, serving as a reference book editor.. In 1993, she began studying Creative Writing, earning a master's degree from the University of East Anglia.
Her first novel, The Virgin Blue, was published in the UK in 1997 and was chosen by W H Smith for their showcase of new authors. Her second novel, entitled Girl with a Pearl Earring, was published in 1999. The work, which was based on the famous painting by Vermeer, has been translated into 38 languages. As of 2014, it has sold over five million copies worldwide. It won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award in 2000. In 2003, a film based on the novel was released, receiving three Academy Award nominations in 2004, along with ten BAFTAs and two Golden Globes.
Her 2013 novel, The Last Runaway was honoured with the Ohioana Book Award.
About Olivia Hetreed:
Olivia Hetreed is a British screenwriter and editor, and the current president of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. In 2003, she received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for adapting Tracy Chevalier's best-selling novel Girl with a Pearl Earring into the film of the same name.
Olivia first worked as an editor of documentaries and films. Later, she began her writing career by working on family films such as The Treasure Seekers (1996) and The Canterville Ghost (1996). In 1998, she wrote the short film Candy. In 2003, Hetreed wrote an adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer's story The Man of Law's Tale from his work The Canterbury Tales, for the miniseries of the same name, with direction overseen by Julian Jarrold. The children's television series Roman Mysteries was Hetreed's next project, which she adapted from Caroline Lawrence's work in 2006. In 2011, she co-wrote Wuthering Heights with Andrea Arnold, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Emily Brontë. As a result of these writing credits, she has been called an expert in literary adaptations.
In 2013, Hetreed was named the new president of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. She announced:
'Most of the Guild's efforts remain unseen and unknown to members or the outside world. My focus as President will be to make the work of the Guild and its members more visible, both internally and externally.'
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
Based on the novel ' Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
Screenplay by Deborah Moggach
Elizabeth Bennet: I wonder who first discovered the power of poetry in driving away love. Mr. Darcy: I thought poetry was the food of love.
About Jane Austen:
Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist known primarily for her six major novels, which interpret, critique and comment upon the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century. Austen's plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her use of biting irony, along with her realism, humour, and social commentary, have long earned her acclaim among critics, scholars, and popular audiences alike.
With the publications of Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816), she achieved success as a published writer. She wrote two additional novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published posthumously in 1818, and began another, eventually titled Sanditon, but died before its completion. She also left behind three volumes of juvenile writings in manuscript, a short epistolary novel Lady Susan, and another unfinished novel, The Watsons.
Her six full-length novels have rarely been out of print.
Austen has inspired many critical essays and literary anthologies. Her novels have inspired many films, from 1940's Pride and Prejudice to more recent productions like Sense and Sensibility (1995), Emma (1996), Mansfield Park (1999), Pride & Prejudice (2005), Love & Friendship (2016), and Emma. (2020).
About Deborah Moggach:
Deborah Moggach (née Hough; born 28 June 1948) is an English novelist and screenwriter. She has written nineteen novels, including The Ex-Wives, historical novel Tulip Fever, set in Vermeer’s Amsterdam, (made into the film of the same name), In The Dark, set in a boarding house during the First World War, These Foolish Things (made into the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel), and Heartbreak Hotel.
Most of her novels are contemporary, tackling family life, divorce, children and the confusions and disappointments of relationships.
She has adapted many of her novels as TV dramas and has also written acclaimed adaptations of other people's work, among them Nancy Mitford's Love in a Cold Climate, for instance, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Her script of the film Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley, was nominated for a BAFTA award, and Goggle-Eyes, from Anne Fine's novel, won a Writers Guild Award.
In 2005 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Bristol; she is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a former Chair of the Society of Authors and was on the executive committee of PEN. She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2018 New Year Honours for services to literature.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Based on the novel 'The Devil Wears Prada' by Lauren Weisberger
Screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna
Miranda Priestly: Details of your incompetence do not interest me.
About Lauren Weisberger:
Lauren Weisberger (born March 28, 1977) is an American novelist and author of the 2003 bestsellerThe Devil Wears Prada, a roman à clef of her experience as an assistant to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
Lauren attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she was an English major and a sorority member of Alpha Epsilon Phi, graduating in 1999. After college, she traveled as a backpacker through Europe, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, India, Nepal, and Hong Kong. Returning home, she moved to Manhattan and was hired as Wintour's assistant at Vogue. Lauren Weisberger was there for ten months before leaving along with features editor Richard Story.
In 2003, Weisberger's first book, The Devil Wears Prada, was released and spent six months on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book is a semi-fictional but highly critical view of the Manhattan elite. As of July 2006, The Devil Wears Prada was the best-selling mass-market softcover book in the nation, according to Publishers Weekly. The book is largely based on Weisberger's experience at Vogue. The fictional Elias-Clark publishing company is said to be modelled after Condé Nast.
The book calls into light the many aspects of one's first job. It also highlights the presumed insanity of the fashion world and the difficulty and pressure a person goes through when trying to balance a demanding job with an adequate social life. Lauren Weisberger has published a sequel of the book: Revenge Wears Prada: The Devil Returns.
About Aline Brosh McKenna:
Aline Brosh McKenna (born August 2, 1967) is an American screenwriter, producer and director. She is known for writing screenplays The Devil Wears Prada (2006), 27 Dresses (2008), Morning Glory (2010) and We Bought a Zoo (2011), and for co-creating The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University. After graduating, McKenna moved to New York City to seek a job in publishing. While there, she did some freelance writing work.
A script she wrote during a six-week course in screenwriting at New York University helped her get an agent, and, in 1991, she moved to Los Angeles. By age 26, she had sold a comedy feature and a television pilot, and continued to write a number of feature and television scripts. She also wrote an episode of Margaret Cho's sitcom All American Girl.
She adapted Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada into the 2006's film of the same name. Though her first two produced features were both romantic comedies, McKenna has reiterated that The Devil Wears Prada is not, noting:
'The real love story is, she ends up with that newspaper, having understood the world better and having understood her naiveté better'.
The film earned McKenna a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Marie Antoinette (2006)
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola
Based on the biography 'Marie Antoinette: The Journey' by Antonia Fraser
Marie Antoinette: This is ridiculous. Comtesse de Noailles: This, Madame, is Versailles.
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 'Twilight' by Stephenie Meyer
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke
Edward Cullen: Is it not enough to have a long and happy life with me?
About Stephenie Meyer:
Stephenie Meyer (née Morgan; born December 24, 1973) is an American novelist. She is best known for her vampire romance series Twilight, which has sold over 100 million copies, with translations into 37 different languages. Meyer was the bestselling author of 2008 and 2009 in the U.S., having sold over 29 million books in 2008, and 26.5 million in 2009. Meyer received the 2009 Children's Book of the Year award from the British Book Awards for her Twilight series finale Breaking Dawn.
Stephenie Meyer graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English Literature.
With no prior experience as an author, the idea for the Twilight series came to her in a dream. Influenced by the work of Jane Austen and William Shakespeare, she wrote Twilight soon thereafter. After many rejections, Little, Brown and Company offered her a $750,000 three-book deal which led to a four-book series, several spin-off novels and novellas, and a series of commercially successful film adaptations. Aside from young adult novels, Meyer has ventured into adult novels with The Host (2008) and The Chemist (2016). Meyer has worked in film production and has her own production company, Fickle Fish Films. Meyer produced both parts of Breaking Dawn including two other novel adaptations.
About Catherine Hardwicke:
Helen Catherine Hardwicke (born October 21, 1955) is an American film director, production designer, and screenwriter. Her directorial work includes Thirteen (2003), which she co-wrote with Nikki Reed, the film's co-star, Lords of Dogtown (2005), The Nativity Story (2006), Twilight (2008), Red Riding Hood (2011), Plush (2013), Miss You Already (2015), and Miss Bala (2019).
Hardwicke became a production designer, working with film directors such as Cameron Crowe, Richard Linklater, and David O. Russell.
Her career as a production designer was crucial and beneficial to the moulding of her career as a director. She even worked with fellow female director Lisa Cholodenko on her film Laurel Canyon (2002). Aside from her time spent working alongside directors, Hardwicke continued to work on her own projects such as scripts, short films, and teaching herself Final Cut Pro. Hardwicke even took it upon herself to take acting classes to become a better director.
Hardwicke purposely casts young teens from indie films, both of Hardwicke's pics (Thirteen and Lords of Dogtown) are marked by the believable performances she elicits from young actors, something she says comes from respecting their creativity and a lot of time spent ‘just hanging out’.
Hardwicke addresses these problems as real ones rather than simply dismissing:
'I care about difficult emotional moments and I want to be there for those moments and not cut away'.
Julie & Julia (2009)
Based on the novel 'My Life in France' by Julia Child
Screenplay by Nora Ephron, directed by Nora Ephron
Eric Powell: On the bright side, more stew for us. Julie Powell: Just for once, could you not look on the bright side?”
About Julia Child:
Julia Carolyn Child (née McWilliams, August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004) was an American cooking teacher, author, and television personality. She is recognised for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her debut cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her subsequent television programs, the most notable of which was The French Chef, which premiered in 1963.
Julia Child repeatedly recalled her first meal at La Couronne in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as 'an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.' In 1951, she graduated from the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs. She joined the women's cooking club Le Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them to make the book appeal to Americans. In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child's Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L'école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.
Julia Child had a large impact on American households and housewives. Because of the technology in the 1960s, the show was unedited, causing her blunders to appear in the final version and ultimately lend 'authenticity and approachability to television.' According to Toby Miller in 'Screening Food: French Cuisine and the Television Palate,' one mother he spoke to said that sometimes 'all that stood between me and insanity was hearty Julia Child' because of Child's ability to soothe and transport her. In addition, Miller notes that Child's show began before the feminist movement of the 1960s, which meant that the issues housewives and women faced were somewhat ignored on television.
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.
An Education (2009)
Based on the memoir 'An Education' by the British journalist Lynn Barber
Directed by Lone Scherfig
Headmistress: Nobody does anything worth doing without a degree. Jenny: Nobody does anything worth doing with a degree. No woman anyway.
About Lynn Barber:
Lynn Barber (born 22 May 1944) is an English journalist who has worked for many publications, including The Sunday Times.
Barber worked for Penthouse for seven years until 1974, being successively editorial assistant, literary editor, features editor and deputy editor. From 1982 to 1989 she was a feature writer on the Sunday Express magazine, and she then joined The Independent on Sunday before its launch in 1990. Barber has also written for Vanity Fair, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and, from 1996 to 2009, The Observer.
Barber is best known for her interviews. She was once quoted by Will Self as describing her method as 'start[ing] ... from a position of really disliking people, and then compel[ling] them to win you over.'
Barber has won six British press awards. Her books include two collections of interviews, Mostly Men and Demon Barber, a sex book How to Improve Your Man in Bed, and a survey of Victorian popular natural history writers, The Heyday of Natural History.
In 2006, Barber was one of the judges for the Turner Prize and wrote an article in The Observer criticising some aspects of the judging process.
Barber's memoir of her teenage love affair, An Education, was published in June 2009 and later made into a film. A memoir of Barber's career as a celebrity interviewer, A Curious Career, was published in May 2014.
About Lone Scherfig:
Lone Scherfig (born 2 May 1959) is a Danishfilm director and screenwriter who has been involved with the Dogme 95 film movement and who has been widely critically acclaimed for several of her movies, including the Oscar-nominated film An Education (2009). Scherfig's movies are generally romantic comedies, including her film One Day (2011). Through both experimenting with creative constraints and her astute attention to detail, she has come to be recognised as a significant talent in the film industry.
An Education was nominated at the BAFTA Awards, the British Independent Film Awards, the European Film Awards, the Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards, the Satellite Awards, and the Academy Awards. It won various awards at the Chicago International Film Festival, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Robert Festival, and the Sundance Film Festival.
Written and directed by Madonna
Wallis Simpson: You have no idea how hard it is to live out the greatest love romance of the century. And now I will have to be with him always and always and always.
Madonna Louise Ciccone (born August 16, 1958) is an American singer-songwriter, actress, author, and record executive. Having been referred to as the 'Queen of Pop' since the 1980s, she is regarded as one of the most impactful figures in popular culture. Madonna is noted for her continual reinvention and versatility in music production, songwriting, and visual presentation. She has pushed the boundaries of artistic expression in mainstream music, while remaining completely in charge of every aspect of her career. Her works, which incorporate social, political, sexual, and religious themes, have generated both critical acclaim and controversy. Madonna is often cited as an influence by other artists.
Madonna directed her second feature film (her first one was Filth and Wisdom), W.E., a biographical account about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. Co-written with Alek Keshishian, the film was premiered at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in September 2011. Critical and commercial response to the film was negative. Madonna contributed the ballad 'Masterpiece' for the film's soundtrack, which won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
List compiled by Seraphima Bogomolova