If you’re on Film Twitter, it seems like this summer movie season is all about Barbie and nothing else. But, just as there are far more films beyond Barbie coming up to get excited for (the obvious Oppenheimer, as well as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse and Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City, to name a few), there are also more female-directed films in particular to anticipate this summer, from both established names (Nicole Holofcener’s You Hurt My Feelings) and up-and-coming directors making their debut (Celine Song’s Past Lives). And since it’s still (sadly) all too easy for work from female filmmakers to not receive the same attention and advertising as the work of their male peers, we thought there was no better way to officially usher in the summer movie season than by celebrating all the art from female auteurs that awaits.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (April 28) – dir. Kelly Fremon Craig
After seven long years away from the silver screen, The Edge of Seventeen writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig returns to grace us with her cinematic gifts once more with Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret – the first adaptation of Judy Blume’s celebrated (and unfortunately, often controversial) coming-of-age novel from 1970. The film, like its namesake, follows 11 year old Margaret Simon as she attempts to adjust to a new middle school after her family moves from New York to New Jersey while simultaneously struggling with all the changes brought on by puberty and a religious crisis, on top of everything else. It’s already receiving rave reviews (a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 84 on Metacritic) for Craig’s considerate and affecting adaptation and a plethora of passionate performances (Rachel McAdams MVP, as she always is), and despite protestations from certain groups, it’s a perfect all-ages affair with heart and humor that the whole family will enjoy.
The Starling Girl (May 12) – dir. Laurel Parmet
After first making an appearance at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (where it earned exceptional reactions, as evidenced by its 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 80 on Metacritic), Laurel Parmet’s feature directorial debut The Starling Girl is set to hit theaters this May, and this dark religious drama is not one to miss. Featuring yet another powerhouse performance from rising star Eliza Scanlen in the lead role, the film follows her Jem as she strains to find her place in the world and balance her own wishes with the customs of the fundamentalist Christian community in which she lives, especially as she’s simultaneously seduced by a youth pastor named Owen (played by Top Gun: Maverick‘s Lewis Pullman), who preys on her innocence. It’s starkly honest and sincerely stirring stuff, and though we’ve seen stories like this before, Parmet’s delicate direction – and Scanlen’s authentic acting – elevate this take.
You Hurt My Feelings (May 26) – dir. Nicole Holofcener
You Hurt My Feelings was another Sundance success story (a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 75 on Metacritic) that also happens to be the latest from indie icon Nicole Holofcener, best known for 2013’s Enough Said (also featuring YHMF‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as well as one of the last performances from James Gandolfini) and her Oscar nominated script for 2018’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. This time around, Holofcener tackles the little white lies we tell those we love and why, centering on one couple (Louis-Dreyfus and The Crown‘s Tobias Menzies) that’s torn apart after it’s revealed that the husband has been lying about liking his wife’s writing for years. As candid as it is comical, this dramedy is a delight through and through, and another winner in A24’s filmography.
Past Lives (June 2) – dir. Celine Song
Speaking of Sundance and A24, Celine Song’s directorial debut Past Lives was perhaps the crown jewel of this year’s festival, walking away with a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 95 on Metacritic. The film stars Greta Lee and Teo Yoo as two childhood friends who reconnect in New York City 20 years after Lee’s Nora and her family emigrated from South Korea, leaving Yoo’s Hae Sung behind. While Nora is now in a relationship with a man named Arthur (played by First Cow‘s John Magaro), she and Hae Sung are still forced to confront the choices they’ve made and their notions of love and destiny over this one fateful week together, wondering if there’s still a future for them or not. It’s already being hailed as a top-tier potential Oscar contender for next awards season, so get on this hype train early this June.
Joy Ride (July 7) – dir. Adele Lim
Joy Ride – a SXSW premiere that brought the house down (resulting in a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81 on Metacritic) – represents the directorial debut of Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim, following childhood best friends Audrey (Emily in Paris‘ Ashley Park) and Lolo (Good Trouble‘s Sherry Cola) as they, accompanied by Audrey’s former roommate Kat (Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Stephanie Hsu) and Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (up-and-coming comedian Sabrina Wu) set out on a journey across China to find Audrey’s birth mother. The trailer makes this look like the raucous female-led road trip comedy we see far too little of these days, and with a prime mid-summer release date, it’ll be the perfect way to escape the heat for a few hours and have a laugh with your own girlfriends.
Theater Camp (July 14) – dir. Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman
As has been a theme on this list, Theater Camp is yet another Sundance smash hit, this time from actress Molly Gordon, of Booksmart and Shiva Baby fame) and Nick Lieberman, making their feature directorial debuts after Lieberman directed the 2020 short of the same name. This mockumentary – in the vein of Christopher Guest classics like Best in Show and For Your Consideration – centers around the eccentric staff of a rundown theater camp in upstate New York who band together with the beloved founder’s bro-y son to keep the camp afloat when she falls into a coma right before the summer session is set to begin. With an all-star cast (Gordon, Dear Evan Hansen‘s Ben Platt, Booksmart‘s Noah Galvin, Home Economics‘ Jimmy Tatro, I Think You Should Leave‘s Patti Harrison, The Bear‘s Ayo Edebiri, and even Minari‘s Alan Kim) and laugh-a-minute gags, you’re guaranteed a good time.
Barbie (July 21) – dir. Greta Gerwig
And last, but obviously not least, is the girl that inspired this list in the first place, and that would be none other than Greta Gerwig’s Barbie. What’s to be said about Barbie that hasn’t already been said at this point? We all worship at the altar of Greta Gerwig and would show up for literally anything she makes, but the idea of her offering a fresh, feminist, and fun take on the Barbie iconography for the 21st Century is one of the most ingenious ideas in the history of cinema I think, and it only gets better from there when you cast two of this generation’s greatest actors – who additionally entirely embody Barbie and Ken – as your leads, with the Internet already devouring every morsel of Margot Robbie’s and Ryan Gosling’s performances that we can get. I don’t even need to convince you to see this one – I know you already have those Barbie/Oppenheimer double features planned.