10 Gripping Documentaries by Female Filmmakers

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1. Stories We Tell – Directed by Sarah Polley (2012)

In this autobiographical documentary, Sarah Polley interviews members of her own family and exposes long-kept secrets in a search for the truth. Woven between the interviews are incredibly realistic reenactments of home movies that add a narrative element.

Where to stream: Trailer | Amazon | Hulu

2. 13th – Directed by Ava DuVernay (2016)

Titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, this documentary explores race, justice, mass incarceration, and the prison-industrial complex in the United States. 

Where to stream: Trailer | Netflix

3. Blackfish – directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (2013)

Sea World has long been known for it's Shamu orca shows, but this documentary takes us behind the scenes and offers a dark look at the realities of keeping killer whales in captivity. 

Where to stream: Trailer | Netflix

4. There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane – Directed by Liz Garbus (2011)

In 2009, Diane Schuler caused a traffic collision on the Taconic State Parkway in New York. Eight people died in this accident – including Diane, her daughter, and her three nieces. This documentary takes a look at the events leading up to the crash and explores the possibility that a medical emergency, and not alcohol impairment, is to blame.

Where to stream: Trailer | HBO Go

5. Advanced Style – Directed by Lina Plioplyte (2014)

If you're in the mood for something a little lighter, this documentary explores the lives of seven 60-to-70-year-old women in New York City whose unique spirits and fashion senses have shaped their views on aging.

Where to stream: Trailer | Amazon | Hulu

6. Tig – Directed by Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York (2015)

In the same year, stand-up comic Tig Notaro lost her mother, decided to try for a baby with her partner, and was diagnosed with cancer. This documentary follows her journey over those months and offers a poignant look at how humor can be healing.

Where to stream: Trailer | Netflix

7. Miss Representation – Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom (2011)

This documentary takes a critical look at the way women are represented in the media and what those portrayals convey to girls who are in need of positive role models. The film's motto is "you can't be what you can't see". 

Where to stream: Trailer | Amazon | Netflix

8. Paris is Burning – Directed by Jennie Livingston (1990)

An exploration of the elaborate drag balls and competitions in New York in the 80s, this documentary is also considered to be a thoughtful examination of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America. 

Where to stream: Trailer | Netflix

9. A Walk to Beautiful – Directed by Mary Olive Smith (2007)

This documentary tells the stories of five women in Ethiopia who suffered childbirth injuries due to inadequate healthcare. Ostracized by their families and communities, these women embark on a long journey to receive proper medical treatment. 

Where to stream: Trailer

10. Maidentrip – Directed by Jillian Schlesinger (2013)

This documentary follows 14-year-old Laura Dekker as she sets out on a two-year journey in hopes of becoming the youngest person ever to sail around the world.

Where to stream: Trailer | Amazon

Beyond the Ceiling