5 Iconic Movies You Did Not Know Were Written By Women

Recent equitable pushes for inclusion in the entertainment industry not only stem from a historic absence of women and non-male professionals in Hollywood, but a recognition that what representation has existed has not done so palely. Women have been the most respected editors in film for decades – a role appreciated as the film’s final rewrite and often its savior. Any casting director will tell you that auditioning women roles is adjudicating Best in Show while discovering talented male actors can feel like researching cures to ailments – all that women talent being wasted on historically less speaking roles.

Perhaps most profoundly, women screenwriters have not just generated some of the most respected classics in film history, they used to just about run the show. June Mathis became an early executive at MGM from how successful her silent films were. Alice Guy-Blaché helped pioneer tinted frames, racially diverse casts, and special effects before Georges Méliès – writing over a thousand movies. Frances Marion was one of the few screenwriters able to effortlessly transition into talkies, winning two Oscars.

In celebrating women screenwriters, we’re going to highlight movies that had zero non-women participants onboard and are still rarely recognized for it. So yes, women were principle or supporting writers on behemoths like Rebecca, It’s a Wonderful Life, Singin ‘in the Rain, Battleship Potemkinthe original King Kong, Bicycle Thieves, The Empire Strikes Back, The Wizard of Ozand Strangers on a Trainto name only a few, and celebrated sole writers on modern classics like Juno, The Matrix, Lost in Translationand Thelma & Louisebut this list is for fantastic movies that you probably did not know were written exclusively by women.

Related: 8 Must-Watch Movies From Women Directors

5 Metropolis (1927)


Celebrated as one of the best silent filmssci-fi films, or just “films” of all time, Metropolis took the Western recognition of cinema as a capturing apparatus if not a novelty into it being an artistic marvel capable of fantasia. Thea von Harbou adapted her 1925 novel about social justice and industrialization into the screenplay, her husband Fritz Lang directing, and the rest is history. “History” of course meaning that von Harbou joined the Nazi party as Lang fled the country, then she wrote dozens of films for the Third Reich, then she later claimed she only did so to aid Indian immigrants in Germany, focusing her labor on medical care rather than the war effort. While von Harbou can, should, and must be condemned as an individual, Metropolis remains monumental, groundbreaking, and decidedly not in support of Nazism, given it was actually criticized for promoting far-leftism and communism, Nazi censors cutting it to shreds before allowing it to be shown.

4 American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho TV Show Is Happening at Lionsgate

The business card scene, Huey Lewis playing to a maiming, and every other infamous scene in this movie was written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner, adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel. As the world was seeking cube farm liberation, 1999 boasting Fight Club, Office Space, The Matrixand American BeautyHarron directed American Psycho to be the next piece in the puzzle: the source of growing exhaustion against trickle-down and laissez-faire economics wasn’t just bureaucratic autonomy and ignorance, but Wall Street’s wrath against the world. The central character Patrick Bateman functioned not just as a capitalist caricature with gold fangs, killing the impoverished, sex workers, and even his competition at work, but as a greater exploration of hypermasculine violence. The original release was polarizing, many critics highlighting the violence and anti-corporatist rhetoric being more along the still-horrifying Fight Club rather than the more passive and adored American Beauty.

3 When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan eat lunch in When Harry Met Sally
Columbia Pictures

Nora Ephron asked if men and women could ever be just friends, a cisnormative, heteronormative, adorably 1980s-comedian way of analyzing the world, the result being a delightful 96-minute descent into the unfathomable debate of whether Meg Ryan or Billy Crystal are punching above their weight here – the retroactive argument that Billy Crystal was the real catch growing everyday on TikTok and Twitter. The movie’s celebrated as some of both Crystal’s and Ryan’s best comedic work, Ephron later reutilizing Ryan’s charm when she directed and co-wrote Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got MailSeattle and Sally‘s screenplays netting Oscar noms. If you’re looking for expertise in theatrical dialogue, Diablo Cody and Aaron Sorkin are your modern titans, but if you’re looking for dialogue with Larry David’s improvisational naturalism and John Patrick Shanley’s charisma, Nora Ephron’s work on When Harry Met Sally remains the king of that hill.

2 The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook - 2014

Since the days of Halloween (screenplay by Debra Hill and John Carpenter), the iconic horror figure seemed to have lost its cultural novelty, Michael and Jason and Freddy regularly reanimated for reboots rather than replaced. But when Jennifer Kent began the screenplay for The Babadookshe sought to look at horror through the eyes of mothers struggling to protect their children from both intrusive evils and their own furies, a reversal on traditional horror mothers being vengeful monsters or accusatory usurpers like in Friday the 13th, The Shiningand even Jurassic Park. The result was the Babadook, the first major horror icon since Jigsaw a full decade prior, and is now eight years later seemingly uncontested as the newcomer. The character born of a haunted children’s book has remained not just a horror icon, but a Queer one for some unexplainable yet fantastic reason, Kent celebrating the appropriation by saying, “He does not want to die so he’s finding ways to become relevant.”

Related: 12 Movies to Watch That Celebrate Women’s History Month

ET - 1982

After Close Encounters of the Third KindSteven Spielberg began to develop a film called Night Skies where aliens tormented an American family. Ultimately, the story did not work and Spielberg rethought it into a paranormal tale, Poltergeist, asking screenwriter Melissa Mathison to redesign from scratch a subplot where a boy befriends an alien. After eight weeks, Mathison presented to him ET and Me, which Spielberg immediately regarded as perfect. The film would go on to not only get critical acclaim and award show decorations, but overtook Star Wars as the then highest grossing movie ever, raking in nearly $ 800 million off a $ 10.5 million budget. The magic of ET spellbound a generation across the entire world, setting another record after its release: the most rented VHS tape in its first two weeks. With ET as her second film, Mathison would go on to an illustrious career, partnering with Frank Oz, Martin Scorsese, Hayao Miyazaki, and on multiple occasions, Steven Spielberg.

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