Things got weird, queer, and femme in 2023, and I for one couldn’t be happier. This truly felt like a year where women were really able to tell unique stories about messy characters who showed that you don’t have to be a cis white man to be an absolute trainwreck. Queer women are telling queer stories that paint a beautiful messy picture of what it means to exist in the world as people navigating different intersecting identities. And the cherry on top? These movies were also gross, scary, shocking, and damn good fun.
These are the ten best movies directed by women from 2023.
Appendage, dir. Anna Zlokovic
Anna Zlokovic’s body horror comedy is a pitch-perfect look at living with anxiety. In fact, she dares to ask “What if your anxiety was just a weird little dude?” While the conceit of the film is inherently silly, Zlokovic strikes an incredible balance between comedy and horror to create a film that, ultimately, highlights the struggles of living with anxiety. Oh, and Emily Hampshire plays the queer-coded villain of my dreams.
Bad Things, dir. Stewart Thorndike
Messy queers meet The Shining in Stewart Thorndike’s second feature film, Bad Things. A vaginal, liminal nightmare frozen in time, Thorndike creates a deeply queer vision of madness and mommy issues. Plus, she uses a CPAP machine to create some of the film’s most unsettling imagery.
Falcon Lake, dir. Charlotte Le Bon
Charlotte Le Bon’s feature film debut is dripping in dread just as much as it’s dripping in deceivingly sweet summer memories. This coming-of-age tale seems to be your typical “a summer to remember” narrative until Le Bon flips everything on its head and leaves your jaw on the floor.
Huesera: The Bone Woman, dir. Michelle Garza Cervera
I will watch anything Michelle Garza Cervera makes for the rest of eternity. With Huesera: The Bone Woman, Cervera has subverted all horror expectations for what it means to talk about pregnancy and what we assume it means to experience womanhood. Instead, Cervera creates a messy queer woman who struggles within a patriarchal society when she just wants to be a women-loving punk musician. It’s not just pregnancy horror, and to reduce it to just that is to ignore why this film is so crucial.
Jagged Mind, dir. Kelley Kali
Between Appendage, Clock by Alexis Jacknow, and Jagged Mind, Hulu proved it isn’t messing around when it comes to producing cool, weird horror. Kelley Kali‘s take on time-loop horror once again creates messy queer characters to showcase the harrowing experience of abusive relationships and gaslighting. Importantly, Jagged Mind is deeply queer but never tries to center the narrative on the fact that our lead is gay. It doesn’t try to beat you over the head with label and identity politics and instead dives into the reality that anyone can be an abuser.
My Animal, dir. Jacqueline Castel
Queer werewolves living isolated lives in Alaska? Sign me up! Jacqueline Castel’s My Animal isn’t only incredibly important for the horror genre, but it also is a shining example of the genre’s trajectory towards more queer and transgressive works created by women, trans, and nonbinary artists. Horror has always been all of those things, but 2023 is the year when messy queers really get their time in the spotlight, and My Animal is the perfect example. While Amandla Stenberg is always great to watch, Bobbi Salvör Menuez steals the show as Heather.
Our Father, The Devil, dir. Ellie Foumbi
Ellie Foumbi created one of the year’s most emotionally devastating films about a chef in France whose world unravels when her abuser also accepts a job at the same retirement community where she works. It’s a complicated and nuanced examination not only of what it means to get justice, but what it means to live as a survivor of physical and sexual violence. Foumbi continues the crucial trend of female-directed rape-revenge films that examine the reality of being a survivor.
The Sacrifice Game, dir. Jenn Wexler
I’ve been a Jenn Wexler stan since The Ranger so to see her get even more of a budget and support with The Sacrifice Game gave me hope for the future of horror. This Christmas horror film meets the Manson Family is already a holiday horror classic in my eyes as it combines gnarly kills with the beauty of female friendships. It’s queer, fun, gross, and soaked in the deceivingly warm lights of Christmas trees. Keep giving Wexler money, please!
V/H/S/85, dir. David Bruckner, Scott Derrickson, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Natasha Kermani, and Mike P. Nelson
While V/H/S/85 wasn’t solely directed by women, its two most daring segments were. Gigi Saul Guerrero took the franchise to Mexico with a segment made to explain the horrible earthquakes that have hit Mexico City. Then Natasha Kermani looks at the horrors of cyberspace, even in 1985, with a technological nightmare. Both directors imbue their personal experiences into their segments, which makes them all the more effective, creepy, and damn good examples of found footage.
Where The Devil Roams, dir. Zelda Adams, Toby Poser, and John Adams
Again, while this film wasn’t solely directed by women, the Adams Family creative team is dominated by femme energy. Their latest is a stylized sideshow fairytale covered in a thick blanket of snow. Once again, Zelda, Toby, and John act, direct, edit, everything with their latest family affair. It’s a gorgeous, and sometimes opaque, look at identity, belonging, and found family.
Check out the rest of our Best of 2023 coverage here.