As we celebrate Women's History Month, we honor the amazing contributions women brought to cinema. Even when it comes to all-time classic comedies, women were right there with men. Now it's time they got their due. Here we highlight nine classic "guy" movies, that you might not know were actually directed by women.
Directed by Penelope Spheeris
There's no guy movie like "Wayne's World." Hard rocking Gen-X headbangers Wayne (Mike Meyers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) host Aurora, Illinois' popular public access TV show, which they broadcast from Wayne's parents' basement. As Wayne falls for Cassandra (Tia Carrere), the alluring lead singer of an up-and-coming rock band, the two end up getting their big break on cable; with big paychecks to boost. But, something gets lost from that sale. Having directed several rock documentaries, including the controversial 1981 punk-rock-doc "The Decline of Western Civilization" and its sequels, director Penelope Spheeris was no stranger to the '80s and early-90s hard rock scene. Spheeris was excited to come aboard the SNL-skit-turned-feature, and the movie served as a big break of sorts for her, leading her to more 90s comedies. Unfortunately, ugly on-set clashes with Meyers – especially while shooting the now-iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene – resulted in her getting pushed out of directing the sequel.
2Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Directed by Amy Heckerling
Written by Cameron Crowe, which he adapted from his own non-fiction book, "Fast Times" has become the quintessential '80s teen comedy, next to the works of John Hughes. Featuring an ensemble cast of soon-to-be-big stars, including Forest Whitaker, Judge Reinhold, Eric Stolz, Anthony Edwards, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and of course Sean Penn, "Fast Times" follows a group of high schoolers looking to make their way through the final months of school before summer. This was Amy Heckerling's debut film and her big break, which led her to more classic comedies, including "National Lampoon's European Vacation," "Look Who's Talking," and "Clueless."
Directed by Tamra Davis
Three stoner friends (Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Diaz and Jim Breuer) are forced to come up with $1 million after their gentle buddy (Harland Williams) gets busted on a munchie run for feeding junk food to a diabetic police horse. Director Tamra Davis, followed up her '90s cult comedy "Billy Madison" (which comes later in our list), with this equally cult classic. While it was critically panned and largely unsuccessful at the box office, "Half Baked" found second life at home. Featuring a host of very quotable one-liners, and a perfect Chappelle on the brink of stardom, it's no surprise how this stoner comedy became the cult hit it is now is.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow made history in 2010, when she became the first, and so far only, woman director to win Best Director for "The Hurt Locker." But, before she turned her lens on wartime pics like that or "Zero Dark Thirty," she got her action feet wet with this bodacious 1991 surfin' crime thriller. Keanu Reeves stars as FBI agent Johnny Utah, who goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of surfing bank robbers led by the charismatic Bodhi (Patrick Swazye). Originally intended for Ridley Scott, "Point Break" was picked up by Bigelow, who was looking for a project following her Jamie Lee Curtis thriller "Blue Steel." Bigelow even helped polish the script with help from her then-husband James Cameron. As thrilling as the action is – especially the famous skydiving scene that Swazye shot without a stunt double – the surfing in the movie, too, was authentic with Reeves, Swazye, and Lori Petty having spent time training with former pro-surfer Dennis Jarvis. So taken by surfing was Reeves that he even picked it up as a hobby after filming wraped.
Directed by Mary Harron
1980's excess and greed gets its bloody due in this slasher thriller from director Mary Harron. Based on the novel of the same name, "American Psycho" finds Christian Bale as banker Patrick Batemen, a playboy whose suave demeanor and fandom for Huey Lewis and the News hide a much darker and sinister side. The satirical take on '80s greed, with a bloody slant, seemed like the perfect vehicle for "Wall Street" and "Natural Born Killers" director Oliver Stone, but after he couldn't agree on a vision, Harron came on board with a much more straight take based on the original source novel. It was Harron that also pushed hard for Bale in the role of Bateman, combating studio heads who demanded a bigger star like Leonardo DiCaprio. Looking back now, it's hard to imagine anyone else filling Batemen's perfectly polished shoes.
Directed by Martha Coolidge
Slacker Chris (Val Kilmer) and straight-laced Mitch (Gabe Jarret) are an odd couple of college geniuses. After getting paired up to work on a laser project for their school, they soon discover that the project's goal is to become a weapon for the U.S. government. But, nerds just wanna have fun, and college hijinks ensue as the government puts pressure on project leader Professor Hathaway (William Atherton). Even if the film's popcorn popping finale was later debunked by the MythBusters, "Real Genius" was a hit out the gate, and proved that Kilmer had real star power. Moreover, if you think the way celebrities now use Zoom to promote their projects is something that's largely unique to the pandemic, "Real Genius" was actually the first to try something like it. In what the studio called a "computer press conference," Coolidge and producer Brian Grazer sat in front of a computer answering questions via the old CompuServe network.
Directed by Tamra Davis
Director Tamra Davis makes her second appearance on our list with her breakout hit "Billy Madison," that save for "SNL," introduced the zany antics of Adam Sandler to the world. Sandler plays the eponymous Madison, a trust-fund baby (with emphasis on baby) and a high school dropout who goes back to school to prove that he can actually lead his father's company. He butts heads with Type-A Eric (Bradley Whitford), who may have the business background, but certainly does not have the business ethics. Upon reflecting on her time on set 25 years later, Davis recalled to Yahoo! that she was in awe of Sandler and his "SNL" pals; but she also saw something in him so few of us did until 2019's "Uncut Gems." After watching Sandler get in a fight with his girlfriend at the time, Davis realized "'Oh my god, you can be a dramatic actor.' . . . It was like, 'Who is that guy?' I saw somebody I've never seen before. I saw a different person . . . It's in him."
Directed by Penny Marshall
Whether it was playing with silly string, eating baby corn like it's bigger brother, or helping his boss find his inner child at FAO Schwarz, there really was no one else that could embody the boyhood wonder of suddenly waking up as an adult as Tom Hanks. So perfect was he in the role of boy-turned-adult Josh Baskin, that Hanks ultimately landed his first Best Actor Oscar nomination (he won the Golden Globe). Anne Spielberg (sister of director Steven) and Gary Ross also received an Oscar nod for their original screenplay. Not only was the film well received when it came out, but it continues to find love years later, making #42 on AFI's list "100 Years...100 Laughs." Even though it was released in the middle of a late-80s wave of age-swapping movies, including 1987's "Like Father Like Son" and 1988's "18 Again," "Big" has gone on to typify this plot device, and inspire similar-themed films and TV show episodes to come, whether Jennifer Garner's 2004 comedy "13 Going on 30" or DC's 2019 kid-friendly superhero comedy "Shazam!"
Directed by Mimi Leder
Two movies in 1998 foresaw Earth's impending doom; prolific TV director Mimi Leder directed the one with heart. Following on from her theatrical debut the year before with the George Clooney thriller "The Peacemaker," Leder stepped into the largely male-dominated sci-fi disaster film genre, with a female-focused take. "Deep Impact" follows journalist Jenny Lerner (Téa Leoni) as she uncovers what appears to be a scandal involving the Secretary of Treasury and an entity known as "Ellie." Lerner assumes this is a mistress, but after being told by the President to sit on the story, she soon discovers that "Ellie" is actually an acronym – "E.L.E" – which stands for "extinction level event;" and that's exactly what the world wakes up to two days later as a comet hurtles towards the Earth. "Deep Impact" also remains notable for having the foresight of featuring an African-American president with Morgan Freeman's Tom Beck. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 45%, "Deep Impact" might not have made much of that at the time, but at least it's better than the male-centered, action-heavy sister-film, "Armageddon," and that movie's even more rotten 38%.
About the Author
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.