Greta Gerwig stands out as a remarkable and versatile filmmaker, having made significant contributions to the industry as a writer, director, and actress over the past 15 years. Her films delve into the intricacies of relationships, the challenges faced by young women, and the joys of life, all while imprinting her distinctive voice and vision onto the screen. She has written and directed eight movies, ranging from indie comedies to literary adaptations, and has earned four Oscar nominations for her work.
In this blog post, we’ll take a journey through Gerwig’s cinematic offerings, ranking her movies from the least to the best. Note that only films she has written and/or directed are considered, omitting those where she solely took on an acting role.
8. Northern Comfort (2006)
Gerwig’s debut venture into writing, co-written with Joseph James Bellamy and David T. Grophear, and directed by Rod Webber, is “Northern Comfort.” A low-budget indie film, it falls within the mumblecore genre, characterized by naturalistic dialogue and digital camera footage. Despite some humorous moments and a touching conclusion, the film lacks direction, a cohesive plot, and robust character development. It hints at Gerwig’s early exploration of her unique voice but feels more like an unpolished draft than a finished product.
7. Nights and Weekends (2008)
In her second writing endeavor, Gerwig co-directs with Joe Swanberg in “Nights and Weekends.” This mumblecore film explores the trials of a long-distance relationship, relying heavily on improvisation and realism. While capturing the intimacy and frustrations inherent in such relationships, the movie lacks a clear structure, a coherent narrative, and a satisfying resolution. It unfolds as a series of vignettes rather than a seamlessly woven tale.
6. Mistress America (2015)
Teaming up again with Noah Baumbach for her third writing credit, Gerwig stars as Brooke in “Mistress America.” A whimsical comedy set in New York City, the film showcases Gerwig’s charm and wit. However, it falls short in depth, realism, and empathy, feeling more like a parody than a genuine portrayal of its characters and setting. While it has its hilarious moments, the movie struggles to make the audience emotionally invest in the outcomes.
5. Frances Ha (2012)
Collaborating once more with Baumbach, Gerwig’s fourth writing credit, “Frances Ha,” is a charming comedy-drama. Following the life of a 27-year-old dancer in New York City, the film boasts brilliant dialogue, relatable characters, and beautiful cinematography. It serves as a love letter to the city and its aspiring inhabitants. However, the movie’s lack of a robust plot, conflict, and resolution leaves it feeling more like a snapshot than a fully fleshed-out narrative.
4. 20th Century Women (2016)
In her eighth writing credit, Greta Gerwig collaborates with Mike Mills for “20th Century Women.” A semi-autobiographical film set in 1979 in Santa Barbara, California, the movie artfully weaves the stories of three women influencing a teenage boy’s life. Moreover, Gerwig’s portrayal of Abbie, a young photographer recovering from cervical cancer, is a standout. The film strikes a perfect balance between humor and heart, nostalgia and relevance, simplicity and sophistication. It stands as a testament to Gerwig’s maturity as both a writer and a director.
3. Barbie (2023)
In her seventh writing credit, Gerwig, alongside Baumbach, ventures into a live-action adaptation of the iconic doll with “Barbie.” Starring as the titular character, Greta Gerwig brings a cheerful and optimistic energy to Barbie’s journey of self-discovery and adventure. The film cleverly subverts expectations and celebrates the diversity and potential of women while poking fun at stereotypes. Despite some shortcomings in realism and depth, “Barbie” is a dazzling and delightful comedy-fantasy that showcases Gerwig’s imagination.
2. Lady Bird (2017)
Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, “Lady Bird,” is a brilliant and touching comedy-drama. A semi-autobiographical tale of a rebellious teenager, played by Gerwig herself, navigates the complexities of adolescence in Sacramento, California. The film is a testament to Gerwig’s voice and personality as a director and writer, featuring superb dialogue, memorable characters, and authentic emotions. While lacking subtlety and complexity, “Lady Bird” remains a heartfelt love letter to Sacramento and the journey of young women finding themselves.
1. Little Women (2019)
Greta Gerwig’s second solo directorial effort, “Little Women,” stands as a stunning and heartfelt adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. With a stellar cast, exquisite performances, gorgeous costumes, and clever editing, the film captivates audiences with its faithful yet fresh take on the source material. While it may lack some originality and diversity, “Little Women” successfully preserves the spirit of the original novel while infusing modern touches. Moreover, Gerwig’s skill and vision shine through, making it her most compelling work to date.
In her cinematic journey, Greta Gerwig has navigated various genres and themes, leaving an enduring impact on the world of film. Each movie contributes to the evolution of her artistic voice, making her a filmmaker to watch as she continues to shape and inspire the industry.