1. Lady Bird (2017)

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 99%

Storyline:
Lady Bird is a coming-of-age story of Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson, a high school senior who longs for adventure, sophistication, and opportunity, but finds none of that in her Sacramento Catholic high school. Lady Bird sets her sights on an East Coast college where she believes her real life will begin. However, her relationship with her mother, a strong-willed, deeply opinionated woman, becomes strained as they navigate through life’s ups and downs.

Why it’s a major movie:
The film, which marks Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, is significant in its honest portrayal of the joys and heartaches of adolescence. The nuances, warmth and humour that Gerwig brings to this slice-of-life tale have set a new standard for coming-of-age narratives. The film beautifully captures the relationship between a mother and daughter, showcasing love and tension in equal parts, making it real and relatable. It is also a love letter to Gerwig’s own hometown, Sacramento, imbuing it with charm and affection.

Gerwig’s nuanced and thoughtful directing, paired with her sharp, witty screenplay, offers an authentic and refreshing perspective on the journey of self-discovery and the pains and joys attached to it. Audiences and critics alike were won over by the film’s humor, heart, and character-driven storytelling. Moreover, the performances from Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are excellent and have been highly appreciated. Both of them were nominated for their roles at the Academy Awards which add more significance to this film.

2. Little Women (2019)

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%

Storyline:
A dramatic and heartfelt adaptation of the timeless classic novel by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig, brings alive the diverse and passionate March sisters. This tale is based on the lives of four sisters who navigate through their paths of womanhood, each determined to live life on her own terms. It is a coming-of-age tale that explores themes of love, sisterhood, individuality, ambition, and the constraints imposed on women during the 19th Century.

Why it’s a major movie:
Gerwig’s adaptation of the classic novel is applauded for its fresh, feminist perspective and how it successfully brought a much-read and much-adapted story to life in a new, vibrant, and exciting way. Gerwig’s screenplay moves fluidly between the past and the present, harmoniously blending elements of humor, heartbreak, and hope, resulting in a film which resonates powerfully with audiences across generations.

The star-studded cast including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, and Timotheé Chalamet, deliver captivating performances. Pugh’s portrayal of Amy March saw a fresh take on a historically disliked character and earned her an Academy Award nomination. Gerwig’s Little Women also earned six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, further cementing Gerwig’s place as one of modern cinema’s most significant voices.

3. Frances Ha (2012)

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Storyline:
Frances Ha is a black and white indie comedy-drama, in which Greta Gerwig both acts and co-writes. The film is about the aspiring dancer Frances, living in New York City, who hops from apartment to apartment as she struggles with financial instability and unfulfilled professional aspirations. It’s a tale of friendship, self-discovery, and the harsh realities of ‘adulting’ in the city.

Why it’s a major movie:
Frances Ha is a breakout showcase for both Gerwig’s acting and writing ability. Her character, Frances, is energetic, clumsy, and endearingly optimistic, making her relatable and iconic. Furthermore, the film fleshes out the struggles and ambitions of a millennial woman in the city, demonstrating Gerwig’s knack for telling women’s stories sincerely and with refreshing candor.

The film was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical. It also directly influenced Gerwig’s further work, marking this movie as a significant point in her career. The film is also technically striking. The decision to shoot in black-and-white gives the film a timeless feel, only adding to Gerwig’s offbeat, “French New Wave” style of storytelling.

4. Mistress America (2015)

IMDb Rating: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Storyline:
Mistress America, co-written by and starring Greta Gerwig, is a whirlwind comedy about Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York who is taken under the wing of her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke, an adventurous free-spirit played by Gerwig. Brooke’s audacious personality inspires Tracy to write a short story that catapults her into college literary society.

Why it’s a major movie:
Mistress America’s fast-paced, screwball humor matched with Gerwig’s dynamic and vivacious character makes it a standout in her portfolio. The charisma and chemistry between Gerwig and Lola Kirke, who plays Tracy, create memorable, intricate, and hilarious scenes throughout the film. Gerwig’s Brooke is one of her most captivating characters, brimming with vivacity and vulnerability.

The film gains its significance for displaying Gerwig’s talent to play and create complex and luminous characters and for its relentlessness in exploring the ambitions, insecurities, and eccentricities of young adulthood. Gerwig and director Noah Baumbach’s original screenplay was praised for its quick wit and humor, earning a spot in the Best Original Screenplay category at the 2015 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards.

5. 20th Century Women (2016)

IMDb Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%

Storyline:
Set in 1979, 20th Century Women is a vibrant, insightful, and compassionate exploration of womanhood during the late 20th Century. Greta Gerwig’s character, Abbie, a fiercely independent, punk-loving photographer, is one of the three women who help a single mother raise her teenage son. Each woman represents a different facet of femininity yet struggles with her own personal growth and identity.

Why it’s a major movie:
Gerwig’s performance in 20th Century Women earned her critical acclaim. Her portrayal of Abbie, a cervical cancer survivor, infuses the film with resilience, tenderness, and warmth. She brings a strong sense of vitality and complexity to her role, illuminating on the screen the struggles and strengths of women in that era.

The film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, underscoring its engaging narrative and thought-provoking themes. Gerwig’s performance, as well as those of her co-stars Annette Bening and Elle Fanning, were praised for their depth and nuance, serving as an invaluable testament to her abilities as an actress in an ensemble cast.

6. Greenberg (2010)

IMDb Rating: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%

Storyline:
In Greenberg, Greta Gerwig plays Florence Marr, a personally troubled assistant to Ben Stiller’s Roger Greenberg, a New Yorker visiting Los Angeles after a nervous breakdown. A romance slowly blossoms between Florence and Roger, despite their individual setbacks and difficulties.

Why it’s a major movie:
Greenberg features one of Gerwig’s early career-defining performances that helped establish her as an earnest and captivating actress. Her nuanced portrayal of a woman navigating her own vulnerabilities resonated strongly with audiences and critics alike. The vulnerable and honest connection Gerwig portrays with Stiller grounds the film and adds an essential human dimension to this story of healing and self-discovery.

Additionally, the film was in competition at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival, only adding to its significance. The grounded, complex characters and the meticulous exploration of the themes of love, regret, and renewal, combined with the compelling performances, makes Greenberg a critical milestone for Gerwig.

7. Maggie’s Plan (2015)

IMDb Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%

Storyline:
Maggie’s Plan is a delightful romantic comedy about Maggie, played by Gerwig, who plans to become a single mother but falls in love with a married man, leading to an unusual and complicated love triangle. Maggie is a determined, kind-hearted, and slightly eccentric woman who wants to control her own destiny.

Why it’s a major movie:
With its quirky humor and warmth, Maggie’s Plan is a charming showcase for Gerwig’s comedic talents. Her natural, relatable performance as Maggie demonstrates her ability to create compelling, multi-dimensional characters that resonate with viewers. Gerwig’s comedic timing and her nuanced understanding of her character make this film a memorable entry in her filmography.

Moreover, the film has been lauded for its smart, funny, and insightful look at relationships and motherhood. It was selected for the main competition section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival. The success and recognition of Maggie’s Plan further establish Gerwig as a multi-talented actress who can perform and engage audiences in a variety of roles.

8. Nights and Weekends (2008)

IMDb Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 76%

Storyline:
Nights and Weekends is an independent drama that chronicles the ups and downs of a long-distance relationship. Greta Gerwig co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in this introspective and raw depiction of love and intimacy, playing one half of the couple trying to navigate the physical and emotional distances that come between them.

Why it’s a major movie:
Nights and Weekends marked Gerwig’s first foray into directing, hinting at her later success in films like Lady Bird and Little Women. Her performance in the film is raw and nuanced, providing a gritty realism often lacking in romance films. The film’s unflinching and authentic portrayal of a long-distance relationship solidifies its status as a deeply affecting cinema.

Furthermore, the fact that Gerwig co-wrote and co-directed Nights and Weekends demonstrates her multitalented abilities in the film industry, laying the groundwork for her future successes. The film’s unwavering honesty about modern relationships and its exploration of the individual within a romantic context provide a valuable introspective into Gerwig’s body of work.