35 great movies by women that you can watch on Netflix right now

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Zac Ntim,Abby Monteil
·20 min read
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Lady Bird
Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig on the set of "Lady Bird." Merie Wallace/A24
  • 8 March is international women's day.

  • In celebration, we have compiled a list of 35 great movies directed by women that you can stream.

  • The list includes modern masterpieces like "Lady Bird," "Atlantics," and "American Honey."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Abby Monteil contributed to an earlier version of this article.

Alice Guy-Blaché is the most important filmmaker you've probably never heard of.

In 1896, she directed "La Fée aux Choux" ("The Cabbage Fairy"), which is now considered to be the first narrative movie. Guy-Blaché was not only the first female filmmaker in history, but she was also the first filmmaker to mix both moving images and narrative storytelling techniques.

The history of cinema is littered with several similar omissions about the pioneering success of women filmmakers, and this largely thanks to a mix of deliberate choices from the people who have crafted this history and wider social constraints that continually work to squeeze the urgency away from women.

So, today, in celebration of international women's day, Insider has compiled a list of 35 movies you can stream on Netflix. Keep reading down below to find some gems.

"Lady Bird" is the directorial debut by writer-actor Greta Gerwig

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Saoirse Ronan in "Lady Bird." A24

Greta Gerwig's directorial debut belongs to a short but special period in contemporary American cinema: 2016-2017.

That year, Gerwig's masterpiece — a hilarious high-school drama about an idiosyncratic teen from northern California — played constantly in cinemas across the globe and dominated all movie chatter before leading the awards slate alongside Jordan Peele and Luca Guadagnino's equally talked masterpieces "Get Out" and "Call Me Be Your Name."

Although all tonally different, those three films were able to capture the souls of young audiences who flocked to see them. But "Lady Bird" was perhaps the most powerful and lasting success of that set thanks to Gerwig's depth touch at building space, place, and time in the movie.

"Lady Bird" is perfect.

French director Houda Benyamina made her debut with "Divines"

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The movie picked up the Camera D'Or for best debut feature at Cannes in 2016. Divines

Houda Benyamina's exhilarating debut feature "Divines" is what the French might call cinéma de banlieue — a sub-section of French filmmaking best translated as political social realism. The popular genre is best exemplified by Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 classic "La Haine."

But in reality, "Divines" goes a little further pushing the genre forward by setting the story as a sort of coming-of-age journey centered on the lives of young women who are often underrepresented in French media.

The movie follows Dounia, a street-smart teenager, and her best friend Maimouna, who join the ranks of a sophisticated drug dealing empire run by a ruthless leader named Rebecca.

Susan Johnson's "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" is an instant teen rom-com classic.

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Noah Centineo and Lana Condor costar in "To All the Boys I've Loved Before." Masha Weisberg/Awesomeness Films/Netflix

Often credited with reviving the high school rom-com due to its success, "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" centers on Lara Jean (Lana Condor), a shy teenager whose world is turned upside down when the secret letters she's written to all of the boys she's ever loved are mailed out by surprise.

She strikes a bargain with one of the boys, popular jock Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo), agreeing to pretend to be his new girlfriend in order to throw off other letter recipients (and, in his mind, make his ex-girlfriend jealous). But soon the fake relationship between them doesn't seem so fake after all.

Fueled by Condor and Centineo's endearing chemistry, the movie pays homage to beloved high school romantic comedies of years past, while remaining plenty swoon-worthy on its own.

Mati Diop's "Atlantics" is both a ghost story and a love story.

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Mama Bineta Sane and Ibrahima Traoré star in "Atlantics." Ad Vitam/Netflix

"Atlantics" follows a young woman named Ada (Mama Bineta Sane), who is engaged to a rich older man but in love with Souleiman (Ibrahima Traoré), who works at a local construction site (in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal).

After Souleiman and his fellow workers set sail for Spain in hopes of a better future and supposedly drown, Ada's lover and his friends reappear in surprising ways.

One of the most stunning film debuts of 2019, Mati Diop's movie is a contemporary ghost story, a supernatural exploration of class, and a romance all in one.

"Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé" gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the star's historic Coachella shows.

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Beyoncé wrote, directed, and executive-produced "Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé." Netflix

Written, directed (along with Ed Burke), and executive-produced by Beyoncé herself, "Homecoming" is an intimate look at the musician's legendary 2018 Coachella performance.

Like her previous films (such as 2016's "Lemonade"), she presents her intricate artistry in conversation with Black American history — particularly through her celebration of historically Black colleges and universities throughout the show.

In "Set It Up," director Claire Scanlon puts a new spin on the classic "boy meets girl" setup.

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Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell star in "Set It Up." MGM/IMDb

"Set It Up" puts a new spin on the classic "boy meets girl" setup, following two overworked New York City assistants (played by Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) who try to set up their bosses in an attempt to score much-needed downtime.

The movie boasts a pair of magnetic supporting performances from Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu, and its summery on-location scenes in Manhattan will make you long for a walk on the High Line.

Olivia Newman's "First Match" is a coming-of-age wrestling movie.

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Elvire Emanuelle plays a wrestler in "First Match." Nina Robinson/Netflix

"First Match" follows Mo (Elvire Emanuelle), a Brooklyn teenager who joins an all-boys wrestling team in a last-ditch attempt to connect with her estranged father ("Watchmen" star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II).

Elevated by an electric performance from Emanuelle, "First Match" doubles as an engaging sports drama and an incisive look at how difficult it can be to walk away from a loved one, no matter how toxic they are.

Nahnatchka Khan directed "Always Be My Maybe," a feel-good love story with a memorable Keanu Reeves cameo.

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Randall Park and Ali Wong costar in "Always Be My Maybe." Netflix

"Always Be My Maybe" hilariously and irreverently explores how our childhood bonds can help us grow into the adults we aspire to be, as famous chef Sasha (Ali Wong) rekindles a romance with her high school boyfriend (Randall Park).

Plus, there's a truly Oscar-worthy Keanu Reeves cameo for fans of the actor to enjoy.

Lynn Shelton's "Outside In" is a quiet but hearty triumph

"Outside In"
Lynn Shelton's "Outside In" The Orchard

Lynn Shelton was one of the most towering figures within the independent American filmmaking scene before her death in 2020, yet many of her films remain criminally underseen.

Like all of her previous work, "Outside In," Shelton's penultimate movie, is an intimate and thorough movie about Chris, a thirty-something who is released from prison after twenty years for a murder that he didn't commit.

And at a surprise party to celebrate his release, Chris reunites with Carol, his former high school teacher who successfully campaigned for his release.

The pair quickly develop an intimate relationship.

Kitty Green's documentary "Casting JonBenet" looks back on the mythology surrounding a famous murder case.

Casting JonBenet Michael Latham Sundance Institute
"Casting JonBenet" explores the unsolved murder of a 6-year-old beauty queen. Michael Latham/Sundance Institute

In "Casting JonBenet," local actors from the young girl's hometown provide unique perspectives on her unsolved 1996 murder, as they audition for a dramatization of the case.

Through delving into the mythology surrounding Ramsey's case, Kitty Green's stylish documentary becomes an engrossing exploration of how our cultural obsession with soapy true crime and casting blame on different figures involved in it has evolved into the 21st century.

Nicole Holofcener returned to filmmaking with "The Land of Steady Habits"

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Directed by Nicole Holofcener. Netflix

Nicole Holofcener's sixth feature film is a smart and sad tale of midlife crisis adapted from Ted Thompson's 2014 novel. The movie follows Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn) a middle-aged man who leaves his wife and retires from his job in finance in the hopes that it will renew his lust for life.

But after befriending a drug-addicted teen (Charlie Tahan) he begins to make a string of reckless decisions that throw him down a dark path.

Hailee Steinfeld plays a lovable teenage loner in Kelly Fremon Craig's "The Edge of Seventeen."

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Hailee Steinfeld and Haley Lu Richardson star in "The Edge of Seventeen." Murray Close/STX Productions

Being a teenager can be rough, especially for Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), the protagonist of "The Edge of Seventeen." The 16-year-old loner's best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) has started dating her older brother (Blake Jenner), leaving her scrambling to find her place on the outskirts of high school life.

Steinfeld's sharp, hilarious, and surprisingly moving performance drives this eclectic comedy, which effectively explores why our often-weird, agonizingly awkward high school memories tend to stick with us long after graduation.

Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers' "The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open" is an indie gem about two women's chance encounter.

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Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Violet Nelson costar in "The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open." Katrin Braggadottir/Netflix

This criminally underrated movie follows an encounter between two Indigenous Canadian women in Vancouver — Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) and a pregnant younger woman named Rosie (Violet Nelson), who has just been abused by her boyfriend.

As Áila attempts to convince Rosie to leave her boyfriend and seek shelter, "The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open" quickly evolves beyond its victim-and-savior premise. In doing so, it makes thoughtful observations about structural racism, domestic abuse, and wrongful assumptions that we often make in moments of crisis.

Directed by Dee Rees, "Mudbound" tells the story of two interconnected families living in 1940s Mississippi.

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"Mudbound" follows two families in Mississippi. Netflix

"Mudbound" follows the lives of two Mississippi families (one white and one black), who are dealing with the events of World War II and the Jim Crow Era.

By focusing on how various characters' fates are intertwined, Dee Rees shines an important light on America's dark history of oppression and race relations.

The film paints an ambitious, realistically harsh portrait of the 1940s Deep South, with a narrative scope that's hard to find outside of old Hollywood movies.

Jennifer Aniston plays a former pageant queen with a rebellious daughter in Anne Fletcher's film "Dumplin'."

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Danielle MacDonald and Jennifer Aniston costar in "Dumplin'." Netflix

"Dumplin'" is an uplifting dramedy that tackles topics of self-acceptance and reconciling with differently-minded parents with wit and style.

It follows Dolly Parton-obsessed teen Willowdean (Danielle MacDonald), who enters a local pageant to prove to her former beauty queen mom (Jennifer Aniston) that beauty comes in all forms.

Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf lead Andrea Arnold's road trip movie, "American Honey."

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Sasha Lane stars in "American Honey." A24

Sasha Lane gives a breakout performance as restless teenager Star, who leaves her dead-end life in Oklahoma behind to join a volatile group of young magazine sellers as they traverse the Midwest.

"American Honey" also showcases Shia LaBeouf's talents, as he plays a smarmy hustler who becomes her pseudo-love interest.

While Andrea Arnold's movie runs a bit long (it has a runtime of two hours and 43 minutes), her road trip movie is a vibrant, unconventional story about young Americans on the margins that's both mesmerizing and subtly heart-wrenching enough to get lost in for a few hours.

Ava DuVernay's Oscar-nominated documentary "13th" examines the racial disparities of America's prison industrial complex.

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Angela Davis appears in "13th." Netflix

Ava DuVernay's Oscar-winning documentary is named for the 13th Amendment, which declared slavery illegal except as a punishment for criminality.

The director expertly uses this bygone legislation as a starting point in untangling the ways in which the American justice system and prison industrial complex have systemically targeted black communities throughout history.

Well-crafted and incendiary, the documentary's important, often under-discussed subject matter makes "13th" a must-watch.

Lana Wilson's Taylor Swift documentary "Miss Americana" tracks the pop star's public political awakening, and the development of her album "Lover."

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"Miss Americana" follows musician Taylor Swift. Netflix

"Miss Americana" offers viewers a rare glimpse into the artist's personal life, chronicling Taylor Swift's public political awakening and complicated relationship with her public persona (all while she writes and records her latest album, "Lover").

So Yong Kim's movie "Lovesong" is a romance movie starring Riley Keough and Jena Malone.

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Riley Keough and Jena Malone costar in "Lovesong." Strand Releasing

The romantic drama "Lovesong" takes place in two different timelines — one in which best friends Sarah (Riley Keough) and Mindy (Jena Malone) share an unexpected romantic moment during a road trip, and another in which they reunite for Mindy's wedding three years later.

While So Yong Kim's film can be quietly heartbreaking at times, Keough and Malone's natural chemistry propels the director's thoughtful character study of missed connections between a pair of almost-lovers.

Angelina Jolie directed the biographical drama "First They Killed My Father."

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Srey Moch Sareum stars in "First They Killed My Father." Netflix

"First They Killed My Father" recounts the childhood of human rights activist Loung Ung (played by Srey Moch Sareum) fighting to survive as a young girl during Cambodia's oppressive Khmer Rouge era of rule.

The subject matter is tough, but Angelina Jolie (who cowrote the screenplay with Ung) imbues the movie with impressive grace and care as she tells a rare war story that unfolds almost entirely through a child's eyes.

"Happy as Lazzaro" is Alice Rohrwacher acclaimed, dark odyssey

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Alice Rohrwacher's award-winning drama. Netflix

Alice Rohrwacher is a fiercely intelligent filmmaker.

Her award-winning drama "Happy as Lazzaro" follows a young and good-hearted peasant called Lazzaro and Tancredi, a nobleman struggling to find purpose in life, who form a life-altering bond when Tancredi asks Lazzaro to help him orchestrate his own kidnapping.

"Happy as Lazzaro" is dark, unsettling, and moving but most of all showcases a filmmaker with a deeply authentic voice.

Oscar-winner Brie Larson directed the whimsical dramedy "Unicorn Store."

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Brie Larson and Mamoudou Athie star in "Unicorn Store." Netflix

Struggling to navigate adult life while also trying to maintain the boundless imagination and energy of your childhood is a difficult task, but, as Brie Larson's lighthearted directorial debut proves, not an impossible one.

The "Captain Marvel" actress also stars in "Unicorn Store" as Kit, an art school dropout who is given the chance to own a unicorn soon after starting a dreary office job.

Rachel Lears' documentary "Knock Down the House" follows four female candidates' 2018 congressional campaigns.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appears in "Knock Down the House." Netflix

A record number of women won congressional seats in the 2018 midterm elections, and "Knock Down the House" follows a handful of female candidates who campaigned that year.

Notably, Rachel Lears' documentary features candid, up-close-and-personal footage of well-known politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez running for and winning the position of U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district.

Ellen Page stars in Sian Heder's family drama "Tallulah."

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Ellen Page stars in "Tallulah." Netflix

In "Tallulah," the titular drifter protagonist (Ellen Page) is dumped by her ex-boyfriend (Evan Jonigkeit) and left penniless.

She then sees a neglected baby and gets an idea: Tallulah decides to kidnap her and arrive at her ex's mother's (Alison Janney) house, claiming that the child is her granddaughter in hopes of finding a place to stay.

The movie's outlandish inciting incident soon gives way to a darkly funny and poignant family drama highlighting the complicated sacrifices and different kinds of motherhood.

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson's "Someone Great" is a raucous comedy that celebrates female friendship.

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DeWanda Wise, Gina Rodriguez, and Brittany Snow play best friends in "Someone Great." Netflix

At the beginning of "Someone Great," music journalist Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) lands her dream job and is dumped by her long-time boyfriend (LaKeith Stanfield) just days before a cross-continental move.

As her life in New York City draws to a close, she and her best friends (played by Brittany Snow and DeWanda Wise) enjoy one more day of fun together.

Amidst the comedy of Jenny and her friends' escapades is a moving tribute to female friendships, and how they can help you make it through a breakup, navigate major life changes, or just enjoy a night out.

Tamara Jenkins directed "Private Life," which follows one couple's journey to hopefully becoming parents.

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"Private Life" follows a couple dealing with infertility issues. Netflix

As "Private Life" begins, the pair of married 40-somethings at its center (Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn) have tried just about everything to have a child (from in vitro fertilization to domestic adoption).

Just as they're beginning to lose hope of eventually becoming parents, their step-niece, Sadie (Kayli Carter), comes to stay with them and offers to be their egg donor.

Tamara Jenkins' drama takes on the often-dramatized but widely present world of assisted fertility and adoptions with a warm, sharply written sense of humor that often feels heartbreakingly lived-in.

Director Sandi Tan's lost film is the subject of "Shirkers."

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Sandi Tan is the subject and director of "Shirkers." Netflix

In 1992, aspiring 19-year-old filmmaker Sandi Tan and her friends made a quirky indie movie in their Singapore hometown, with the help of their older mentor, Georges. However, their plans were brought to an abrupt halt when the older man suddenly stole their footage.

Years later, as "Shirkers" takes place, an adult Tan pieces together what happened, and eventually manages to revive her movie in surprising ways. Colorful, offbeat, and wistful, the documentary is an ode to creating and reclaiming one's own creative work.

Oscar-winning writer-director Sofia Coppola's "The Bling Ring" is a campy Hollywood dramedy that's based on a true story.

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"The Bling Ring" is based on a group of real teens who robbed celebrities' homes. A24 / The Bling Ring

Sofia Coppola's campy teen dramedy follows a group of aimless Los Angeles teenagers who begin breaking into celebrity homes to steal their riches and includes a deliciously exaggerated performance from Emma Watson as a spoiled Valley girl.

As wild as it sounds, "The Bling Ring" is actually based on a true story.

"Julie and Julia" was Nora Ephron's final film

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Amy Adams in "Julie and Julia." Sony

In the last film written and directed by the pioneering filmmaking Nora Ephron, Amy Adams and Meryl Streep chronicle the life of the equally towering figure, chef Julia Child and the odd story of young New Yorker Julie Powell who started a popular blog based on her decision to cook all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook in 365 days.

"Julie and Julia" beams with the warm and humanist wit of all Ephron's previous work and capped off her groundbreaking career with two of the best actress working today.

Jennifer Phang directed "Advantageous," a sci-fi drama about a dangerous experimental procedure.

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Jacqueline Kim stars in "Advantageous." Good Neighbors Media

"Advantageous" follows a woman (Jacqueline Kim) in the near-future who agrees to take part in a dangerous experimental procedure in order to keep her job at a biomedical firm and give her teenage daughter (Samantha Kim) a better life.

The movie uses the sci-fi trope of uploading one's consciousness to explore the timely issues that often give women fewer opportunities to support themselves, and has an ending that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

Nora Twomey's animated movie "The Breadwinner" was nominated for an Oscar in 2018.

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Saara Chaudry stars in "The Breadwinner." Universal Studios

"The Breadwinner" (which was nominated for best-animated feature film at the 2018 Oscars) follows 11-year-old Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), an Afghan girl who poses as a boy to support her family after her father (Ali Badshah) is wrongfully arrested.

Featuring stunning animation, Nora Twomey's film uses elements of magical realism to tell a story of overcoming oppression that is suitable for children and adults alike.

Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in "The Kindergarten Teacher," director Sara Colangelo's remake of a 2014 Israeli film.

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Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in "The Kindergarten Teacher." Netflix

Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a career-best performance in "The Kindergarten Teacher," an indie gem that's based on a 2014 Israeli film of the same name.

She plays a bored kindergarten teacher who becomes obsessed with the idea that her young student (Parker Sevak) is a genius, and attempts to live vicariously through her supposed child prodigy in increasingly alarming ways.

Jenny Slate plays a struggling comedian in Gillian Robespierre's movie "Obvious Child."

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Jenny Slate plays a comedian in "Obvious Child." A24

"Obvious Child" revolves around Donna (Jenny Slate), a restless 20-something comedian in New York City, who has a one-night stand after losing her job and discovering that her boyfriend was cheating on her.

Weeks later, when she discovers that she's unexpectedly become pregnant, Donna decides to regain control of her rocky adulthood.

Gillian Robespierre's film has an unmoored sense of humor that fans of New York coming-of-age dramedies like "Frances Ha" and "Girls" are sure to enjoy.

"The Old Guard" is Gina Prince-Bythewood's action thriller

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Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne star. Netflix

In Gina Prince-Bythewood's first movie in six years, a covert team of immortal mercenaries led by Andy (Charlize Theron) has fought to protect the mortal world for centuries.

But after taking on a new secret mission, the group's powers are exposed forcing them to fight off new threats who seek to replicate and monetize their powers. "The Old Guard" boasts an impressive cast and provides a contemporary spin to the standard superhero fodder.

Amanda Bynes leads in Dennie Gordon's "What a Girl Wants"

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Amanda Bynes in "What a Girl Wants." Warner Bros.

The slate of films Amanda Bynes made in the early '00s deserves a lot more credit than they were originally given. Traditionally they have been derided as youthful fodder, but on a closer look, one can see that many of the films hold admirable feminist ideas that are largely derived from the unique depth and clarity of Bynes's characters.

In "What a Girl Wants," Bynes is a young New Yorker who decides to travel to London in search of her father. And once there, she discovers that he is Lord Henry Dashwood (Colin Firth), a wealthy aristocrat who is running for political office.

"What a Girl Wants" was directed by Dennie Gordon.

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