10 Best Greta Gerwig Movies as a Writer, Director & Actor

Greta Gerwig Movies - 20th Century Women

I consider myself fortunate to have discovered Greta Gerwig’s brilliance at a young age, in my early 20s. When I first watched “Frances Ha,” I was struck by how much Greta’s character resonated with me – a 20-something, feeling clueless and vulnerable in a city that could potentially become my home. Her portrayal helped me understand many things about myself, my relationships with others, and the realization that life is not a box full of roses; rather, things happen when we persistently pursue our dreams without giving up hope.

After watching the film, I googled her name and immediately got hooked on her early interviews. It was then that I recognized the effortless talent she possesses. Her interviews are filled with chuckles and relatable anecdotes about life and the people around us. I was impressed by how much attention she pays to her environment on a day-to-day basis, getting inspired, and how she effortlessly combines creativity, intelligence, and a passion for storytelling.

Greta Gerwig, as we all know it now, is a powerhouse. The multi-talented actress, writer, and director initially pursued a career in theater before transitioning to film. With an impressive background in independent cinema that has had a profound impact on her filmmaking, she has always been part of projects that significantly focused on telling unconventional stories making room for creativity.

Greta Gerwig began her acting career in the mid-2000s and quickly gained recognition for her roles in independent films, particularly in the mumblecore genre. In addition to her acting career, Gerwig ventured into writing and directing. She co-wrote and starred in “Frances Ha,” which received critical acclaim, further solidifying her reputation as a talented artist. She made her directorial debut with “Lady Bird” in 2017, a coming-of-age film that earned widespread praise and several award nominations, including the Academy Awards.

Her sudden rise to fame can be attributed to her unique storytelling style and her ability to portray complex and relatable characters on screen. She brings a fresh and authentic perspective to her films, often exploring themes of female identity, relationships, and personal growth. Her writing is characterized by witty and realistic dialogue (one can instantly differentiate her writing from Baumbach’s with her long, heartfelt monologues by the female characters in the film), making her movies stand out.

Gerwig has mentioned that her love for cinema and storytelling inspired her to become a director. She found inspiration in classic films, independent cinema, and the works of iconic directors like Mike Leigh and Woody Allen. Frequently collaborating with her husband, Noah Baumbach, Grewig has always successfully connected with her audience on an emotional level with all of her films.

When discussing Greta Gerwig’s directorial ventures, it becomes evident that she consistently explores female representation through her filmmaking. She brings depth and sensitivity to the exploration of women’s issues and relationships in films like “Lady Bird” and “Little Women.” Most recently, her film “Barbie” broke box office records, grossing an impressive 1 billion dollars in revenue, and in doing so, she became the first female director to achieve this milestone. Her commitment to depicting women’s stories with authenticity and emotional resonance has undoubtedly contributed to her success as a filmmaker and her impact on the industry.

In this article, I have ranked the best of Greta Gerwig’s work as an actor, writer, and director, aiming to explore how she has consistently outdone herself in every project she chooses to be a part of. From her compelling performances as an actress to her brilliant writing and directing skills, here are her best movies that one should definitely explore in order to understand Gerwig’s exceptional and versatile talents.

10. Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)

Greta Gerwig Movies - Hannah Takes the Stairs

“Hannah Takes the Stairs” is a film that is essential for those who wish to explore Greta Gerwig’s filmography as an actor and writer. Collaborating with Joe Swanberg (director) and Kent Osborne (writer), Greta plays the titular character Hannah, a young woman who becomes romantically involved with several male coworkers in her office, leading to complex and intertwining relationships.

As Hannah navigates her romantic entanglements, the movie offers an intimate and authentic exploration of human connections and the complexities of love and desire. Shot on a low budget, the film presents a character-driven blog-entry-style narrative – featuring unpolished aesthetics revolving around conversations about life, relationships, and the search for happiness.

The movie features improvised dialogues and raw performances by Gerwig, Mark Duplass, and Andrew Bujalski, who would frequently act in one another’s films back then before fully venturing into their directing careers. 

9. Greenberg (2010)

Written and directed by Noah Baumbach, “Greenberg” follows the story of Roger Greenberg, a 40-year-old carpenter from New York played by Ben Stiller. During his house-sitting stint for his brother in Los Angeles, while his family is away on vacation, Roger strikes up a connection with his brother’s personal assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig). While Roger has just been released from a mental institution following a nervous collapse, Florence is reeling from the aftermath of a recent relationship and is in a state of cluelessness and vulnerability in life.

As the plot unfolds, Greta’s and Stiller’s characters develop a complex and somewhat unconventional relationship, finding solace in each other’s company while navigating the challenges and uncertainties in their respective lives.

With the healing mantra being “Hurt people hurt people,” the film is often regarded as Ben Stiller’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” delivering a poignant blend of humor and truth that captures the essence of our contemporary era — digging into the peculiar and distressing moments that often occur in our lives, particularly as we approach our 30s, 40s, or 50s.

Greta’s performance as Florence earned her critical acclaim, with audiences raving about her ability to bring nuance and emotion to her roles, further cementing her growing reputation in the indie film world.

8. Maggie’s Plan (2015)

Greta Gerwig - Maggie's Plan

In Maggie’s Plan, Greta Gerwig proves her consistent commitment to under-the-radar projects that uniquely dig into human issues. Her trademark charm and exceptional ability to breathe life into complex and relatable characters shine through in the film.

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, the film follows the story of a young woman named Maggie (Gerwig), who becomes involved in a complicated love triangle with a married man, John (Ethan Hawke), and his wife, Georgette (Julianne Moore).

When Maggie plans to have a child with John and raise it as a single mother, things take unexpected turns, and the characters now have to navigate the messy realities of their emotions and desires.

This offbeat romantic comedy oozes a wholesome indie feel and captivates its audience with its intelligent, witty humor and impeccable comic timing. Ethan Hawke plays his part to perfection, while Julianne Moore leaves no stone unturned in playing the fearsome, uptight wife with a Russian accent.

Greta Gerwig delivers an electrifying performance, infusing the character with just the right touch of weirdness, naiveté, and intelligence. She plays a determined young woman who refuses to be defined solely by her relationships with men but as a woman with her aspirations and desires.

“Maggie’s Plan” is definitely a Greta Gerwig movie that is well worth a watch, primarily because of its quirkiness as it explores the complexities of love and relationships, the challenges of modern family dynamics, and personal desires.

7. Nights and Weekends (2008)

“Nights and Weekends” is co-directed & co-written by Greta Gerwig and Joe Swanberg and also stars them in the lead roles. The movie revolves around the long-distance relationship between a couple, Matt and James, as they struggle to maintain their connection while living in different cities.

Centered on relationships and human emotions, the film delves into the intricacies of love, vulnerability, and the challenges of bridging emotional gaps in a long-distance relationship.

It offers a raw and honest portrayal of the couple’s ups and downs, presenting a genuine and unfiltered depiction of modern relationships.

Avoiding conventional Hollywood romance tropes, Greta Gerwig’s performance adds depth and relatability to the characters, making the film engaging and thought-provoking.

As one of her early directorial projects and a significant collaboration with Joe Swanberg, “Nights and Weekends” showcases Gerwig’s talent not only as an actress but also as a filmmaker and storyteller.

The film’s intimate and introspective approach foreshadows the nuanced and emotionally rich storytelling that Gerwig later brings to her more well-known works as a director.

Demonstrating her early interest in exploring complex female characters and their experiences, the film is an essential watch for those seeking to understand her artistic evolution and her initial exploration of human relationships on screen.

6. Little Women (2019)

Greta Gerwig Movies - Little Women

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Greta Gerwig’s second directorial venture, Little Women, follows the lives of the four March sisters—Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth—as they navigate the challenges of growing up in 19th-century America.

The story is set during and after the American Civil War, focusing on the sisters’ relationships with one another, their ambitions, struggles, and journeys into adulthood.

Gerwig was drawn to direct “Little Women” due to her personal connection with the novel’s themes and characters. As a writer and director known for her strong portrayals of complex female characters, Gerwig felt a deep resonance with the March sisters’ stories of independence, creativity, and resilience. She admired how Alcott’s novel challenged the societal norms of its time and showcased the strength and agency of young women pursuing their dreams.

In “Little Women,” Gerwig weaves together the past and present timelines, showcasing the story of sisterhood and the bonds between women while exploring ambition, love, sacrifice, and the pursuit of one’s dreams, all while challenging societal expectations and norms for women of that era.

With a powerful star cast that includes Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Meryl Streep, and Laura Dern, Gerwig’s direction brings out the complexity of these characters, highlighting their agency and determination to forge their paths in a world that often undervalues women’s potential.

The film was a commercial success, earning widespread praise for Gerwig’s direction and storytelling, further solidifying her position as a leading force in contemporary cinema.

5. Mistress America (2015)

In Mistress America, Greta Gerwig plays the character Brooke Cardinas, an eccentric 30-year-old woman who becomes a mentor and a source of inspiration for her step-sister – Tracy, a college freshman and aspiring writer struggling to find her place in the big city.

This is Gerwig’s second collaboration with director Noah Baumbach as she pens the screenplay with her now-husband. Her character shares some similarities with her real-life persona, as both of them are creative and free-spirited individuals with big dreams and aspirations.

According to the billion-dollar club director, Greta drew from her own experiences and personality to influence her portrayal of Brooke, adding an authentic layer to the character. Apart from heading this venture behind the scene, Gerwig’s Brooke is one of her most memorable performances.

The seamless blend of witty dialogue and humor with a coming-of-age arc that delves into the complexities of relationships, identity, and the challenges of growing up make Mistress American an essential watching experience for lovers of Greta Gerwig’s work.

One of the key takeaways from the film, which is also blatantly honest, is that conflicts can arise out of thin air while one tries to pursue their passion. 

4. Barbie (2023)

Greta Gerwig’s latest film, “Barbie,” based on the iconic Mattel doll, is worth the hype it created, even with the simultaneous release with Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.”

The film revolves around a stereotype Barbie living in Barbie Land, a perfect place surrounded by perfect beings. However, a full-blown existential crisis strikes our protagonist when she starts to malfunction one day.

Greta Gerwig’s satirical take on the iconic doll is sensitive, thoughtfully self-aware, and a laugh-out-loud comedy, with flawless performances by Oscar-nominee Margot Robbie and a scene-stealing portrayal by Ryan Gosling as Beach Ken.

Known for challenging conventional norms, Gerwig’s reputation as a director has turned many heads this year for all the right reasons as she fearlessly dives into bold and experimental territory, breaking barriers around the representation of women in every field.

While the movie’s glossy and visually captivating elements are evident, its true strength lies in its deep exploration of women’s experiences, emotions, struggles, and ambitions.

The film follows the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, unraveling the complexities of her relationships and finding her authentic voice in the real world.

In collaboration with Warner Bros. & Mattel production, Greta’s latest film stands out as one of the most inventive, impeccably crafted, and pleasantly surprising mainstream films in recent memory, serving as the testament to what can be achieved even within the deepest realms of capitalism.

3. 20th Century Women (2016)

Greta Gerwig Movies - 20th Century Women

20th Century Women,” directed by Mike Mills, takes place in the late 1970s and revolves around the life of Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a single mother. With the help of two young women, Abbie (Elle Fanning) and Julia (Greta Gerwig), she raises her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann).

Greta Gerwig, who last acted in a film before venturing into direction, portrays the role of Abbie, a free-spirited photographer whose wise outlook towards life influences Jamie form his own perspectives and ideas that would help him navigate the world.

The film’s strength lies in its character-driven storytelling, which leaves breadcrumbs that resonate with the audience as they witness the emotional journeys of these pretty real characters.

Mike Mills skillfully captures the essence of the 1970s in America, providing a vivid glimpse into the social and cultural atmosphere of that era. Alongside this, the film explores the experiences of women in various life stages, shedding light on the challenges and triumphs they face in a male-dominated society.

Greta Gerwig’s portrayal of a character whose ideologies mirror her own real-life persona adds a layer of authenticity to the film. Although the movie attracted a mixed audience reaction, it was critically appraised for exploring the evolving roles of women and their struggles to find identity and purpose in a society dominated by men.

2. Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig Movies - Lady Bird

Little did I know that Greta would become one of my favorite directors of all time until I watched “Lady Bird,” her crazy and relatable venture. Of course, the other reason was Timothée Chalamet, who had quickly become a household name.

In 2017, Greta Gerwig made her solo directorial debut with this coming-of-age drama starring Saoirse Ronan as the titular character, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson.

The movie follows the rebellious Lady Bird as she navigates the challenges of adolescence, identity, and her strained relationship with her mother, Marion (played by Laurie Metcalf).

Gerwig’s skillful direction and writing, along with Ronan and Metcalf’s powerful performances, not only earned the film critical appreciation but also made it a huge hit among audiences.

Delving into the complex dynamics between Lady Bird and her mother, the film highlights their bittersweet love and the struggles of understanding each other while also depicting Lady Bird’s journey of self-discovery as she makes choices and finally embraces her individuality.

Gerwig also explores key themes such as friendship, peer pressure, and the challenges that come with being an adolescent while addressing the impact of economic constraints on young adults and their aspirations. The nuanced portrayal of Ronan’s character, who doesn’t understand the value of Sacramento until she leaves, solidifies Gerwig’s position as one of the most prominent directors working today.

1. Frances Ha (2012)

As mentioned before, my first experience with anything related to Greta Gerwig was the brilliant 2012 Noah Baumbach film, “Frances Ha.” Co-written by Gerwig, who also stars as the main character, Frances Halladay, the black-and-white mumblecore film captures the struggles of a 27-year-old woman living in New York City.

Frances is an aspiring dancer who lives with her best friend Sophie (played by Mickey Sumner), and the story mostly revolves around their friendship and the ups and downs they face as they navigate adulthood, careers, and relationships. The conflict kicks in when Sophie decides to move out and pursue a different path, leaving Frances to confront her own insecurities and struggles. She bounces from one living situation to another, trying to find her place in the world, all the while facing financial and emotional challenges.

“Frances Ha” presents an authentic and relatable portrayal of a young woman trying to find her way in life. Greta Gerwig’s performance as Frances, in particular, must be praised for its vulnerability and charm.

The realistic and naturalistic dialogue captures the essence of the characters’ interactions and plays an important role in making Gerwig’s character feel extremely relatable.

The themes of self-discovery and ambition showcase an honest portrayal of woman’s experiences and struggle with sincerity and depth, making it Greta Gerwig’s best-written and acted role to date.

Deepshikha Deb

Quit my job to watch movies with my husband and occasionally write about it. I am also a social media and momo tasting expert, who loves Masala Dosa and Tilda Swinton.