The Lack of Female Film Critics

Why are so relatively few film critics women? And who are the female critics whose work deserves plaudits?

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Women’s struggles have been well documented when it comes to gaining reasonable representation in a male dominated film industry and now it seems that print and broadcasting outlets are facing the same gender imbalance.

A few weeks ago eminent A-lister Jessica Chastain posted this tweet in regards to the hotly contested issue about the lack of female voices present in film criticism: “Hey #nastywomen – If you love film and are good with a pen, how about becoming a critic? We need female critics to bring balance & diversity.”

Over the past few years there has been a snowballing number of thinkpieces on this pivotal topic from Variety to Vanity Fair; even Hollywood luminary Meryl Streep commented on the “infuriating” subject late last year.

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It’s never been a secret that female film critics are few and far between; every time I am fortunate enough to attend a London-based PR screening I can’t help but notice the sheer lack of women present. A measly 27% of the top critics listed on Rotten Tomatoes are female; this figure is based on the Thumbs Down 2016: Film Critics And Gender report by Dr. Martha Lauzen, which was conducted by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film.

Lauzen told The Guardian in late June that “the discussion of film remains a heavily male pursuit, reflecting an industry with the same bias. Women’s underrepresentation among the top critics is not only an employment issue for women who write about film, it also impacts the amount of exposure films with female protagonists receive.” The study also revealed that female critics are less likely to belong to professional organizations and that job titles (e.g. staff writers or freelancers) made no difference when it came to gender discrepancy.

Influential film criticism is primarily being viewed through a white male journalist gaze which is counterproductive when trying to create a fully cultured critical response. In the past, globally renowned seminal figures of film criticism included the likes of Pauline Kael, Dylis Powell, and Iris Barry, all of whom helped shape and influence the very nature of cinema critique.

In light of this professional disparity,  I wanted to share a list of female critics that I wholly admire and respect. Here are some excellent critics, whose work is very much worth seeking out…

Kate Muir

Having become the Chief Film Critic of the Times back in 2010, Kate Muir has been a constant and reliable voice over the past six years. Muir works with the Women and Hollywood campaign group which endorses women and minority directors, as well as intellectual female-centric films. Muir also frequently covers numerous film festivals including Cannes and Venice, and has appeared on BBC One’s film review programme. Muir is an all-round authoritative figure in UK film journalism.

Wendy Ide

Ide moved to the Observer back in April after being a film critic and feature writer for the Times over an eleven year period; she regularly contributes to Screen International covering a slew of international film festivals. Wendy has also been a jury panel member for film festivals in San Sebastian, the Czech Republic, Zanzibar and most recently the London East Asia Film Festival. With an impeccable knowledge for all things film, Ide’s craftsmanship with words makes her reviews eloquent and accessible.

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Anne Billson

Billson has been a film critic for numerous publications including the Sunday Correspondent, Tatler, New Statesman & Society, and the Sunday Telegraph; she is currently a screenwriter consultant and frequently contributes to the Guardian and the Telegraph’s online arts pages. Billson also has a number of books published both fiction and non, the most notable being Billson Film Database: Short Reviews Of Over 4000 Films alongside her highly regarded BFI Modern Classics exploration of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Billson’s years of experience and unwavering talent makes her a deservedly prominent figure at the very top of her field.

Anna Smith

Anna Smith is a freelance film critic whose has spent well over a decade specialising in film; she writes for a host of publications including the Guardian, Sight & Sound, Time Out, the Metro, ELLE, Empire and the Hollywood Reporter. In October 2014 Smith became the elected Chair of the Critics Circle Film Section, making her the first female Chair since Dilys Powell stepped down 40 years ago. She has also hosted a variety of in depth on-stage Q&A’s and numerous press conferences. Smith has many invaluable and gifted strings to her bow making her an inspirational role-model for young writers.

Corrina Antrobus

Antrobus has an extensive background in movie marketing and writes for sites such as The F Word, the Huffington Post, Sight & Sound, and Virgin Movies to name but a few. She is also the founder and director of The Bechdel Test Fest, which is an ongoing celebration of films that “succeed in representing women in a positive and progressive light” with screenings and talks being held in and around London. Antrobus’ work is nothing short of astounding and has started a revolutionary wave, inspiring and encouraging people to seek out more genuine and fair representations of women in film.

Justine A. Smith

Having recently taken up film criticism full time, Justine Smith is a Canadian based freelance writer who contributes to several sites including Little White Lies,, Indiewire, and Vice. Smith specialises in filmic erotica and onscreen sexuality and has written numerous pieces on the subject, she also takes a keen interest in classic comedies and the horror genre. With sheer determination and buckets of talent Justine is currently grinding the freelance lifestyle but is certainly destined for great things.

Catherine Bray

Bray got her first writing job as staff writer on cult film magazine Hotdog; since then she has gone on to become the Editorial Director of Film4 Online as well as being the producer of two feature documentaries (Beyond Clueless and Fear Itself). Bray reviews for a number of iconic online publications including Time Out, Variety, and Sight & Sound. Utilizing multiplatform outlets means Bray is an esteemed journalist garnering much respect throughout the film community.

Simran Hans

Hans is a London based freelance writer, researcher and film programmer who writes for countless outlets including BFI, BuzzFeed, Dazed, The FADER,, Little White Lies, VICE’s Munchies, New Statesman, Pitchfork, Sight & Sound, and the Guardian. She also hosted, curated and debated on a number discussion panels in partnership with Barbican, BFI, Little White Lies, MUBI, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Tate and Underwire Festival among others. Hans specialises in youth culture, race and gender and currently programmes and produces The Bechdel Test Fest, she was also a runner-up in Sight & Sound‘s Female Film Reporter competition in 2013. A supremely skilful journalist, Hans writes with insight beyond her years. Definitely one to watch.

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To the above list I would also add the following writers, all of whose work is worth seeking out: Helen O’Hara, Sophie Monks Kaufman, Leslie Felperin, Miriam Bale, Francine Stock, Clarisse Loughrey, and Antonia Quirke.

Feel free to add your own favorite female critics (and where to find their work) in the comments below…