Recurring partnerships between directors and actors are a long standing Hollywood tradition. Even the casual movie-goer probably recognizes the more famous duos by now: Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, Christopher Nolan and Michael Caine, Wes Anderson and Bill Murray.
Some male directors also work repeatedly with the same female actress, often referred to (somewhat creepily) as their “muse.” Pedro Almodovar has done five films with Penelope Cruz, for example, and the Coens keep working with Frances McDormand again and again (she is married to Joel Coen, though, so this one makes sense.)
But in reading about these partnerships, female directors are rarely, if ever, mentioned. We’ve compiled a list of the best female director/actress duos working today, from Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst to The Wachowski sisters and Doona Bae.
Talk about girl power.
Sofia Coppola/Kirsten Dunst
The magical connection between Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst began in 1999 with The Virgin Suicides, continued in 2006 with Marie Antoinette, and most recently resurfaced this year in The Beguiled. (Not to mention her short cameo in The Bling Ring.) Most directors may not see Dunst as a period piece muse, but Coppola saw the potential there before almost everyone else (for more of Dunst’s pitch-perfect period work, check out season 2 of Fargo.) Coppola and Dunst may not have anything else lined up at the moment, but it’s only a matter of time— and we can’t wait for their next dark, dreamy, pastel-colored partnership.
Lisa Langseth/Alicia Vikander
Anyone who has only seen Alicia Vikander’s English-language work is missing out on some of her best performances to date. The Oscar-winning actress got her first few leading roles thanks to Swedish director Lisa Langseth, who cast Vikander in Pure and Hotel long before she caught the Tulip Fever. This year, Langseth reteams with Vikander for Euphoria, the director’s first English-language film, also starring Eva Green and Charlotte Rampling.
Kelly Reichardt/Michelle Williams
Williams has worked with Reichardt three times to date, in Wendy and Lucy, Meek’s Cutoff, and Certain Women. Just as Reichardt is known for her subtle, quietly emotional films, Williams has built a career on understated but poignant performances; in other words, they’re a match made in movie heaven.
Ava DuVernay/Oprah Winfrey
Leave it to Ava DuVernay to choose the one and only Oprah Winfrey as her partner in crime. DuVernay first cast Oprah in her Oscar-nominated film Selma, and directed her again in the upcoming adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Oprah and Ava are also partners off-screen; DuVernay’s TV series Queen Sugar debuted on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) last year, and it’s still going strong. DuVernay also notably uses all female directors for the series, and primarily hires women of color.
Nicole Holofcener/Catherine Keener
Holofcener and Keener are a standout duo on this list due to the fact that Keener has been in every single movie Holofcener has ever made — five films by now, and more in the works. From 1996’s Walking and Talking to 2013’s Enough Said, Holofcener and Keener have an unprecedented female director/actress partnership. According to an interview with Variety, the two met at the gym, while Keener was on the StairMaster.
Gillian Robespierre/Jenny Slate
From their first outing together in Obvious Child, it was clear that Gillian Robespierre and Jenny Slate are a creative match made in heaven. It takes a lot to make abortion funny, but Slate’s wacky and relatable sense of humor mixed perfectly with Robespierre’s lightning quick script and canny direction. The duo teamed up again this year for Landline, an ode to New York in the ‘90s, which follows Slate’s character as she discovers her father’s infidelity. Both films are similar in tone, if not in plot, and both films have proven that Slate and Robespierre’s creative personalities go hand in hand. Here’s to many more witty, sneakily heartbreaking collaborations.
Jane Campion/Holly Hunter
Campion and Hunter first teamed up for The Piano in 1993, which won Hunter the Oscar for Best Lead Actress, as well as Campion for Best Original Screenplay. Despite the success of their first outing together, it took twenty years for the duo to reteam — this time on the small screen. Campion’s Top of the Lake, which just aired its second season, follows a female detective (Elizabeth Moss) as she returns to her New Zealand hometown to spend time with her dying mother and solve a missing persons case. When casting mysterious, androgynous cult leader GJ, Campion told Radio Times that she immediately thought of Hunter. “ [She was] this enlightened character, who is kind of wild and fierce and crazy and astute. I thought Holly would be perfect, because she’s got an unusual strength of character. She likes to take a risk.” Top of the Lake may not have won Campion and Hunter the kind of recognition they got for The Piano, but both seasons have aired to critical raves and a burgeoning cult following.
Lilly and Lana Wachowski/Doona Bae
The Wachowskis have gone through a lot of personal changes in the past few years, as both Lilly and Lana have come out as transgender women. Their work, however, has remained characteristically inclusive, ambitious, and outright bonkers. From Cloud Atlas to Jupiter Ascending and Netflix’s popular series Sense8, the Wachowskis have worked with Korean actress Doona Bae three times to date. As muses go, Bae has to be one of the more badass on this list; her action scenes as Sun in Sense8 were some of the best on television, and we can only hope that the Wachowski sisters see fit to give her a lead role in their next inevitable team-up.
Featured image via Paramount.