oscars The Greatest Female Film Directors  

Jeff Moore
Originally by
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List Rules Only women who are film directors

The best female directors include an Academy Award winner, members of Hollywood's royal families and a whole bunch of ladies who make beautiful things happen when they're behind the camera. While women might be the minority among the greatest directors in movie history that doesn't mean they are any less talented.

It's hard to argue against Kathryn Bigelow as a top pick for the best female director of all time. For her work on "The Hurt Locker" in 2009, she became the first woman to take home the prized Oscar for Best Director. Bigelow proved herself as no one-trick pony in 2012 when she received numerous accolades for her direction of "Zero Dark Thirty."

Bigelow's Oscar buzz was easily the most mainstream of any female director in the recent past but she surely isn't the first female director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director. In 1976 Lina Wertmuller received a nomination for "Seven Beauties,in 1993 Jane Champion was nominated for "The Piano," and in 2003 Sofia Coppola, daughter of the great Francis Ford Coppola, was up for the award for "Lost in Translation."

But for every Oscar-nominated female director, there are dozens right behind also creating great movies. Isa Lupino, Penny Marshall, Nora Ephron, Nancy Meyers and Amy Heckerling are just a few of those names and each directing poignant and quality films on a regular basis.

Has a female director become an inspiration or favorite of yours? Have a beloved female director in mind that's not listed? Vote for those you enjoy, add any not listed or re-rank this list of the best female directors below. Who knows, maybe these talented women will soon be considered some of the greatest living American directors.
list ordered by

1
+ - 174 74
Kathryn Bigelow is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Near Dark

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2
+ - 169 82
Sofia Coppola is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, The Bling Ring

3
+ - 89 50
Jane Campion is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Jane Campion The Piano

4
+ - 110 61
Penny Marshall is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Penny Marshall Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own

5
+ - 58 39
Sarah Polley is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sarah Polley Away From Her, Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz

6
+ - 38 23
Agnès Varda is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Agnès Varda Last Tango in Paris, Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond

7
+ - 64 45
Mary Harron is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mary Harron American Psycho , This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I Shot Andy Warhol

8
+ - 49 23
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Jodie Foster The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, Contact

9
+ - 26 21
Andrea Arnold is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Andrea Arnold Fish Tank, Wasp, Red Road

10
+ - 60 48
Julie Taymor is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Julie Taymor Frida, Titus

11
+ - 29 19
Patty Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Patty Jenkins Monster

12
+ - 54 20
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Leni Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will, Olympia, The Holy Mountain

13
+ - 73 74
Amy Heckerling is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Amy Heckerling Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I Could Never Be Your Woman

14
+ - 90 79
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Nora Ephron Julie & Julia, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail

15
+ - 34 22
Kimberly Peirce is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Kimberly Peirce Boys Don't Cry, Carrie, Stop-Loss

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16
+ - 18 12
Sally Potter is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sally Potter The Man Who Cried, Orlando, Yes

17
+ - 43 41
Lone Scherfig is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lone Scherfig An Education

18
+ - 44 46
Nancy Meyers is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Nancy Meyers The Parent Trap, Father of the Bride, Something's Gotta Give - Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated, What Women Want, The Holiday, Parent Trap

19
+ - 29 26
Lynne Ramsay is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lynne Ramsay We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher

20
+ - 12 9
Niki Caro is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Niki Caro Whale Rider, North Country, McFarland^! USA

21
+ - 24 24
Claire Denis is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Claire Denis The Intruder, White Material, Beau Travail

22
+ - 19 16
Kelly Reichardt is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Kelly Reichardt Wendy and Lucy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff

23
+ - 26 29
Penelope Spheeris is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Penelope Spheeris Wayne's World, Suburbia, The Decline of Western Civilization

24
+ - 22 24
Marjane Satrapi is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Marjane Satrapi Persepolis, Chicken with Plums, Les beaux gosses (The French Kissers)

25
+ - 34 36
Drew Barrymore is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Drew Barrymore Whip It, Curious George, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

26
+ - 14 10
Alice Guy-Blaché is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Alice Guy-Blaché Esmeralda, Algie the Miner, La Fée aux Choux

27
+ - 27 37
Angelina Jolie is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Angelina Jolie Kung Fu Panda, Maleficent, Mr. & Mrs. Smith

28
+ - 14 12
Gillian Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Gillian Armstrong Little Women, Oscar and Lucinda, Charlotte Gray

29
+ - 24 5
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Thea von Harbou Metropolis, M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

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30
+ - 37 44
Lisa Cholodenko is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lisa Cholodenko The Kids Are All Right, Laurel Canyon, High Art

31
+ - 32 40
Debra Granik is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Debra Granik Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone, Stray Dog

32
+ - 9 15
Martha Coolidge is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Martha Coolidge Real Genius, Valley Girl, The Prince and Me

33
+ - 17 6
Elaine May is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Elaine May The Graduate, Tootsie, Heaven Can Wait

34
+ - 8 9
Tamara Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Tamara Jenkins Slums of Beverly Hills, Happy Accidents, The Savages

35
+ - 30 32
Mira Nair is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mira Nair Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala

36
+ - 16 16
Věra Chytilová is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Věra Chytilová Daisies, Something Different, Fruit of Paradise

37
+ - 18 4
Lotte Reiniger is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lotte Reiniger The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens, Shadow Procession

38
+ - 7 11
Sharon Maguire is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sharon Maguire Bridget Jones's Diary, Incendiary, Call Me Crazy: A Five Film

39
+ - 10 9
Betty Thomas is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Betty Thomas Can't Hardly Wait, John Tucker Must Die, Private Parts

40
+ - 20 21
Anne Fontaine is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Anne Fontaine My Father and I, Adore, Coco Before Chanel

41
+ - 24 40
Susanne Bier is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Susanne Bier Elsker dig for evigt (Open Hearts), Brothers (Brødre), Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding)

42
+ - 10 12
Miranda July is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Miranda July Me and You and Everyone We Know, Jesus' Son, The Center of the World

43
+ - 13 10
Maya Deren is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Maya Deren Meshes of the Afternoon, At Land, Cinema16: American Short Films

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44
+ - 13 25
Lois Weber is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lois Weber The Blot, Hypocrites, Where Are My Children?

45
+ - 13 25
Dorothy Arzner is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Dorothy Arzner Blood & Sand

46
+ - 17 15
Nicole Holofcener is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Nicole Holofcener Enough Said, Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Money

47
+ - 9 6
Jessie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Jessie Nelson I Am Sam, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Stepmom

48
+ - 22 28
Agnieszka Holland is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Agnieszka Holland The Secret Garden, Three Colors: Blue, Europa Europa

49
+ - 5 2
Maren Ade is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Maren Ade The Forest for the Trees, Sleeping Sickness, Everyone Else

50
+ - 8 11
Margarethe von Trotta is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Margarethe von Trotta The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Vision – From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen, Rosenstrasse