films The Best Female Directors  

Jeff Moore
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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.

1
+ - 172 72
Kathryn Bigelow is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Female Directors
Kathryn Bigelow The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Near Dark

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2
+ - 164 81
Sofia Coppola is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Female Directors
Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, The Bling Ring

3
+ - 88 49
Jane Campion is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Female Directors
Jane Campion The Piano

4
+ - 107 60
Penny Marshall is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Female Directors
Penny Marshall Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own

5
+ - 58 38
Sarah Polley is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Female Directors
Sarah Polley Away From Her, Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz

6
+ - 36 22
Agnès Varda is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Female Directors
Agnès Varda Last Tango in Paris, Cleo from 5 to 7, Vagabond

7
+ - 60 44
Mary Harron is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Female Directors
Mary Harron American Psycho , This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I Shot Andy Warhol

8
+ - 26 20
Andrea Arnold is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Female Directors
Andrea Arnold Fish Tank, Wasp, Red Road

9
+ - 60 47
Julie Taymor is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Female Directors
Julie Taymor Frida, Titus

10
+ - 46 22
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Female Directors
Jodie Foster The Silence of the Lambs, Taxi Driver, Contact

11
+ - 54 18
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Female Directors
Leni Riefenstahl Triumph of the Will, Olympia, The Holy Mountain

12
+ - 27 18
Patty Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Female Directors
Patty Jenkins Monster

13
+ - 89 78
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Female Directors
Nora Ephron Julie & Julia, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail

14
+ - 71 73
Amy Heckerling is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Female Directors
Amy Heckerling Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I Could Never Be Your Woman

15
+ - 32 21
Kimberly Peirce is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Female Directors
Kimberly Peirce Boys Don't Cry, Carrie, Stop-Loss

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16
+ - 18 11
Sally Potter is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Female Directors
Sally Potter The Man Who Cried, Orlando, Yes

17
+ - 43 40
Lone Scherfig is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Female Directors
Lone Scherfig An Education

18
+ - 29 25
Lynne Ramsay is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Female Directors
Lynne Ramsay We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher

19
+ - 43 45
Nancy Meyers is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Female 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

20
+ - 24 23
Claire Denis is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Female Directors
Claire Denis The Intruder, White Material, Beau Travail

21
+ - 11 8
Niki Caro is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Female Directors
Niki Caro Whale Rider, North Country, McFarland^! USA

22
+ - 18 15
Kelly Reichardt is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Female Directors
Kelly Reichardt Wendy and Lucy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff

23
+ - 22 23
Marjane Satrapi is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Female Directors
Marjane Satrapi Persepolis, Chicken with Plums, Les beaux gosses (The French Kissers)

24
+ - 25 28
Penelope Spheeris is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Female Directors
Penelope Spheeris Wayne's World, Suburbia, The Decline of Western Civilization

25
+ - 14 9
Alice Guy-Blaché is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Female Directors
Alice Guy-Blaché Esmeralda, Algie the Miner, La Fée aux Choux

26
+ - 33 35
Drew Barrymore is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Female Directors
Drew Barrymore Whip It, Curious George, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

27
+ - 27 36
Angelina Jolie is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Female Directors
Angelina Jolie Kung Fu Panda, Maleficent, Mr. & Mrs. Smith

28
+ - 14 11
Gillian Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Female Directors
Gillian Armstrong Little Women, Oscar and Lucinda, Charlotte Gray

29
+ - 37 43
Lisa Cholodenko is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Female Directors
Lisa Cholodenko The Kids Are All Right, Laurel Canyon, High Art

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30
+ - 23 4
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Female Directors
Thea von Harbou Metropolis, M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

31
+ - 9 14
Martha Coolidge is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Female Directors
Martha Coolidge Real Genius, Valley Girl, The Prince and Me

32
+ - 31 39
Debra Granik is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Female Directors
Debra Granik Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone, Stray Dog

33
+ - 30 31
Mira Nair is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Female Directors
Mira Nair Monsoon Wedding, Salaam Bombay!, Mississippi Masala

34
+ - 7 8
Tamara Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Female Directors
Tamara Jenkins Slums of Beverly Hills, Happy Accidents, The Savages

35
+ - 16 15
Věra Chytilová is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Female Directors
Věra Chytilová Daisies, Something Different, Fruit of Paradise

36
+ - 18 3
Lotte Reiniger is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Female Directors
Lotte Reiniger The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens, Shadow Procession

37
+ - 15 5
Elaine May is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Female Directors
Elaine May The Graduate, Tootsie, Heaven Can Wait

38
+ - 7 10
Sharon Maguire is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Female Directors
Sharon Maguire Bridget Jones's Diary, Incendiary, Call Me Crazy: A Five Film

39
+ - 10 8
Betty Thomas is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Female Directors
Betty Thomas Can't Hardly Wait, John Tucker Must Die, Private Parts

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

41
+ - 24 39
Susanne Bier is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Female Directors
Susanne Bier Elsker dig for evigt (Open Hearts), Brothers (Brødre), Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding)

42
+ - 10 11
Miranda July is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Female Directors
Miranda July Me and You and Everyone We Know, Jesus' Son, The Center of the World

43
+ - 13 9
Maya Deren is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Female Directors
Maya Deren Meshes of the Afternoon, At Land, Cinema16: American Short Films

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44
+ - 13 24
Lois Weber is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Female Directors
Lois Weber The Blot, Hypocrites, Where Are My Children?

45
+ - 13 24
Dorothy Arzner is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Female Directors
Dorothy Arzner Blood & Sand

46
+ - 17 14
Nicole Holofcener is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Female Directors
Nicole Holofcener Enough Said, Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Money

47
+ - 9 5
Jessie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Female Directors
Jessie Nelson I Am Sam, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Stepmom

48
+ - 22 27
Agnieszka Holland is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Female Directors
Agnieszka Holland The Secret Garden, Three Colors: Blue, Europa Europa

49
+ - 8 10
Margarethe von Trotta is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Female Directors
Margarethe von Trotta The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Vision – From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen, Rosenstrasse

50
+ - 4 1
Maren Ade is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Female Directors
Maren Ade The Forest for the Trees, Sleeping Sickness, Everyone Else