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The Greatest Female Film Directors

Updated September 15, 2020 8.7k votes 1.3k voters 80.6k views131 items

List RulesOnly women who have directed major motion pictures or shorts

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. Though women might be the minority among the greatest directors in movie history, they are not any less talented than male directors, and are behind the best movies directed by women. Who is the best female director? 

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, Patty Jenkins, 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. Including American female film directors and more, this list of great women in directing has them all.

Vote for the best woman directors in Hollywood. Feel free to add any good female directors missing from the list. Only women who directed movies are qualified. 

 

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    Sofia Coppola

    Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides
    Sofia Carmina Coppola (; born May 14, 1971) is an American screenwriter, director, producer,...  more

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    192
    90

    Penny Marshall

    Big, A League of Their Own
    Carole Penny Marshall (October 15, 1943 – December 17, 2018) was an American actress,...  more

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  • 3
    179
    87

    Patty Jenkins

    Wonder Woman, Monster
    Patricia Lea Jenkins (born July 24, 1971) is an American film and television director and...  more
  • 4
    286
    130

    Kathryn Bigelow

    Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker
    Kathryn Ann Bigelow (; born November 27, 1951) is an American film director, producer, and...  more

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    110
    24

    Greta Gerwig

    Lady Bird
    Greta Celeste Gerwig (born August 4, 1983) is an American actress, screenwriter and film...  more
  • 6
    110
    50

    Lynne Ramsay

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar
    Lynne Ramsay (born 5 December 1969) is a Scottish film director, writer, producer, and...  more
  • 7
    120
    80

    Amy Heckerling

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless
    Amy Heckerling (born May 7, 1954) is an American film director. An alumna of both New York...  more
  • 8
    115
    82

    Jodie Foster

    Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays
    Alicia Christian "Jodie" Foster (born November 19, 1962) is an American actress, director, and...  more

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    155
    76

    Jane Campion

    The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady
    Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion (born 30 April 1954) is a New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and...  more

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    112
    56

    Agnès Varda

    Jacquot de Nantes, Jane B. for Agnes V.
    Agnès Varda (French: [aɲɛs vaʁda]; 30 May 1928 – 29 March 2019) was a Belgian-born French film...  more
  • 11
    75
    48

    Kimberly Peirce

    Boys Don't Cry, Carrie
    Kimberly Ane Peirce (born September 8, 1967) is an American filmmaker best known for her debut...  more
  • 12
    133
    68

    Mary Harron

    American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page
    Mary Harron is a Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter. She gained recognition for her role in...  more
  • 13
    55
    35

    Kelly Reichardt

    Certain Women, Night Moves
    Kelly Reichardt (; born March 3, 1964) is an American screenwriter and film director. She is...  more
  • 14
    65
    47

    Debra Granik

    Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone
    Debra Granik (born February 6, 1963) is an American filmmaker. She is most known for 2004's...  more
  • 15
    151
    99

    Nora Ephron

    Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail
    Nora Ephron ( EF-rən; May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American journalist, writer, and...  more

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  • 16
    82
    69

    Sarah Polley

    Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz
    Sarah Ellen Polley (born January 8, 1979) is a Canadian actress, writer, director, producer...  more

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    92
    64

    Julie Taymor

    Frida, Across the Universe
    Julie Taymor (born December 15, 1952) is an American director and writer of theater, opera and...  more
  • 18
    48
    29

    Gillian Armstrong

    Little Women, Charlotte Gray
    Gillian May Armstrong (born 18 December 1950) is an award-winning Australian feature film and...  more
  • 19
    66
    36

    Lina Wertmüller

    Too Much Romance... It's Time for Stuffed Peppers, Ferdinando e Carolina
    Lina Wertmüller (Italian: [ˈliːna vertˈmyller, -mul-]; born 14 August 1928) is an Italian...  more
  • 20
    81
    37

    Ava DuVernay

    A Wrinkle in Time, Selma
    Ava Marie DuVernay (; born August 24, 1972) is an American filmmaker and film distributor. She...  more

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    64
    53

    Andrea Arnold

    Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights
    Andrea Arnold, OBE (born 5 April 1961) is an English filmmaker and former actress. She won an...  more
  • 22
    47
    26

    Jennifer Kent

    The Babadook, The Nightingale
    Jennifer Kent is an Australian actress, writer and director known for her debut feature The...  more
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    53
    54

    Lisa Cholodenko

    The Kids Are All Right, Laurel Canyon
    Lisa Cholodenko is an American director and screenwriter who has worked in film and...  more
  • 24
    110
    17

    Yeşim Ustaoğlu

    Pandora's Box, Pandora's Box
    Yeşim Ustaoğlu is a Turkish filmmaker and screenwriter....  more
  • 25
    63
    52

    Claire Denis

    Bastards, White Material
    Claire Denis (born 21 April 1946) is a French film director and writer. Her feature film Beau...  more