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. Though women might be the minority among the greatest directors in movie history, they are not any less talented than male directors. 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. 

list ordered by

1
185 79
Kathryn Bigelow is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Kathryn Bigelow Detroit, Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker

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2
177 89
Sofia Coppola is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sofia Coppola La Traviata, The Beguiled, The Bling Ring

3
95 54
Jane Campion is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Jane Campion Bright Star, In the Cut, Holy Smoke

4
119 64
Penny Marshall is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Penny Marshall Riding in Cars with Boys, The Preacher's Wife, Renaissance Man

5
61 42
Sarah Polley is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Sarah Polley Take This Waltz, Away from Her

6
60 25
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
jobill added Jodie Foster Money Monster, The Beaver, Home for the Holidays

7
69 46
Mary Harron is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mary Harron The Moth Diaries, The Notorious Bettie Page, American Psycho

8
42 25
Agnès Varda is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Agnès Varda Jacquot de Nantes, Jane B. for Agnes V., Le petit amour

9
63 50
Julie Taymor is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Julie Taymor A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, Across the Universe

10
56 22
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
micktravis added Leni Riefenstahl Lowlands, The Blue Light

11
34 22
Patty Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman, Monster

12
80 75
Amy Heckerling is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Amy Heckerling Vamps, I Could Never Be Your Woman, Loser

13
27 24
Andrea Arnold is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added Andrea Arnold American Honey, Wuthering Heights, Fish Tank

14
94 81
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Nora Ephron Julie & Julia, Bewitched, Lucky Numbers

15
37 24
Kimberly Peirce is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Kimberly Peirce Carrie, Stop-Loss, Boys Don't Cry

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16
49 48
Nancy Meyers is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
wiabux added Nancy Meyers The Intern, It's Complicated, The Holiday

17
45 43
Lone Scherfig is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Lone Scherfig Their Finest, The Riot Club, One Day

18
15 10
Niki Caro is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Niki Caro The Zookeeper's Wife, McFarland, USA

19
18 14
Sally Potter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Sally Potter Ginger & Rosa, Rage, Yes

20
25 25
Claire Denis is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Claire Denis Bastards, White Material, 35 Shots of Rum

21
29 29
Lynne Ramsay is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Lynne Ramsay We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher

22
20 17
Kelly Reichardt is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added Kelly Reichardt Certain Women, Night Moves, Meek's Cutoff

23
27 30
Penelope Spheeris is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Penelope Spheeris Balls to the Wall, The Kid & I, The Thing in Bob's Garage

24
22 25
Marjane Satrapi is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Marjane Satrapi The Voices, The Gang of the Jotas, Chicken with Plums

25
36 37
Drew Barrymore is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
PeteBoyle added Drew Barrymore Whip It

26
24 6
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mollevangsvagen added Thea von Harbou Hanneles Himmelfahrt, Elisabeth und der Narr

27
15 11
Alice Guy-Blaché is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
micktravis added Alice Guy-Blaché Vampire, Tarnished Reputations, The Great Adventure

28
15 13
Gillian Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Gillian Armstrong Death Defying Acts, Charlotte Gray, Oscar and Lucinda

29
38 45
Lisa Cholodenko is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Lisa Cholodenko The Kids Are All Right, Cavedweller, Laurel Canyon

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30
27 38
Angelina Jolie is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Trioxin245 added Angelina Jolie First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, By the Sea, Unbroken

31
32 41
Debra Granik is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Debra Granik Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone

32
17 7
Elaine May is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Elaine May Ishtar, Mikey and Nicky, The Heartbreak Kid

33
10 16
Martha Coolidge is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Martha Coolidge Material Girls, The Prince and Me, Out to Sea

34
18 5
Lotte Reiniger is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mollevangsvagen added Lotte Reiniger Daughter, Kalif Storch, Sissi

35
31 33
Mira Nair is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Mira Nair Queen of Katwe, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Amelia

36
8 10
Tamara Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Tamara Jenkins The Savages, Slums of Beverly Hills

37
16 17
Věra Chytilová is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Věra Chytilová Pleasant Moments, Expulsion from Paradise, Traps

38
20 22
Anne Fontaine is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Anne Fontaine The Innocents, Gemma Bovery, Adore

39
7 12
Sharon Maguire is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Sharon Maguire Bridget Jones's Baby, Incendiar, Bridget Jones's Diary

40
10 10
Betty Thomas is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Betty Thomas Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, John Tucker Must Die, I Spy

41
14 11
Maya Deren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Maya Deren

42
25 41
Susanne Bier is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Susanne Bier Serena, A Second Chance, Love Is All You Need

43
10 13
Miranda July is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Miranda July The Future, Me and You and Everyone We Know

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44
17 17
Nicole Holofcener is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Nicole Holofcener Enough Said, Please Give, Friends with Money

45
6 4
Maren Ade is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
iandmph added Maren Ade Toni Erdmann, Everyone Else, The Forest for the Trees

46
9 8
Jessie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Jessie Nelson Love the Coopers, I Am Sam, Corrina

47
9 13
Margarethe von Trotta is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
schuechen added Margarethe von Trotta Die abhandene Welt, Hannah Arendt, Vision

48
22 30
Agnieszka Holland is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Agnieszka Holland Spoor, In Darkness, Janosik: A True Story

49
13 27
Lois Weber is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Lois Weber White Heat, Angel of Broadway, Topsy and Eva

50
13 27
Dorothy Arzner is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Dorothy Arzner First Comes Courage, Dance, Girl