Entertainment

The Greatest Female Film Directors

List Rules
Only 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. 

 

Photo:
Ranked by
  • Greta Gerwig
    1
    Lady Bird
    • Birthplace: Sacramento, California, United States of America
    • Age: 38
  • Kathryn Bigelow
    2
    Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Point Break
    • Birthplace: San Carlos, California, United States of America
    • Age: 70
  • Jane Campion
    3
    The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady, Bright Star
    • Birthplace: Wellington, New Zealand
    • Age: 68
  • Penny Marshall
    4
    Big, A League of Their Own, The Preacher's Wife
    • Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
    • Age: Dec. at 75 (1943-2018)
  • Sofia Coppola
    5
    Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Age: 51
  • Agnès Varda
    6
    Jacquot de Nantes, Jane B. for Agnes V., Le petit amour
    • Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
    • Age: 94
  • Lynne Ramsay
    7
    We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher
    • Birthplace: Glasgow, United Kingdom
    • Age: 52
  • Patty Jenkins
    8
    Wonder Woman, Monster, Wonder Woman 2
    • Birthplace: George Air Force Base, Victorville, California, United States of America
    • Age: 50
  • Amy Heckerling
    9
    Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, National Lampoon's European Vacation
    • Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
    • Age: 68
  • Mary Harron
    10
    American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page, I Shot Andy Warhol
    • Birthplace: Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada
    • Age: 69
  • Nora Ephron
    11
    Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia
    • Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America
    • Age: Dec. at 71 (1941-2012)
  • Ava DuVernay
    12
    A Wrinkle in Time, Selma, 13th
    • Birthplace: Long Beach, California
    • Age: 49
  • Kimberly Peirce
    13
    Boys Don't Cry, Carrie, Stop-Loss
    • Birthplace: USA, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
    • Age: 54
  • Julie Taymor
    14
    Frida, Across the Universe, A Midsummer Night's Dream
    • Birthplace: USA, Massachusetts, Newton
    • Age: 69
  • Gillian Armstrong
    15
    Little Women, Charlotte Gray, Death Defying Acts
    • Birthplace: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    • Age: 71
  • Kelly Reichardt
    16
    Certain Women, Night Moves, Meek's Cutoff
    • Birthplace: Miami, Florida, United States of America
    • Age: 58
  • Jodie Foster
    17
    Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays, The Beaver
    • Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, USA
    • Age: 59
  • Andrea Arnold
    18
    Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights, American Honey
    • Birthplace: Dartford, United Kingdom
    • Age: 61
  • Penelope Spheeris
    19
    Wayne's World, Black Sheep, The Little Rascals
    • Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America
    • Age: 76
  • Sarah Polley
    20
    Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz, Away from Her
    • Birthplace: Toronto, Canada
    • Age: 43
  • Debra Granik
    21
    Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone, Leave No Trace
    • Birthplace: Cambridge, Massachusetts
    • Age: 59
  • Susan Seidelman
    22
    Desperately Seeking Susan, She-Devil, Making Mr. Right
    • Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America
    • Age: 69
  • Claire Denis
    23
    Bastards, White Material, 35 Shots of Rum
    • Birthplace: Paris, France
    • Age: 76
  • Nancy Meyers
    24
    The Parent Trap, It's Complicated, The Holiday
    • Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    • Age: 72
  • Leni Riefenstahl
    25
    Lowlands, The Blue Light
    • Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
    • Age: Dec. at 101 (1902-2003)