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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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    Mimi Leder

    Thick as Thieves, Pay It Forward
    Miriam Leder (born January 26, 1952) is an American film and television director and producer...  more
  • 27
    71
    33

    Thea von Harbou

    Hanneles Himmelfahrt, Elisabeth und der Narr
    Thea Gabriele von Harbou (27 December 1888 – 1 July 1954) was a German screenwriter, novelist,...  more
  • 28
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    30

    Ida Lupino

    The Trouble with Angels, The Bigamist
    Ida Lupino (4 February 1918 – 3 August 1995) was an English-American actress, singer,...  more
  • 29
    61
    48

    Penelope Spheeris

    Wayne's World, Black Sheep
    Penelope Spheeris (born December 2, 1945 or 1946; sources differ) is an American film...  more
  • 30
    12
    1

    Susan Seidelman

    Desperately Seeking Susan, She-Devil
    Susan Seidelman (born December 11, 1952) is an American film director, producer and writer....  more
  • 31
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    Mira Nair

    The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding
    Mira Nair (born 15 October 1957) is an Indian-American filmmaker based in New York City. Her...  more
  • 32
    37
    37

    Niki Caro

    Whale Rider, The Zookeeper's Wife
    Nikola Jean Caro (born 1967) is a New Zealand film director and screenwriter. Her 2002 film...  more
  • 33
    77
    63

    Leni Riefenstahl

    Lowlands, The Blue Light
    Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl (German: [ˈʁiːfn̩ʃtaːl]; 22 August 1902 – 8 September...  more
  • 34
    59
    45

    Marjane Satrapi

    Persepolis, The Voices
    Marjane Satrapi (Persian: مرجان ساتراپی‎) (born 22 November 1969) is an Iranian-born French...  more
  • 35
    76
    74

    Nancy Meyers

    The Parent Trap, It's Complicated
    Nancy Jane Meyers (born December 8, 1949) is an American film director, producer and...  more
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    40
    20

    Ana Lily Amirpour

    A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Bad Batch
    Ana Lily Amirpour is an Iranian-American film director, screenwriter, producer and actor. She...  more
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    35
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    Elizabeth Banks

    Pitch Perfect 2
    Elizabeth Banks (born February 10, 1974) is an American actress, director, writer, and...  more

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    Lone Scherfig

    An Education, One Day
    Lone Scherfig (born 2 May 1959) is a Danish film director and screenwriter who has been...  more
  • 39
    31
    27

    Tamara Jenkins

    The Savages, Slums of Beverly Hills
    Tamara Jenkins (born May 2, 1962) is an American screenwriter, film director, and occasional...  more
  • 40
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    38

    Dorothy Arzner

    First Comes Courage, Dance
    Dorothy Emma Arzner[1] (January 3, 1897 – October 1, 1979) was an American film director whose...  more
  • 41
    30
    21

    Dee Rees

    Mudbound, Pariah
    Dee Rees is a film director and a screenwriter....  more
  • 42
    34
    29

    Jennifer Lee

    Frozen, Frozen 2
    Jennifer Lee is an actress, film producer, and talent manager....  more
  • 43
    67
    80
    Drew Blythe Barrymore (born February 22, 1975) is an American actress, producer, director,...  more

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    27
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    Miranda July

    The Future, Me and You and Everyone We Know
    Miranda July (born Miranda Jennifer Grossinger; February 15, 1974) is an American film...  more
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    39
    34

    Elaine May

    Ishtar, Mikey and Nicky
    Elaine Iva May (née Berlin; born April 21, 1932) is an American comedienne, screenwriter,...  more

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    Chantal Akerman

    Almayer's Folly, Tomorrow We Move
    Chantal Anne Akerman (French: [akɛʁman]; 6 June 1950 – 5 October 2015) was a Belgian film...  more
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    42
    34

    Anne Fontaine

    The Innocents, Gemma Bovary
    Anne Fontaine (born Anne-Fontaine Sibertin-Blanc; 15 July 1959) is a Luxembourger film...  more
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    32

    Kira Muratova

    Eternal Homecoming, Melody for a Street Organ
    Kira Heorhiyivna Muratova (Ukrainian: Кіра Георгіївна Мура́това; née Korotkova, 5 November...  more
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    33
    26

    Gurinder Chadha

    Viceroy's House, It's a Wonderful Afterlife
    Gurinder Chadha, (born 10 January 1960) is an English film director of Indian origin. Most of...  more
  • 50
    45
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    Barbra Streisand

    The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Prince of Tides
    Barbara Joan "Barbra" Streisand (born April 24, 1942) is an American singer, actress, and...  more

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