oscars The Greatest Female Film Directors  

Jeff Moore
Originally by
5.7k votes 709 voters 52.4k views 100 items

List Rules Only women who are film directors

Some behind the best new 2018 movies directed by women, 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
216 96
Kathryn Bigelow is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Kathryn Bigelow Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Point Break Kathryn Ann Bigelow is an American film director, film producer, screenwriter and television director. Her films include the vampire Western horror film Near Dark, the action crime film Point ...more

2
207 106
Sofia Coppola is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette Sofia Carmina Coppola is an American screenwriter, director, producer and actress. In 2003, she received the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the comedy-drama Lost in Translation, ...more

3
107 67
Jane Campion is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Jane Campion The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady, Bright Star Elizabeth Jane Campion is a New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and director based in Australia. Campion is the second of four women ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and is ...more

4
136 71
Penny Marshall is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Penny Marshall Big, A League of Their Own, The Preacher's Wife Carole Penny Marshall is an American actress, director, and producer. After playing several small roles for television, she was cast as Laverne DeFazio on the sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ...more

5
75 34
Patty Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman, Monster, Wonder Woman 2 Patricia Lea "Patty" Jenkins is an American film director and writer. She grew up around the world and attended the AFI Conservatory. She graduated from The Cooper Union for the ...more

6
79 36
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
jobill added Jodie Foster Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays, The Beaver Alicia Christian Foster, known professionally as Jodie Foster, is an American actress, film director, and producer. Foster began acting in commercials at the age of three, and her first ...more

7
73 52
Sarah Polley is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Sarah Polley Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz, Away from Her Sarah E. Polley OC is a Canadian actress and film director. Polley first attained notice in her role as Sara Stanley in the Canadian television series Road to Avonlea. She has also starred in ...more

8
57 34
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 Agnès Varda is a French film director and professor at the European Graduate School. Her films, photographs, and art installations focus on documentary realism, feminist issues, and ...more

9
82 55
Mary Harron is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mary Harron American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page, I Shot Andy Warhol Mary Harron is a Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter best known for her films I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page.

10
112 85
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Nora Ephron Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia Nora Ephron was an American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director, and blogger. Ephron is best known for her romantic comedies and was nominated three ...more

11
72 56
Julie Taymor is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Julie Taymor Frida, Across the Universe, A Midsummer Night's Dream Julie Taymor is an American director of theatre, opera and film. Taymor's work has received many accolades from critics, and she has earned two Tony Awards out of four nominations, the Drama ...more

12
93 81
Amy Heckerling is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Amy Heckerling Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, National Lampoon's European Vacation Amy Heckerling is an American film director. She is an alumna of both New York University and the American Film Institute. She has had a commercially successful career with films including Fast ...more

The Best Actresses in Film History

13
37 33
Andrea Arnold is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added Andrea Arnold Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights, American Honey Andrea Arnold, OBE is an English filmmaker and former actress, who made her feature film directorial debut in 2006 with Red Road.

14
66 31
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
micktravis added Leni Riefenstahl Lowlands, The Blue Light Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl was a German film director, producer, screenwriter, editor, photographer, actress and dancer widely known for directing the Nazi propaganda film ...more

15
50 29
Kimberly Peirce is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Kimberly Peirce Boys Don't Cry, Carrie, Stop-Loss Kimberly Ane Peirce is an American feature film director, best known for her debut feature film, Boys Don't Cry. Her second feature, Stop-Loss, was released by Paramount Pictures in 2008. Her ...more

16
45 37
Lynne Ramsay is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Lynne Ramsay We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher Lynne Ramsay is a Scottish film director, writer, producer, and cinematographer best known for the feature films Ratcatcher, Morvern Callar and We Need to Talk about Kevin. She is married to ...more

17
38 36
Penelope Spheeris is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Penelope Spheeris Wayne's World, Black Sheep, The Little Rascals Penelope Spheeris is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She is best known as a documentary film director whose works include the trilogy titled The Decline of Western ...more

The Worst Movies That Have Grossed Over $1 Billion

18
59 56
Nancy Meyers is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
wiabux added Nancy Meyers The Parent Trap, It's Complicated, The Holiday Nancy Jane Meyers is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She is the writer, producer and director of several big-screen successes, including The Parent Trap, Something's Gotta ...more

19
24 21
Sally Potter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Sally Potter Ginger & Rosa, Rage, Yes Charlotte Sally Potter, OBE is an English film director and screenwriter.

20
31 32
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 Claire Denis is a French film director and writer. Her work has dealt with themes of colonial and post-colonial West Africa, as well as issues in modern France.

21
51 50
Lone Scherfig is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Lone Scherfig An Education, One Day, The Astronaut Wives Club Lone Scherfig is a Danish film director who has been involved with the Dogme 95 movement and who has been widely critically acclaimed for several of her movies, including the Oscar-nominated ...more

22
23 25
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 Kelly Reichardt is a screenwriter and film director working within American indie cinema. Her credits include Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff and Night Moves.

The Best Female Leading Movies of 2018

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22 20
Niki Caro is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Niki Caro Whale Rider, The Zookeeper's Wife, North Country Nikola Jean "Niki" Caro MNZM is a film director, producer and screenwriter who was born in Wellington, New Zealand. Her 2002 film Whale Rider was critically praised and won a number of ...more

24
45 47
Drew Barrymore is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
PeteBoyle added Drew Barrymore Whip It Drew Blyth Barrymore is an American actress, model, producer, director and author. She is a descendant of the Barrymore family of well-known American stage and cinema actors, and is a ...more

25
47 51
Lisa Cholodenko is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Lisa Cholodenko The Kids Are All Right, Laurel Canyon, Cavedweller Lisa Cholodenko is an American film and television writer/director. She is best known for making the films High Art, Laurel Canyon and The Kids Are All Right.

26
35 44
Angelina Jolie is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Trioxin245 added Angelina Jolie Unbroken, By the Sea, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers Angelina Jolie Pitt is an American actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian. She has received an Academy Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and three Golden Globe Awards, and has been cited as ...more

27
18 17
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 Alice Guy-Blaché was an early French filmmaker. She was the first woman director in the motion-picture industry and is one of the first directors of fiction films.

The 12 Most Extreme Actor Transformations

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14 20
Martha Coolidge is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Martha Coolidge Real Genius, Lost in Yonkers, Material Girls Martha Coolidge is a film and television director, producer and screenwriter.

29
21 11
Elaine May is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Elaine May Ishtar, Mikey and Nicky, The Heartbreak Kid Elaine May is an American screenwriter, film director, actress and comedian. She made her initial impact in the 1950s from her improvisational comedy routines with Mike Nichols, performing as ...more

30
25 13
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mollevangsvagen added Thea von Harbou Hanneles Himmelfahrt, Elisabeth und der Narr Thea Gabriele von Harbou was a screenwriter, writer, author, film director and actress.

31
25 32
Marjane Satrapi is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Marjane Satrapi Persepolis, The Voices, Chicken with Plums Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, illustrator, film director, and children's book author.

32
19 12
Betty Thomas is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Betty Thomas Dr. Dolittle, John Tucker Must Die, 28 Days Betty Thomas is an American actress, director of television, and motion pictures. She is known for her Emmy-award winning role as Lucy Bates on the television series Hill Street Blues.

The Best Ever Female Sci-Fi Authors

33
38 46
Debra Granik is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Debra Granik Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone, Leave No Trace Debra Granik is an American independent film director. She has won a series of awards at the Sundance Film Festival, including Best Short in 1998 for Snake Feed, the Dramatic Directing Award in ...more

34
36 38
Mira Nair is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Mira Nair The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding, Queen of Katwe Mira Nair is an Indian film maker and actress based in New York. Her production company, Mirabai Films, specializes in films for international audiences that act as "native informers" ...more

35
11 17
Sharon Maguire is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Sharon Maguire Bridget Jones's Diary, Incendiary, Bridget Jones's Baby Sharon Maguire is a Welsh film director who came to prominence with Bridget Jones's Diary. The film was based on the book by her close friend Helen Fielding, and one of the main characters - ...more

36
17 18
Gillian Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Gillian Armstrong Little Women, Charlotte Gray, Death Defying Acts Gillian May Armstrong is an award-winning Australian feature film and documentary director, who specializes in period-drama. Her films often feature female perspectives and protagonists.

37
19 11
Lotte Reiniger is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Mollevangsvagen added Lotte Reiniger Daughter, Kalif Storch, Sissi Lotte Reiniger is a film director.

The Best Qualities in a Woman

38
17 23
Věra Chytilová is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Věra Chytilová Pleasant Moments, Expulsion from Paradise, Traps Věra Chytilová was an avant-garde Czech film director and pioneer of Czech cinema. Banned by the Czechoslovak government in the 1960s, she is best known for her Czech New Wave film, ...more

39
30 48
Susanne Bier is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Susanne Bier Things We Lost in the Fire, Serena, The Night Manager Susanne Bier is a Danish film director best known for her feature films Brothers, After the Wedding and the Academy Award winning In a Better World.

40
11 14
Tamara Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Tamara Jenkins The Savages, Slums of Beverly Hills, Private Life Tamara Jenkins is an American screenwriter, actress and director. She is best known for her two feature films, Slums of Beverly Hills and The Savages.

41
17 17
Maya Deren is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Maya Deren Maya Deren, born Eleanora Derenkowskaia, was one of the most important American experimental filmmakers and entrepreneurial promoters of the avant-garde in the 1940s and 1950s. Deren was also a ...more

42
20 28
Anne Fontaine is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Anne Fontaine The Innocents, Gemma Bovary, Adoration Anne Fontaine is a filmmaker, screenwriter, and former actress. She lives and works in France.

The Worst Movie Directors of All Time

43
11 13
Jessie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Jessie Nelson I Am Sam, Corrina Corrina, Love the Coopers Jessie Nelson is an American film producer, director, and screenwriter. She is best known for directing and producing I Am Sam, for which she won the Stanley Kramer Award and the Naguib Mahfouz ...more

44
23 29
Barbra Streisand is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
LanaYoshii added Barbra Streisand The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Prince of Tides, Yentl Barbra Joan Streisand is an American singer, songwrighter, actress, director, writer, composer, producer, designer, author, photographer, and activist. During a career spanning six decades, she ...more

45
14 33
Lois Weber is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Lois Weber White Heat, Angel of Broadway, Topsy and Eva Lois Weber was an American silent film actress, screenwriter, producer, and director, who is considered "the most important female director the American film industry has known", and ...more

46
10 19
Margarethe von Trotta is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
schuechen added Margarethe von Trotta Die abhandene Welt, Hannah Arendt, Vision Margarethe von Trotta is a German film director who has been referred to as a "leading force" of the New German Cinema movement. She boasts an impressive body of work that has won her ...more

47
20 23
Nicole Holofcener is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Nicole Holofcener Lovely & Amazing, Enough Said, Friends with Money Nicole Holofcener is an American film and television director and screenwriter. She has directed five feature films, including Friends With Money and Enough Said.

48
9 10
Maren Ade is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
iandmph added Maren Ade Toni Erdmann, Everyone Else, The Forest for the Trees Maren Ade is a German film director, screenwriter and producer. Ade studied at the University of Television and Film in Munich. Her graduation film, The Forest for the Trees, premiered at the ...more

49
13 13
Elizabeth Banks is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
LanaYoshii added Elizabeth Banks Pitch Perfect 2 Elizabeth Irene Banks (born February 10, 1974) is an American actress, director, and producer. Banks made her film debut in the low-budget independent film Surrender Dorothy (1998), and is known ...more

50
12 13
Helen Hunt is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Helen Hunt Ride, Then She Found Me Helen Hunt was a hair stylist in Hollywood movies from the 1930s up to 1967, when she worked on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. She was the chief hair stylist for Columbia Pictures. Hunt fell into ...more