Entertainment

The Greatest Female Film Directors  

Jeff Moore
Originally by
8.7k votes 1.1k voters 73.7k views 122 items

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, 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. 

 

list ordered by
1
Sofia Coppola is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette
Sofia Carmina Coppola (; born May 14, 1971) is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and former actress. The daughter of filmmakers Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola, she made her film ...more
2
Kathryn Bigelow is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker, Point Break
Kathryn Ann Bigelow (; born November 27, 1951) is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. Covering a wide range of genres, her films include Near Dark (1987), Point Break (1991), ...more
3
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
Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion (born 30 April 1954) is a New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and director. Campion is the second of five women ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director ...more
4
Agnès Varda is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Jacquot de Nantes, Jane B. for Agnes V., Le petit amour
Agnès Varda (French: [aɲɛs vaʁda]; 30 May 1928 – 29 March 2019) was a Belgian-born French film director, photographer and artist. Her work was pioneering for, and central to, the ...more
5
Patty Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Wonder Woman, Monster, Wonder Woman 2
Patricia Lea Jenkins (born July 24, 1971) is an American film and television director and screenwriter. She directed the films Monster (2003), Wonder Woman (2017), and the upcoming Wonder Woman ...more
6
Penny Marshall is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Big, A League of Their Own, The Preacher's Wife
Carole Penny Marshall (October 15, 1943 – December 17, 2018) was an American actress, director, and producer. She came to notice in the 1970s for her role as Laverne DeFazio on the television ...more
7
Lynne Ramsay is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar, Ratcatcher
Lynne Ramsay (born 5 December 1969) is a Scottish film director, writer, producer, and cinematographer best known for the feature films Ratcatcher (1999), Morvern Callar (2002), We Need to Talk ...more
8
Mary Harron is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page, I Shot Andy Warhol
Mary Harron is a Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter. She gained recognition for her role in writing and directing several independent films, including I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), American Psycho ...more
9
Sarah Polley is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz, Away from Her
Sarah Ellen Polley (born January 8, 1979) is a Canadian actress, writer, director, producer and political activist. Polley first garnered attention as a child actress for her role as Ramona ...more
10
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
jobill added Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays, The Beaver
Alicia Christian "Jodie" Foster (born November 19, 1962) is an American actress, director, and producer. She has received two Academy Awards, three British Academy Film Awards, two ...more
11
Andrea Arnold is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights, American Honey
Andrea Arnold, OBE (born 5 April 1961) is an English filmmaker and former actress. She won an Academy Award for her short film Wasp in 2005. Her feature films include Red Road (2006), Fish Tank ...more
12
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
micktravis added Lowlands, The Blue Light
Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl (German: [ˈʁiːfn̩ʃtaːl]; 22 August 1902 – 8 September 2003) was a German film director and actress.Born in 1902, Leni Riefenstahl grew up with ...more
13
Julie Taymor is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Frida, Across the Universe, A Midsummer Night's Dream
Julie Taymor (born December 15, 1952) is an American director and writer of theater, opera and film. Since her adaptation of The Lion King debuted in 1997, 24 global productions have been seen ...more
14
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, Julie & Julia
Nora Ephron ( EF-rən; May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American journalist, writer, and filmmaker. She is best known for her romantic comedy films and was nominated three times for the ...more
15
Kimberly Peirce is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Boys Don't Cry, Carrie, Stop-Loss
Kimberly Ane Peirce (born September 8, 1967) is an American filmmaker best known for her debut feature film, Boys Don't Cry (1999), which won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Hilary ...more
16
Amy Heckerling is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless, National Lampoon's European Vacation
Amy Heckerling (born May 7, 1954) is an American film director. An alumna of both New York University and the American Film Institute, she directed the commercially successful films Fast Times ...more
17
Claire Denis is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Bastards, White Material, 35 Shots of Rum
Claire Denis (French: [dəni]; born 21 April 1946) is a French film director and writer. Her feature film Beau Travail (1999) has been called one of the greatest films of the 1990s. Other ...more
18
Kelly Reichardt is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added Certain Women, Night Moves, Meek's Cutoff
Kelly Reichardt (; born March 3, 1964) is an American screenwriter and film director. She is known for her minimalist-style films, many of which deal with working class characters in small, ...more
19
Sally Potter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Ginger & Rosa, Rage, Yes
Charlotte Sally Potter (born 19 September 1949) is an English film director and screenwriter. She is known for directing Orlando (1992), which won the audience prize for Best Film at the Venice ...more
20
Yeşim Ustaoğlu is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Алпан Балкыш added Yeşim Ustaoğlu Pandora's Box, Pandora's Box, Pandora's Box
Yeşim Ustaoğlu is a Turkish filmmaker and screenwriter.
21
Penelope Spheeris is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Wayne's World, Black Sheep, The Little Rascals
Penelope Spheeris (born December 2, 1945 or 1946; sources differ) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She has directed both documentary film and scripted films. Her best ...more
22
Marjane Satrapi is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added Persepolis, The Voices, Chicken with Plums
Marjane Satrapi (Persian: مرجان ساتراپی‎) (born 22 November 1969) is an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children's book author.
23
Angelina Jolie is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Trioxin245 added Unbroken, By the Sea, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Angelina Jolie (; née Voight, formerly Jolie Pitt, born June 4, 1975) is an American actress, filmmaker, and humanitarian. The recipient of such accolades as an Academy Award and three ...more
24
Ida Lupino is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
suzanne-scherrer added The Trouble with Angels, The Bigamist, The Hitch-Hiker
Ida Lupino (4 February 1918 – 3 August 1995) was an English-American actress, singer, director, and producer. She is widely regarded as one of the most prominent, and one of the only, female ...more
25
Nancy Meyers is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
wiabux added The Parent Trap, It's Complicated, The Holiday
Nancy Jane Meyers (born December 8, 1949) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. She is the writer, producer and director of several big-screen successes, including The Parent ...more