Entertainment

The Greatest Female Film Directors  

Jeff Moore
Originally by
8.5k votes 1.1k voters 72.9k views 104 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
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 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
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 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
3
Patty Jenkins is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added 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
4
Penny Marshall is listed (or ranked) 4 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 was the daughter of Marjorie Marshall, a tap dance teacher, and Tony Marshall, a ...more
5
Jane Campion is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
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
6
Agnès Varda is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
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
7
Jodie Foster is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
jobill added 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
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 best known for her films I Shot Andy Warhol, American Psycho and The Notorious Bettie Page.
9
Lynne Ramsay is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added 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
10
Sarah Polley is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
carlybobarly added 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
11
Kimberly Peirce is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added 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
12
Yeşim Ustaoğlu is listed (or ranked) 12 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.
13
Nora Ephron is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
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
14
Leni Riefenstahl is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
micktravis added 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
Julie Taymor is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
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
16
Andrea Arnold is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added 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.
17
Amy Heckerling is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
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
18
Claire Denis is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
hrundo added 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.
19
Penelope Spheeris is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
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
20
Kira Muratova is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added Eternal Homecoming, Melody for a Street Organ, Two in One
Kira Heorhiyivna Muratova, née Korotkova is a Ukrainian award-winning film director, screenwriter and actress, known for her unusual directorial style. Her films underwent a great deal of ...more
21
Gillian Armstrong is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
weik added 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.
22
Kelly Reichardt is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Ibetolis added 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.
23
Greta Gerwig is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
Lady Bird
Greta Celeste Gerwig is an American actress and filmmaker. Gerwig first came to prominence through her association with the mumblecore film movement. She has collaborated with directors Joe ...more
24
Nancy Meyers is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
wiabux added 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
25
Ava DuVernay is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Film Directors
A Wrinkle in Time, Selma, 13th
Ava Marie DuVernay is an American director, screenwriter, film marketer, and film distributor. At the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, DuVernay won the Best Director Prize for her second feature ...more