Entertainment
1.3k voters

The Greatest Female Film Directors

Updated September 15, 2020 8.6k votes 1.3k voters 80.0k 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. 

 

Photo:
...more
  • Sofia Coppola1
    286
    150

    Sofia Coppola

    Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    Age49

    Sofia Carmina Coppola (; born May 14, 1971) is an American screenwriter, director, producer,...  more

    More Sofia Coppola 

    #14 of 51 The Best Celebrity Star Wars Cameos, Ranked#159 of 743 The Greatest Directors In Movie History

  • Penny Marshall2
    192
    91

    Penny Marshall

    Big, A League of Their Own

    BirthplaceThe Bronx, New York City, New York, USA

    Age76

    Carole Penny Marshall (October 15, 1943 – December 17, 2018) was an American actress,...  more

    More Penny Marshall 

    #191 of 339 The Funniest People Of All Time#38 of 282 The Funniest Female Comedians of All Time

  • Patty Jenkins3
    181
    87

    Patty Jenkins

    Wonder Woman, Monster

    BirthplaceGeorge Air Force Base, Victorville, California, United States of America

    Age49

    Patricia Lea Jenkins (born July 24, 1971) is an American film and television director and...  more
  • Kathryn Bigelow4
    286
    131

    Kathryn Bigelow

    Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker

    BirthplaceSan Carlos, California, United States of America

    Age68

    Kathryn Ann Bigelow (; born November 27, 1951) is an American film director, producer, and...  more
  • Greta Gerwig5
    107
    23

    Greta Gerwig

    Lady Bird

    BirthplaceSacramento, California, United States of America

    Age37

    Greta Celeste Gerwig (born August 4, 1983) is an American actress, screenwriter and film...  more
  • Lynne Ramsay6
    110
    50

    Lynne Ramsay

    We Need to Talk About Kevin, Morvern Callar

    BirthplaceGlasgow, United Kingdom

    Age51

    Lynne Ramsay (born 5 December 1969) is a Scottish film director, writer, producer, and...  more
  • Jodie Foster7
    119
    80

    Jodie Foster

    Little Man Tate, Home for the Holidays

    BirthplaceLos Angeles, California, United States of America

    Age58

    Alicia Christian "Jodie" Foster (born November 19, 1962) is an American actress, director, and...  more

    More Jodie Foster 

    The Greatest Characters Played by Jodie Foster, Ranked#79 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World

  • Amy Heckerling8
    118
    81

    Amy Heckerling

    Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless

    BirthplaceThe Bronx, New York City, New York, USA

    Age66

    Amy Heckerling (born May 7, 1954) is an American film director. An alumna of both New York...  more
  • Jane Campion9
    158
    75

    Jane Campion

    The Piano, The Portrait of a Lady

    BirthplaceWellington, New Zealand

    Age65

    Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion (born 30 April 1954) is a New Zealand screenwriter, producer, and...  more
  • Agnès Varda10
    113
    54

    Agnès Varda

    Jacquot de Nantes, Jane B. for Agnes V.

    BirthplaceBrussels, Eurasia, Belgium

    Age91

    Agnès Varda (French: [aɲɛs vaʁda]; 30 May 1928 – 29 March 2019) was a Belgian-born French film...  more
  • Kimberly Peirce11
    75
    47

    Kimberly Peirce

    Boys Don't Cry, Carrie

    BirthplaceHarrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States of America

    Age52

    Kimberly Ane Peirce (born September 8, 1967) is an American filmmaker best known for her debut...  more
  • Debra Granik12
    66
    47

    Debra Granik

    Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone

    BirthplaceCambridge, Massachusetts

    Age57

    Debra Granik (born February 6, 1963) is an American filmmaker. She is most known for 2004's...  more
  • Mary Harron13
    130
    69

    Mary Harron

    American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page

    BirthplaceBracebridge, Ontario, Canada

    Age66

    Mary Harron is a Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter. She gained recognition for her role in...  more
  • Sarah Polley14
    84
    67

    Sarah Polley

    Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz

    BirthplaceToronto, Canada

    Age41

    Sarah Ellen Polley (born January 8, 1979) is a Canadian actress, writer, director, producer...  more

    More Sarah Polley 

    #563 of 843 The Best Actresses in Film History#125 of 139 The Greatest Auteurs in Film History

  • Kelly Reichardt15
    53
    35

    Kelly Reichardt

    Certain Women, Night Moves

    BirthplaceMiami, Florida, United States of America

    Age51

    Kelly Reichardt (; born March 3, 1964) is an American screenwriter and film director. She is...  more
  • Gillian Armstrong16
    49
    27

    Gillian Armstrong

    Little Women, Charlotte Gray

    BirthplaceMelbourne, Victoria, Australia

    Age69

    Gillian May Armstrong (born 18 December 1950) is an award-winning Australian feature film and...  more
  • Nora Ephron17
    149
    99

    Nora Ephron

    Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    AgeDec. at 71 (1941-2012)

    Nora Ephron ( EF-rən; May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American journalist, writer, and...  more

    More Nora Ephron 

    Every Nora Ephron Movie, Ranked Best to Worst#48 of 120 The Best Comedy Directors in Film History

  • Julie Taymor18
    91
    63

    Julie Taymor

    Frida, Across the Universe

    BirthplaceNewton, Massachusetts, United States of America

    Age67

    Julie Taymor (born December 15, 1952) is an American director and writer of theater, opera and...  more
  • Andrea Arnold19
    65
    53

    Andrea Arnold

    Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights

    BirthplaceDartford, United Kingdom

    Age59

    Andrea Arnold, OBE (born 5 April 1961) is an English filmmaker and former actress. She won an...  more
  • Ava DuVernay20
    83
    36

    Ava DuVernay

    A Wrinkle in Time, Selma

    BirthplaceLong Beach, California

    Age48

    Ava Marie DuVernay (; born August 24, 1972) is an American filmmaker and film distributor. She...  more

    More 

    #292 of 319 The Most Inspiring (Non-Hollywood) Female Role Models#6 of 39 The Very Best Black Directors, Ranked

  • Claire Denis21
    63
    51

    Claire Denis

    Bastards, White Material

    BirthplaceParis, France

    Age72

    Claire Denis (born 21 April 1946) is a French film director and writer. Her feature film Beau...  more
  • Lisa Cholodenko22
    53
    56

    Lisa Cholodenko

    The Kids Are All Right, Laurel Canyon

    BirthplaceSan Fernando Valley, California

    Age55

    Lisa Cholodenko is an American director and screenwriter who has worked in film and...  more
  • 23
    110
    14

    Yeşim Ustaoğlu

    Pandora's Box, Pandora's Box

    BirthplaceÇaykara, Turkey

    Age59

    Yeşim Ustaoğlu is a Turkish filmmaker and screenwriter....  more
  • Ida Lupino24
    51
    29

    Ida Lupino

    The Trouble with Angels, The Bigamist

    BirthplaceCamberwell, London, United Kingdom

    AgeDec. at 77 (1918-1995)

    Ida Lupino (4 February 1918 – 3 August 1995) was an English-American actress, singer,...  more
  • Niki Caro25
    38
    36

    Niki Caro

    Whale Rider, The Zookeeper's Wife

    BirthplaceWellington, New Zealand

    Age53

    Nikola Jean Caro (born 1967) is a New Zealand film director and screenwriter. Her 2002 film...  more