Women's History Month: Female Directors

kathryn bigelowIn 2009, Kathryn Bigelow made history by becoming the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director. She won for her film The Hurt Locker, about an army bomb squad unit during the Iraq War. Since her win in 2009, no woman has received a Best Director nomination. In fact, in the history of the Academy Awards, only three other women received nominations for Best Director: Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties in 1976, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993, and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003.

Although this minimalistic showing of women in the Best Director category does present, women’s involvement in the film industry as directors is not quite as dire as the Academy Awards would suggest. For years, women have fought to hold as strong a presence behind the camera as they have had in front of it. They have directed cult classics and blockbusters, genre-setters and award winners, visual masterpieces and character-driven films. In short, women have been breaking down barriers in film as they have in every other profession, and they will continue to do so until there are no barriers left. 

Women’s History Month (celebrated annually each March) may be coming to a close, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy an excellent movie ably directed by a woman. Below, I have listed just a few of the women working in the field, along with some of their most well-known films. Check out the list to see a fraction of what women have contributed to film over the years.

Amma Asante (Belle)
Susanne Bier (Serena; The Night Manager; After the Wedding)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker; Zero Dark Thirty; K-19: The Widowmaker; Point Break)
Jane Campion (Top of the Lake; The Piano; Bright Star; An Angel at My Table; In the Cut)
Niki Caro (North Country; Whale Rider; McFarland, USA)
Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham; Bride & Prejudice)
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation; The Bling Ring; Marie Antoinette; Somewhere)
Ava DuVernay (Selma; Upcoming in 2017: A Wrinkle in Time)
Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia; You’ve Got Mail)
Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone)
Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight; Red Riding Hood; The Nativity Story; Miss You Already)
Amy Heckerling (Clueless; Fast Times at Ridgemont High; National Lampoon’s European Vacation)
Patty Jenkins (Monster; Upcoming in 2017: Wonder Woman)
Angelina Jolie (Unbroken; In the Land of Blood and Honey)
Jennifer Kent (The Babadook)
Penny Marshall (Big; Awakenings; The Preacher’s Wife; Riding in Cars with Boys)
Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give; The Intern; The Holiday; It’s Complicated)
Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe; Monsoon Wedding; The Namesake; Salaam Bombay!)
Lone Scherfig (An Education; One Day)
Julie Taymor (Across the Universe; Frida; The Tempest)

Flickr CCOscar, Best Director and Best Film Kathryn Bigelow Photo by: Pulicciano