In 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.