Today is International Women’s Day and one of the ways we’re marking the occasion is by celebrating some of the most important female filmmakers in movies. These directors have used their distinct voices, style and eye to create some of cinema’s greatest works, and for many of the women, they’re just getting started.
While we cringe at the term ‘female filmmakers,’ there are so few women given access to the male-dominated film industry that shining a spotlight on directors who identify as female is still unfortunately necessary.
Thankfully, there have been moves in the past few years to attempt to diversify the traditionally male role of directing.
Today we take a look at 11 filmmakers who have changed and continue to change the game.
Films: Sleepless In Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Julie & Julia
Critical Acclaim: Nora Ephron’s Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail both star Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and are considered two of the greatest rom-coms ever made. Ephron’s screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, which also starred Ryan, received an Oscar nomination in 1989.
Films: Selma, 13
Critical Acclaim: In 2014, DuVernay became the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe for her historic film Selma. The film also earned DuVernay an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, making her the first black female director to have her film nominated. The documentary 13th was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2017 Academy Awards.
Films: The Virgin Suicides, Marie Antoinette, The Bling Ring, Lost In Translation
Critical Acclaim: Coppola’s 2003 Lost In Translation earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. The film also made Coppola only the third female director to ever earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Director.
Films: Away From Her, Take This Waltz, Stories We Tell
Critical Acclaim: Actor-turned-director Sarah Polley won a Genie Award for Best Achievement in Direction and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for her 2006 film Away From Her. Polley’s 2012 documentary Stories We Tell won the Toronto Film Critics Association Canadian Film of the Year.
Films: Love and Basketball, The Secret Life Of Bees, Beyond the Lights
Critical Acclaim: Director and writer Gina Prince-Bythewood won the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay for her critical and commercially successful 2000 film Love and Basketball.
Films: Big, Awakenings, A League of Their Own, The Preacher’s Wife
Critical Acclaim: Marshall began her directing career in TV, most notably directing four episodes of Laverne and Shirley. With 1988’s Big starring Tom Hanks, Marshall became the first female director with a film that grossed over $100 million.
Films: Clueless, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, European Vacation, Look Who’s Talking
Critical Acclaim: Writer and director Amy Heckerling had the idea for Look Who’s Talking, starring John Travolta and Kirstie Alley, while she was pregnant with her daughter. Heckerling also wrote and directed 1995’s Clueless, which was a box office smash and won the National Society of Film Critics Best Screenplay award and was nominated for the Writers Guild of America award for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.
Films: In The Land of Blood and Honey, Unbroken, By The Sea
Critical Acclaim: Actor Angelina Jolie made her feature film directorial debut with In The Land Of Blood and Honey and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
Films: The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break
Critical Acclaim: Kathryn Bigelow is currently the only woman to have ever won an Academy Award for Best Director thanks to her 2008 film The Hurt Locker, as well as The Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, and the Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Director.
Films: Thirteen, Twilight, Red Riding Hood
Critical Acclaim: Catherine Hardwicke’s 2003 film Thirteen starring Evan Rachel Wood and Nikki Reed won the Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Directing Award. Her 2008 film Twilight (you may have heard of it) earned $393 million worldwide.
Films: The Intern, It’s Complicated, The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, What Women Want
Critical Acclaim: Writer and director Nancy Meyers’ extensive filmography includes some of the most beloved romantic comedies of the past two decades. In 2000, Meyers directed her second film, What Women Want, which at one point held the title of the most successful film directed by a woman. Her 2009 film It’s Complicated earned Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Screenplay.
The HBO documentary Everything Is Copy, which features intimate interviews with those closest to Nora Ephron, including Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg, is now available on CraveTV.