The Academy Awards began back in 1929 and since then, only four (yes, four) women have ever been nominated for best director and only one has won (Kathryn Bigelow). Almost the exact same is true for the Golden Globes, which were launched in 1943. The Hollywood Foreign Press has only nominated five female directors (ever) and selected one as a winner (Barbra Streisand). When we look at the numbers, it's clear they're not at all representative of how many women are out in the world making amazing movies for us to enjoy. In honor of female directors everywhere, Wonderwall.com is shining a spotlight on 20 ladies in the film industry who deserve our attention… beginning with actress-turned-director Greta Gerwig, who both wrote and directed the comedy "Lady Bird," which hits theaters on Nov. 3, 2017. The film follows Saoirse Ronan's character, Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, as she spends a year in Northern California dealing with her overbearing mom (played by Laurie Metcalf) while trying to decide what road she wants to take into adulthood. Keep reading to discover more phenomenal women directors you need to know…
Dee Rees is known for her work on character-focused films like 2011's "Pariah" and the 2015 TV biography "Bessie," which starred Queen Latifah. She recently wrapped up production on her newest film, the historical drama "Mudbound," which stars Mary J. Blige and Carey Mulligan and debuts on Netflix on Nov. 17, 2017. The film is about two African-American men who fought in WWII and experienced equality and camaraderie while in service abroad, only to find the torment of racism and segregation still waiting back home in the South. The film is rumored to be an Oscar contender for 2018.
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Kathryn Bigelow has the distinction of being the only woman to ever win a best director Academy Award. She took it home in 2010 for her film "The Hurt Locker" starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie. Other films you might know her for include "Point Break," "Strange Days" and "Zero Dark Thirty." In 2017, Kathryn directed the historical crime drama "Detroit," which is about a group of dishonorable cops who seek revenge instead of justice during the 1967 Detroit riots.
Patty Jenkins is only the lady responsible for gifting us with "Wonder Woman" — the most empowering superhero flick of 2017, right? Wrong. She's also the director who brought us the chilling biographical story "Monster" about serial killer Aileen Wuornos — and Patty wasn't afraid to clap back at heavyweight director James Cameron after he complained that "Wonder Woman" was "a step backwards" (although he did compliment her characters in "Monster"). Patty took to Twitter to say, "His praise of my film and our portrayal of a strong yet damaged woman was so appreciated. But if women have to always be hard, tough, and troubled to be strong, and we aren't free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven't come very far." We recently learned that Patty is writing, directing and producing "Wonder Woman 2." James, if you're counting, that's three steps forward. Even better? After Patty closed the deal, it emerged that she'd broken a payday record. Variety reported that "while an exact number could not be unveiled, sources say the number is in the $8 million range… making her the highest paid female director of all time."
If you saw the 2017 romantic drama "Everything, Everything" and loved it as much as we did, you have director Stella Meghie to thank. The relative newcomer to Hollywood started her career with the comedic short "Recovering Undercover Over Lover" followed by the 2016 full-length comedy "Jean of the Joneses." We're excited to see what she's working on next.
Sofia Coppola made her mark on Hollywood with the 1999 film she wrote and directed, "The Virgin Suicides." From there, she went on to make films like "Lost in Translation" (which won her an Academy Award for best screenplay), "Marie Antoinette" and the 2017 war drama "The Beguiled" starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell. Fun fact: Sofia — whose dad happens to be famed director Francis Ford Coppola — has also worked as an actress and had a role in the 1999 sci-fi drama "Star Wars – Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" as the character Saché — one of Queen Padmé's five handmaidens.
Amma Asante is a British former TV actress-turned-screenwriter and director. Her directorial debut happened in 2004 with the drama "A Way of Life" (which she also wrote). Amma's next big project was the biographical drama "Belle" in 2013. In 2017, she took on another gripping historical tale, this one about King Seretse Khama of Botswana in the breathtaking biopic "A United Kingdom" starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Up next for Amma is the coming-of-age story "Where Hands Touch," which she both wrote and directed.
If you're a fan of the female-led series "Broad City" or happened to see the 2017 comedy "Rough Night," then you're already familiar with the work of Lucia Aniello. The young director, writer and producer has primarily worked in TV, which makes her recent transition to film even more exciting. She's rumored to be working on a female-led "21 Jump Street" spin-off that could be in theaters as early as 2019.
Fans of "The Handmaid's Tale," listen up: Three episodes of the series were directed by Emmy Award-winning director Reed Morano, who was also the cinematographer for that way-cool documentary on Netflix, "Joan Didion: The Center Will Hold," and one of the cinematographers on Beyonce's "Lemonade" visual album. Reed's quickly garnering critical acclaim as the one to watch in the coming years. That's good news for us because she just happens to be wrapping up production on the 2018 sci-fi drama "I Think We're Alone Now," which she both directed and personally filmed. The movie is about a social hermit who survives the apocalypse and is forced to interact with the only other survivor on the planet. Also in the works for Reed as a director is the mystery thriller "The Rhythm Section" starring Blake Lively and Jude Law.
We'd like to think there are only two periods of life: before "Pitch Perfect" and after "Pitch Perfect." Thanks to director Trish Sie, we get another incarnation of the hit musical comedy with her second feature-length film, "Pitch Perfect 3," which is due in theaters Dec. 22, 2017. Trish's first movie endeavor was the 2014 musical drama "Step Up All In" starring Ryan Guzman and Briana Evigan.
Chances are, you've been enjoying Niki Caro's movies for years and haven't even realized it. The New Zealand-born director made waves in 2002 when she directed and wrote the screenplay for one of our favorite indie films, "Whale Rider" (which was released in the U.S. in 2003 and received huge critical acclaim). She followed that success with the 2009 drama "North Country" starring Charlize Theron. In 2015, she was back at it with the biographical drama "McFarland, USA." None of her films, however, are probably as fresh in your mind as Niki's 2017 biopic "The Zookeeper's Wife," which is about two zookeepers in Warsaw, Poland, who help save hundreds of lives during WWII. We're most excited about the news that Niki is also directing the live-action adaptation of the Disney animated classic "Mulan." The film is due in theaters in 2019.
Few films had the emotional impact that the 2014 biographical drama "Selma" did, and that's because acclaimed director Ava DuVernay was at the helm. Known for her work on the hit series "Queen Sugar" (which she's produced since 2016 — she's also directed two episodes), Ava will take her talent to the big screen once more in the 2018 fantasy adventure "A Wrinkle in Time" starring Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon.
Although Anna Foerster might only have a few films under her belt as a director, she's been working in the film industry for years and has worn many hats (like second unit director and cinematographer plus roles in visual effects and the camera and electrical departments) meaning she understands filmmaking inside and out. Known for her directorial work on hit TV series like "Criminal Minds" and "Outlander," Anna got her big-screen break with the 2016 fantasy action flick "Underworld: Blood Wars" starring Kate Beckinsale. Up next for Anna is the sequel "Source Code 2."
Mira Nair is an international success with hit films in her home country of India as well as in the U.S. and abroad. One of our favorite early films by Mira was the 2001 comedy "Monsoon Wedding." She's also the woman responsible for the 2004 drama "Vanity Fair" starring Reese Witherspoon and the 2009 biopic "Amelia" about famed pilot Amelia Earhart. Most recently, Mira directed the powerful 2016 biographical drama "Queen of Katwe," which starred David Oyelowo and Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o.
Nancy Meyers writes and directs the kind of movies we love to watch. Her directorial debut was none other than the 1998 remake of "The Parent Trap," which put young actress Lindsay Lohan on the map. She's also the director behind the 2000 rom-com "What Women Want," 2003's "Something's Gotta Give" and the sweet 2006 romantic comedy "The Holiday." In 2009, Nancy directed Meryl Streep in the hilarious rom-com "It's Complicated," which featured actors like Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Most recently, Nancy was the brains behind the 2015 dramatic comedy "The Intern" starring Robert De Niro.
Gina Prince-Bythewood has worked in Hollywood for close to 30 years, first as screenplay writer on shows like "A Different World" before her breakthrough big-screen debut in 2000 with the film she both wrote and directed, "Love and Basketball," starring Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps. What she's best known for, however, is her 2008 drama "The Secret Life of Bees" — she wrote the screenplay and directed it. In 2017, Gina created the series "Shots Fired" and directed two episodes. She also just signed on to direct the 2019 action flick "Silver & Black."
Before Julie Taymor became a noted film director, she was an award-winning Broadway and Off-Broadway director of numerous stage productions, including 1996 and 1997's "The Lion King" (which earned her the honor of being the first woman ever to win the Tony Award for directing). In 1999, Julie made her big-screen directorial debut with the film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus" (she also wrote the screenplay) followed by her 2002 biopic "Frida" about famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (played by Salma Hayek). Julie actually wrote the lyrics to the song "Burn it Blue," which was featured in the film and earned an Oscar nomination for best original song. Julie returned to Broadway in 2017 to direct "M. Butterfly" starring English actor Clive Owen.
Danish director, writer, producer and actress Susan Bier might not be well-known in the States, but she should be. She directed the 2007 emotional drama "Things We Lost in the Fire" starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro and the 2014 romantic drama "Serena," which paired Jennifer Lawrence back with our favorite leading man, Bradley Cooper). Long before she debuted to American audiences, Susan had directed numerous hit films in Denmark, including the 2004 war drama "Brothers," which was later picked up and adapted for American audiences by director Jim Sheridan. In 2016, Susan directed six episodes of the dark crime drama "The Night Manager" starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston.
Although Lisa Cholodenko's last movie was in 2010, it was so good we can't leave her off the list. Lisa co-wrote the screenplay for and directed "The Kids Are All Right" starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as an imperfect lesbian couple with teenage children (who were conceived via a sperm donor) who set off to find their biological father. The film played on themes in Lisa's own life, including her experience with partner Wendy searching for a sperm donor in a cryo-bank to father their now 11-year-old son, Calder. We haven't heard much from Lisa since 2014 when she directed the critically acclaimed miniseries "Olive Kitteridge," which earned her an Emmy for outstanding directing.
Like many female directors, Debra Granik is also a writer, producer, cinematographer and more, meaning she understands every facet of filmmaking. Her directorial credits are few, but the body of work she's accrued is impressive nonetheless. We have Debra to thank for the 2010 drama "Winter's Bone," which is widely considered actress Jennifer Lawrence's breakout role (although not her first film). Debra directed and wrote the screenplay for the haunting movie about a girl's struggle to protect her family while finding out what happened to her drug-dealing father. In 2017, Debra wrapped up production on her newest film, "My Abandonment," which she wrote and directed.