Top 100 Female Directors

The most important women directors from USA (39), Greece (12), France-Belgium (10), Germany-Austria-Netherlands (6), United Kingdom (5), Australia-New Zealand (4), Canada (2), Denmark (2), Italy (2), Russia-Soviet Union (2), Spain (2), Bosnia, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, India, Lebanon, Norway, Palestine, Persia, Peru, Poland, Sweden, Tunisia and Turkey.
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Leni Riefenstahl
Leni Riefenstahl's show-biz experience began with an experiment: she wanted to know what it felt like to dance on the stage. Success as a dancer gave way to film acting when she attracted the attention of film director Arnold Fanck, subsequently starring in some of his mountaineering pictures. With Fanck as her mentor, Riefenstahl began directing films...
Vera Chytilová
Director, Daisies
Vera Chytilová was born on February 2, 1929, in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). She studied philosophy and architecture in Brno for two years, then worked as a technical draftsman, a designer, a fashion model, a photo re-toucher, then worked as a clapper girl for Barrandov Film Studios in Prague. There she continued as a writer, actress, and assistant director...
Mai Zetterling
Actress, The Witches
Mai Zetterling was born in Sweden in 1925, and lived briefly in Australia while still a child. She's known as a director and actor and trained on the Stockholm repertory stage, she began appearing in war-era films starting in her teens. Following her debut in Lasse Maja, she made quite an impact...
Margarethe von Trotta
Director, Hannah Arendt
Margarethe von Trotta was born in Berlin in 1942. In the 1960s she moved to Paris where she worked for film collectives, collaborating on scripts and co-directing short films. She also pursued an acclaimed acting career, starring in films by well known German directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Volker Schlöndorff...
Patricia Birch
Miscellaneous Crew, Grease
Martha Coolidge
Director, Valley Girl
Coolidge's diverse project range has given her a reputation for eclectic taste. Among a long list of working with Hollywood's finest, Coolidge also discovered great talents like Nicolas Cage (Valley Girl), Val Kilmer (Real Genius) and James GandolfiniAngie). In addition to working with talented artists...
Penny Marshall
Penny Marshall was born Carole Penny Marshall in the Bronx, New York, on October 15, 1943. The Libra is 5' 6 1/2", with brown hair and green eyes. She is the daughter of Marjorie (Ward), a tap dance teacher, and Anthony "Tony" Marshall, an industrial film director. She is the younger sister of filmmakers Garry Marshall and Ronny Hallin...
Barbra Streisand
Actress, Funny Girl
Barbra Streisand is an American singer, actress, director and producer and one of the most successful personalities in show business. She is the only person ever to receive all of the following: Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Golden Globe, Cable Ace, National Endowment for the Arts, and Peabody awards,...
Jodie Foster
Alicia Christian Foster was born in Los Angeles on November 19, 1962. She is the daughter of Evelyn Ella "Brandy" (Almond) and Lucius Fisher Foster III, an Air Force lieutenant colonel and later real estate broker. Brandy had filed for divorce in 1959 after having three children with Lucius, but the exes had a brief re-encounter in 1962 which resulted in Alicia's birth...
Nancy Savoca
Director Nancy Savoca was born in the Bronx, New York of Argentine and Sicilian immigrant parents, She graduated from New York University's film school where she was awarded for her short films. Savoca and her husband, producer Richard Guay, raised private funds to shoot their first film, "True Love"...
Sally Potter
Director, Orlando
Sally Potter made her first 8mm film aged fourteen. She has since written and directed seven feature films, as well as many short films (including THRILLER and PLAY) and a television series, and has directed opera (Carmen for the ENO in 2007) and other live work. Her background is in choreography, music...
Penelope Spheeris
Director, Wayne's World
Spheeris is often referred to as a 'rock 'n roll anthropologist'. In 1974 she formed the first Los Angeles music video production company, ROCK 'N REEL. She concluded her music video work with the Grammy-nominated, "Bohemian Rhapsody" video for "Wayne's World". Spheeris' feature film debut was the 1979 documentary on the Los Angeles punk scene...
Jane Campion
Writer, The Piano
Jane Campion was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and now lives in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Having graduated with a BA in Anthropology from Victoria University of Wellington in 1975, and a BA, with a painting major, at Sydney College of the Arts in 1979, she began filmmaking in the early 1980s...
Moufida Tlatli
Was raised in Tunisia in a tradition-oriented family. It was in high school, thanks to her philosophy teacher, who ran a film club, that she developed a taste for the cinema. After graduating from the IDHEC film school in 1968, in the editing department, she went back to live in Tunisia in 1972. Her name appears on the credits of some of the most important Arab film from 1970 to 1990.
Amy Heckerling
Writer, Clueless
Amy Heckerling studied Film and TV at New York University and got a Masters Degree in Film from The American Film Institute. Despite this education she couldn't get a break in Hollywood. However, in 1982, she made Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and people started to take notice. In 1987, while Amy was pregnant, she got the idea for Look Who's Talking...
Diane Keaton
Diane Keaton was born Diane Hall in Los Angeles, California, to Dorothy Deanne (Keaton), an amateur photographer, and John Newton Ignatius "Jack" Hall, a civil engineer and real estate broker. Her ancestry includes Irish, English, German, and Scottish. Keaton studied Drama at Santa Ana College before dropping out to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York...
Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron was educated at Wellesley College, Massachusetts. She was an acclaimed essayist (Crazy Salad 1975), novelist (Heartburn 1983), and had written screenplays for several popular films, all featuring strong female characters, such as anti-nuclear activist Karen Silkwood (Silkwood, co-written...
Liv Ullmann
Actress, Persona
Liv Ullmann's father was a Norwegian engineer who used to work abroad, so as a child she lived in Tokyo, Canada, New York and Oslo. In the mid-'50s she made her stage debut and in 1957 made her film debut. She really became successful, however, when she began to work for Swedish director Ingmar Bergman in such films as Persona...
Jill Sprecher
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in philosophy and literature, she moved to NewYork to study film and has since made Manhattan her home. She has worked as a coordinator, production manager and line producer on both studio and independent features. She studied film directing with Robert Wise and...
Mira Nair
Director, Monsoon Wedding
Accomplished Film Director/Writer/Producer Mira Nair was born in India and educated at Delhi University and at Harvard. She began her film career as an actor and then turned to directing award-winning documentaries, including So Far From India and India Cabaret. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay...
Vicky Jenson
Director, Shrek
Vicky Jenson's career spans more than two decades in both animation and live action, and crosses the spectrum from TV to feature films to shorts including a commercial campaign for Old Navy of more than 40 spots with Anonymous Content and was at that time the only female feature film director they represented...
Gurinder Chadha
Gurinder Chadha was born in Kenya, and grew up in Southall, London, England. She began her career as a news reporter with BBC Radio, directed several award winning documentaries for the BBC, and began an alliance with the British Film Institute (BFI) and Channel Four. In 1990, Chadha set up her own production company: Umbi Films.
Julie Taymor
Julie Taymor is an Academy Award-nominated director, known for such films as Frida and Across the Universe. She was born on December 15, 1952, in Newton, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. Her father, Melvin Lester Taymor, was a gynecologist. Her mother, Elizabeth Bernstein, was a teacher of political science...
Sofia Coppola
Writer, Somewhere
Sofia Coppola was born on May 14, 1971 in New York City, New York, USA as Sofia Carmina Coppola. She is a director, known for Somewhere, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. She has been married to Thomas Mars since August 27, 2011. They have two children. She was previously married to Spike Jonze.
Patty Jenkins
Director, Monster
Patty Jenkins is a writer/director best known for her debut feature Monster, based on the life of convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos, helming the pilot episode of AMC's hit show The Killing and as the director of the upcoming Wonder Woman for Warner Brothers. Patty began her career as a painter at The Cooper Union in New York City...
Nicole Kassell
Director, The Woodsman
Nicole Kassell received a BA from Columbia University in Art History and an MFA from NYU's Film Program, where she was honored with full scholarships for two years. Her short film, "Jaime," won the DGA student female filmmaker prize, and her thesis film, "The Green Hour," premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002...
Miranda July
Filmmaker Magazine rated her #1 in their "25 New Faces of Indie Film" in 2004! She is a performance artist and published short story writer. Since becoming a filmmaker, her debut feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) has won several film awards. Daughter of Lindy Hough and Richard Grossinger, writers and publishers who founded North Atlantic Books.
Joana Hadjithomas
Director, A Perfect Day
Key figure of contemporary Lebanese cinema, along with Khalil Joreige, with whom she has worked in partnership since the beginning of her career, Joana Hadjithomas studied (already with Joreige) in France and in the USA. She (and Koreige of course) both graduated from the University of Nanterre and...
Karen Moncrieff
After receiving a B.S. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, Moncrieff moved to California to pursue a career as an actress. She appeared in numerous TV shows and B-movies and was a series regular on Santa Barbara (as Cassandra Lockridge) and Days of Our Lives (as Gabrielle Pascal.) In 1998...
Valerie Faris
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have built an impressive body of work by perpetually seeking innovative projects in a variety of mediums. After introducing bands such as REM and The Red Hot Chili Peppers on their ground breaking MTV show The Cutting Edge, Jonathan and Valerie continued to work in music television directing music videos and documentaries for bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins...
Andrea Arnold
Actress, No 73
Lone Scherfig
Director, An Education
Lone Scherfig graduated from the Danish Film School in 1984. In her native Denmark, Lone Scherfig began her career directing award-winning commercials and television dramas. Her first feature as director, The Birthday Trip, premiered at the 1991 Berlin Festival and won several awards at festivals worldwide. Her second feature, On Our Own, won the Grand Prize at the Montreal Film Festival...
Lisa Cholodenko
Lisa Cholodenko earned an MFA at Columbia University Film School where she made an award-winning short film Dinner Party (1997) Her feature High Art (1998) won the National Society of Film Critics award for Ally Sheedy's performance and The Waldo Salt Screenwriting award at Sundance. Both "High Art" and Laurel Canyon (2002) premiered at Cannes Director's Fortnight.
Icíar Bollaín
Director, Te doy mis ojos
Born in Madrid, Iciar Bollain has worked as an actress in films such El Sur (1983), directed by Víctor Erice; Sublet (1991) directed by Chus Gutiérrez, Malaventura (1988) directed by Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón; El Mejor de los Tiempos (1990) and Un Paraguas para Tres (1992) directed by Felipe Vega, Tierra y Libertad (1995) directed by Ken Loach...
Agnieszka Holland
Director, Europa Europa
Agnieszka Holland was born 28 of November 1948 in Warsaw but went to Czechoslovakia to study film directing at FAMU in Prague. She began her film career working in Poland with Krzysztof Zanussi as assistant director, and Andrzej Wajda as her mentor. She wrote several scripts with Wajda before directing her own films...
Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley is an actress and director renowned in her native Canada for her political activism. Blessed with an extremely expressive face that enables directors to minimize dialog due to her uncanny ability to suggest a character's thoughts, Polley has become a favorite of critics for her sensitive portraits of wounded and conflicted young women in independent films...
Kathryn Bigelow
Director, The Hurt Locker
A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be critiqued by people like Richard Serra...
Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Director, Mustang
In 2011 Ergüven was invited to attend the Cannes Film Festivals Atelier to help develop her project, The Kings. While there she met fellow director Alice Winocour who was there to develop her first feature film Augustine. After Ergüven was unable to find financing for her film Winocour suggested she write a more intimate piece leading the two to begin work on the script for Mustang...