A list of women known primarily for directing feature films. We can all name plenty of talented actresses, but I created this list because when I tried to think of women directors I came up blank. Here's to more visibility of women behind the camera!
This list is NOT in any particular order.
There are plenty of amazing women in film who aren't necessarily—or primarily—directors. This list is not about those people, this is about women directing films; this list is also not about TV. (Perhaps I'll create other lists for different roles.)
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...
Generally considered to be the world's first female director, French-born Alice Guy entered the film business as a secretary at Gaumont-Paris in 1896. The next year Gaumont changed from manufacturing cameras to producing movies, and Guy became one of its first film directors. She impressed the the company...
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
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...
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...
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...
Deepa Mehta is a transnational artist and a screenwriter, director, and producer whose work has been called "courageous", "provocative" and "breathtaking". Her visually lush and emotionally resonating films have played at every major international film festival; receiving numerous awards and accolades...
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.
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...
Leading British theatre director, particularly praised for her work in opera.
Kelly Reichardt was born and raised in Miami-Dade Country, Florida, to a family of police officers. She had an interest in photography from a very young age. She started by using her father's camera, which he used for photographing crime scenes. She went to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston...
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...
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...
Born in Tehran, Samira is the daughter of director Mohsen Makhmalbaf
. She got her first taste of the cinema when she was eight, playing a cameo role as a little girl in her father's film The Cyclist
. After leaving school at 15 because she found the teachers incompetent, she began learning to make films...
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.
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...
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
Sarah Spillane is a writer and director, known for Around the Block (2013), This Life (2008), and The Manual (2007). Sarah grew up in Sydney, Australia before relocating to Los Angeles in 2009. In 2007 Sarah won the Fortissimo Films Award for Emerging Talent and in 2013 Around the Block premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival...
Amma Asante is a screenwriter and director Known for Belle, and A Way of Life. . She is a former child actress who began her writing career at the age of 23 with a script deals from both Channel 4 in the UK and BBC. Her first movie, A Way of Life which she wrote and directed won her numerous awards. Both in the UK and Internationally.
A filmmaker, marketer and film distributor, Ava DuVernay made her feature film debut with the documentary This in the Life (2008), a history on hip hop movement that flourished in Los Angeles in the 1990's. This was followed by series of television music documentaries which included My Mic Sounds Nice (2010) which aired on BET...
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
Rachel Talalay was born in Chicago Illinois. Her parents, Paul and Prudence, moved to Baltimore to work/teach at Johns Hopkins when she was 4 years old. After studying Applied Mathematics at Yale University, she worked as a computer programmer at Johns Hopkins University. During this time, she met Director John Waters and entered the movie business as a production assistant on his 'Polyester'...
The late Adrienne Shelley was born in Queens, New York, to Sheldon Levine and Elaine Langbaum. After graduating Jericho High School, located in Jericho, New York, she went enrolled at Boston University, and majored in film production. After her junior year, she dropped out and moved to Manhattan where she made a name for herself in independent films...