Women directors are the unicorns of Hollywood. But no, really. According to this report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, there are actually fewer women directors today than there were two years ago. In 2016, women accounted for 7% of directors in the top 250 domestic grossing films, down from 9% in 2015.
Here are 7 women directors who have been bucking the trend and making HERstory.
7. Mira Nair
Mira Nair has been making films for a long time and comfortably moves between indie and blockbuster. She first made her mark with Salaam Bombay! (1988), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and won the Best New Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988. She further cemented her status as a major voice for modern day India and the Indian diaspora with Mississippi Masala (1991). Her more recent mainstream films have been The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2012) and Queen of Katwe (2016).
6. Sofia Coppola
Yes, her father is Hollywood heavyweight Francis Ford Coppola. While the family name may have gotten Sofia Coppola her first big break, she also has the family talent to back it up. She came onto the scene in a major way with the Virgin Suicides (1999), followed by Lost in Translation (2003), Marie Antoinette (2006) and The Beguiled (2017). As a result, Sofia Coppola gets to sit in her own director’s chair instead of holding daddy’s place at the G20.
Fun fact: The Coppola family also makes delicious wine in the Napa Valley.
5. Nancy Meyers
Nancy Meyers has been a consistent hit-maker since the 90s. She’s directed The Parent Trap (1998), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), The Intern (2015), just to name a few. Her second film, What Women Want (2000), was, at the time, the high-grossing film directed by a woman, bringing in $183 million in the U.S.
4. Amma Asante
British director Amma Asante is a relative newbie compared to the other women on this list. She came onto the scene with A United Kingdom (2016), a historical drama that is a love story as its core, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Prior to this film, Asante directed Belle (2013), a British period drama about the little known mixed-race British aristocrat Dido Belle, a relative of William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield.
3. Patty Jenkins
Patty Jenkins is a magnet for strong women — the heroic and the criminal — and that’s a good thing. Daughter of an Air Force Captain and environmental scientist, Jenkins lived in over 15 countries before she turned 6 years old. She also has the directing pedigree, having obtained a Masters in directing from the American Film Institute in 2000. A worthy endeavour. Since then, two of Jenkin’s biggest successes in film have been Monster (2003) and Wonder Woman (2017), with numerous TV directing credits in between.
Rumor has it there may be something in the works with Ryan Gosling. Jenkins behind the camera and Gosling up front? Take my money now.
2. Kathryn Bigelow
She’s a big deal. And not just because she is the only woman director to have bagged an Oscar for Best Director. If you didn’t know, Bigelow won for The Hurt Locker (2010). That said, she had been making great films since before that historical moment (Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995)) and has continued to make epic movies since then, like Zero Dark Thirty (2012). In 2010, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Oh yeah, she was briefly married to James Cameron back in the late 80s / early 90s. We hear he’s rude AF.
1. Ava Duvernay
Ava Duvernay is BOSS. She is the director of Selma (2014) and became the first black woman director to be nominated for a Golden Globe. While Selma went on to win for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, Duvernay was not nominated as director. Sad! Duvernay’s next film will be a live action adaption of the beloved children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. She will be the first black woman to direct a film with a budget of over $100 million. Oprah (yes, the Oprah) will be in this film. We can’t wait!
Also, Duvernay directed the award-winning Netflix documentary 13th. You may have heard of it.