50 Greatest Female Directors

by BaalMan78 | created - 13 May 2011 | updated - 21 Sep 2016 | Public

1. Agnès Jaoui

Actress | Comme une image

Agnès Jaoui was born on October 19, 1964 in Antony, Hauts-de-Seine, France. She is an actress and writer, known for Look at Me (2004), The Taste of Others (2000) and Family Resemblances (1996). She was previously married to Jean-Pierre Bacri.

2. Agnès Varda

Director | Sans toit ni loi

Agnès Varda was born on May 30, 1928 in Brussels, Belgium as Arlette Varda. She is a director and writer, known for Vagabond (1985), Le Bonheur (1965) and Les plages d'Agnès (2008). She was previously married to Jacques Demy.

female presence in French Nouvelle Vague

3. Agnieszka Holland

Director | Pokot

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 ...

4. Alice Guy

Director | The Woman of Mystery

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 ...

First female diretor ever

5. Ana Carolina

Director | Mar de Rosas

Ana Carolina was born on September 27, 1943 in São Paulo, Brazil as Ana Carolina Teixeira Soares. She is a director and writer, known for Sea of Roses (1978), Das Tripas Coração (1982) and Amélia (2001).

6. Andrea Arnold

Director | American Honey

Andrea Arnold was born on April 5, 1961 in Dartford, Kent, England as Andrea P. Arnold. She is an actress and director, known for American Honey (2016), Fish Tank (2009) and Red Road (2006).

7. Anne-Marie Miéville

Director | Mon cher sujet

Anne-Marie Mieville began her career as a singer in the 60s, but moved on to filmmaking. In 1972, she met Jean-Luc Godard, and they began their extremely prolific collaborative career. They have produced numerous films together, and continue to do so.

8. Byambasuren Davaa

Director | Die Höhle des gelben Hundes

Byambasuren Davaa was born in 1971 in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. She is a director and writer, known for Die Höhle des gelben Hundes (2005), Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel (2003) and The Two Horses of Genghis Khan (2009).

9. Catherine Breillat

Writer | À ma soeur!

Catherine Breillat is a Paris based filmmaker and writer who became famous for her distinctively personal films on sexuality, gender trouble and sibling rivalry. Accused of being a "porno auteuriste", Breillat allowed for an unbiased view of sexuality and extended the language of mainstream movies....

10. Chantal Akerman

Director | Un divan à New York

Chantal Akerman was born on June 6, 1950 in Brussels, Belgium as Chantal Anne Akerman. She was a director and writer, known for Un divan à New York (1996), Je, tu, il, elle (1974) and The Meetings of Anna (1978). She was married to Sonia Wieder-Atherton. She died on October 5, 2015 in Paris,...

11. Claire Denis

Director | Beau travail

Claire Denis was born on April 21, 1946 in Paris, France. She is a director and writer, known for Beau travail (1999), 35 Shots of Rum (2008) and Nenette and Boni (1996).

12. Claudia Llosa

Director | La teta asustada

Claudia Llosa was born on November 15, 1976 in Lima, Peru. She is a director and writer, known for La teta asustada (2009), Madeinusa (2006) and Loxoro (2012).

13. Danièle Huillet

Director | Sicilia!

Danièle Huillet was born on May 1, 1936 in Paris, France. She was a director and editor, known for Sicilia! (1999), Klassenverhältnisse (1984) and Der Tod des Empedokles oder: Wenn dann der Erde Grün von neuem Euch erglänzt (1987). She was married to Jean-Marie Straub. She died on ...

14. Deepa Mehta

Director | Fire

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 ...

15. Dorota Kedzierzawska

Director | Pora umierac

Dorota Kedzierzawska was born on June 1, 1957 in Lódz, Lódzkie, Poland. She is a director and writer, known for Pora umierac (2007), Nic (1998) and Wrony (1994).

16. Dorothy Arzner

Writer | Breed of the Border

Dorothy Arzner, the only woman director during the "Golden Age" of Hollywood's studio system--from the 1920s to the early 1940s and the woman director with the largest oeuvre in Hollywood to this day--was born January 3, 1897 (some sources put the year as 1900), in San Francisco, California, to a ...

the only US female director in the 1930s

17. Germaine Dulac

Director | La souriante Madame Beudet

The daughter of a cavalry captain, she was raised by a grandmother in Paris, where she studied various forms of art with an emphasis on music and the opera. In 1905 she married engineer-novelist Marie-Louis Albert-Dulac and under his influence veered toward journalism. As one of the leading radical...

female presence in French Impressionism from 1920s

18. Ida Lupino

Actress | High Sierra

Ida was born in London to a show business family. In 1933, her mother brought Ida with her to an audition and Ida got the part her mother wanted. The picture was Her First Affaire (1932). Ida, a bleached blonde, came to Hollywood in 1934 and played small and insignificant parts. Peter Ibbetson (...

19. Isabel Coixet

Director | The Secret Life of Words

Isabel Coixet was born on April 9, 1960 in Sant Adrià de Besòs, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain as Isabel Coixet Castillo. She is a director and writer, known for The Secret Life of Words (2005), My Life Without Me (2003) and Cosas que nunca te dije (1996).

20. Jasmila Zbanic

Director | Grbavica

Jasmila Zbanic was born on December 19, 1974 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia. She is a director and writer, known for Grbavica (2006), Na putu (2010) and For Those Who Can Tell No Tales (2013).

21. 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 ...

22. Kelly Reichardt

Director | Wendy and Lucy

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 ...

23. Kira Muratova

Director | Nastroyshchik

Kira Muratova was born on November 5, 1934 in Soroca, Romania as Kira Georgiyevna Korotkova. She is a director and writer, known for Nastroyshchik (2004), Vtorostepennye lyudi (2001) and Astenicheskiy sindrom (1990). She is married to Yevgeni Golubenko. She was previously married to Aleksandr ...

24. Larisa Shepitko

Director | Voskhozhdenie

Larisa Shepitko was born on January 6, 1938 in Artyomovsk, Ukrainian SSR, USSR as Larisa Yefimovna Shepitko. She was a director and writer, known for The Ascent (1977), Znoy (1963) and Ty i ya (1971). She was married to Elem Klimov. She died on July 2, 1979.

25. Len Lye

Director | N or NW

Len Lye was born on July 5, 1901 in Christchurch, New Zealand. He is known for his work on N or NW (1938), Stardust (1938) and Kaleidoscope (1935). He was married to Annette Zeiss and Jane Florence Winifred Thompson. He died on May 15, 1980 in Warwick, Rhode Island, USA.

26. Leni Riefenstahl

Actress | Das blaue Licht

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...

27. Liliana Cavani

Director | Dove siete? Io sono qui

Liliana Cavani was born on January 12, 1933 in Carpi, Emilia-Romagna, Italy. She is a director and writer, known for Dove siete? Io sono qui (1993), The Night Porter (1974) and L'ospite (1971).

28. Lina Wertmüller

Writer | Pasqualino Settebellezze

Lina Wertmüller was born on August 14, 1928 in Rome, Lazio, Italy as Arcangela Felice Assunta Job Wertmüller von Elgg Espanol von Brauchich. She is a writer and director, known for Seven Beauties (1975), Travolti da un insolito destino nell'azzurro mare d'agosto (1974) and I basilischi (1963). She ...

29. Liv Ullmann

Actress | Ansikte mot ansikte

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 ...

30. Lone Scherfig

Director | An Education

Writer/director Lone Scherfig graduated from The National Film School of Denmark in 1984. Her first feature film, THE BIRTHDAY TRIP (1990), was selected for Panorama in Berlin, the New Directors section at MOMA in New York and won the Grand Jury Prix in Rouen. Her next film, ON OUR OWN (1998), ...

31. Lotte Reiniger

Director | Silhouetten

Lotte Reiniger was born on June 2, 1899 in Berlin, Germany as Charlotte Reiniger. She is known for her work on Silhouetten (1936), Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed (1926) and Here and There (1949). She was married to Carl Koch. She died on June 19, 1981 in Dettenhausen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

32. Lucía Puenzo

Writer | Wakolda

Lucía Puenzo was born on November 28, 1976 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a writer and director, known for The German Doctor (2013), XXY (2007) and El niño pez (2009).

33. Lucrecia Martel

Director | La mujer sin cabeza

Born in 1966 in Salta in the North of Argentina,Lucrecia Martel settled down in Buenos Aires where she attended the ENERC (National Film School). She started by directing a few shorts among which Historias Breves I: Rey muerto (1995), which garnered several awards in the international film festival...

34. Lynne Ramsay

Director | We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay was born on December 5, 1969 in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Scotland. She is a director and writer, known for We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), You Were Never Really Here (2017) and Morvern Callar (2002).

35. Margarethe von Trotta

Director | Rosenstrasse

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 ...

36. Marguerite Duras

Writer | Le camion

Ms. Duras was born in southern Vietnam and lost her father at age 4. The family savings of 20 years bought the family a small plot in Cambodia, but everything was lost in a single season's flooding. The disaster killed her mother as a result. After high school in Saigon, Ms. Duras left Indochina to...

37. Marie Menken

Actress | The Life of Juanita Castro

Marie Menken was born on May 25, 1909 in New York City, New York, USA as Marie Menkevicius. She was a director and cinematographer, known for The Life of Juanita Castro (1965), The Gravediggers from Guadix (1960) and Prison (1965). She was married to Willard Maas. She died on December 29, 1970 in ...

38. Marleen Gorris

Director | Antonia

Marleen Gorris was born on December 9, 1948 in Roermond, Limburg, Netherlands. She is a director and writer, known for Antonia's Line (1995), The Luzhin Defence (2000) and Gebroken spiegels (1984).

39. Márta Mészáros

Director | Örökbefogadás

Márta Mészáros was born on September 19, 1931 in Budapest, Hungary. She is a director and writer, known for Adoption (1975), Diary for My Children (1984) and Utolsó jelentés Annáról (2009). She was previously married to Miklós Jancsó and Laszlo Karda.

40. Maya Deren

Director | Meshes of the Afternoon

Maya Deren came to the USA in 1922 as Eleanora Derenkowsky. Together with her father, a psychiatrist, and her mother, an artist, she fled the pogroms against Russian Jews. She studied journalism and political science in at Syracuse University in New York, finishing her BA at NYU in June 1936 and ...

41. Mira Nair

Director | Salaam Bombay!

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 ...

42. Miranda July

Writer | Me and You and Everyone We Know

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 ...

44. Naomi Kawase

Director | An

Naomi Kawase was born on May 30, 1969 in Nara, Japan. She is a director and writer, known for Sweet Bean (2015), Futatsume no mado (2014) and Mogari no mori (2007). She was previously married to Takenori Sentô.

45. Sally Potter

Director | The Tango Lesson

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, ...

46. Samira Makhmalbaf

Director | Sib

Samira Makhmalbaf Filmmaker

Born on February 15,1980 in Tehran. At the age of eight, she played in "The Cyclist" directed by her father, Mohsen Makhmalbaf the celebrated Iranian filmmaker.

At the age of 17, she directed her first feature titled "The Apple" and She went on to become the youngest ...

47. Sofia Coppola

Director | Lost in Translation

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 (2010), Lost in Translation (2003) and Marie Antoinette (2006). She has been married to Thomas Mars since August 27, 2011. They have two children. She was ...

48. Su Friedrich

Director | Hide and Seek

Su Friedrich is a New York-based filmmaker who writes, directs, photographs and edits. She currently teaches film and video production at Princeton University.

49. Susanne Bier

Director | Hævnen

Susanne Bier was born on April 15, 1960 in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is a director and writer, known for In a Better World (2010), Efter brylluppet (2006) and Brødre (2004). She is married to Jesper Winge Leisner. She was previously married to Philip Zandén.

50. Vera Chytilová

Director | Dedictví aneb Kurvahosigutntag

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 ...