Movie Mom

Movie Mom

List: Women Directors

posted by Nell Minow

In honor of “The Hurt Locker’s” Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director last night, and International Women’s Day, here’s a list of pioneering women movie directors.

1. Penny Marshall, who started as an actress (“Laverne and Shirley”), went on to direct films that included “Awakenings,” “Big,” and “A League of Their Own.”


2. Amy Heckerling is the director of “Clueless” and the neglected gem “I Could Never Be Your Woman.”

3. Betty Thomas also started as an actress (“Hill Street Blues”) and went on to direct “The Brady Bunch” and “28 Days.”

4. Nora Ephron, the daughter of successful screenwriters, began as a writer and then went on to direct films like “Julie & Julia,” and “You’ve Got Mail.”

5. Gurinder Chadha directed the international hit “Bend it Like Beckham” as well as “What’s Cooking” and “Bride and Prejudice.”


6. Nancy Meyers also began as a writer and has gone on to direct some of the most successful movies of the last 10 years including “It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday,” and “Something’s Gotta Give.”

7. Penelope Speeris made a successful documentary about a topic considered very male — punk music — in “The Decline of Western Civilization.” That led to her directing the wildly successful “Wayne’s World.”

8. Kasi Lemmons is another actress turned director with “Eve’s Bayou” and “The Caveman’s Valentine,” starring Samuel L. Jackson.


9. Mabel Normand was one of the most gifted comic actors of the silent era and one of the first female film directors. She often worked with Charlie Chaplin.

10. Mira Nair directed “Monsoon Wedding” and the recent biopic “Amelia,” starring Hillary Swank.

  • Francine McKenna

    Some more great women who directed some of my favorite movies:
    Allison Anders
    Catherine Breillat
    Sofia Coppola
    Marleen Goriss
    Amy Heckerling
    Agniezka Holland
    Agnes Vardaès_Varda
    Lina Wertmuller

  • Nell Minow

    A great list, Francine! Some of my favorites. (We both listed Amy Heckerling.) I also thought of Dorothy Arzner and Ida Lupino. It was good to see Bigelow win the Oscar. And very nice to see that she had the support of her competition and former husband, James Cameron.

  • Francine McKenna

    I like all of yours, plus. How did I miss your mention of Amy Heckerling????
    Also Nora Ephron!

  • Alicia

    Don’t forget Ida Lupino.

  • Alicia

    Oops, I just saw that you mentioned Ida Lupino, Nell.

  • Alicia

    Gillian Armstrong and Jane Campion.

  • Toby Clark

    Sarah Watt, the director of Look Both Ways.

  • Keith

    I’m not sure you can call her pioneering, but Darnell Martin is quickly rising on my list, due entirely to Cadillac Records, which just keeps getting better and better with age

  • Marilyn

    May I suggest Deepa Mehta?

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks for a GREAT list of women directors! I am truly delighted.

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