The 18 best female directors working in Hollywood today

Men have entirely dominated the 2023 Best Director race at the upcoming Oscars. Now, it’s time to put the focus back on those talented female filmmakers who prove that our voices and visions cannot be silenced, says Jabeen Waheed.

Alice Guy-Blaché was a trailblazer in filmmaking, as she became the first female to direct a movie, the 1896 narrative film titled The Cabbage Fairy. This was an extraordinary feat at the time, and we can only imagine how much Alice hoped that more than a century down the life, women would be shoulder-to-shoulder with men in the filmmaking arena. 

Unfortunately, the all-male Best Director category dominating the Oscar 2023 nominations says anything but. Hollywood is still rife with mass gender inequality when it comes to filmmaking, in spite of the fact that women have so many incredible stories to tell about life, love, betrayal, travel, adventure, culture, and more. They are still having to work above and beyond to have their voices heard and, subsequently, their stories told on the big screen for a global market.

You may also like

Best feminist films: 28 movies perfect for streaming on International Women’s Day

While the Oscar nominations have been questionable this year, there has been an array of women in the past 30 years alone who have put out masterpieces and proven that women belong in filmmaking just as much as men. Take, for example, Sofia Coppola, who made her feature-length directorial debut in the coming-of-age drama The Virgin Suicides before helming acclaimed films such as Lost In Translation and Somewhere

There’s also the immensely brilliant Indian-American director Mira Nair, who did not hesitate to document controversial matters within culture in her work: Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding, and Salaam Bombay! are just a few of her projects that assisted in changing the landscape of women, especially women of colour in film. 

The list of women who have already achieved so much in the face of uncertainty, injustice and ridicule is endless. But Stylist would like to put the focus back on the talented female filmmakers working today who prove that our voices and visions cannot be silenced.


Women Talking has created a stir on the awards circuit this year.

Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley was robbed of a Best Director nomination at the Academy Awards this year because her work on the religious drama Women Talking was outstanding. Following its release at the 49th Telluride Film Festival, the movie was named by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2022, and rightly so. 

Before Women Talking, Sarah sharpened her directing skills in the documentary film, Stories We Tell, and the comedy-drama Take This Waltz. Along the way, she has been recognised with nominations and wins by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and Writers Guild of America Awards


The film earned its leading man Paul Mescal an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, but Aftersun’s director Charlotte Wells should also have bagged a nomination for her work on the coming-of-age drama film, which was also her feature film debut. Academy Awards aside, Edinburgh-born Charlotte was awarded for her skills by the British Independent Film Award, Gotham Independent Film Awards and New York Film Critics Circle. The opportunities are endless for this King’s College London and New York University trained director!


Emerald Fennell has starred in The Crown and Call The Midwife, but she is also an Oscar-winning director.

Promising Young Woman touches on subjects such as sexual assault, trauma, consent, and revenge, and we have Emerald Fennell to thank for that. The British actor, writer and director won a coveted Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the thriller drama and, subsequently, cemented her status as one of the most talented women working in the directing space in Hollywood. We can only expect bigger and better things from Emerald, with Saltburn – aka the next movie she has written, directed and produced – currently filming.


We all know Patty Jenkins from her work on DC Comics’ Wonder Woman films, starring Gal Gadot. Still, if you do a little rewind on her work history, you’ll realise she was also the woman behind the 2003 biographical crime drama film Monster, which was named one of the Top 10 Films of the Year by the American Film Institute Awards. 

She also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Her work has been so celebrated through the years that she was listed in seventh position for Time’s Person of the Year in 2017. Patty is currently producing the upcoming mystery comedy film, Poolman, starring Chris Pine and Ariana Debose.


The Farewell was directed by Lulu Wang and stars Awkwafina.

Chinese-born American filmmaker Lulu Wang has us in tears with the emotional drama film The Farewell, starring Awkwafina. It was so brilliant that it earned Lulu an Independent Spirit Award for Best Film and proved that hard work and determination starting from those years she made short films and documentaries paid off. The movie came a few years after she released 2014’s Posthumous and 2015’s Touch.


Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, is easily one of the most hotly-anticipated films of the year, but this isn’t the Californian director’s first rodeo. Her other directing projects, 2017’s Lady Bird and 2019’s Little Women, both earned Best Picture nominations at the Academy Awards. 

A woman of many talents, she has also proven her acting capabilities in White Noise, in which she starred alongside Adam Driver, and Mistress America, which she co-wrote with her husband, Noah Baumbach. Her contributions to cinema earned her a place on Time 100’s most influential people in the world in 2018.

You may also like

Margot Robbie talks Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film and the “thoughtful conversation” it will provoke


Starting in the entertainment business as an actor, Olivia Wilde used her industry knowledge as she transitioned to directing with her first feature film Booksmart, starring Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. The witty teen comedy was critically acclaimed and earned her an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. 

Wilde went on to direct 2022’s much-talked-about psychological thriller film, Don’t Worry Darling, starring Florence Pugh and Harry Styles. Her directing work doesn’t end there, either, as she has signed on to helm a biopic about gymnast Kerri Strug called Perfect, as well as a female-centred superhero film for Sony’s Spider-Man Universe franchise.


Regina King in Louis Vuitton at the 93rd Academy Awards.

We first think of Regina King as ‘the actor’, but we all need to show some respect for Regina King, ‘the director’. She made her directorial debut with the 2020 drama film One Night in Miami, and the film was met with widespread critical acclaim, earning her a Best Director award at the AAFCA Awards and a Best Director nomination at the Golden Globe Awards. The flick was also the first directed by an African-American woman that was selected to have its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September 2020. VBD-level stuff.


Nigerian-American Chinonye Chukwu is known for her impactful directing while bringing movies such as 2019’s Clemency and 2022’s Till, which brought the true story of Till-Mobley’s pursuit of justice following the 1955 lynching of her 14-year-old son Emmett Louis Till to the big screen. For the latter, she was most definitely robbed of the Best Director nomination at the Oscars. She has, however, been recognised by other institutions, such as the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and the Black Reel Awards.


Viola Davis and Gina Prince-Bythewood were snubbed for The Woman King.

Yes, Viola Davis was robbed for her portrayal in the historical action drama film The Woman King, but so was Gina Prince-Bythewood. The LA-born director, who was the first Black woman to direct a major comic-book film, The Old Guard, in 2020, was instead recognised for The Woman King with nominations from the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and the British Academy Film Awards. She will lend her writing talents to the upcoming drama film The Supremes At Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, starring Uzo Aduba and Aunjanue Ellis.

You may also like

This story of a mother’s fight for justice is the powerful event movie you need on your January agenda


Canadian director Megan Park made her feature film directorial debut with The Fallout, starring Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler. The movie, which centred on a high schooler who navigates through emotional trauma following a school shooting, had such an impact that it won three awards at the South by Southwest Film Festival.


After making her directorial film debut in 2007’s Unrelated, Joanna Hogg has delivered a stream of masterfully helmed movies, including Exhibition and The Souvenir. However, the gothic mystery drama, The Eternal Daughter, starring Tilda Swinton, earned her worldwide acclaim in 2022 and nabbed movie nominations at the British Independent Film Awards and the Independent Spirit Awards.


Ava DuVernay is a ridiculously talented filmmaker.

Ava Duvernay is pure talent, having directed award-winning television shows such as When They See Us and 13th, a powerful documentary about race in America. Her film work, such as 2018’s A Wrinkle in Time and historical drama Selma, is equally as impressive. The latter allowed her to become the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Picture. Due to her influence in the last decade, she was elected to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences board of governors as part of the directors’ branch in 2020.


Probably one of the most acclaimed directors of our time, Jane Campion is a master at creating powerful cinema, such as 2021’s The Power Of The Dog, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Director. Impressively, she was also the first female filmmaker to receive the Palme d’Or for The Piano. New Zealand native Jane is also the third woman to win the Directors Guild of America Award for Feature Film and was appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to film.


Chloé Zhao is a decorated director.

Chloé Zhao’s work in the western film Nomadland was so extraordinary that she won Best Director for it, making her the second woman and first woman of colour to win the honour. The movie also earned her Golden Globes and Directors Guild of America Awards accolades: not bad for her third-ever directing venture! She followed that up with 2021’s Marvel film Eternals and is most definitely the one to watch in the female directing space for the future.


If her work history is anything to go by, then Nia DaCosta is also one to watch for the future. She made her directorial debut in the 2018 crime thriller Little Women before directing Candyman, the sequel to the 1992 classic. Her achievements also include being the youngest filmmaker to direct a Marvel movie when she signed on the direct The Marvels, which will be released later this year.


We all know and love Maggie Gyllenhaal as an actor, but she proved she also had a good eye for directing with the 2021 movie The Lost Daughter, which premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, where she won the gong for Best Screenplay Award, as well as a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 94th Academy Awards. We cannot wait to see what project she directs next!

You may also like

The Lost Daughter: at the heart of Maggie Gyllenhaal’s psychodrama is the battle between good and evil


Sian Heder has directed several absolute gems, including 2016’s Tallulah, starring Elliot Page, and more recently, CODA, a film that follows the journey of a teen named Ruby, the only hearing member of a deaf family. Opening up to critical acclaim and taking over award season, CODA bagged Sian the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Images: Getty/A24

Source: Read Full Article