Boys Don’t Cry – Kimberly Peirce (1967-) Kimberly Peirce was writing her college film thesis about a female soldier dressed in drag during the American Civil War when she read an article about Brandon Teena. Teena was a transgender male who was murdered after locals in his small Nebraska town found out about his gender history. Peirce shifted her thesis and created a short film about Brandon Teena, interviewing his family members and residents of the town, and attending the murder trial of the suspects. Peirce’s short film was so well-received that it was made into a full-length feature film. Boys Don’t Cry wowed critics and won several awards, including an Academy Award for Hilary Swank, who played Teena. Boys Don’t Cry - Kimberly Peirce (1967-) Image courtesy of IMDb Clueless – Amy Heckerling (1954-) Amy Heckerling is one of the most successful female film directors of our time, making her mark early in her career with Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Her most successful film, Clueless, which she wrote and directed, was her favorite. In casting her movies she looked for the actor that would perfectly embody her vision for the part, and, by casting relatively unknown or new actors in her movie roles, she often jumpstarted their careers. She herself fought for her place in the film world. In an interview for IndieWire with Kate Erbland, she said, “The world’s always going to tell you no. You need that little voice inside you that goes, ‘Smack them off!’ ” About being a female director she said, “It’s, what is it, Ginger Rogers? ‘You can’t just dance with Fred Astaire, you’ve got to do it in a long dress and high heels and backwards.” Clueless - Amy Heckerling (1954-) Sam Aronov | Shutterstock.com 16 Phenomenal Movies  Directed by Women 16 Phenomenal Movies Directed by Women Citizenfour – Laura Poitras (1964-) In 2013 Laura Poitras received encrypted emails promising revelations of secret United States government surveillance. She flew with reporter Glenn Greenwald to Hong Kong to meet whistleblower Edward Snowden. The events that transpired became her Academy Award winning documentary Citizenfour. Poitras filmed Snowden in a Hong Kong hotel for nearly a month. When she suspected she was being followed she left Hong Kong for Berlin. In fear that the footage would be lost in the United States, Poitras edited the footage in Berlin until it was ready for release at the New York Film Festival in 2014. The Guardian and The Washington Post jointly received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2014, for their coverage of Snowdon's part in leaking secret documents, revealing the scope of the NSA's surveillance program, which was featured in CitizenFour. Citizenfour - Laura Poitras (1964-) Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com Billy Madison – Tamra Davis (1962-) Tamra Davis began working in film while participating in an apprenticeship at production studio American Zoetrope, where they were working on Francis Ford Coppola’s film, One From the Heart. It was Coppola himself who suggested Davis attend college. After graduating from Los Angeles City College, Davis built her reputation directing creative and edgy music videos for popular bands including Black Flag, Sonic Youth, and N.W.A. She has directed eight films, her biggest commercial success being the 1995 film Billy Madison. In spite of receiving mostly scathing reviews, Billy Madison developed a cult following. Billy Madison - Tamra Davis (1962-) Visiting Filmmaker Tamra Davis | Wexner Center for the Arts | The Ohio State University | Photo: Jay LaPrete Green Street Hooligans – Lexi Alexander Lexi Alexander was born in Germany but dreamed of moving to Hollywood when she was young. A karate and kickboxing world champion, Alexander attended a karate competition in Los Angeles at age 19, and decided to stay. She worked in films as a stunt woman and took film classes at UCLA. In 2005, Odd Lot Entertainment picked up Alexander’s screenplay about football hooliganism in East London, England, Green Street Hooligans, which she directed. Although it did not achieve widespread approval from critics, the movie is greatly adored by soccer fans around the world. Alexander is an outspoken advocate of gender equality in the film industry. Green Street Hooligans - Lexi Alexander Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com Unbroken – Angelina Jolie As an actress, Angelina Jolie has won numerous awards, including an Academy Award and three Golden Globes. She has also devoted her life to humanitarian work, gaining international recognition for her work on education, women’s rights, and advocacy for refugees. More recently, directing has become her passion. Jolie began writing and directing films in 2011 with In the Land of Bread and Honey. Her 2014 movie, Unbroken, is the story of US Olympian Louis Zamperini, who survives on a raft for 47 days after his bomber crashes, and is then captured by the Japanese and sent to prisoner of war camps, where he endures years of torture and deprivation. The film was a passion project for Jolie. "I felt, as a human being, I need to walk in this man's footsteps," she said in an interview in The Hollywood Reporter, "I wanted to understand what it is to become a better person and survive against these odds." Unbroken grossed $163 million worldwide. Unbroken - Angelina Jolie Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com The Babadook – Jennifer Kent Jennifer Kent grew up in Brisbane, Australia where she frequently wrote and performed plays during her childhood. She pursued acting in her late teens because she “wasn’t really aware at that stage that women could direct films.” In her first feature film, the psychological thriller The Babadook, she told the story of facing the darkness in ourselves. Although the film wasn’t well received in her native Australia, it was highly successful in North America and Europe and gained a cult following. The critic Glenn Kenny said in his review, “So impressed was I by “The Babadook” that upon seeing it I tweeted that I thought it might be the first capital-G “Great” horror movie of the 21st Century…” The Babadook - Jennifer Kent Photo by Camille Griner Cropped by Pryme (original version) - Flickr The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow Kathryn Bigelow has been directing, producing, and writing films since the late 1970s. Her films have included Western, horror, science fiction, and action genres. Bigleow made history with The Hurt Locker, becoming the first woman to ever win the Academy Award for Best Director. She went on to showcase the decade-long hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty. The Hurt Locker - Kathryn Bigelow Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com Lost in Translation – Sofia Coppola Sofia Coppola is no stranger to the film industry. Her father, the famous director, Francis Ford Coppola, directed The Godfather trilogy. Fighting rumors of nepotism, Sofia Coppola became a successful director in her own right. She adapted the 1993 novel, The Virgin Suicides, into a critically acclaimed film. With the momentum and success of her first feature film, Sofia Coppola went on to write, direct, and produce the drama, Lost in Translation, earning her an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Lost in Translation - Sofia Coppola Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com Little Miss Sunshine – Valerie Faris Since the early 1990’s, Valerie Faris has directed documentaries, music videos, and films with her husband, Jonathan Dayton. They have made videos for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Oasis, the Beastie Boys, and R.E.M. After working on an HBO sketch series, and creating product commercials for companies like Volkswagen, GAP, and Apple, the couple turned to feature films. Little Miss Sunshine took five years to make and was released in 2006. It quickly became a fan favorite and earned four Academy Award nominations and two wins: Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor. Little Miss Sunshine - Valerie Faris Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com Bend It Like Beckham – Gurinder Chadha Gurinder Chadha was born in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1960 when it was still a British colony. Her family moved to West London when she was a young child. Many of her films included the theme of balancing the dual and sometimes conflicting cultures of one’s family and of the country in which one lives. Bend It Like Beckham, released in 2002, was the story of Jesminder, the daughter of Punjabi Sikhs, who follows her passion for soccer against her parents wishes. Through her determination, her parents gradually become more accepting of women in sports. Bend It Like Beckham, grossing over $76 million, was a critical and commercial success and won numerous awards and commendations worldwide. Chadha said that, because of her film, Indian girls in sports are facing less oppression from their families. In 2015, the film was adapted as a musical which opened at the Phoenix Theater in London. Bend It Like Beckham - Gurinder Chadha Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com Big – Penny Marshall Penny Marshall is no small name in Hollywood. She began her acting career with supporting roles in numerous television shows, among them The Odd Couple and Mary Tyler Moore. In 1976 she won the lead role of Laverne in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran until 1983, and for which she was nominated three times for a Golden Globe award. She went on to direct feature films. Her second film Big, in 1988, became the first film directed by a female to gross over $100 million. She directed Awakenings in 1990, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture, A League of Our Own in 1992, and The Preacher’s Wife in 1996. Big - Penny Marshall Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com Shrek – Vicki Jenson Vicki Jenson worked her way up from humble beginnings in the animation world. Her first job was as a “cell painter”, painting backgrounds for shows like the Flintstones, and The Smurfs, then became a storyboard artist, developing her signature style. When Shrek was released in 2001, it was praised for its advances in animation and technology. The film grossed over $484 million worldwide and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. About becoming a director, Jensen said in an interview with Animation Magazine, “I came into DreamWorks looking to direct. I was hoping to go through story as a way toward directing, because that’s how it worked at Disney: story people became heads of story, and heads of story became directors.” Shrek - Vicki Jenson Image courtesy of IMDb Wayne’s World – Penelope Spheeris (1945-) Penelope Spheeris is a writer, producer, and director of film and television, directing and producing her first punk rock documentary feature film, The Decline of Western Civilization in 1981. It won such critical acclaim, that it was followed in 1988 by The Decline of Western Civilization, part II and The Decline of Western Civilization, part III in 1998. In 1992, Spheeris directed the popular and hugely successful comedy, Wayne’s World, based on a series of Mike Myer’s skits from Saturday Night Live. The Wayne’s World music video, Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which Spheeris also directed, was nominated for a Grammy. Wayne’s World - Penelope Spheeris (1945-) s_bukley / Shutterstock.com Prince of Egypt – Brenda Chapman (1962-) Brenda Chapman began as an animator, working as a story artist on several Disney animated films, such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Rescuers Down Under. With Prince of Egypt, Chapman made history by becoming the first woman to co-direct a major animated feature. She would later go on to co-direct the critically acclaimed story of a fiery Scottish princess, in Brave, for which she was the first women ever to win an Academy Award. Prince of Egypt - Brenda Chapman (1962-) Pixar image © Disney/Pixar, and used under fair use. American Psycho – Mary Harron (1953-) Having had a lifelong interest in film, Mary Harron began as a music documentary filmmaker. She came to film directing at the age of 43 with her first feature, I Shot Andy Warhol. The 2000 film American Psycho became Harron’s most successful, developing a cult following. Harron’s satirical films were often controversial for their difficult content; American Psycho was initially criticized for its violence against women. In a 2015 interview with Dazed, Harron herself describes American Psycho, “I very much think (American Psycho is) a feminist film. It’s a satire about how men compete with each other and how in this hyper-real universe we created, women are even less important than your tan or your suit or where you summer. And to me even though the women are all sort of tragic and killed, it’s about how men perceive and treat them.” American Psycho - Mary Harron (1953-) Massimiliano Marino / Shutterstock.com Sleepless in Seattle – Nora Ephron (1941-2012) Nora Ephron was brilliant, witty, and original. A journalist, playwright, author, screenwriter, and producer, she lent her talents to directing as well, directing such hits as Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail, for which she also wrote the screenplays. She wrote screenplays for at least 12 other feature films, some of which she also directed and produced. She was nominated three times for an Academy Award, won numerous other awards, including the BAFTA award, and posthumously a Tony Award. In a Rolling Stones article from 1993, Ephron explains that the hardest part about being a female director is becoming one. Sleepless in Seattle - Nora Ephron (1941-2012) Jaguar PS / Shutterstock.com
[/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1472333055574{padding-right: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;}”][vc_column width=”2/3″ css=”.vc_custom_1474322308789{margin-top: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text]According to a 2014 study from The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, there are five men to every woman in the film industry.

In 2015, Dr. Martha Lauzen, author of a study labeled The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2014, found that women have directed just 7% (17) of the top 250 grossing films of 2014. According to Forbes, the top ten highest paid actresses made $181 million combined while the top ten highest paid actors received $465 million.

While the fight for gender equality in media continues, we cannot lose sight of the strides women have made thus far in film. 2016 has seen progress with films like female action comedy Ghostbusters, female led animation film Finding Dory, and female adapted screenplay Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Considering what women accomplish in the driver’s seat, let’s hope we get more gas in the tank.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″ css=”.vc_custom_1474322329332{margin-top: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”Culture” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Cinzel%3Aregular%2C700%2C900|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal” el_class=”sidebar-heading”][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”avada-custom-sidebar-culturelist” el_class=”headline-list-column”][/vc_column][/vc_row]