Women’s History Month has brought long ado attention to female excellence in male-dominated fields. The film industry is no exception. Despite the recent surge in female-driven box office success stories, such as “Little Women” in 2019 and “Wonder Woman” in 2017, female directors remain small fish in an ocean dominated by their male counterparts. A quick search for “famous directors” on Google will prove this point — it takes two or three clicks before any female faces are revealed alongside a seemingly infinite list of men.
Bearing this in mind, now seems like an appropriate time to shine the directorial spotlight on some of the many hardworking women populating the modern film industry. Here is a list of some of the best female directors in the industry today:
In 2012, Ava DuVernay became the first Black woman to receive the best director award in the dramatic competition category of the Sundance Film Festival, with her film “Middle of Nowhere.” Some of her more recent and recognizable works include “Selma” and “13th,” both of which paint vivid pictures of America’s history of racial inequality. Maintaining this progressive spirit, almost all of her films feature a majority of Black actors, which offers a refreshing divergence from typical Hollywood cast lists. Even more recent is her collaboration with Disney for the star-studded film adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time” in 2018.
Greta Gerwig made household name status after the release of “Little Women” in 2019, which accrued several Oscar nominations and one win for best costume design. This marked Gerwig’s second time collaborating with both Saorise Ronan and Timothée Chalamet, who gained much popularity after starring in her 2017 film “Lady Bird,” another award-winning project that earned the Golden Globe award for best motion picture in 2018.
The Coppola name is one well known to veterans of the film industry. As the daughter of “The Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola, she received an early introduction to cinema through background acting roles in her father’s films. As is typical with children of celebrities, her early career was plagued by claims of nepotism and criticism as a result. She managed to make a name for herself out of her own merit, however, after her 1999 feature film adaptation of “The Virgin Suicides” gained notoriety at Sundance Film Festival that year. She has been credited for establishing the pattern in which female directors are considered not only for best director awards but additionally for best original screenplay after she earned both awards at the 2003 Oscars for “Lost in Translation.”
Patty Jenkins, the first-ever female director of a U.S. studio superhero movie, is most widely known for directing the wildly popular “Wonder Woman.” Earning over $800 million worldwide, “Wonder Woman” broke the record held by “Mamma Mia!” for the highest-grossing film directed by a woman. She went on to direct “Wonder Woman 1984,” which was released earlier this year and currently available for streaming. Jenkins announced in 2020 that she will be making a return to the franchise with a third installment sometime soon.
The Wachowski sisters
Lana and Lily Wachowski are transgender women who have led remarkable careers in spite of Hollywood’s transphobia and sexism. The sisters rose to prominence with their landmark sci-fi film “The Matrix” in 1999 and its sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.” Additionally, it has been revealed that Lana is currently in the process of directing the fourth installment to the franchise, which is set to be released later this year. Aside from The Matrix films, they are known for their collaborative directing of the popular films “V for Vendetta” and “Speed Racer,” among others.
With the release of “Birds of Prey” in 2020, Cathy Yan followed in the footsteps of Patty Jenkins to become the second-ever female director within the DC franchise and the first Asian American woman to direct an American studio superhero film. This occurred just four years after Yan earned her producing Master’s of Fine Arts from NYU Tisch and two years after her 2018 Sundance Film Festival debut “Dead Pigs,” which currently bears a 96 percent “fresh” rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes. Having quickly landed such a massive directing credit with “Birds of Prey,” it is certain that Yan will be a director to watch out for in the future of the Hollywood industry.