5 Marleen Gorris
Marleen Gorris is a Dutch filmmaker who is an outspoken feminist and supporter of gay and lesbian rights, which is reflected in her work. In “Antonia’s Line,” which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996, she tells the story of a mother and daughter who find an all-female, matriarchal community and spend their lives independently, without ever marrying. Although some have accused Gorris’ films of being unsubtle and lacking depth, her work continues to be popular and focus on the stories of women, as in 1997’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and “Within the Whirlwind.”
4 Lina Wertmüller
Italian-born Lina Wertmüller was the first woman ever nominated for an Academy Award in directing, for 1975’s “Seven Beauties.” She’s best known for taking the themes from Italian comedy and using them to create tragicomic polemics against social, cultural and sexual inequalities. This was most certainly true of “Seven Beauties,” about a wily Sicilian who tries to charm his way out of a Nazi prison camp, with little success. Though her most famous films were created in the 1970s in collaboration with Giancarlo Giannini, she was still directing and acting as of 2013.
3 Jane Campion
New Zealand director Jane Campion’s most famous film is “The Piano,” for which she earned an Academy Award nomination for best director, as well as the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or. Campion’s films are about women who struggle to conform to societal expectations and what happens when they cannot or will not follow convention. Her style has been called a blend of surrealism and naturalism, tragedy and comedy. Some of her other acclaimed films are “Holy Smoke,” “In the Cut” and “Bright Star.”
2 Sofia Coppola
Daughter of famous director Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola wanted to be a painter, but switched to photography in college. From there, it was a small leap into directing. Coppola was nominated for best director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2003 for “Lost in Translation.” She also received critical acclaim for “The Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette.” Her films are mainly about teenagers or adults in transition, and the separation between what people experience for themselves and what they perceive of other people’s lives.
1 Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to ever win an Academy Award for Best Director, for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010. Her first career was as a painter in New York City in the 1970s. In the 1980s, she switched to directing with her first feature film, “The Loveless.” Bigelow is also known for action films such as “Point Break,” “Strange Days” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” which won the Academy Award for best picture in 2012 and exemplifies her stripped-down, documentarian style.