The Short List of the 8 Oscar-Nominated Women Directors

The 8 Oscar-Nominated Women Directors

In 96 editions of the Oscar, only eight women directors have been nominated. The statistics don’t lie, of the nearly 500 nominations in the best director category in Oscar history, only nine films have been directed by women, less than 2%, and of the 601 best picture nominees since 1929, only 22 have been directed by women. Men dominate these categories, but that doesn’t mean women aren’t doing brilliant work, they’re just being snubbed.

This year, women directors broke an Oscar record – Justine Triet (Anatomy of a Fall), Celine Song (Past Lives), and Greta Gerwig (Barbie) – all have their films in the Best Picture category. However, only Triet got a nomination in the directing category, continuing the trend of shutting out women.

This extremely slow pace of recognizing female talent behind the camera has contributed to many names being left out of the Oscars, such as Barbra Streisand (Yentl), Penny Marshall (Awakenings), Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry), Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), Ava DuVernay (Selma), Dee Rees (Mudbound), and the list goes on and on. The evident inequity in awards is linked to fewer opportunities for women as well: of the 116 highest-grossing directors in 2023, only 14 (12.1%) were women, among them, 3.4% women of color.

The numbers show a hard reality, a fact that you can count the number of women ever nominated for a directing Oscar on the fingers of your hands. The women directors on the following list have made history by breaking the nearly 100-year patterns of these awards, but they shouldn’t have to. There should be so, so many more of them.

Lina Wertmüller – Seven Beauties (1977)

Seven Beauties

After 49 editions, Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to be nominated for an Oscar for directing. She made history in achieving this feat with an Italian-language film that she produced and wrote as well. Seven Beauties, about an Italian man going through tragic events during World War II, has a bold style that shaped the career of Wertmüller, one of the most prominent international female directors. In addition to Best Director, Seven Beauties received three other Academy Award nominations: Best Actor, Best Foreign Film, and Best Original Screenplay, a clear appreciation of Wertmüller’s talent. She also worked as an assistant director for Federico Fellini and developed other productions such as The Seduction of Mimi (1972) and Love and Anarchy (1973).

Jane Campion – The Piano (1994)

The Piano

It took 17 years for the Academy to nominate another woman director. In addition to helming this drama about a mute pianist who moves to a remote area of New Zealand after an arranged marriage, Jane Campion also produced and wrote the original screenplay for which she won the Oscar. The New Zealand director’s feminist approach to exploring complex characters is also present in her other productions such as An Angel at My Table (1990), and Bright Star (2009). Her directing style makes the actors stand out – in The Piano, two of her actresses won Oscars, with Holly Hunter getting the Best Actress award and a young Anna Paquin winning Best Supporting Actress.

Sofia Coppola – Lost in Translation (2004)

Lost in Translation

At the 76th Academy Awards, the first American woman was nominated as one of the best directors of the year. Although in 2004 Sofia Coppola didn’t win the directing award, she took home the Oscar for best original screenplay for Lost in Translation, a story about two strangers who make an unexpected connection while feeling isolated in a foreign land. Coppola brings a sensitive style to her work, prominent in her other films such as The Virgin Suicides (1999) and The Beguiled (2017).

Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker (2010)

Hurt Locker

After 81 years of awards, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for directing and the first to have a Best Picture winner in her portfolio. The Hurt Locker, which follows a group of soldiers specializing in explosives during the Iraq war, has the powerful, visceral, emotionally intense style that characterizes Bigelow’s productions, such as Zero Dark Thirty (2012).

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird (2018)

Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut earned her an Oscar nomination. Her contribution to the film industry is marked by fresh, authentic stories, and powerful female-driven narratives. In addition to directing, Gerwig wrote the screenplay for this coming-of-age story starring Saoirse Ronan. Gerwig followed Lady Bird with Little Women (2019) and Barbie (2023), which triggered a lot of social media buzz by being left out in two major Academy Award categories including directing.

Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman (2021)

Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman was the feature directorial debut for Emerald Fennell, who is an actress, too. The story follows Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) on her journey of revenge after a sexual assault in her close circle. The British filmmaker is praised for her bold, provocative tone, originality, and ability to tackle relevant, controversial, and shocking social issues, which are present in her recent work as well, Saltburn (2023).

Chloé Zhao – Nomadland (2021)


The Academy Awards made history during its 93rd year with the second female director winner. That year, two women were nominated for the first time in the Best Director category, with Zhao being the first Asian woman and first woman of color to be nominated and to win the category. Chloé Zhao is known for her authentic, innovative, poetic, intimate, and moving approach in films such as The Rider (2017), Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015), and Nomadland, which follows a woman who adopts a nomadic style after losing everything in the Great Recession. Zhao achieved another all-time record at the 93rd Oscars: as a producer for Nomadland, she also won Best Picture, taking home two statuettes that night.

Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog (2022)

The Power of the Dog

Jane Campion is the first of the eight women directors to be nominated twice, the third to win this category, and the first to receive the award after another woman the previous year. The Power of the Dog is an introspective, dark drama that focuses on a family with complicated fraternal ties. Campion also won for adapted screenplay for this film, which was nominated in twelve categories.

Justine Triet – Anatomy of a Fall (2024)

Anatomy of a Fall

The French director also known for Victoria (2016), and Sibyl (2019) is the ninth woman to be nominated in the directing category for her film Anatomy of a Fall. The story that follows a woman accused of murdering her husband has an intense tone that characterizes the director. Although Anatomy of a Fall was not submitted by France for Best International Film, it received five Oscar nominations, including Best Screenplay for Triet.

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