Women in Hollywood: Oscar Winning Directors

4 Jan

Welcome to the 4th. article in our five week series on Women in Hollywood.

By Ozzie

Since the first Academy Awards ceremony back in 1929, only four women have been nominated for best director and only one woman has won the award out of those four.

The first female nominee was Lina Wertmuller[1] in 1977 for her film Seven Beauties[2] which was spoken in Italian. In total, the movie was nominated for four awards (Best Director, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Original Screenplay) however it lost out to Sidney Lumet’s Network[3] and Jean-Jacques Annaud’s Noirs et blancs en couleur.[4]

The next nomination was seventeen years later when Jane Campion[5] was nominated for her film The Piano[6] in 1994. It won three Oscars (Best Actress, Holly Hunter and Best Supporting Actress, Anna Paquin) including one for Jane herself for Best Writing. It also had five more nominations, including Best Director, but it lost out to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (Best Director, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Picture)[7] and Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (Best Costume Design).[8]

Sofia Coppola[9] was the third woman in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Director. In 2004 her film, Lost in Translation,[10] was up for four awards.  It lost three nominations to Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Best Picture and Best Director)[11] and Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River (Best Actor, Sean Penn).[12] However, Sofia did win Best Original Screenplay.

Finally, in 2010, a woman finally won Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow’s  The Hurt Locker was up for nine categories! It only lost out to three awards, Best Actor (Jeff Bridges in Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart ), Best Original Score (Peter Docter and Bob Peterson’s Up ) and Best Cinematography, which ironically, went to her ex-husband James Cameron, for his film AvatarThe Hurt Locker won the awards for Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture and Best Director.

Despite having only four female nominees for Best Director, there have been other films directed by women (another 7 in total), that have had nominations in other categories. Randa Haines’ Children of a Lesser God was nominated in five categories (winning Best Leading Actress for Marlee Matlin). Penny Marshall’s Awakenings was nominated for three awards but won none. Barbra Streisand’s The Prince of Tides was up for seven awards but also won none. Valerie Faris’ Little Miss Sunshine (co-directed with Jonathon Dayton) was nominated for four awards and won two (Best Supporting Actor for Alan Arkin and Best Original Screenplay). Lone Scherfig’s An Education was nominated for three categories but won none. The last two of the seven women, were nominated for the 2011 awards. Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right  was nominated for four categories but won none and Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone  was also up for four awards but again won none.

Also there have been twelve female directors (thirteen if you include Lina Wertmuller) whose films have been nominated for Best Foreign Film category. The first nomination was in 1960 (Paw), seventeen years before the first female Best Director nomination. Also two of these directors have had two films each nominated for Best Foreign Film. Those that have been nominated are Astrid Henning-Jensen’s Paw, Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties, Diane Kurys’ At First Sight,  Maria Luisa Bemberg’s Camila, Coline Serreau’s Three Men and a Cradle,  Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay,  Nana Dzhordzhadze’s A Chef in Love, Agnes Jaoui’s The Taste of Others,  Caroline Link’s Beyond Silence,  Christina Comencini’s Don’t Tell,  Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow, and Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding.   There has been three winners in this category too. They are Marleen Gorris’ Antonia,  Caroline Link’s Nowhere in Africa  (her second nominated film) and Susanne Bier’s In a Better World(also her second nominated film).

So in 82 year history of the Academy Awards (or in the 83 ceremonies as it had two ceremonies in 1930 Academy_Award ), only 23 female directors have had their films nominated. So what about this year’s? There are nine films with female directors eligible for nomination. They are Sarah Smith’s Arthur Christmas (co-directed with Barry Cook), Angelina Jolie’s In the Land o Blood and Honey,  Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground,  Jennifer Yuh’s Kung Fu Panda, Dee Rees’ Pariah, Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady, Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower, Madonna’s W.E.  and Lynne Ramsay’sWe Need to Talk About Kevin. Here at L.I.H. we’ll be waiting with bated breath for the 24th of January, when the nominations are announced, to see if any female directors are selected!

Please join us for a discussion on Thursday 1/5/2012@7pmE/12UTC

23 Responses to “Women in Hollywood: Oscar Winning Directors”

  1. littlebells January 4, 2012 at 11:13 AM #

    Excellent, excellent, excellent!!!! Great info, Ozzie. It’s nice to see more women directing and getting nominations. May the best woman win!!

  2. Comic Relief January 5, 2012 at 6:49 PM #

    Great research Ozzie!!! Career wise, seems like a lot of female heavy hitters may have a game changing year.

  3. littlebells January 5, 2012 at 7:07 PM #

    I’m going to be a little late. 🙂

  4. ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 7:14 PM #

    Thank you LB and CR!

  5. Open Book January 5, 2012 at 7:26 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    I’m here. Sorry I’m late Oz…

    • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

      No problem OB. I fell asleep early today. I woke up about an hour ago because I suddenly remembered there was a discussion tonight. So it’s giving me time to wake up, lol!

      • Open Book January 5, 2012 at 7:50 PM #

        LOL!! Great!

        It’s fantastic to see the scope of films women have directed in your article. That’s why it’s so sad to know out of all these women u can count the number of nominations on one hand. That is sad.

        • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

          Yes, it is sad.

  6. Littlebells January 5, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

    Hi everyone!


    What did you find the most interesting in your research?

    • Open Book January 5, 2012 at 7:52 PM #

      Great Q LB!

      Oh! I’m working on your other bombastic Q from yesterday. LOL!!

      • Littlebells January 5, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

        hahahaha!!! 🙂

    • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

      Well the fact that there’s only ever been four female director nominees didn’t surprise me but finding out there have been many female directed films up other awards did kind of surprise me. I assumed the number would of films be around the same for for the other awards but I was pleasently surprised to see that there were many more. What I also found interesting was that foreign films were slightly ahead of domestic film in terms of nominations (one or two extra, I think) and has had another two female winners. Why that is I do not know but that is what I found interesting!

      • Littlebells January 5, 2012 at 8:02 PM #

        Do you think there is a bit greater appreciation for female directors internationally?

      • Open Book January 5, 2012 at 8:05 PM #


        Perhaps there are more female foreign film directors than in the US?

        • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

          Yes, there could be more. Maybe the foreign film figures are slightly higher because they too are a minority and less competitive when it comes to gender?

  7. Littlebells January 5, 2012 at 8:06 PM #

    I think Jane Campion’s The Piano had quite some competition because Schindler’s List and The Age of Innocence were great films as well. The fact that she was nominated for her amazing film is outstanding.

    what films for 2012 have female director’s?

    • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 8:32 PM #

      There’s Arthur Christmas, In the Land of Blood and Honey, W.E., Higher Ground, Kung Fu Panda, Pariah, The Iron Lady, The whistleblower and we need to talk about Kevin. There’s probably more but the list was very long and I didn’t have time to go and check (it doesn’t say who the director is of each film). So I checked the movies that had oscar talk about them to see if they had female directors and if they could possibly be nominated.

      Here is the Oscars’ page with eligible films for this years possible nominees. We just have to wait and see if any of the films mentioned are actually nominated.

      • Littlebells January 5, 2012 at 8:37 PM #

        Duh! 🙂 Sorry, ignore my sleep deprived question. You included these in your article! hahahaha!!!

        • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 9:00 PM #

          No worries, LB! I wanted to post that link anyway, lol!

  8. Open Book January 5, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

    Ozzie! Great article.

    I have to go now…. However, I will check back later.

    Goodnight everyone….

    • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 8:33 PM #

      No problem OB! 🙂

  9. Littlebells January 5, 2012 at 8:22 PM #


    a little off topic, but why genre of films seems to be the most popular around the UK or internationally for that matter? Outside of American films, what movies are considered Blockbuster in the foreign film world?

    • ozzie20 January 5, 2012 at 8:58 PM #

      Good questions! I really don’t have a vast knowledge of foreign films but I have seen a few of the ones that have had major buzz about them. Genre wise, the most I’ve seen have been of the action and/or romance type but I have seen a couple of drama, crime or supernatural ones.

      Second question, just a few off the top of my head, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Draggon (I’m sure this one was nominated for best film in it’s Oscar year. I remember the press anyway), The house of flying Daggers, La Vie en Rose (another film that was at the Oscars. I think Marion Cotillard won best actress for her role in this), Monsoon Wedding (I haven’t seen this one yet but I love the soundtrack. Not nominated for an Oscar but it was directed by Mira Nair, who’s film Salaam Bombay was nominated for best foreign film). There’s the Millenium Trillology (The Girl with the Dragon tattoo, etc. Obviously the American adaptation of the books has just been released!), Let the Right One In, East is East……… I’m sure I’ve seen and know of more but my mind has gone blank, lol!

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