Overlooked Directors: Female Storytellers to Note

by sarahyim | created - 05 Apr 2018 | updated - 16 Apr 2018 | Public

Often underrated creators that have weaved widely appreciated narratives of entertainment and craft.

Last updated: Apr-2018

1. Dee Rees

Director | Mudbound

Writer/Director Dee Rees is an alumna of New York University's graduate film program and a Sundance Screenwriting & Directing Lab Fellow.

In 2018, Dee became the first Black woman nominated for an Oscar in the Best Adapted Screenplay category for her highly-acclaimed film Mudbound (2017). The film, ...

Director & Writer, Pariah (2011)

2. Jennifer Kent

Director | The Babadook

Jennifer Kent was born in 1969 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. She is an actress and director, known for The Babadook (2014), The Nightingale (2018) and Monster (2005).

Director & Writer, The Babadook (2014).

3. Greta Gerwig

Writer | Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig is an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, and director. She has collaborated with Noah Baumbach on several films, including Greenberg (2010), Frances Ha (2012), for which she earned a Golden Globe nomination, and Mistress America (2015). Gerwig made her solo directorial debut ...

Director & Writer, Lady Bird (2017).

4. Jennifer Lee

Writer | Frozen

Jennifer Lee was born on October 22, 1971 in Barrington. Rhode Island, USA as Jennifer Michelle Rebecchi. She is known for her work on Frozen (2013), Frozen II (2019) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012).

Co-director & Screenwriter, Frozen (2013).

5. Ava DuVernay

Producer | Queen Sugar

A director, producer, writer, marketer and film distributor, Ava DuVernay made her feature film debut with the documentary This in the Life (2008), a history on hip hop movement that flourished in Los Angeles in the 1990's. This was followed by series of television music documentaries which ...

Director, I Will Follow (2010); Middle of Nowhere (2012); Selma (2014); 13th (2016); A Wrinkle in Time (2018).

6. Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Director | Kung Fu Panda 2

Jennifer Yuh Nelson was born on May 7, 1972 in South Korea. She is known for her work on Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), The Darkest Minds (2018) and Todd McFarlane's Spawn (1997).

Director, Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). Co-director, Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016).

7. Phyllida Lloyd

Director | Mamma Mia!

Phyllida Lloyd was born on June 17, 1957 in Bristol, England as Phyllida Christian Lloyd. She is known for her work on Mamma Mia! (2008), The Iron Lady (2011) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).

Director, Mamma Mia! (2008); The Iron Lady (2011).

8. Brenda Chapman

Writer | Brave

Brenda Chapman was born on November 1, 1962 in Beason, Illinois, USA. She is known for her work on Brave (2012), The Prince of Egypt (1998) and The Lion King (1994). She is married to Kevin Lima. They have one child.

Co-director, The Prince of Egypt (1998); Brave (2012).

9. Elizabeth Banks

Actress | The Hunger Games

Elizabeth Banks was born Elizabeth Mitchell in Pittsfield, a small city in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts near the New York border, on February 10, 1974. She is the daughter of Ann (Wallace), who worked in a bank, and Mark P. Mitchell, a factory worker. Elizabeth describes herself as ...

Director, Pitch Perfect 2 (2015).

10. Anne Fletcher

Director | The Proposal

Anne Fletcher was born on May 1, 1966 in Detroit, Michigan, USA. She is known for her work on The Proposal (2009), Step Up (2006) and Hairspray (2007).

Director, Step Up (2006); 27 Dresses (2008); The Proposal (2009).

11. Mary Harron

Director | American Psycho

Mary Harron (born January 12, 1953) is a Canadian filmmaker and screenwriter. She gained recognition for her role in writing and directing several independent films, including I Shot Andy Warhol (1996), American Psycho (2000), and The Notorious Bettie Page (2005). She co-wrote American Psycho and ...

Director, I Shot Andy Warhol (1996); American Psycho (2000); The Notorious Bettie Page (2005).

12. Vicky Jenson

Director | Shrek

Vicky Jenson's career spans more than two decades in both animation and live action, and crosses the spectrum from TV to feature films to shorts including a commercial campaign for Old Navy of more than 40 spots with Anonymous Content and was at that time the only female feature film director they ...

Co-director, Shrek (2001); Shark Tale (2004).

13. Lynne Ramsay

Director | You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay was born on December 5, 1969 in Glasgow, Strathclyde, Scotland. She is a director and writer, known for You Were Never Really Here (2017), We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) and Morvern Callar (2002). She was previously married to Rory Stewart Kinnear.

Director & Writer, Ratcatcher (1999). Director & Screenwriter, You Were Never Really Here (2017). Director & Co-screenwriter, Morvern Callar (2002); We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).

14. Clio Barnard

Director | The Selfish Giant

Clio Barnard is a director and writer, known for The Selfish Giant (2013), Dark River (2017) and The Arbor (2010).

Director & Writer, The Selfish Giant (2013); Dark River (2017).

15. Lynn Shelton

Director | Humpday

Lynn Shelton is a director and actress, known for Humpday (2009), Your Sister's Sister (2011) and Sword of Trust (2019).

Director & Writer, Humpday (2009); Your Sister's Sister (2011). Director & Co-writer, Outside In (2017). Director, Laggies (2014).

16. Jodie Foster

Actress | The Silence of the Lambs

Jodie Foster started her career at the age of two. For four years she made commercials and finally gave her debut as an actress in the TV series Mayberry R.F.D. (1968). In 1975 Jodie was offered the role of prostitute Iris Steensma in the movie Taxi Driver (1976). This role, for which she received ...

Director, Little Man Tate (1991); The Beaver (2011).

17. Lena Dunham

Writer | Tiny Furniture

New Yorker Lena Dunham is the daughter of a painter, Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, a designer and photographer. Dunham was educated at Oberlin College, Ohio, graduating with a creative writing degree. It was while at Oberlin that she began writing shorts and feature films. In 2009, Dunham ...

Director & Writer, Tiny Furniture (2010). Creator/Director/Writer, Girls (TV, 2012-2017).

18. Kathryn Bigelow

Director | The Hurt Locker

A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be ...

Director & Co-writer, Near Dark (1987). Director, Strange Days (1995); The Hurt Locker (2008); Zero Dark Thirty (2012); Detroit (2017).

19. Mimi Leder

Director | On the Basis of Sex

Mimi Leder was born on January 26, 1952 in New York City, New York, USA as Miriam Leder. She is a producer and director, known for On the Basis of Sex (2018), The Leftovers (2014) and Deep Impact (1998). She is married to Gary Werntz. They have one child.

Director, Deep Impact (1998); Pay It Forward (2000).

20. Amy Heckerling

Writer | Clueless

Amy Heckerling studied Film and TV at New York University and got a Masters Degree in Film from The American Film Institute. Despite this education she couldn't get a break in Hollywood. However, in 1982, she made Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), and people started to take notice. In 1985, ...

Director & Writer, Look Who's Talking (1989); Clueless (1995). Director, Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

21. Betty Thomas

Self | Howard Stern

Betty Thomas was born July 27, 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri, graduating from Ohio University with a BA in fine arts. Initially sidetracked, Betty first taught school in Chicago but found herself restricted and needing more of an open forum for self-expression than a classroom. She found herself drawn...

Director, Doctor Dolittle (1998); John Tucker Must Die (2006).

22. Chloé Zhao

Director | The Rider

Chloé Zhao or Zhao Ting (born March 31, 1982) is a Chinese film director, screenwriter, and producer. Her debut feature film, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015), premiered at Sundance Film Festival. Her second feature film, The Rider (2017), was critically acclaimed and received several accolades ...

Director & Writer, Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015); The Rider (2017).



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