I have comprised this list in order, from the filmmakers that have paved the way and knocked down barriers to the up and coming visionaries shaking up the game for the future of female. Now not every name on this list has actually had the title of director, but I feel if you wrote, produced, and are there to coordinate every day on set that counts as a filmmaker in my eyes. So keep reading for the full list of my favorite female filmmakers.
1. Betty Thomas
A true OG of the game,working in almost every facet of production, who has brought of some of the classics in American film. Working with some of the greatest actors, including Eddie Murphy, twice, in I Spy and in Doctor Doolittle, the audacity one must have to direct the legendary comedy king. She has also held the reigns on some of my childhood favorite feel good movies, including The Brady Bunch Movie, and John Tucker Must Die. Along with being an executive producer and actress on a slew of other favorites that is just too long of a list to name. Betty has carved a reputation that has really put her in a league of her own.
2. Neema Barnette
I admit it, and I ashamed that I did not know about Neema before writing this list. A pioneer in the game for all women directors and producers. At the helm of some of the most culturally important television shows such as The Cosby Show and A Different World, just a couple of my favorite shows. And now, at almost 69 breaking down doors as a director on shows like Queen Sugar, Being Mary Jane, Luke Cage, and Love Is. Proving there is no stopping the eye of a pro.
3. Amy Heckerling
Writer and director that brought use the 90's mainstay Clueless. That could be all I mention of her filmography and that would be enough to include her in my top 10 list. However, it must be mentioned that Amy is the sole proprietor that has given us the genre that is high school movies; one of my favorite guilty pleasure genres. Creator of the legendary film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the prototype of all high school movies that have came after it. Not to mention the mastermind behind Looks Who Talking, the idea coming to her while pregnant, brilliant. As well as fan favorites that include, Loser, and TV shows like Gossip Girl and The Carrie Diaries. How else could I thank Amy for all that she has done.
4. Catherin Hardwicke
There are those certain movies that you love so much that you have to watch them again every few years. For me, recently Lords of Dogtown was it for me, I finally was able to find it on a streaming platform and to my surprise, when it displayed the name of the director, it was that of a woman. Catherine’s films are staples in the industry. In her first indie hit, Thirteen gave us rouge filming like never seen before and has influenced many movies we see today. As well as the vampire hit Twilight, and a few cutting edge TV shows.
5. Karen Kusama
As mentioned in my Top 10 Favorite Women Heroes That are Not Wonder Woman blog post, growing up Michelle Rodriquez was a huge inspiration to me, almost like my idol through my middle school and high school years. In her acting debut in GirlFight, had the must influence on me than any of her other films. Written and directed by female filmmaker Karen Kusama. Not only did she discover Michelle for Girlfight, it was also her first feature length film as a director. Where she able to accurately and authentically portray the misunderstandings of a tomboy girl trying to fight and win, figuratively and literally in a male dominated world. Karen was my first introduction of the possibility that female filmmakers are able win on this platform by staying true to real women characters.
6. Patty Jenkins
Two words, Wonder Woman. This epic, female empowerment was executed perfectly by Patty on a scale that many aspiring female filmmakers thought wouldn't be achievable. I am so glad the studio heads over at Warner Brothers decided to have a woman director take the reigns on this story, and they chose well with Patty Jenkins. It is evident that her vision is clear and her ability to accurately portray women characters is strong as seen in her other work, like the Oscar winning film Monster.
7. Diablo Cody
The surprise indie hit of Juno during my senior year of high school as I was being propelled into to college in pursuit of education for my film career, was just the inspo I needed. A young, quirky writer that was able to relate to so many facets of people we didn’t even know was missing from Hollywood. A niche she perfected and others after tried to duplicate. Her woman lead films is what we need more of and I know she has so much more up her sleeve to bless us with.
8. Tina Fey
Ok so she has never ever really directed something before, but I don’t care I am still putting this Goddess on this list. This two-time Golden Globes winner has made a mark with her work, writing and producing some of the best movies and television shows as well as acting in them. A true boss in the industry and worked her way to be perceived as an even player in the field amongst the best. Bringing the gold that is Mean Girls and 30 Rock, which will go down in history as the best written work to be portrayed on screen, in my opinion.
9. Elizabeth Meriwether
Clever ain’t the word, this woman’s writing skills slays us all. If you ever seen New Girl you know, whether you’re a girl, guy, young or old it's easy to love and laugh to this hilarious show. Creator, writer, director of a few episodes and even actress brings a breath of fresh air to writing, female characters, and ensemble cast's. Bravo, can’t wait to see more work from Liz.
10. Sydney Freeland
A few months back I stumbled upon the movie Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, a Netflix original film that just won my heart. Partly because the two lead actors are young black women but also the storyline was so unbelievably enduring. A highly relatable story that has never been told through this perspective before, and one Hollywood Studios would never have the guts to produce and fund, thank you Netflix! The up and coming director beautifully executed this film and I can’t wait to see the future of Sydney's work.