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13 Female Filmmakers Who Are Ready To Direct A Blockbuster

13 Female Filmmakers Who Are Ready To Direct A Blockbuster

Emily Carmichael, a filmmaker who has made several critically acclaimed shorts, has been tapped by Colin Trevorrow and Steven Spielberg to write and direct a family action pic, “Powerhouse.” Both she and Elizabeth Wood, who made her feature debut at Sundance 2016 with “White Girl,” are among those being mentioned to direct “Captain Marvel.”

To which we say, Damn straight. 

At this point, it shouldn’t be all that newsworthy when a studio entrusts a relatively new director with a blockbuster. Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) proved with it “Jurassic World,” as did Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”) with “Creed” and James Gunn (“Super”) with “Guardians of the Galaxy.” It’s clear: Give the newer guy a shot at the big leagues and he can do even better than his veteran counterparts. 

And it wouldn’t be news, except for the pronoun problem: None of these rookies were women. Of course, you could also argue that’s unsurprising because, really, how many blockbusters do women direct at all? (Don’t get us started.) But now we’re seeing movement in that direction. In addition to these announcements, recent weeks have seen Ava DuVernay directing “A Wrinkle in Time” and Marielle Heller (“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”) attached to the J.J.Abrams fantasy thriller “Kolma.”

You can’t read too much into these developments; by the DGA’s last count, women direct only 6.4% of all features. Still, we want to see the momentum continue — and there’s no shortage of candidates. “I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason as to who can direct blockbusters,” said Destri Martino, founder of The Director List, an online database of more than 1,000 female filmmakers. “We see men come from so many backgrounds and go on to direct blockbusters.”

So here’s our picks for female filmmakers who should direct the next blockbuster. This list is by no means exhaustive; happily, it can’t be. There’s just too many women to choose from. 

Sarah Polley


If no one gives Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley her own sweeping, big-budget romance (historical would be cool, but it’s not necessary), the world truly is a cruel and unfeeling place. Polley’s got a knack for using hard-won human emotion to tell deeply felt stories without slipping into cliche or melodrama. That much was clear out of the gate, thanks to her 2006 drama “Away From Her,” which translated the trauma of Alzheimer’s to the big screen with grace and respect, good enough to earn both Polley and her leading lady Julie Christie Oscar nods. She did it again in 2011 with the marital drama “Take This Waltz,” which features what is quite possibly the most criminally underrated Seth Rogen performance ever. The next year, Polley turned her camera on herself (and her family) for the stunning documentary “Stories We Tell,” which only strengthened her place as one of contemporary cinema’s most adept purveyors of cinematic emotion. Polley doesn’t need an action franchise or a superhero film; she can get emotional firepower out of deeper material, hopefully some bolstered by the kind of studio backing that could afford her a massive budget and huge stars. – Kate Erbland

Amma Asante

British screenwriter and director Amma Asante is on a roll right now, translating the success of her breakout 2013 period romance “Belle” into making the upcoming awards contender “A United Kingdom,” starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Could a blockbuster be next? It damn well should be. Asante knows the human spirit inside and out, and while her films balance traditional elements of romance and politics, they never neglect the characters at their core. She tells human stories wrapped up in the visage of gorgeous period dramas, balancing budgets like $10 million to tell an emotional character study. More big-budget fare could use the kind of care for character development that Asante brings to each project. With each new movie, she’s tackled a larger budget and more ambitious sets and storylines, so it’s only natural for Asante to continue to climb the ranks and get the keys to a blockbuster. She’ll be ready when Hollywood finally comes knocking. – Zack Sharf

READ MORE: Cannes 2016: Here’s 11 Movies By Female Filmmakers That Should Have Been at the Festival (Girl Talk)

Lesli Linka Glatter

An Oscar and Emmy nominee who’s directed everything from “The Walking Dead” to “Justified,” Lesli Linka Glatter is easily one of the most qualified directors in Hollywood, no matter the project. Glatter worked in TV for years before making the classic coming-of age drama “Now & Then,” then went on to dominate TV for the last two decades. Her considerable talents have been verified not only by her regular presence at award ceremonies but by her peers’ overwhelming respect for her within the industry. (She’s even receiving the AFI Alumni Award this year.) Her most obvious and recent project — the Showtime awards darling “Homeland,” for which she serves as showrunning director and executive producer — is what makes her an easy choice to helm any blockbuster she chooses. Just look to recent extravagant undertakings like “From A to B and Back Again” and “The Tradition of Hospitality” for evidence. But it’s her deep-rooted knowledge in story paired with her double-duty in the fast-moving world of television that really sets her apart. She can handle anything thrown her way, so if she wants to direct a major motion picture, you’d be a fool to try and stop her. – Ben Travers

Leslye Headland

The R-rated comedy has become one of the most profitable genres on the market, but it’s been completely dominated by male filmmakers for quite some time now, from Judd Apatow to Seth Rogen, Paul Feig, Nicholas Stoller and Todd Phillips. It’s about time a woman disrupts the comedy blockbuster boys club, and who better than the raunchy Leslye Headland? With two dynamite indie comedies under her belt (“Bachelorette” and “Sleeping With Other People”), Headland has proved that she’s an R-rated force to reckon with. She knows how to craft the kind of shockingly dirty set piece you want from an adult comedy (see Alison Brie using a glass bottle to demonstrate the ins and outs of female masturbation as a winning example), and, like the best films in the Apatow oeuvre, she never loses sight of the film’s emotional beats. The raunch comes from a real place, be it from fear of commitment or fear of isolation, and that gives her comedies an underlying pulse of heartbreak and humanity. In an age where R-rated comedies are even letting folks like Adam Sandler come and play, Leslye Headland is the kind of savior we deserve. – ZS

Lexi Alexander

Lexi Alexander is an Oscar nominee and technically, the first woman to ever direct a Marvel movie. While “Punisher: War Zone” wasn’t a resounding success, it did feature some amazing moments — however, the first part matters a whole lot more than the second when you’re a female filmmaker, so it’s only just recently that Alexander has picked up additional directing work in television. Having brought her talent for action to episodes of “Limitless” and “Arrow,” it’d be fascinating to see her bring that same polish to a franchise. – Liz Shannon Miller 

Alice Winocour

Some may know Winocour as the co-writer on last year’s audience favorite “Mustang,” but August will see the release of “Disorder,” her sophomore directorial effort that bowed at Cannes 2015. A home invasion thriller starring Diane Kruger and Matthias Schoenaerts, it’s an impressive showcase not only for the recognizable stars in front of the camera, but also for Winocour’s skill behind it. The constrictive way she shoots the hallways and corners inside the family mansion and one notable in-city car sequence proves she’s ready for another action film. Winocour also has a strong eye for chemistry, letting the two leads’ muted conversations sizzle under loaded dialogue. Throw in a dreamy party scene (which “Disorder” also has) and that seems like all the makings of a top-rate espionage-themed blockbuster, whether or not it prominently features a character named “Bond.” – Steve Greene

Lynne Ramsay

Once upon a time, Glaswegian auteur Lynne Ramsay may have seemed a bit too esoteric to tackle the kind of movies that big studios might be interested in financing — “Ratcatcher” and “Morvern Callar” are strange and singular works of genius, so maybe that’s why nothing about them really screams “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” But with 2011’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” Ramsay displayed a rare gift for being able to mine raw human pathos from broader, arrestingly urgent stories. Since 2012, she’s been hard at work on an adaptation of “Moby Dick” that’s set in space, so it’s not like she isn’t comfortable tackling a project on the scale of a Hollywood blockbuster. Marvel may not be the place for her to flex her muscle, but there’s no telling what Ramsay could do with a highly visual, character-driven property like “Passengers,” where she’d be stretch her immersive imagery into bold new dimensions. – David Ehrlich

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