Female Directors Power List: See Which Filmmakers Grossed Over $100 Million

Blockbuster women directors aren't as rare as some might have you believe, and they reveal the strengths and barriers to females getting their due in the industry.
Catherine Hardwicke'Colossal' film premiere, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Apr 2017
Nora Ephron
Good Housekeeping Celebrates 125 Years of Women Making Their Mark, New York, America - 12 Apr 2010
Nancy Meyers
'The Intern' film premiere, London, Britain - 27 Sep 2015
Amy Heckerling
Metrograph 1st Year Anniversary Party, Arrivals, New York, USA - 08 Mar 2017
Penny Marshall
10th Annual TV Land Awards, New York, America - 14 Apr 2012
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Adjusted domestic grosses over $100 million, by director (continued)


Jennifer Lee (1)

Top Movie: Frozen ($433.5)

An unusual case of an animated film writer (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “Zootopia”) moving into directing. She also wrote the story for “Frozen” and is in production on its sequel.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 10: Director/Producer Kathryn Bigelow, Jessica Chastain and Sony's Amy Pascal at Columbia Pictures 'Zero Dark Thirty' Premiere at Dolby Theatre on December 10, 2012 in Hollywood, California. Kathryn Bigelow Jessica Chastain Amy PascalColumbia Pictures 'Zero Dark Thirty' Premiere Hollywood Los Angeles, America.
Director/Producer Kathryn Bigelow, Jessica Chastain, and Sony’s Amy Pascal at Columbia Pictures ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ Premiere, 2012Charbonneau/REX/Shutterstock

Kathryn Bigelow (1)

Top Movie: Zero Dark Thirty ($106.6)

The most honored American female director actually has not been a leader in box-office success, despite a 35-year career and nine features that focus on dramas and genre-related projects. Her domestic total, adjusted, is only a little more than $300 million, nearly two thirds from “Zero Dark Thirty” and the original “Point Break” ($90.7 million). “The Hurt Locker” was a specialized release with modest crossover that did not get an awards boost in theaters. Nearly half of the revenues from her films have been foreign.

Robert Pattinson, Catherine Hardwicke, Kristen Stewart'Twilight' Film Photocall at the 3rd Rome International Film Festival, Rome, Italy - 30 Oct 2008 Directed by Catherine Hardwicke and based on Stephenie Meyer's 2005 best-selling novel of the same name, 'Twilight' follows the story of 17-year-old Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) who falls in love with vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) when she moves to a new town. However, Bella's life is put in danger both by Edward's vampiric urges and by three nomadic vampires who arrive in town.
Robert Pattinson, Catherine Hardwicke, Kristen Stewart at ‘Twilight’ Film Photocall at the 3rd Rome International Film Festival, 2008Laruffa/REX/Shutterstock

Catherine Hardwicke (1)

Top Movie: Twilight ($235.9)

It was considered a breakthrough when Hardwicke was entrusted by Lionsgate to helm the initial entry of their young-adult series “Twilight” after acclaim for the indie feature “Thirteen” and two studio features. Controversially, despite its huge success, she was not asked to return — demanding more time to prepare a sequel — and men directed the remaining four entries.

“Twilight” is two thirds of her career gross, with “Red Riding Hood” and “The Nativity Story” combined adjusted grossing $92 million.

Us Actress Producer and Director Elizabeth Banks Arrives For the World Premiere of Universal Pictures' 'Pitch Perfect 2' at Nokia Theatre L a Live in Los Angeles California Usa 08 May 2015 the Movie Opens in the Us on 15 May 2015 United States Los AngelesUsa Film Premiere - May 2015
Elizabeth Banks at the world premiere of “Pitch Perfect 2,” 2015Prommer/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Elizabeth Banks (1)

Top Movie: Pitch Perfect 2 ($191.5)

Banks went from acting and co-producing “Pitch Perfect” to helming the second. It tripled the gross, with a third entry (to be directed by a woman, Tri Sie, who did “Step Up All In.”) Banks is now slated to direct an upcoming reboot of “Charlie’s Angels.”

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Universal Pictures/Relativit/REX/Shutterstock (5886164ch) Phyllida Lloyd Mamma Mia! - 2008 Director: Phyllida Lloyd Universal Pictures/Relativity Media/Littlestar/Playtone USA On/Off Set Mama Mia!
Phylidia Lloyd shooting “Mamma Mia!”, 2008Relativit/REX/Shutterstock

Phyllida Lloyd (1)

Top Movie: Mamma Mia! ($177.5)

Veteran London theater director Lloyd debuted with the film version of “Mamma Mia!” in 2008. It remains the biggest hit ever for a live-action film with a female director, with adjusted gross somewhere over $700 million worldwide. She then directed Meryl Streep to her second Best Actress win for “The Iron Lady,” but otherwise had mostly kept to the stage. She will not direct “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” with Ol Parker (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) set.

British Director Sam Taylor-johnson Poses For Photographs on the Red Carpet at the Uk Film Premiere of 'Fifty Shades of Grey in London Britain 12 February 2015 the Movie Opens in British Theaters on 13 February United Kingdom LondonBritain Cinema - Feb 2015
British Director Sam Taylor-Johnson at the UK premiere of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” 2015Andy Rain/Epa/REX/Shutterstock

Sam Taylor-Johnson (1)

Top Movie: Fifty Shades of Grey ($180.8)

Plucked from the indie world after her John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” for the first of the three “Grey” adaptations (she was replaced by James Foley for the final two), Taylor-Johnson now is overseeing Netflix’s “Gypsy” thriller series with Naomi Watts. Her “Grey” approached the $600 million worldwide mark.

“Deep Impact,” 1998Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

Mimi Leder (1)

Top Movie: Deep Impact ($264.8)

Leder was a mainstay on the Dreamworks-produced TV series “ER,” and directed “The Peacemaker,” their first feature. Her big success was “Deep Impact,” one of the most expensive live-action, female-directed studio releases ever. “Pay It Forward” was only a minor success, and other than a direct-to-DVD Morgan Freeman film in 2009, she’s done most of her work in TV. She has been part of the “Shameless” team and now is wearing multiple hats in the current Netflix sensation “The Leftovers.”

Director Anne Fletcher and “The Proposal” star Ryan ReynoldsKobal/REX/Shutterstock

Anne Fletcher (1)

Top Movie: The Proposal ($194.2)

Fletcher came close to the adjusted $100 million level with “Step Up” and “27 Dresses” when she broke through with”The Proposal” in 2009. Her follow ups were “The Guilt Trip” and “Hot Pursuit.” Of note: though the rap on female directed projects is that rom-coms don’t sell overseas, internationally “The Proposal” nearly matched its domestic take.

Renee Zellweger and director Sharon Maguire at the premiere of “Bridget Jones’ Diary,” 2001DI CROLLALANZA/REX/Shutterstock

Sharon Maguire (1)

Top Movie: Bridget Jones’s Diary ($111.7)

Maguire has only three features to her credit, two of them “Diary” entries. (The middle one was directed by Beeban Kidron, making this the only franchise with women-only directors). Her other film, the romantic thriller “Incendiary” with Michelle Williams, was minimally released after its Sundance premiere. Her two “Jones” films (much bigger overseas) alone total over $600 million worldwide.

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