A History of Female Best Director Nominees at the Academy Awards

Only seven women have been nominated a total of eight times — garnering three wins — in the awards' 94-year history 

01 of 08

Lina Wertmüller, 1976

Director Lina Wertmuller
Santi Visalli/Getty

At the 49th annual Academy Awards, Italian filmmaker Wertmüller was the very first woman nominated for Best Director, for her World War II movie Seven Beauties. In a 2018 interview with Variety, Wertmüller — who died in 2021 — reflected on the significance of her nomination, saying, "to this day I get thank-you letters from directors who say they have been inspired by my experience."

02 of 08

Jane Campion, 1993

director Jane Campion

It would be 17 years until another woman was nominated; the honor went to Campion for her classic The Piano. Though she didn't take home Best Director that year, she did win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and stars Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin (bottom left, then just 11 years old) took home the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively.

03 of 08

Sofia Coppola, 2003

Director Sofia Coppola
Yoshio Sato/Focus Features

Ten years later, Coppola joined the exclusive club when she was nominated for the Bill Murray/Scarlett Johansson favorite, Lost in Translation. Like Campion before her, Coppola — daughter of filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola — lost out on Best Director but did win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

04 of 08

Kathryn Bigelow, 2009

Director Kathryn Bigelow
Jason Merritt/Getty

It was at the 82nd annual Academy Awards when a woman finally won the Best Director Oscar: Bigelow, for her war drama The Hurt Locker. "It's the moment of a lifetime," Bigelow said in her acceptance speech.

05 of 08

Greta Gerwig, 2017

Director Greta Gerwig
Merie Wallace/A24

Despite Bigelow's big moment, it was eight years until another woman was nominated for Best Director, this time Gerwig for the cult hit Lady Bird. Though the film had five Oscar nominations — and critical acclaim — it was shut out at the ceremony. "I think that the directors branch [of the Academy] could probably stand to bolster its lady numbers," Gerwig told Variety of the voting pool in 2020.

06 of 08

Chloé Zhao, 2021

Chloe Zhao
Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty

The second woman to win Best Director — and first woman of Asian descent to do so — was Nomadland's Zhao in 2021. In an interview with PEOPLE, Zhao said she hoped her win "helps more people like me get to live their dreams."

07 of 08

Emerald Fennell, 2021

director Emerald Fennell
Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features

Not only was 2021 special because of Zhao's win, but it also marked the first time two of the five Best Director nominees were female: Promising Young Woman director Fennell was up for the honor, too, and took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

08 of 08

Jane Campion, 2022

Jane Campion, winner of the Best Director award
Michael Kovac/Getty

Ahead of the 2022 ceremony, Campion was already breaking records as the first woman nominated twice for the directing award. She won for Power of the Dog; she also won directing honors for the film at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Critics' Choice Awards and Directors Guild Awards, in addition to the Silver Lion for best direction at the Venice Film Festival.

Campion's Oscars honor also marked a two-year winning streak for female directors.

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