Unsurprisingly, only one female has ever won the Academy Award for Best Director in history.
On January 13, 2020, the highly anticipated Oscar nominations for this year's 92nd Academy Awards were announced, but when the list of nominees was presented, it was to many of our surprise that not one single woman was nominated for the prestigious title of Best Director.
Eyebrows were raised, questions began circulating the internet, and questions were asked.
In particular, why haven't more women been nominated for Oscars — and how many have?
I was shocked — not only because what I considered a mediocre film about a failing marriage was nominated for Best Picture, but because I couldn't believe that not one woman who directed a film was being acknowledged in this category at all.
The Academy Award for Best Director is regarded as one of the highest honors at the Oscars. In a 2018 article titled “Who is the best Oscar-winning director of all time?” in The Guardian, the author went on and on about how all the late and great men directors were best equipped for the title of Best Director, but a nice surprise was the mention of Kathryn Bigelow, acknowledged for her 2009 film "The Hurt Locker."
Bigelow received 9% of the readers' vote for Best Director of all time. Two of her fellow male contenders, David Lean and Francis Ford Coppola, received a staggering 29% and 52% respectively.
And so the story goes throughout entire history of the Academy Awards, women have been snubbed in the Best Director category, left and right.
Here’s a list of the only five female powerhouses who've received Oscar nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director.
1. Lina Wertmüller for "Seven Beauties" — 1977
In 1977, Lina Wertmüller was the first woman to be nominated for Best Director. The film was an Italian drama set during World War II, starring her most frequent collaborators, Giancarlo Giannini, as the main character.
Wertmüller lost the Best Director award to John G. Avildsen, who won for his work on "Rocky." Although she was never nominated for a second Academy Award, Wertmüller received an Honorary Governors Award from the Academy in 2019.
2. Jane Campion for "The Piano" — 1994
Jane Campion was the second woman to be nominated for Best Director, and it only took the Academy 17 years to highlight another women’s success after Wertmüller’s letdown.
The drama tells the story of an electively mute woman (Holly Hunter) trapped in an unhappy arranged marriage in 19th-century New Zealand.
Campion's film won her that year's Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, with Hunter winning Best Actress and Anna Paquin winning Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Hunter's on-screen daughter. Campion lost out in the Best Director category to Stephen Spielberg, who won for his Holocaust drama "Schindler’s List."
3. Sofia Coppola for "Lost In Translation" — 2004
It was another 10 years before a woman was nominated. This time, it was Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola ("The Godfather") whose film, "Lost In Translation", was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director.
The film had an impressive cast, with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson as the main characters. Coppola, unfortunately, lost the award to Peter Jackson, director of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." However, she won the Oscar for Best Screenplay.
4. Kathryn Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker" — 2010
The 2010 Oscars was special. Not only was Bigelow the now the fourth woman nominated in the Best Director category, but Lee Daniels' work on the film "Precious" earned him the distinction of being the second African American to receive a nomination for Best Director and the first African American director to have his film nominated for Best Picture. Others nominated alongside Bigelow and Daniels included Quentin Tarantino, Jason Reitman, and James Cameron, three of the industry’s top dogs.
The bells of heaven and all the angel’s trumpets began to ring as Bigelow was named Best Director, making her the first woman in history to win the award. "The Hurt Locker" also took home five additional awards, including Best Picture.
5. Greta Gerwig for "Lady Bird" — 2018
Greta Gerwig’s directing debut was highly anticipated, and the film received multiple Golden Globes that year, including Best Actress (Saoirse Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Laurie Metcalf) and Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy.
Gerwig’s film was nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay and Best Director, but unfortunately, received of them. This was yet another tale of misfortune for women in the industry who've been let down and passed over by the Academy.
Let the record show that there are still only five women who have been nominated for Best Director in the history of the Oscars, and of those five, only one of them received the Academy Award.
This year showed promise with the number of women directing major films. such as Greta Gerwig ("Little Women"), Lorene Scarfia ("Hustlers", Lulu Wang ("The Farewell"), Marielle Heller ("A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood"), Olivia Wilde ("Booksmart") and Melina Matsoukas ("Queen and Slim") — and that's just naming a few!
Destiny Duprey is a writer who focuses on pop culture, religion, and relationship topics.