Only a handful of women have been nominated for Best Director at the Oscars, while many more female directors have been snubbed despite their films getting nominated for Best Picture. A total of 10 women have seen their work acknowledged in Best Picture without getting their proper due, including Greta Gerwig (“Little Women”) this year. Check out the 10 women snubbed for Best Director in our photos list above.
Best Picture remains the highest honor a film can be nominated for at the Oscars, and Best Director has often been associated with it. There are countless examples of Best Director nominees matching up almost exactly with Best Picture, mostly because the film’s excellence is often attributed to the work of the director. However, the directors branch of the academy has overlooked some of the most talented female directors over the years even while the overall academy liked their films enough to warrant a Best Picture nomination.
“Children of a Lesser God” (1986) was the first instance of a woman being snubbed in Best Director despite getting into Best Picture. Randa Haines was not nominated for her work, even though she directed Marlee Matlin to a Best Actress win. Following this, “Awakenings” (1990) was nominated for Best Picture while actress-turned-director Penny Marshall was not nominated for Best Director.
The legendary Barbra Streisand could not get a Best Director nomination for her 1991 film “The Prince of Tides,” despite that film getting nominated for Best Picture. However, she was also a producer on the film so she did at least get recognition in the Best Picture category. The last instance of a female-directed film nominated in the five Best Picture nominees era without a Best Director nomination is “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006). The film was directed by Valerie Faris alongside husband and directing partner Jonathan Dayton, who got Alan Arkin a Best Supporting Actor win.
After the academy opened up the Best Picture lineup to between five and 10, it was easier for women-directed films to be nominated for Best Picture while being snubbed in Best Director. This began in 2009 when “An Education” was nominated while director Lone Scherfig was not. Nevertheless, that was also the year that Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win Best Director.
There were two female director snubs in 2010 when Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids Are All Right” and Debra Granik’s “Winter’s Bone” were both nominated for Best Picture while their respective directors were not. Then, despite being the only female Best Director winner in history, Bigelow was surprisingly omitted for Best Picture nominee “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012). Ava DuVernay could have become the first black woman nominated for Best Director, but it was not to be. Her film “Selma” (2014) was nominated for Best Picture, and won the only other category it was nominated for, Best Original Song. A few years later, Greta Gerwig earned a Best Director nomination for “Lady Bird” (2017) but like Bigelow, she was not able to follow it up with a second directing nomination for the Best Picture nominated “Little Women” (2019).
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