The directors’ branch is still dominated by men, but a number of women have staked their claims to fame, directing some of the top-grossing films in history. Jennifer Lee, right, co-directed “Frozen” (with Chris Buck, left), which became the highest-grossing animated film of all time. It took in over $400 million in the U.S. and nearly $1.3 billion worldwide. “Frozen” went on to win Academy Awards for best animated feature and best original song. Lee will return to write and co-direct a theatrical sequel.
Brenda Chapman, right, co-directed 2012’s “Brave” — also an Oscar winner — with Mark Andrews. The animated film, whose story was inspired by Chapman’s daughter, was a different take on the traditional princess tale, and it got audiences rushing to the theater, grossing over $237 million domestically. “I never count on success. I just work damn hard for it,” Chapman said. “I think that female directors are fighting to make more opportunities for themselves, which I hope will make Hollywood provide more opportunities.”
Betty Thomas’ movies include 1994’s “The Brady Bunch Movie” and 1997’s “Private Parts.” Her 2009 “Alvin and the Chipmunks” entry, “The Squeakquel,” brought in over $219 million in the U.S. alone and became the first female-directed film to gross more than $200 million. She’s the highest-grossing female director of all time.
Taking on 2008’s “Twilight” was a major gamble for director Catherine Hardwicke. She said the project was passed on by numerous studios before finding distribution with Summit Entertainment. The teen vampire drama went on to gross over $192 million in the U.S. and kicked off one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time. Hardwicke says that films directed by women need to be supported. “We’ve got to get studios, agents, critics and the audiences to think out of the box. Expand our minds about what kinds of films could be interesting and entertaining, then find great ways to market them,” she said.
Elizabeth Banks, left, stole nearly every scene as one of the stars of the hit comedy “Pitch Perfect.” But many were surprised when executives announced that the actress would make her feature directorial debut with the 2015 sequel, co-starring Hailee Steinfeld, right. (It helped that she’s one of the franchise’s producers.) Banks had the last laugh, however, with the sequel grossing over $183 domestically, more than double the original’s take. Banks has said she plans on directing the next installment in the musical comedy franchise.
Spearheading a box office hit is no new task to Nancy Meyers. Her romantic comedy “What Women Want” (starring Mel Gibson, left) brought in $182 million in 2000. Meyers’ other successful films include 2003’s “Something’s Gotta Give,” starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, and 2009’s “It’s Complicated,” with Meryl Streep in a leading role.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” was a huge milestone for English filmmaker and actress Sam Taylor-Johnson, left (with cinematographer Seamus McGarvey). The film version of E.L. James’ book grossed $166 million in 2015. Taylor-Johnson called the experience “intense and incredible.”
For Amy Heckerling, creating a film like 1989’s “Look Who’s Talking” was a longtime dream. Heckerling had a cinematography professor in college who thought it was funny that women were in the class. “It wasn’t that I wanted to challenge anybody,” Heckerling said. “I just wanted to make movies.” The romantic comedy featuring John Travolta and Kirstie Alley brought in $140 million at the box office; Heckerling is also known for 1982’s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and 1995’s “Clueless.”
With “Kung Fu Panda 2,” Jennifer Yuh became the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The 2011 sequel took in over $165 million in the U.S. and spawned 2016’s “Kung Fu Panda 3.” Yuh, shown with “Panda 3” co-director Alessandro Carloni, admits that she doesn’t focus on box office numbers and hopes she can inspire young women trying to direct their own projects. “If you’re passionate about it, someone else will be passionate about it,” Yuh said.
Anne Fletcher, center, found a recipe for success in the 2009 Sandra Bullock hit “The Proposal.” Bullock starred alongside Ryan Reynolds, playing a bigwig book editor who poses in a sham marriage to avoid deportation. The rom-com grossed $163 million in 2009, a big win for Fletcher, who had directed only two films prior.
Vicky Jenson can tell you a thing or two about directing animated films. After she co-directed “Shrek” in 2001, the stakes were high to deliver another family-fun moviegoing experience. Jenson hopped on board as co-director of “Shark Tale” with Bibo Bergeron, left, and Rob Letterman. The film grossed $160 million.
British director Phyllida Lloyd, center, made a big splash on her first stab at directing a film. “Mamma Mia!” drew $144 million domestically, a rare occurrence for musicals in the world of feature films. Meryl Streep, left, and Julie Walters starred in the film.
Mimi Leder admits that the biggest challenge she’s faced in her directing career is making feature films, but 1998’s “Deep Impact” (with Tea Leoni, left) was a box office success, earning $140 million at the box office. “It asked questions that I think we ask ourselves,” Leder said.
Nora Ephron’s 2012 death from leukemia was a tremendous loss in Hollywood. The film director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter’s works included 1993’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” starring Tom Hanks, left, which grossed $126 million. “You’ve Got Mail” brought in $115 million just five years later. “The loss of Nora Ephron is a devastating one for New York City’s arts and cultural community,” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Angelina Jolie has gone from actress to director with such films as 2014’s “Unbroken,” the story of Olympian Louis Zamperini, which brought in $115 million at the box office. (The film co-starred Jack O’Connell, center, Domhnall Gleeson and Finn Wittrock.) The most rewarding part: “Sitting at Louie’s bedside in the hospital and revisiting chapters of of his life through our film, while witnessing him preparing to leave his life behind,” Jolie said.
Penny Marshall, best remembered for her days as Laverne DeFazio on “Laverne and Shirley,” went on to become a successful film director. With box office hits like 1988’s “Big” (with Hanks) and 1992’s “A League of Their Own” — each of which brought in more than $100 million — Marshall became the first female director to have a film break the $100 million mark at the box office. Her secret to success can be found in the Waylon Jennings lyrics framed in her bathroom: “I’ve always been crazy, but it’s kept me from going insane.”
Kathryn Bigelow may not have had a $100 million box office blockbuster, but to many, she’s got something more valuable: an Oscar. She won the big prize for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker” and remains the only woman to win best director. The film was also named best picture.
Rising star Ava DuVernay directed 2014’s “Selma,” which was nominated for an Oscar for best picture and received rave reviews. She’s currently at work on two projects: the TV show “Queen Sugar” and the film “Intelligent Life.” The latter, from Steven Spielberg’s production company, is due out in 2017.
News credit : Cnn