The Top 10 Greatest British Female Movie Directors

Representation onscreen and in the director's chair has never been a hotter topic in Hollywood, with the excitement (and box office numbers) surrounding Patty Jenkins's Wonder Woman propelling that conversation to a fever pitch. As A Wrinkle in Time director and Queen Sugar showrunner Ava DuVernay put it, "[Wonder Woman] was a beautiful example of what Hollywood can be, and that’s what happens when you let women direct.” Are you listening, Hollywood? Here, we'll give you a hand: these are the top 10 women directors breaking down barriers and making art worth paying attention to right now.

10 Greatest British Female Movie Directors

1. Andrea Arnold

Andrea Arnold: The Top 10 Greatest British Female Movie Directors

Born: 5 April 1961
Occupation: Filmmaker
Years active: 1982–present
Recent movie: American Honey (2016)

Andrea Arnold, OBE (born 5 April 1961) is an English filmmaker and former actress. She won an Academy Award for her short film Wasp in 2005. Her feature films include Red Road (2006), Fish Tank (2009), and American Honey (2016), all of which have won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Arnold has also directed four episodes of the Prime Video series Transparent, as well as all seven episodes of the second season of the HBO series Big Little Lies.

2. Lynne Ramsay

Lynne Ramsay

Born: 5 December 1969
Occupation: Film director, screen writer, cinematographer
Years active: 1995–present
Recent movie: You Were Never Really Here (2017)

Her films are marked by a fascination with children and young people and the recurring themes of grief, guilt, death, and its aftermath. They are low on dialogue and explicit story exposition, and instead use images, vivid details, music, and sound design to create their worlds. In April 2013 she was selected as a member of the main competition jury at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. In 2015, she was named as a member of the jury for the main competition at the 2015 Venice Film Festival.

3. Amma Asante

Amma Asante

Born: 13 September 1969
Occupation: Screen writer, film director, actress
Years active: 1986–present
Recent movieWhere Hands Touch (2018)

Amma Asante is a British filmmaker, screenwriter, former actress, and Chancellor at Norwich University of the Arts, born in London to parents from Ghana. Her love for the film industry started when she received her first role in BBC's Grange Hill. Later, she was given the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC, for an anti-drugs campaign, where she met former First Lady Nancy Reagan. Asante wrote and produced the 1998 BBC Two series Brothers and Sisters, starring David Oyelowo. She was a childhood friend of model Naomi Campbell, whom she met when they were seven years old.

4. Sally Potter

Sally Potter

Born: 19 September 1949
Occupation: Film director, screen writer
Years active: 1979–present
Recent movieThe Roads Not Taken (2020)

Potter became an award-winning performance artist and theatre director, with shows including Mounting, Death and the Maiden and Berlin. In addition, she was a member of several music bands (including Feminist Improvising Group and The Film Music Orchestra) working as a lyricist and singer. She collaborated (as a singer-songwriter) with composer Lindsay Cooper on the song cycle Oh Moscow, which was performed throughout Europe, Russia and North America in the late 1980s and commercially released.

5. Gurinder Chadha

Gurinder Chadha

Born: 10 January 1960
Occupation: Film director, screenwriter
Years active: 1990–present
Recent movieBlinded by the Light (2019)

Gurinder Chadha is an English film director of Indian origin. Most of her films explore the lives of Indians living in England. The common theme among her work showcases the trials of Indian women living in England and how they must reconcile their converging traditional and modern cultures. Although many of her films seem like simple quirky comedies about Indian women, they actually address many social and emotional issues, especially ones faced by immigrants caught between two worlds.

Much of her work also consists of adaptations from book to film, but with a different flair. She is best known for the hit films Bhaji on the Beach (1993), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Bride and Prejudice (2004), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging (2008), It's a Wonderful Afterlife (2010) and Viceroy's House (2017). Her latest features are the biographical musical comedy-drama Blinded by the Light and the television show Beecham House.

6. Clio Barnard

Clio Barnard

Occupation: Film director
Years active: 2000–present
Recent movie: Dark River ( 2017)

Clio Barnard is a British director of documentary and feature films. She won widespread critical acclaim and multiple awards for her debut, The Arbor, an experimental documentary about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. In 2013 she was hailed.  as a significant new voice in British cinema for her film The Selfish Giant, which premiered in the Director's Fortnight section of the Cannes film festival.

7. Joanna Hogg

 Joanna Hogg

Born: 20 March 1960
Occupation: Filmmaker
Years active: 1986–present
Recent movieThe Souvenir Part II (2020)

Her latest film The Souvenir was premiered in the Sundance festival in 2019. It was released in the United States on 17 May 2019 by A24 and in the United Kingdom on 30 August 2019 by Curzon Artificial Eye. The title refers to the painting of the same name by Jean-Honoré Fragonard and depicts a young artist trying to find her mark in the midst of a toxic relationship with an older and charismatic man.

Hogg's style is influenced by European and Asian directors such as Eric Rohmer and Yasujirō Ozu, using extended takes and minimal camera movement. She takes the unusual approach of casting a mixture of actors and non-professional actors in her films, such as the landscape painter Christopher Baker in Archipelago. Her depiction of unarguably middle-class characters has prompted some commentators to see her work as spearheading a new type of social realism in British film.

8. Sarah Gavron

Born: 20 April 1970
Occupation: Film director
Years active: 2000–present
Recent movieRocks (2019)

Sarah Gavron is a British film director. She has directed four short films, and three feature films. Her first film was This Little Life (2003), later followed by Brick Lane (2007) and Village at the End of the World (2012). Her latest film, Suffragette (2015) is based in the London of 1912 and tells the story of the Suffragette movement based on realistic historical events.

Sarah Gavron is also both a wife and a mother, and "got into filmmaking to make a difference."] She has dedicated her career to accurately telling the stories of women. In addition, the scarcity of women filmmakers in the UK is what inspires Gavron with her own filmmaking, and her responsibility as a female director.

9. Carol Morley

Carol Morley

Born: 14 January 1966
Occupation: Director, producer, screenwriter
Years active: 1993–present
Recent movie: Out of Blue (2018)

Morley has written and directed a total of 12 films from 1993 to 2011, ranging in length from 3 minuetes to 93 minutes. Morley made two degree films at Central Saint Martins, one of which is called Girl. Shot with 16mm film, this short film uses cross-cutting and devices of the genre melodrama to create a feeling of conflict and crisis. The other degree film was Secondhand Daylight which was set in a fast food restaurant, and in which a group of young people talked about their problems. It too was shot on 16 mm film.

10. Sam Taylor-Johnson

Sam Taylor-Johnson

Born: 4 March 1967
Occupation: Film director, artist
Years active: 1993–present
Recent movie: A Million Little Pieces (2018)

Samantha Louise Taylor-Johnson is an English filmmaker and photographer. Her directorial feature film debut came in 2009 with Nowhere Boy, a film based on the childhood experiences of the Beatles songwriter and singer John Lennon. She is one of a group of artists known as the Young British Artists.


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