24 times the Oscars snubbed female directors

24 times the Oscars snubbed female directors
  • Only three women in Oscars history have won best director.

  • "The Woman King" and "Till," both directed by women of color, were not nominated in 2023.

  • Director Greta Gerwig was snubbed in 2020 for "Little Women" and again for "Barbie" in 2024.

In the 96-year history of the Academy Awards, only eight women have ever been nominated for best director, and only three have won.

This year, director Justine Triet was nominated for "Anatomy of a Fall," but many were angered that Greta Gerwig was not nominated for "Barbie," which got a best picture nod.

Here are 24 times the Oscars snubbed female directors.

In 1977 — 48 years after the Oscars began — Lina Wertmuller became the first woman to be nominated for best director, but she was not chosen as the winner.

Lina Wertmuller.
Lina Wertmuller.Santi Visalli/Getty Images

Wertmuller directed "Seven Beauties." The film was also nominated for best foreign language film, best screenplay, and best actor for Giancarlo Giannini, although it did not win in any category.

It would be almost 20 years before another woman was nominated for best director: Jane Campion for "The Piano" at the 1994 awards.

Randa Haines directed "Children of a Lesser God" in 1986. It was nominated for five Oscars, including best picture, but not best director.

Randa Haines in 1987.
Randa Haines in 1987.Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

"Children of a Lesser God" was nominated for best adapted screenplay, best supporting actress, best actor, best actress, and best picture. Marlee Matlin won the best supporting actress award at age 21, making her the youngest and first deaf person to win an Academy Award, Good Morning America reported. Haines' role as director, however, was ignored.

Barbra Streisand told Variety that sexism had prevented her films from winning Oscars over the years, saying, "They don't want to see a woman director."

Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte on the set of "Prince of Tides."
Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte on the set of "Prince of Tides."The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Streisand made her directorial debut with "Yentl" in 1983. It was nominated for five Oscars and won two, but she was snubbed for best director. She did, however, become the first woman to win a Golden Globe for best director. She remained the only female winner until Chloé Zhao won in 2021 and Jane Campion in 2022.

Streisand told Variety it took her years to want to direct again after the snub. In 1991, she directed "The Prince of Tides," which garnered seven Oscar nominations including best picture. Yet again, Streisand's work as a director was not nominated for an award.

"Awakenings" received three Oscar nominations in 1991, but director Penny Marshall was not one of them.

Penny Marshall.
Penny Marshall.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The film was released in December 1990 to critical acclaim — Roger Ebert wrote that Marshall directed the movie "with intelligence and heart."

It was nominated for best adapted screenplay and best picture, and Robert De Niro was nominated for best actor. Marshall's work as director was not recognized by the Academy.

Jane Campion directed "The Piano" in 1993 and was nominated for best director, but she didn't win.

Jane Campion
Jane Campion.GERARD JULIEN/AFP via Getty Images

"The Piano" was nominated for eight Oscars and won three: best screenplay, best supporting actress for Anna Paquin, and best actress for Holly Hunter.

Sofia Coppola won the Oscar for best screenplay for "Lost in Translation," but she lost best director to Peter Jackson.

Sofia Coppola.
Sofia Coppola.VINCENZO PINTO/AFP via Getty Images

In addition to best screenplay and best director, "Lost in Translation" was nominated for best picture, and Bill Murray for best actor.

Valerie Faris and her husband, Jonathan Dayton, made their directorial debut with the critically acclaimed "Little Miss Sunshine" in 2006, but they weren't nominated for best director.

Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton
Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, co-directors of Little Miss Sunshine.Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty Images

"Little Miss Sunshine" won two Oscars: best original screenplay and Alan Arkin for best supporting actor. Abigail Breslin also made history with her nomination for best supporting actress at 10 years old, making her one of the youngest actors ever to be nominated for an Academy Award. However, directors Faris and Dayton weren't nominated.

"The Kids Are All Right" was nominated for four Oscars in 2011, but they didn't include a best director nod for Lisa Cholodenko.

Lisa Cholodenko
Lisa Cholodenko.Eric CATARINA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

"The Kids Are All Right" was nominated for best original screenplay, best picture, best actress for Annette Bening, and best supporting actor for Mark Ruffalo. The film's other star Julianne Moore was also snubbed.

"Yeah, there were no women in the directing category," producer Celine Rattray told TODAY at the time. "It's interesting because I think the Academy often rewards flashy directing styles like Danny Boyle in '127 Hours.'"

That same year, Debra Granik's directing work on "Winter's Bone" was also overlooked by the Academy.

debra granik
Debra Granik.Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for National Board of Review

"Winter's Bone" starred Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes, both of whom received nominations. It was also nominated for best adapted screenplay and best picture.

Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever win best director for "The Hurt Locker" in 2010, but she was snubbed in 2013 after she directed "Zero Dark Thirty."

kathryn bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow.Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Just three years after her historic best director win for "The Hurt Locker," Bigelow wasn't nominated for "Zero Dark Thirty," even though the film received five Oscar nominations including best picture.

Ava DuVernay could have been the first Black woman nominated for best director for "Selma" in 2015, but the Academy didn't include her.

Ava DuVernay
Ava DuVernay.Getty Images

"Selma" was nominated for best picture and won the Oscar for best original song, but DuVernay told Entertainment Weekly in 2015 that she wasn't surprised by the directing snub.

"It would be lovely," she said. "When it happens to whomever it happens to, it will certainly have meaning. This is not me being humble, either. It's math."

Years later, "Selma" actor David Oyelowo also spoke about the Academy's response to the film.

"I remember at the premiere of 'Selma' us wearing 'I Can't Breathe' T-shirts in protest," he said at a 2020 Screen Talks live Q&A. "Members of the Academy called in to the studio and our producers saying, 'How dare they do that?' ... and 'We are not going to vote for that film because we do not think it is their place to be doing that.' It's part of why that film didn't get everything that people think it should've got and it birthed #OscarsSoWhite. They used their privilege to deny a film on the basis of what they valued in the world."

The Academy responded on X, formerly known as Twitter: "Ava & David, we hear you. Unacceptable. We're committed to progress."

The critically acclaimed "Wonder Woman," directed by Patty Jenkins, was not nominated for a single Oscar.

patty jenkins
Patty Jenkins.Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Superhero movies don't usually win Oscars, but there have been exceptions such as "Black Panther" (three Oscars) and "The Dark Knight" (two Oscars). Variety reported that "Wonder Woman" was considered a critically acclaimed contender in 2017, but it was not recognized by the Academy.

The following year, Jenkins spoke to Vulture after other female directors were snubbed. "The Academy is working on this, but the real issue to me is that at the end of the day, no matter what movie you make and no matter how much money it makes, and no matter how diverse the audience is, the voting academy is still very, very limited. Still," she said.

"Harriet" was nominated for two Oscars in 2020, but director Kasi Lemmons didn't receive one.

kasi lemmons
Kasi Lemmons.J. Countess/Getty Images

Cynthia Erivo was nominated for best actress for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman, and the song "Stand Up" was nominated for best original song.

That year, Natalie Portman wore a black Dior cape embroidered with the names of female directors whose work had been snubbed by the Academy, with Lemmons' name among them.

"I wanted to recognize the women who were not recognized for their incredible work this year, in my subtle way," Portman told the Los Angeles Times.

"Queen and Slim," directed by Melina Matsoukas, was not nominated for any Academy Awards in 2020.

melina matsoukas
Melina Matsoukas.Michael Kovac/Getty Images for AFI

The Director's Guild of America nominated Matsoukas for outstanding directorial achievement in first-time feature film. But at the 2020 Oscars, the best director category was all male, prompting Issa Rae to introduce the nominees by saying, "Congratulations to those men."

In 2020, Greta Gerwig was nominated for best adapted screenplay for "Little Women," but not for best director.

Greta Gerwig
Greta Gerwig.Getty Images

"Little Women" received seven Oscar nominations, including best picture, best actress, and best supporting actress, and won for best costume design. Many believed that Gerwig was robbed.

"To nominate Greta for best picture and best screenplay and best actresses but not best director just truly speaks to the way we don't view women as auteurs no matter how much they clearly ARE," Decider's senior film reporter, Anna Menta, wrote on X.

Marielle Heller wasn't nominated for best director for her film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," or for "Can You Ever Forgive Me?"

Marielle Heller
Marielle Heller.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images for "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" Pittsburgh Special Screening

Tom Hanks received an Oscar nod for best actor for his portrayal of Mr. Rogers (he lost to Joaquin Phoenix) in "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" in 2020, but Heller's directing work did not receive a nomination.

It was the second snub in a row for Heller. The year prior, her movie, "Can You Ever Forgive Me?" earned Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, but Heller was not nominated.

"This was an incredible year for women filmmakers," Heller said in 2019, W magazine reported. "A lot of us made really worthy movies."

She added, "But that was our undoing. There were too many of us, and the world doesn't know how to handle more than one good female director at a time."

"The Farewell," directed by Lulu Wang, was not nominated for any Oscars, despite rave reviews.

lulu wang
Lulu Wang.Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

While the film was snubbed at the Oscars, "The Farewell" was nominated for a Golden Globe for best picture, and Awkafina won the award for best actress.

Alma Har'el won the first-time feature film award from the Directors Guild Of America for "Honey Boy" in 2020, but she wasn't nominated for any Oscars.

Alma Har'el
Alma Har'el.Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

"Honey Boy" garnered Oscar buzz and critical acclaim, but ultimately was not nominated for any Academy Awards.

"The Woman King," directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, did not receive any nominations for the 2023 Academy Awards.

gina prince-bythewood
Gina Prince-Bythewood.Getty Images/Mike Coppola

Despite rave reviews and box-office success, "The Woman King" starring Viola Davis was not nominated for any Oscars.

In an as-told-to piece for The Hollywood Reporter, Prince-Bythewood wrote that "the Academy made a very loud statement, and for me to stay quiet is to accept that statement."

"'The Woman King' wasn't snubbed," she wrote. "A snub is if it missed out on a category or two. The film was not nominated for one single craft. Not one single extraordinary performance was recognized. And when has that happened for a successful film that hit all the so-called markers? It's not a snub. It's a reflection of where the Academy stands and the consistent chasm between Black excellence and recognition. And, sadly, this is not just an issue in Hollywood but in every industry."

The 2022 film "Till," directed by Chinonye Chukwu, also did not receive any Oscar nominations.

Chinonye Chukwu
Chinonye Chukwu.Dia Dipasupil/WireImage/Getty Images

"Till" tells the story of Mamie Till-Bradley, the mother of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was tortured and murdered after a white woman falsely claimed he groped her in 1955.

Chukwu appeared to allude to being shut out of the Oscars in an Instagram post on the day that the nominations were announced.

"We live in a world and work in industries that are so aggressively committed to upholding whiteness and perpetuating an unabashed misogyny towards Black women," she wrote. "And yet. I am forever in gratitude for the greatest lesson of my life — regardless of any challenges or obstacles, I will always have the power to cultivate my own joy, and it is this joy that will continue to be one of my greatest forms of resistance."

She also shared Prince-Bythewood's article in The Hollywood Reporter on Instagram, writing, "Every single word of this brilliant piece should be required reading for everyone."

"Women Talking" was nominated for best picture and best adapted screenplay, but director Sarah Polley was not nominated for best director.

Screenwriter/producer Sarah Polley speaks at an event
Sarah Polley.Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Polley told Vogue that while she was happy that "Women Talking" received two nominations, the "lack of acknowledgement" of Black female directors was "a hard thing to swallow."

"I'm thrilled for our team and so proud, but that has to live alongside the fact that some of the best films of the year were made by Black female filmmakers and they weren't honored," she said.

Polley also mentioned the lack of representation for female directors on the red carpet of the Golden Globes in an interview with IndieWire.

"On my mind tonight, specifically, are the incredible female filmmakers who weren't represented here tonight," she said. "So the filmmakers of 'Till' and 'The Woman King' and 'Aftersun,' the list goes on and on. So for me, I think that's top of mind for me tonight, just the incredible work done by female filmmakers this year."

Paul Mescal was nominated for best actor for "Aftersun," but the film's director, Charlotte Wells, was not nominated.

Charlotte Wells
Charlotte Wells.Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

"Aftersun" marked Wells' first time directing and writing a feature film. Paul Mescal plays Calum, a father navigating parenthood and depression as he takes his daughter Sophie (Frankie Corio) on vacation to Turkey.

"It's very much fiction, but rooted in experience and memory," Wells told AnOther magazine. "It's personal in that the feeling is mine and I allowed my own memories and anecdotes through all of childhood to form the kind of skeleton outline that I worked from to write the first draft. But after that point it did become very much about the story I was trying to tell, and that frequently required pushing it away from my own experience."

Maria Schrader's 2022 film adaptation of "She Said" chronicling The New York Times' investigation into Harvey Weinstein did not receive any Oscar nominations.

Maria Schrader
Maria Schrader.STEFANIE LOOS/AFP via Getty Images

"I hope the movie inspires people and fuels the conversation that has been going on for quite some time now," Schrader told Shondaland. "Something started after this article went public. This is probably not going to stop."

Gerwig was snubbed again in 2024 when she was not nominated for best director for "Barbie."

greta gerwig at barbie
Greta Gerwig at the press junket for "Barbie."Matt Winkelmeyer/Staff via Getty Images

Despite the film receiving eight Academy Award nominations, Gerwig's work as director was not nominated. Neither was Margot Robbie's leading performance.

In an interview for Time's 2024 Women of the Year, Gerwig said that she still considered herself nominated because "Barbie" was up for best picture.

Gerwig said, "A friend's mom said to me, 'I can't believe you didn't get nominated. I said, 'But I did. I got an Oscar nomination.' She was like, 'Oh, that's wonderful for you!' I was like, 'I know!'"

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