5 Trailblazing Women in Hollywood You Should Know About

Love Greta Gerwig? Me too. But she certainly wasn’t the first woman to make it big as a creator in Hollywood, and she’s hopefully far from the last. Now, Let’s take a look at some other influential women in the film industry who left their marks on the silver screen in front of and behind the camera. 

  1. 1. Halle Berry

    Though her career has quieted in recent years, actress Halle Berry and her trademark pixie cut helped define the ‘90s. She starred in movies like Boomerang (1992) and The Flintstones (1994), but the real turn in her career was when she played Dorothy Dandridge, the first Black actress and woman of color to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, in a TV movie in 1998. Four years later, Berry came full circle when she herself became the first (and, as of 2020, only) Black woman to win the Academy Award for her movie Monster’s Ball. She dedicated her speech to not only her Black female predecessors and contemporaries, but to “every nameless, faceless woman of color” who now had more of a fighting chance in Hollywood thanks to her historic win. 

  2. 2. Diablo Cody

    Screenwriter Diablo Cody is responsible for many of our favorite cult classic movies. Her films often depict complex (albeit offbeat) female protagonists and have a quirky feel to them. Cody’s unlikely start began with the success of her early 2000s blog Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. After publishing her memoir of the same name, her manager convinced her to take a stab at a screenplay. It took Cody only months to write her debut screenplay Juno, a coming-of-age about a teen pregnancy starring Ellen Page and Michael Cera. The movie put Cody on the map and won her an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In the next few years, she released movies like Jennifer’s Body, Young Adult, and Tully. It was also recently announced that she is collaborating with Madonna on writing the script for the singer’s biopic. 

  3. 3. Ava DuVernay

    In recent years, filmmaker Ava DuVernay has received acclaim for her high profile movies and television series, often portraying Black life in America. She has also broken ground as a Black female director. Her film Middle of Nowhere won her a directing award at the Sundance Film Festival, making her the first Black woman to do so. Her documentary 13th profiling mass incarceration in the United States and her film Selma chronicling Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march from Selma to Montgomery made DuVernay both the first Black woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary as well as the first Black female director be nominated for Best Picture. Her 2019 Netflix series When They See Us based on the 1988 Central Park jogger case was met with critical acclaim. Duvernay’s next projects include a documentary about the late rapper Nipsey Hussle and collaboration with Colin Kaepernick called Colin in Black and White, a miniseries focusing on Kaepernick’s youth.

  4. 4. Nora Ephron

    The late screenwriter Nora Ephron is often credited with reviving the romantic comedy genre. Her dry humor (and attention to the female narrative) resonated with a wide audience. She started out as a journalist, but her ex-husband Carl Bernstein (one of the main Watergate reporters) pushed her to try screenwriting. Her novel-turned-screenplay Heartburn effectively captured her painful divorce, and starred actors Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. However, she struck gold with her romantic comedies. Her movies like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail set the gold standard for years to come. After her death from cancer in 2012, The Tribeca Film Festival launched the Nora Ephron prize for a female writer or filmmaker with a “distinctive voice.”

  5. 5. Edith Head

    Even almost forty years after her death, Edith Head remains Hollywood’s most legendary costume designer. Working primarily during the ‘40s and ‘50s, she became chief designer at Paramount Pictures where she stayed for three decades (she later moved to Universal Studios). Head worked on over 1,100 films and dressed nearly every actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood. We can see some of her most famous costumes in movies like Roman Holiday, Sabrina, To Catch a Thief, and Rear Window. She was nominated for thirty-five Academy Awards and won eight, which is still the record for most wins by a woman. Head’s secret? Her under-the-radar working style and extensive consulting with the actresses she was dressing, something almost none of her male contemporaries ever did.