All the Best Director Oscar Winners of the 2010s: End of a Decade

1:37 PM 12/5/2019

by Annie Howard

The most coveted prize for filmmakers recognized diversity among winners in the 2010s, but still left much to be desired in how far Hollywood and the Academy have to go for inclusion in the category.

Kathryn Bigelow
Kathryn Bigelow
Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images

The most coveted prize for filmmakers, the best director honor, highlighted diversity among winners, but left much to be desired in how far Hollywood and the Academy have to go in terms of inclusion during the 2010s. The decade marked the first and only best director win for a woman, The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow, but only one other woman (Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird) went on to earn a nomination in the next 10 years. To date, no female filmmakers of color have ever been nominated for best director out of 91 years of the awards.

After Ang Lee became the first non-white winner in the category in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain, he won a second best director Oscar in 2013 for Life of Pi. He was the only nominee of Asian descent throughout the decade. There has yet to be a black filmmaker to win the category, but the decade recognized five black directors including Lee Daniels (Precious), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Jordan Peele (Get Out) and Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman) as nominees. McQueen went on to win an Oscar for best picture and Jenkins, Peele and Lee all won Oscars for their screenplays. John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood) is the only previously nominated black filmmaker.

Five of the 10 best director wins of the 2010s went to Mexican directors, with two wins for Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Roma), two wins for Alejandro Iñárritu (BirdmanThe Revenant) and one win for Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water). Previously nominated Latino filmmakers include Héctor Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Fernando Meirelles (City of God), along with Iñárritu (Babel).

Damien Chazelle (La La Land) became the youngest recipient of the best director award while British director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) and French director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) rounded out the best director Oscars through the 2010s.

See all 10 best director Oscar winners from the past decade below.

[Please note: Years reference the year the award was presented].

  • 2010: Kathryn Bigelow, 'The Hurt Locker'

    Kathryn Bigelow
    Kathryn Bigelow
    GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

    The first and only female best director winner, Kathryn Bigelow, started off the decade with a historical win for The Hurt Locker. The film, starring Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie in their breakout roles, went on to win best original screenplay (Mark Boal) and best picture (Bigelow, Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro) that year.

    Despite a hopeful start to the decade, only one other woman went on to earn a nomination over the years (Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird), adding to the short list of female nominees including Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties), Jane Campion (The Piano) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation). Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, starring Jessica Chastain, went on to earn a best picture nomination (and an additional nomination for writer Boal and a nod for Chastain), but did not land a nomination for the director, nor did her acclaimed film Detroit, starring John Boyega.

  • 2011: Tom Hooper, 'The King's Speech'

    Tom Hooper
    Tom Hooper
    GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

    Director Tom Hooper got his start in television with Emmy-winning work on the acclaimed miniseries Elizabeth I followed by John Adams, starring Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as the historical first couple. He directed Michael Sheen in The Damn United before working with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech.

    The film itself won four Oscars including best director, best picture, best actor (Firth) and best original screenplay. It picked up eight additional nominations with supporting noms for Rush and Bonham Carter along with cinematography, editing, costume design, original score, sound mixing and art direction.

    Since his Oscar win, Hooper directed Les Misérables and The Danish Girl, which awarded Anne Hathaway and Alicia Vikander with Oscars for their respective supporting roles. His film adaptation of the Broadway musical Cats, starring Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Rebel Wilson, James Corden, Taylor Swift and others, is due to premiere on Dec. 20.

  • 2012: Michel Hazanavicius, 'The Artist'

    Michel Hazanavicius
    Michel Hazanavicius
    ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

    French writer and director Michel Hazanavicius won best director for his film The Artist, a silent black and white film starring Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman. The film won five Oscars across best picture, best director, best actor (Dujardin), best costume design and best original score. It earned an additional five nominations for best supporting actress (Bejo), best original screenplay (Hazanavicius), best cinematography, best editing and best art direction. Since the 2012 Oscars, Hazanavicius has gone on to write and direct Godard Mon Amour and The Search.

  • 2013: Ang Lee, 'Life of Pi'

    Ang Lee
    Ang Lee
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Ang Lee is the first non-white director to win the Academy Award for best director (Brokeback Mountain) and remains the only director of Asian descent to win the category, earning his second win for Life of Pi. M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), Akira Kurosawa (Ran) and Hiroshi Teshigahara (Woman in the Dunes) are the only other filmmakers of Asian descent to earn best director nominations along with Lee, who was also nominated for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Hopeful 2020 nominees include South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho for Parasite and Lulu Wang, who is of Chinese descent, for The Farewell.

    In addition to his Award-winning work of Crouching Tiger, Brokeback and Pi, Lee's earlier acclaimed work includes Sense and Sensibility and Eat Drink Man Woman. Since his last Oscar win, Lee has gone on to direct Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, starring Joe Alwyn, and Will Smith's Gemini Man.

  • 2014: Alfonso Cuarón, 'Gravity'

    Alfonso Cuarón
    Alfonso Cuarón
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Alfonso Cuarón's 2001 film Y Tu Mamá También earned him his first Oscar nomination (original screenplay) and escalated him into international acclaim, along with the film's stars, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna. He went on to direct the third installment in the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and three career masterpieces including Children of Men, Gravity and Roma. He earned best original screenplay and best editing nominations for Children of Men, the dystopian thriller starring Clive Owen, and won his first Oscar for best director (along with best editing) for Gravity, the Sandra Bullock-led space drama. He also earned a best picture nomination for the film.

    Four years later, Cuarón earned his second best director win for his personal dramatic narrative, Roma. He also won best cinematography for Roma and picked up nominations for best picture and best original screenplay.

  • 2015: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 'Birdman'

    Alejandro G. Iñárritu
    Alejandro G. Iñárritu
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    After Alejandro Iñárritu's debut feature Amores Perros (starring Gael García Bernal) picked up an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film, he transitioned to American cinema with 21 Grams, a crime thriller starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio del Toro. (Watts and del Toro each scored Oscar nominations for their performances). He followed Grams with 2006's Babel, starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, earning him his first Oscar nominations for best director and best picture. He dipped back into Mexican film with Biutiful for a second best foreign language film nomination and a best actor nomination for the film's star Javier Bardem.

    It was Iñárritu's next feature, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), that won him his first best director award. The film won a total of four Oscars, including best picture for Iñárritu (shared with John Lesher and James W. Skotchdopole), best original screenplay for Iñárritu (shared with Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo) and best cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki (a career collaborator with Iñárritu, Cuarón and del Toro). The film picked up five additional nominations, three for actors Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton. The very next year, Iñárritu went on to win his second best director Oscar for The Revenant, the film that finally won Leonardo DiCaprio his long-awaited best acting Oscar.

  • 2016: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 'The Revenant'

    Alejandro G. Iñárritu
    Alejandro G. Iñárritu
    Christopher Polk/Getty Images

    With a body of work that included three Oscars and two nominations, Iñárritu went on to score a consecutive best director win for The Revenant, bringing his career Oscar total to four. The wilderness survival adventure, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson, won a total of three Oscars and picked up nine additional Oscar nominations. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won his third Oscar (the first was for Cuarón's Gravity and the second for Iñárritu's Birdman) and DiCaprio won his first career Oscar after his four previous acting nominations.

  • 2017: Damien Chazelle, 'La La Land'

    Damien Chazelle
    Damien Chazelle
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Damien Chazelle shot to stardom with his Oscar-nominated debut feature Whiplash, starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. The film earned Chazelle a best screenplay Oscar nomination and went on to win a best supporting actor Oscar for Simmons, along with wins for sound editing and mixing.

    Chazelle went on the win best director for his next film, La La Land, a popular musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The film won a total of six Oscars, including best actress for Stone, best cinematography, best score, best song and best production design. The film earned a best picture nomination and presenter Warren Beatty infamously and mistakenly announced La La Land as the winner before Barry Jenkins's Moonlight was announced as the actual winner.

    Chazelle's third film, First Man, starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong, didn't earn him any additional nominations (although the film won an Oscar for best visual effects and scored three more nominations). His next film Babylon is set to star Brad Pitt and Emma Stone.

  • 2018: Guillermo del Toro, 'The Shape of Water'

    Guillermo del Toro
    Guillermo del Toro
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Guillermo del Toro made his crossover from a horror-fantasy cult following to one of the industry's top talents with his Oscar-winning film Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno). Directing films such as Hellboy, Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak, del Toro won the best director honor (along with best picture) for The Shape of Water, starring Sally Hawkins. He has two additional best original screenplay Oscar nominations for both Labyrinth and Shape of Water.

    Since his win, del Toro has launched a scholarship for aspiring Mexican filmmakers and is set to write and direct a dark retelling of Pinocchio, along with a remake of the 1947 noir, Nightmare Alley.

  • 2019: Alfonso Cuarón, 'Roma'

    Alfonso Cuarón
    Alfonso Cuarón
    VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

    With two Oscars and four nominations under his belt, Alfonso Cuarón went on to win his second best director Oscar for Roma, his personal, coming-of-age tale set in Mexico City. The film won a total of three Oscars, including best foreign language film for Mexico and Cuarón's best cinematography win. The film earned seven additional Oscar nominations, including best picture (shared with Gabriela Rodriguez), best original screenplay for Cuarón and acting nominations for Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de Tavira.