Oscars: Female Directors Break Record for Most Nominations in One Year

Chloe Zhao and Emerald Fennell
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images; Rich Polk/Getty Images

For the first time, more than one female director has been nominated in the best director category. 

For the first time in the Academy Awards' nearly century-old history, more than one female director has been nominated in the best director category.

Directors Chloé Zhao (Nomadland) and Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) were both nominated in the best director category for the 93rd Academy Awards, with Zhao also becoming the first nonwhite woman to be nominated.

In total, only five women have been nominated in the best director category. The first was Lina Wertmüller in 1977 for Seven Beauties, followed by nominations for Jane Campion (The Piano, 1994), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2010) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, 2018). Bigelow is the first and only woman to win in the category.

Zhao is the first woman to receive four nominations in a single year; she is nominated in the film editing, adapted screenplay, director and best picture categories. Fennell, who is the first woman to be nominated for a feature directorial debut, received three nominations, the third woman to do so, along with Coppola for Lost in Translation and Fran Walsh (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

In total, the nominations for the 93rd annual Academy Awards saw 70 women receive 76 nominations, a record for any given year.

"An Oscar nomination is the evidence of an industry that values work from its first screening until the nomination process. Often, women directors don't receive that level of notice," Stacy L. Smith explained to THR in an email. Smith is behind USC's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which has long tracked the progress women have made in the industry in key creative and leadership roles.

She adds: "To see continued progress, the Academy and other awards bodies must recognize the work of women not only once but across their careers — as has happened for men in this role."

The Oscar nominations come after women directors made history at the Golden Globes, where female directors — Zhao, and Fennell and Regina King — made up the majority of the category. Zhao went on to win the award, becoming the second woman ever to win the best director award and the first Asian woman to do so.

Along with Zhao and Fennell, the other nominees in the category are Lee Isaac Chung (Minari), David Fincher (Mank) and Thomas Vinterberg (Another Round).

The 93rd annual Academy Awards will take place April 25.