The best female directors of all time are women who worked within a system where they were present, but definitely a minority. The women below overcame the odds, however, and produced powerful and enduring works. These directors' powerful films are among the best and most influential offerings of the past century:

  1. Kathryn Bigelow. No list of the best female directors of all time would be complete without Kathryn Bigelow. Her 2010 Oscar award for her film "Hurt Locker" was historic, as no woman in the history of the awards had ever won best director before. She directed other award-winning projects as well, including the 1991 film "Point Break" and the provocative TV series "Homicide: Life on the Streets."

  2. Penny Marshall. She got her start in acting on the comedy classic "Laverne and Shirley" before moving to the other side of the camera. As a director, her films include hits such as "A League of Their Own," "Big" and "Awakenings." "Big" is particularly notable, as it was the first female-directed film to gross over $100 million at the box office. While she no longer directs on a regular basis, she does frequently appear as a guest star and produces movies and television.

  3. Amy Heckerling. Her film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" isn't just one of the most quotable movies of all time. It also proves that Heckerling was confident and competent handling raunchy comedy and accurately portraying the experiences of both teenage boys and girls. "Fast Times" is far from her only success. Other great films directed by Amy Heckerling include "Clueless" and the vastly underrated "I Could Never Be Your Woman."

  4. Julie Taymor. Taymor's work brings a dreamy and otherworldly feel to stories about historic figures like Frida Kahlo and The Beatles, and retellings of historic tales, such as her adaptations of Shakespeare in "Titus" and "The Tempest." Her critically acclaimed surreal bio-pic "Frida" was many Americans' first exposure to the work and life of this important Mexican artist. Taymor brought the same surrealist sensibility to her recent Beatles tribute film "Across the Universe."

  5. Jane Campion. When she was nominated for the Best Director Academy Award for her film "The Piano," she was only the second woman to ever receive that distinction. While she did not win the award, her film claimed three others: Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Campion continues to make important and challenging films such as the 1996 Henry James adaptation "Portrait of a Lady," and her second collaboration with Harvey Keitel "Holy Smoke."

-Lara Stewart