Couch Potato’s Top Women in the World of Film

I wanted to feature a celebration of outstanding women in the film industry to mark the International Women’s Day Centenary today. But there are so many women deserving of acknowledgement, and no time to list them all.

So I’ve pulled out ten who are particularly outstanding.

In no particular order:

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep

She’s received more Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations than any other actor, and is widely considered the most talented actress out there. And she’s still pulling them in – everyone’s got The Iron Lady down as a must see already.

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Bagging Oscars for both acting and screenwriting, Emma Thompson is a fantastic talent whose skills as a comedienne are matched by her skills at conveying emotion (think gasping Elinor in Sense & Sensibility or the gathering composure scene in Love Actually).

Drew Barrymore

The Wedding Singer, Drew Barrymore

Drew deserves admiration for coming through her post-child-star breakdown and making it as a much-loved actress, as well as a producer and now director. She’s also given much support to the United Nations World Food Programme.

Oprah Winfrey

The Color Purple, Oprah Winfrey

Why Oprah? She’s not starred in a huge amount of movies, she’s more TV than film, I hear you cry. Well, yes, it’s true, but as one of the most powerful women in the world, Oprah has clout. Remember, when she heard that the novel Push by Sapphire was being made into a film, she got on board as producer and set about promoting Precious to the masses. And we all went to see it too didn’t we?  And this year she’s launched OWN – her own network, and she’s vowed to bring film documentaries into the mainstream. Time will tell of course. But even if it’s not a success, her intentions are still great.

Female Cinematographers

We rarely hear about female cinematographers. Alarmingly, a woman has never been nominated for an Oscar in this category, even though there are some fantastic women photographers out there. Think Ellen Kuras for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Mandy Walker for Australia or Maryse Alberti for The Wrestler. It’s definitely a man’s world, so recognition must go to every woman who’s battled to carve out a career in this field.

Dorothy Arzner

You may not have heard of her, but she was one of the few  female directors making feature films between the late 1920s to the 1940s. Her film The Wild Party was the 3rd top grossing film of 1929. She helped launch the careers of many actresses, including Kathryn Hepburn and Lucille Ball, and can also be held responsible for creating the first boom mike.

Nora Ephron

Imagine a world without When Harry Met Sally. Well, that would be the case if it wasn’t for screenwriter Nora Ephron, who also wrote and directed Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and Julie & Julia, amongst others. Ephron is additionally a producer, novelist, journalist and blogger. She also deserves to be on this list for saying ‘you can never have too much butter’ (Julie & Julia). So true.

Kathyrn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow

The only woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, Bigelow broke ground with The Hurt Locker. She was also the first woman to win the BAFTA for Best Direction.

Elizabeth Taylor

Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor

As well as being a double Oscar winning screen legend who started out as a child star, Taylor was the first person in the entertainment industry to do anything about Aids, and at a time when most people were afraid to do so. She helped start the American Foundation for Aids Research before going on to found the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation.

Barbra Streisand

The Way We Were, Barbra Streisand

Singer, songwriter, actress, director, film producer Barbra is a double Oscar-winner for Best Actress as well as Best Music, Original Song. She is also one of the few entertainers who’ve won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony award. And she’s still going strong – with My Mother’s Curse currently in production. Furthermore, The Streisand Foundation – founded in 1986 – has contributed millions of dollars to worthy charitable causes, including civil rights, civil liberties and Aids organisations.

Discuss these outstanding women (plus the women YOU think should have been included) on our Movie Talk Facebook page or Twitter stream.

By the way, one of these fabulous women features in this week’s Name That Chest. Do you know which one?

And, finally, on the subject of International Women’s Day, the Birds Eye Film Festival 2011 kicks off today in London – celebrating a century of women filmmakers with a packed nine-day programme of films and events.

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