A-List Female Actors Who Are Also Big-Time Directors

by Sarah Aswell
Aug 18, 2017 at 11:00 a.m. ET

It’s a bit of a tired cliché in the Hollywood. After years of being on the silver screen, A-list actors decide they want to be the ones who are really in charge: the man in the director chair. Big names like Mel Gibson, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Clint Eastwood have all made their names even bigger by producing blockbusters from behind the camera.

But now, another change is taking place. More and more female actors are stepping up to try their hand at directing too. And they are making waves. From Angelina Jolie to Jodie Foster to Jennifer Aniston, top lady actors are producing movies that rock.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest movers and shakers.

1 /9: Jodie Foster

1/9 :Jodie Foster

You might know her best for her showstopping roles in movies like Silence of the Lambs and The Accused, but Jodie Foster has directed four feature-length films, including 1991’s Little Man Tate and 2016’s Money Monster. She’s also directed some choice moments in television, like episodes of House of CardsOrange Is the New Black, and Black Mirror. We just absolutely couldn’t love this pioneer and feminist any more than we do. 

In her words: “I loved the technical side of [directing] more than anything,” she said during a Tribeca Talks Director Series session. “But I thought [acting] was kind of dumb. I couldn’t believe someone was asking me to say lines that someone else wrote.”

2 /9: Drew Barrymore

2/9 :Drew Barrymore

Drew Berrymore made the unlikely leap from being an internationally known child star to having a successful career as an adult actor. Then she made another step to becoming a producer. Finally, in 2009, she took a seat in the director’s chair to make Whip It, an empowering film about a misfit (played by Ellen Page) who finds confidence when she finds a women’s roller derby team. Barrymore also plays “Smashley Simpson” in the movie. There’s been some talk of her directing again, but there’s nothing in the works currently. 

In her words: Barrymore told the Washington Post, “I’m always curious about the people who say, ‘Why did you want to direct?,’ and, ‘Would you direct again?’ I literally have this sort of anger when they ask me. Like, have you not read my bio? I started a [production] company 15 years ago. This is our tenth movie we’ve produced. Do you think it’s a whim and an accident? I have been training for this for 10 to 15 years.”

3 /9: Courteney Cox

3/9 :Courteney Cox

Courteney Cox has come a long way since being our Friend Monica. After breaking out of television and hitting the silver screen, the actor wanted to spread her wings even further and direct. She began with Just Before I Go in 2014, a dark comedy/drama about a man who wants to start his life over by going to his hometown and making amends. She then directed 12 episodes of Cougar Town, which she also starred in as Jules Cobb. 

In her words: “You know that you’re going to invest so much of your time on a movie when you direct it that it’s something that just really has to jump out at you and pull at your heart, and nothing has,” Cox told Collider after directing Just Before I Go. “I’m anxious to find something, though, because I can’t wait to do it again.” 

4 /9: Kirsten Dunst

4/9 :Kirsten Dunst

Hollywood starlet Kirsten Dunst has, like Drew Barrymore, been on the big screen since she was a child. But after blockbuster roles in movies like Spiderman and Bring It On and roles in indie films like Melancholia, she is ready to go behind the camera. She has already directed two shorts, and now she is in preproduction on an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, starring Dakota Fanning. We can’t wait! 

In her words: Dunst explained to Collider why she picked The Bell Jar for her feature-length debut. “It’s something that speaks to your heart. Something that you feel you have the emotional intelligence to translate for people.” 

5 /9: Brie Larson

5/9 :Brie Larson

Like Kirsten Dunst, Brie Larson took a few years to direct two short films before launching into directing a feature film. Her full-length movie, an independent comedy called Unicorn Store, is in postproduction and will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Larson, who won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in Room two years agoalso stars in the film along with well-known names like Samuel L. Jackson and Joan Cusack. 

In her words: “For me, the idea of directing is not about success for me personally, it’s about putting more pieces on the board,” Larson told USA Today. “I just want women to feel like they can take the risk.” 

6 /9: Elizabeth Banks

6/9 :Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks likes new challenges. And when you’ve already starred in a fair share of successful movies, including The Lego Movie, Hunger Games and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, you might have to turn toward directing to keep things interesting. She and her husband, writer and producer Max Handelman, have been working together for 25 years, and they love taking on big projects. After directing Pitch Perfect 2, Banks is taking on the new Charlie’s Angel’s movie, due out in 2019. 

In her words: Banks told Hollywood Reporter[Directing is] something I’ve always wanted to do. I directed plays in college. I’m very bossy, and I got to a point as an actor where I’d been on 65 or 70 sets. I always find video village. I’m that annoying actor. I never stayed in my trailer. Doing TV and film, it’s always been a learning experience. I love now ?— ?with a movie like Charlie’s Angels? — ?getting to do action and visual effects, and I loved on Pitch Perfect the huge challenge of making a movie musical. I mean, that’s no small feat. It’s a big job, and I like the constant challenge.

7 /9: Angelina Jolie

7/9 :Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie is likely the most well-known actress to sit in the director’s chair — and the most successful so far. She started directing feature-length films in 2007, with In the Land of Blood and Honey, a stark film about the Bosnian War. She followed that with the blockbuster Unbroken, a big-budget WWII drama about war hero and Olympian Louis Zamperini. Finally, in 2015, she directed By the Sea, which she also wrote and starred in. 

In her words: Jolie told The Directors Guild of America that finding success as a director after you’ve made your name as an actor is largely about putting on a game face and working hard. “I think people watch how you present yourself. If you come in and you’re there to roll up your sleeves and work hard, you’ve got a lot of ideas and you’re there to help solve problems, then you become that person to them.”

8 /9: Barbra Streisand

8/9 :Barbra Streisand

Not many people know that singer and actor Barbra Streisand was yelling into a megaphone and directing high-budget films before many of the newer female directors were born. She was behind the camera for Yentl (which she starred in), The Prince of Tides (which she starred in), and The Mirror Has Two Faces (yep, you guessed it, she starred in it).

In her words: Streisand told Hollywood Reporter, “I would say I’m an actress first, only because I started singing because I couldn’t get a job as an actress, and I started directing because I couldn’t be heard as an actress.”

9 /9: Julie Delpy

9/9 :Julie Delpy

French actress Julie Delpy might have become famous in the United States for her roles in movies like Before Sunset and Before Midnight, but you might not know that she is also an experienced writer and director with six feature films under her belt. Currently, she’s working on a movie called My Zoe, a mother-daughter drama. 

In her words: Delpy talks about the double standards that come with being a female director with Indie Wire: “It’s a man’s world, especially in Hollywood. There’s this fear that women are ‘emotional.’ There’s this stigma about women being hysterical… that we’re not as organized, that we can’t rule a set. I can imagine if a woman experienced what happened on I Heart Huckabees to David O. Russell, who was basically almost beating up people on set. It’s hilarious. He goes all around the set… He’s screaming, throwing things, and everyone’s just waiting around like it happens every day. If a woman did that, she’d never work again for the rest of her life. Ever. I guarantee you, because she would have been labeled as mad, hysterical. She would’ve been put in a madhouse actually, in a mental institution or on Valium for the rest of her life.”