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Who is the highest-grossing female director ever?

Sep. 6, 2011by: Dave Davis

Instinctively, you might be inclined to answer that headline question with Catherine Hardwicke, who kicked off the TWILIGHT movie series to considerable worldwide success. But... nope.

How about Penny Marshall (BIG, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN)? Maybe Nora Ephron (SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, JULIE & JULIA)? Oscar-winning ass-kicker Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER, POINT BREAK)?

The answer, of course, is Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who made her feature debut on KUNG FU PANDA 2. The Dreamworks sequel didn't make a massive impact with Po's punches here in the US this summer, but went on to collect $645 million at the global box office. Ska-ching!

Perhaps more surprising -- the second place slot goes to Phyllida Lloyd (??) with a $610 million worldwide tally... for MAMMA MIA! Apparently the planet is united in ABBA.

Extra Tidbit: Is there a gal out there who can break this record?
Source: Dreamworks

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4:38PM on 09/07/2011
Kung Fu Panda 2 was a really good movie and Jennifer Yuh Nelson deserves as much credit as anyone for making it so. Animated movies sometimes seem like something off an assembly line in a factory, but they don't just appear out of thin air. There has to be a vision there.
By the way, even though Kung Fu Panda 2 is nearly $30 million behind Cars 2 in the U.S., it's over $150 million ahead of the Pixar failure worldwide. Pretty impressive.
Kung Fu Panda 2 was a really good movie and Jennifer Yuh Nelson deserves as much credit as anyone for making it so. Animated movies sometimes seem like something off an assembly line in a factory, but they don't just appear out of thin air. There has to be a vision there.
By the way, even though Kung Fu Panda 2 is nearly $30 million behind Cars 2 in the U.S., it's over $150 million ahead of the Pixar failure worldwide. Pretty impressive.
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10:50AM on 09/07/2011

how about career gross?

Nora Ephron's movies have grossed over 850M worldwide. When you add in her career as a writer (When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, etc.) then you're probably over 1 Billion. I'm not sure how the other directors on your list stack up, but I think all-time gross is a more worthwhile figure.
Kung Fu Panda's success is nothing to scoff at, but that's a movie that comes from a machine, so to speak. And it's a sequel to boot.
Nora Ephron's movies have grossed over 850M worldwide. When you add in her career as a writer (When Harry Met Sally, Silkwood, etc.) then you're probably over 1 Billion. I'm not sure how the other directors on your list stack up, but I think all-time gross is a more worthwhile figure.
Kung Fu Panda's success is nothing to scoff at, but that's a movie that comes from a machine, so to speak. And it's a sequel to boot.
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7:13AM on 09/07/2011
I would have guessed Nancy Meyer personally myself.
I would have guessed Nancy Meyer personally myself.
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+18
5:26AM on 09/07/2011
Isn't it Lana Wachowski?
Isn't it Lana Wachowski?
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12:15AM on 09/07/2011
I'm not trying to take anything away from this accomplishment or Nelson, but wouldn't this movie make an insane amount of money if even a monkey directed it? This is just like when people were throwing out Shia's name as a box-offce titan. Uhh.. Indy IV and the Transformers franchise would have grossed the same amount with or without Shia.

And on top of that, it's head-scratching and upsetting how little female directors we have helming big projects already. Being the #1 grossing female
I'm not trying to take anything away from this accomplishment or Nelson, but wouldn't this movie make an insane amount of money if even a monkey directed it? This is just like when people were throwing out Shia's name as a box-offce titan. Uhh.. Indy IV and the Transformers franchise would have grossed the same amount with or without Shia.

And on top of that, it's head-scratching and upsetting how little female directors we have helming big projects already. Being the #1 grossing female director of all-time with only one movie just shines a light on the ridiculously small amount of female directors getting a shot out there.

Bigelow needs more love, she's been awfully quiet and hard at work since The Hurt Locker. She's got a shit-ton of talent and took a very masculine-centered story with a mostly all-male cast and brought home Oscar gold.
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11:43PM on 09/06/2011
My first guess was Penny Marshall considering how long she has been around for.
My first guess was Penny Marshall considering how long she has been around for.
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+12
11:09PM on 09/06/2011
Really with 1 movie? I know female directors dont get many shots to direct, but I'm surprised by this. Give some of the ladies a shot to direct some movie's that have potential to be badass, like Mary Harron who directed American Psycho and look how that turned out
Really with 1 movie? I know female directors dont get many shots to direct, but I'm surprised by this. Give some of the ladies a shot to direct some movie's that have potential to be badass, like Mary Harron who directed American Psycho and look how that turned out
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