Kathryn Bigelow

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Award-Winning Director

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Kathryn Bigelow: Biography at a Glance

  • The first woman to win the Academy Award, the Director's Guild Award, the BAFTA, and the Critic's Choice Award for directing
  • Won an Academy Award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker
  • Film credits include Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker
  • Spent years researching and interviewing elite members of the military and intelligence operatives responsible for capturing Osama Bin Laden for Zero Dark Thirty




Kathryn Bigelow is one of the film industries most renowned directors, and the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her 2008 war thriller "The Hurt Locker," which also took the award for Best Picture. Her most recent film is the 2017 period crime drama "Detroit."

Bigelow’s groundbreaking and highly acclaimed body of work have blazed trails for women filmmakers, shattering notions of the “fairer gender” in both technique and the handling of subject matter, and established her as both a Hollywood brand and an auteur.

"The Hurt Locker" was honored by critics on over 250 top ten lists and garnered numerous accolades, including Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, the PGA Award Best Picture, BAFTA, Critics Choice, and DGA Awards for Best Director. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay. Kathryn remains the only woman to win an Award for Best Director from the Academy Awards, DGA, BAFTA, or Critics Choice Awards.

In January of 2013, Bigelow was once again honored with nominations from the Producer’s Guild, the Director’s Guild, and the Academy Awards for her film "Zero Dark Thirty." Dubbed with the tagline, “The Greatest Manhunt in History,” "Zero Dark Thirty" chronicles the real life operation that led to the capture and end of Osama Bin Laden. Reuniting with writer Mark Boal, who wrote and co-produced "The Hurt Locker," Bigelow and Boal spent years researching and interviewing elite members of the military and intelligence operatives responsible for accomplishing the decade-long mission.

Bigelow’s most recent film had her team with Mark Boal once again for the period crime drama "Detroit," based on Detroit’s 1967 12th Street riots. The film received widely positive reviews from critics.

Bigelow’s breakout film was the fan-favorite action thriller "Point Break" (1991), which starred Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze. "Point Break" explored the dangerous extremes of a psychological struggle between two young men and made a name for Bigelow in the male dominated arena of Hollywood action films.

On the release of "K-19: The Widowmaker" in 2002, The New York Times declared Bigelow “one of the most gifted…directors working in movies today.” Starring Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Peter Saarsgard, the film tells the true story of a heroic Soviet naval crew who risked their lives to prevent a near nuclear disaster aboard their submarine. Roger Ebert praised Bigelow as “an expert technician who never steps wrong.”

In 1972, Bigelow earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the San Francisco Arts Institute. While enrolled at SFAI, she was accepted into the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study scholarship in New York City. Bigelow then entered the graduate film program at Columbia University, where she studied theory and criticism and earned her master’s degree. Her professors included Vito Acconci, Sylvère Lotringer, and Susan Sontag, and she worked with the Art & Language Collective and noted conceptualist Lawrence Weiner. She has also taught at the California Institute of the Arts.

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