The 25 Most Adventurous Women of the Past 25 Years

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Kathryn Bigelow
Everett Collection 8/25

Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow was a genre-defining, boundary-pushing director long before Hollywood even recognized it had a diversity problem, and she did it by making movies that took on some of the world's most testosterone-filled subjects — war and adrenaline-sports.

Bigelow started her career as a painter and conceptual artist in 1970s New York City. Later she transitioned into filmmaking and began making her mark with action movies. In 1991 she directed Point Break, which gave a human face — specifically Kenau Reeves' and Patrick Swazye's — to adrenaline-crazed surfers and skydivers and dirt bikers, helping bring extreme sports to the mainstream. Point Break can largely be credited with launching the action-sports era that lives on today in Red Bull marketing stunts and GoPro POV films.

In 2009, she became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for her work on bomb-squad war thriller The Hurt Locker. Again, she was able to expose the rarely seen humanity of a group of men in high-risk positions. Shot in the desert of Jordan within miles of the Iraqi border, where temperatures reached 120 degrees, the film explored what she later called the “multifaceted and flawed” aspects of human nature. It won a total of six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. She followed it up with Zero Dark Thirty, another blockbuster war thriller.

Bigelow is now turning to virtual reality filmmaking, adding another layer of empathy to her usually isolated, unknown subjects. Her first feature will be on ivory poaching in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which will screen at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.  

Noteworthy Feats

  • Releases Point Break in 1991, shepherding an era of extreme sports.
  • After releasing The Hurt Locker in 2009, Bigelow wins Academy Award for Best Director, becoming the first woman ever to win the title. She also won for Best Film.

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