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Kathryn Bigelow

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Kathryn Bigelow
Bigelow in 2010
Kathryn Ann Bigelow

(1951-11-28) November 28, 1951 (age 72)
EducationSan Francisco Art Institute (BFA)
Columbia University (MFA)
  • Director
  • producer
  • writer
Years active1978–present
(m. 1989; div. 1991)

Kathryn Ann Bigelow (born November 27, 1951) is an American movie director, movie producer, screenwriter and television director. Her most critically successful movies are The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. She is the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing and the BAFTA Award for Best Direction for The Hurt Locker. She is also known for other movies such as Point Break, Near Dark, Strange Days and most recently Detroit.

Early Life and education

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Bigelow was born on November 27, 1951 in San Carlos, California.[1] She studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and got a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1972. She did a study program at Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.[2] Bigelow went on to do graduate studies at Columbia University.

Bigelow taught at the California Institute of the Arts. Bigelow wrote her first movie The Set-Up in 1978 at Columbia University. The movie was about two men beating each other up and two professors analyzing the situation.[3] The movie was part of her MFA at Columbia.[4]

Early Career

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Bigelow's first full-length movie was the independent movie The Loveless (1981). She directed it with Monty Montgomery. The story was about a bicycle rider played by Willem Dafoe. Bigelow did not want it to follow a traditional plot-line. The movie was, in some ways, against mainstream Hollywood.[5][6]

Bigelow at the Academy Award ceremony in 2010

Bigelow went on to direct Near Dark (1987). The movie was Bigelow's first as a single director. Three actors were also in Aliens (1986), which James Cameron directed.[7] The movie did not make that much money but got positive reviews from critics.[8] Like The Loveless, Bigelow also broke tradition and experimented with genre. The movie is a mixture of western and vampire genres. In 1988, The Museum of Modern Art highlighted the new movie in its Cineprobe program. Near Dark is considered the first movie, in which Bigelow showed a unique and notable style as filmmaker.[9]

The next movie Bigelow directed was Blue Steel (1990). The movie was an action genre but also had elements of a fantasy movie and plays with genre.[10] In the movie, Jamie Lee Curtis stars as a police officer whom a serial killer stalks. Like Near Dark, Eric Red co-wrote the screenplay. Blue Steel is similar to The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In both, women detectives are the main characters.[11] Some critics said the movie was empowering for women.[12]

Bigelow in 2009

Point Break (1991) followed Blue Steel. The movie starred Keanu Reeves as an FBI agent. The movie made a lot more money than Bigelow's previous movies. It got about $80 million profit. However, it had somewhat lower ratings. Critics thought the movie was simply an action movie and was just gut emotions.[13][14][15] Some have said the movie is not as radical or feminist as Bigelow's other movies.[16] The movie has created a cult following.[17]

Bigelow directed her next movie Strange Days (1995). She worked with her former husband, James Cameron, on the story. Bigelow focused more on the less romantic parts of the story.[18] Bigelow partly wanted to work on Strange Days because of events like the 1992 Los Angeles riots.[19] The movie was a science fiction thriller and used movie noir.[20] It made very little money and was controversial with critics.[21][22] Bigelow wanted to include controversial themes like racism, abuse of power, and rape.[23] The movie was also controversial, because Bigelow was a female director.[24] Strange Days almost ended Bigelow's career. Bigelow would not direct another movie for five years.[25]

Bigelow directed the independent movie K-19: The Widowmaker in 2002. The movie stars Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson and is about Soviet soldiers in the first nuclear submarine. The movie was very expensive, did not make a lot of money and got mixed reviews.[26][27]


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Bigelow's next movie was the independent movie The Hurt Locker (2008). The movie is about an explosive disposal team in the Iraq War. The movie stars Jeremy Renner, Brian Geraghty and Anthony Mackie. It was shown at the Venice Film Festival in September 2008. Bigelow wanted the movie to be as real as possible, "raw and immediate". Bigelow was interested in the idea of a man going near bombs. Usually, people would run away from bombs. Mark Boal was the screenwriter. Bigelow wanted cinematographer Barry Ackroyd because she liked how real United 93 was.

Bigelow and Tom Hooper at the 2011 Academy Awards

The movie was a critical success and got very positive reviews. Critics liked Bigelow as director. The movie got many awards. The movie got nine Academy Award nominations and won six. It also got nine Oscar nominations. The movie also won many awards from critics. Bigelow won the Academy Award for Best Director, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing and the BAFTA Award for Best Direction.[28] It is thought to be one of best movies of 2008.[29] BBC also named it one of the best movies of the 21st century.[30]

Bigelow's next movie Zero Dark Thirty (2012) was also a success. It is about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Critics praised the movie.[31] They said it was one of the best of year.[32] The movie got five nominations at the Academy Awards and four nominations at the Golden Globe Awards.[33] There was only controversy about the torture scenes.[34]  

Bigelow's most recent movie is Detroit (2017). It is about the 1967 Detroit riots. The movie had positive reviews, but made little money.[35] Bigelow worked again with Mark Boal.[36]

In March 2022, it was announced that Bigelow will direct a movie version of David Koepp’s book, Aurora for Netflix.[37]

Personal life

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Bigelow was married to director James Cameron from 1989 to 1991.[38]

Year Title
Director Producer Writer Notes
1981 The Loveless Yes No Yes Co-written and co-directed with Monty Montgomery
1987 Near Dark Yes No Yes Co-written with Eric Red
1990 Blue Steel Yes No Yes
1991 Point Break Yes No No
1995 Strange Days Yes No No
1996 Undertow No No Yes Co-written with Eric Red
2000 The Weight of Water Yes No No
2002 K-19: The Widowmaker Yes Yes No
2008 The Hurt Locker Yes Yes No Academy Award for Best Director
Academy Award for Best Picture
2012 Zero Dark Thirty Yes Yes No Nominated — Academy Award for Best Picture
2017 Detroit Yes Yes No
TBD Aurora Yes No No


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  1. "Kathryn Bigelow Biography". yahoo.com. Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  2. Yabroff, Jennie (2009-06-18). "Kathryn Bigelow Talks About "The Hurt Locker"". Newsweek. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  3. Bigelow, Kathryn, The Set-Up (Short), retrieved 2022-07-25
  4. Benson-Allott, Caetlin. "Undoing Violence: Politics, Genre, and Duration in Kathryn Bigelow's Cinema" (preview/paywall), Film Quarterly 64.2 (Winter 2010),
  5. Lane, Christina. “From ‘The Loveless to Point Break’: Kathryn Bigelow’s Trajectory in Action.” Cinema Journal 37, no. 4 (1998): 59–81. https://doi.org/10.2307/1225727.
  6. Buckland, Warren. Film Studies: An Introduction: Teach Yourself. United Kingdom: John Murray Press, 2015.
  7. "Why So Many Aliens Cast Members Reunited for Near Dark". ScreenRant. 2020-05-01. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  8. Near Dark, retrieved 2022-07-25
  9. Abbott, Stacey. Near Dark. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020., p. 1-2.
  10. The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor. United Kingdom: Wallflower Press, 2003., p. 53.
  11. MIZEJEWSKI, LINDA. “PICTURING THE FEMALE DICK: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS AND BLUE STEEL.” Journal of Film and Video 45, no. 2/3 (1993): 6–23. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20688003.
  12. Grant, Barry Keith. 2019. Film genre: from iconography to ideology. [Place of publication not identified]: Wallflower Press. https://rbdigital.rbdigital.com Archived 2021-05-18 at the Wayback Machine, p. 88.
  13. "'Point Break' (R)". www.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  14. "Point Break : Review : Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. 2007-10-24. Archived from the original on 2008-12-11. Retrieved 2022-07-25.
  15. Clark, Mike (July 12, 1991). "Point Break is a dramatic wipeout". USA Today.
  16. The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor. United Kingdom: Wallflower Press, 2003, p. 107.
  17. Robbie Collin (February 2, 2016). "Tough guys have feelings too: the power of Point Break". Telegraph. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  18. "Andrew Hultkrans in a 1995 conversation with Kathryn Bigelow". www.artforum.com. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  19. Deborah Jermyn; Sean Redmond (January 2003). "Introduction". The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow: Hollywood Transgressor. Wallflower Press. pp. 1–19. ISBN 978-1903364420.
  20. Katerina Kitsi-Mitakou; Zoe Detsi-Diamanti (May 2009). "Fleshing Out Virtual Bodies: White Heterosexual Masculinity in Contemporary Cyberfantasy Cinema". The Future of Flesh: A Cultural Survey of the Body. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 181–198. ISBN 978-0230613478.
  21. Bigelow, Kathryn (1995-10-13), Strange Days (Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi), Lightstorm Entertainment, retrieved 2022-07-26
  22. Travers, Peter; Travers, Peter (1995-10-13). "Strange Days". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  23. "'Strange Days' Probes Import Of Vicarious Living". Christian Science Monitor. 1995-11-20. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  24. "FILM: Lights, camera, lots of action". The Independent. 1996-02-25. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  25. Peter Keough, ed. (August 30, 2013). "Introduction". Kathryn Bigelow: Interviews. University Press of Mississippi. pp. IX–XVIII. ISBN 978-1617037740.
  26. Bigelow, Kathryn (2002-07-19), K-19: The Widowmaker (Drama, History, Thriller), First Light Production, IMF Internationale Medien und Film GmbH & Co. 2. Produktions KG, Intermedia Films, retrieved 2022-07-26
  27. K-19: The Widowmaker, retrieved 2022-07-26
  28. The Hurt Locker - IMDb, retrieved 2022-07-26
  29. "Metacritic: 2009 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. 2010-02-11. Archived from the original on 2010-02-11. Retrieved 2022-07-26.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  30. "The 21st Century's 100 greatest films". www.bbc.com. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  31. Zero Dark Thirty, retrieved 2022-07-26
  32. "2012 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2018-05-11. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  33. Zero Dark Thirty - IMDb, retrieved 2022-07-26
  34. Greenwald, Glenn (December 14, 2012). "Zero Dark Thirty: CIA hagiography, pernicious propaganda". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on December 15, 2013
  35. "Detroit". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2022-07-26.
  36. Bigelow, Kathryn (2017-08-04), Detroit (Crime, Drama, History), Annapurna Pictures, First Light Production, Page 1, retrieved 2022-07-26
  37. Kroll, Justin (2022-03-31). "Kathryn Bigelow To Direct Adaptation Of David Koepp Novel 'Aurora' For Netflix". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-04-01.
  38. Angeles, John Harlow in Los. "Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron: Who gets custody of Oscar?". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2020-11-26.

Other websites

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