film The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List  

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List Rules The best directors currently living.

List of the best living filmmakers (though not necessarily still actively making films.) When discussing the finest directors of all time, a few names immediately pop to mind. John Ford. John Huston. Frank Capra. But adding in the condition that they must still be living adds a level of difficulty.

Sure, you still have a few luminaries who are with us and clearly are contenders for the title - Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg. These guys are no slouches. But it starts to make the list a bit more challenging to compile, particularly when you consider the vast array of genres and styles in which these directors are working. Can John Lasseter's work in animation be directly compared to Sofia Coppola's atmospheric character studies? Can John Carpenter's '80s horror classics comfortably sit side-by-side with Wes Anderson's twee indie adventures? These are the kinds of tough calls Ranker listers are just going to have to make.

One final element to consider would be consistency. Terrence Malick has made far fewer films than most of the entrants on this list, but most (if not all) have been of a remarkably high level of quality. Does that earn him a spot above, say, Clint Eastwood, who has worked a lot but with a somewhat more spotty record? Tough choices... but isn't that what ranking is all about?
list ordered by

1
1,149 304
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Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed

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2
994 451
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Steven Spielberg E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Schindler's List

3
756 323
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Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now

4
1,026 455
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Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds

5
719 324
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Joel Coen Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski

6
674 280
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David Fincher Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

7
733 393
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Clint Eastwood Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

8
615 270
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Ridley Scott Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

9
890 344
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

10
559 293
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David Lynch Mullholland Drive, Elephant Man, Blue Velvet

11
496 256
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Paul Thomas Anderson The Master, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

12
527 389
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James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar Avatar 2

13
462 308
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Ron Howard Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind

14
575 416
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Woody Allen Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, To Rome

15
491 363
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Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns

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16
478 235
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Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums

17
420 294
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Peter Jackson The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

18
353 219
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Robert Zemeckis Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

19
382 260
Roman Polański is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Roman Polański Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist

20
266 106
Ethan Coen is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
StacyWolfe added Ethan Coen The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Fargo

21
324 224
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Brian De Palma Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables

22
362 260
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Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs

23
306 215
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John Carpenter Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York

24
320 245
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Steven Soderbergh Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

25
313 213
Ang Lee is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Ang Lee Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger

26
318 262
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Oliver Stone Platoon, Scarface, JFK

27
332 280
J.J. Abrams is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
J.J. Abrams Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Armageddon

28
312 292
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George Lucas Star Wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

29
209 122
Danny Boyle is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Danny Boyle Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire

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30
262 195
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Terrence Malick The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Badlands

31
254 153
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Miloš Forman One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Hair

32
209 80
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
beernbugs added Terry Gilliam Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

33
179 80
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Guillermo del Toro Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim

34
221 68
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Stanley Kubrick The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

35
187 115
Peter Weir is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Peter Weir Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

36
187 136
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Mike Nichols The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl

37
254 206
Rob Reiner is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
Rob Reiner The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me

38
228 184
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Michael Mann Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator

39
200 161
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Richard Linklater Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Beavis and Butt-head Do America

40
180 132
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
PeteBoyle added David Cronenberg The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome

41
155 104
Mel Gibson is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
looksharp added Mel Gibson Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Pocahontas

42
213 206
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Sam Raimi Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

43
158 139
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William Friedkin The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.

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44
140 85
Frank Darabont is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
laaaarrge added Frank Darabont The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, King Kong

45
188 155
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Gus Van Sant Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Milk

46
141 85
Spike Jonze is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
AlanSmithee added Spike Jonze The Wolf of Wall Street, Being John Malkovich, Moneyball

47
128 39
Alfonso Cuarón is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
AlanSmithee added Alfonso Cuarón Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pan's Labyrinth, Gravity

48
181 156
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George A. Romero The Silence of the Lambs, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

49
116 46
Hayao Miyazaki is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
AlanSmithee added Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke

50
117 68
Jean-Luc Godard is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked List
PeteBoyle added Jean-Luc Godard Breathless, Pierrot le Fou, Band of Outsiders