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The Greatest Directors in Movie History

List Criteria: Most important, culturally significant filmmakers of all time who deserve award recognition.

List of the greatest directors in movie history, who are most deserving of Academy Awards and critical recognition. The list includes directors who have already won major awards, those who continue to have the potential to win Oscars and filmmakers who were overlooked by the Academy during their lifetimes. The skill set of a high-level director is massive - everything from working with and managing large teams to a strong aesthetic and artistic sensibility to the ability to sell ideas to studio executives and potential collaborators. Though many have mastered the actual work of getting films made, only a rare few have managed to create truly memorable, important motion pictures that will stand the test of time.

Often, the greatest of these filmmakers will go unrecognized by the Motion Picture Academy, particularly during the most active, vital period of their careers. Alfred Hitchcock famously never took home a statue for Best Director, despite being perhaps the MOST iconic of all film directors, and certainly one of the most significant contributors to contemporary film language and genre. Martin Scorsese eventually did take home Best Director for his work on "The Departed," but this film came long after the movies for which Scorsese will likely be best remembered - "Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull" and so on.

This list disregards the quibbles over who has won in the past or will win in the future, and instead focuses purely on the quality of the filmmaking and the importance of the films themselves. Vote for your favorite directors, and if some of your choices haven't yet made the list, make your own version of the list and add them on there!

The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film
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  1. 1
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    the people's #1 & most listed
    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, ...

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  2. 2
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    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

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  3. 3
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    - 306


    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

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  4. 4
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    often listed & Ranked High on Reranks
    Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

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  5. 5
    + 1062
    - 490


    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

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  6. 6
    + 716
    - 318


    The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Apocalypse Now

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  7. 7
    + 654
    - 238


    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

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  8. 8
    + 667
    - 245


    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

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  9. 9
    + 548
    - 251


    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

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  10. 10
    + 577
    - 232


    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

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  11. 11
    + 911
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    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

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  12. 12
    + 584
    - 237


    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

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  13. 13
    + 441
    - 177


    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

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  14. 14
    + 554
    - 289


    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

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  15. 15
    + 407
    - 173


    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

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  16. 16
    + 573
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    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

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  17. 17
    + 415
    - 179


    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

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  18. 18
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    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

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  19. 19
    + 458
    - 231


    Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man

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  20. 20
    + 428
    - 220


    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

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  21. 21
    + 415
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    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

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  22. 22
    + 341
    - 144


    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

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  23. 23
    + 462
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    often listed & Ranked High on Reranks
    Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

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  24. 24
    + 294
    - 124


    It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, It Happened One Night ...

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  25. 25
    + 282
    - 133


    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

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  26. 26
    + 255
    - 121


    One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde

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  27. 27
    + 247
    - 148


    The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage

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  28. 28
    + 271
    - 147


    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

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  29. 29
    + 248
    - 119


    Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India

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  30. 30
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    - 141


    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

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  31. 31
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    - 119


    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

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  32. 32
    + 327
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    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

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  33. 33
    + 366
    - 281


    The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hot Fuzz ...

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  34. 34
    + 256
    - 148


    Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Monty Python: The Life of Brian, Twelve ...

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  35. 35
    + 373
    - 283


    Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

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  36. 36
    + 200
    - 120


    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

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  37. 37
    + 263
    - 168


    The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling ...

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  38. 38
    + 279
    - 162


    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

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  39. 39
    + 192
    - 77


    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

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  40. 40
    + 208
    - 114


    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

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  41. 41
    + 185
    - 102


    On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden

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  42. 42
    + 229
    - 170


    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

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  43. 43
    + 171
    - 109


    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

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  44. 44
    + 185
    - 121


    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

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  45. 45
    + 219
    - 139


    Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blazing Saddles, Life Stinks

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  46. 46
    + 146
    - 76


    The Milky Way, Death in the Garden, The River and Death

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  47. 47
    + 164
    - 115


    The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia

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  48. 48
    + 163
    - 93


    Le Grande Illusion, The Rules of The Game, The Lower Depths

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  49. 49
    + 182
    - 124


    The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven

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  50. 50
    + 139
    - 76


    Ben Hur, Roman Holiday, The Best Years Of Our Lives

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