The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film

The Greatest Directors in Movie History

66,514 votes 4,960 voters 92,201 views 619 items tags f p @

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!


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  1. 1
    + 1650
    - 449

    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
    + 1384
    - 305


    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

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  3. 3
    + 1347
    - 354


    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

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  4. 4
    + 1143
    - 573

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

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  5. 5
    + 853
    - 356


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

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  6. 6
    + 1232
    - 586


    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

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  7. 7
    + 776
    - 270


    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

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  8. 8
    + 784
    - 276


    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

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  9. 9
    + 651
    - 283


    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

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  10. 10
    + 672
    - 263


    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

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  11. 11
    + 1046
    - 509


    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

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  12. 12
    + 529
    - 204


    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

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  13. 13
    + 676
    - 279


    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

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  14. 14
    + 637
    - 341


    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

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  15. 15
    + 471
    - 206


    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

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  16. 16
    + 657
    - 310


    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

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  17. 17
    + 480
    - 205


    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

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  18. 18
    + 602
    - 228


    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

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  19. 19
    + 530
    - 260


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

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  20. 20
    + 494
    - 188


    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

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  21. 21
    + 493
    - 258


    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

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  22. 22
    + 395
    - 164


    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

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  23. 23
    + 536
    - 377

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

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  24. 24
    + 337
    - 151


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

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  25. 25
    + 326
    - 163


    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

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  26. 26
    + 280
    - 174


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

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  27. 27
    + 291
    - 151


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

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  28. 28
    + 316
    - 176


    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

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  29. 29
    + 350
    - 188


    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

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  30. 30
    + 303
    - 177


    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

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  31. 31
    + 289
    - 146


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

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  32. 32
    + 253
    - 97


    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

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  33. 33
    + 375
    - 283


    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

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  34. 34
    + 437
    - 329


    Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

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  35. 35
    + 320
    - 202


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

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  36. 36
    + 228
    - 139


    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

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  37. 37
    + 408
    - 318


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

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  38. 38
    + 270
    - 149


    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

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  39. 39
    + 288
    - 174


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

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  40. 40
    + 219
    - 121


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

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  41. 41
    + 244
    - 135


    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

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  42. 42
    + 226
    - 135


    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

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  43. 43
    + 261
    - 191


    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

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  44. 44
    + 183
    - 88


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

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  45. 45
    + 257
    - 169


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

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  46. 46
    + 199
    - 133


    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

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  47. 47
    + 213
    - 127


    Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Encounters At The End of The World

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  48. 48
    + 220
    - 141


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

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  49. 49
    + 226
    - 139


    Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoki, The Castle of Cagliostro

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  50. 50
    + 187
    - 109


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

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620 +

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