The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film
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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 really did win 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
    + 852
    - 196

    the people's #1 & most listed Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, ...

    ) open
  2. 2
    + 717
    - 149

    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

    ) open
  3. 3
    + 665
    - 167

    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

    ) open
  4. 4
    + 559
    - 272

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

    ) open
  5. 5
    + 596
    - 274

    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

    ) open
  6. 6
    + 430
    - 196

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

    ) open
  7. 7
    + 405
    - 138

    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

    ) open
  8. 8
    + 392
    - 138

    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

    ) open
  9. 9
    + 534
    - 241

    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

    ) open
  10. 10
    + 353
    - 142

    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

    ) open
  11. 11
    + 337
    - 156

    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

    ) open
  12. 12
    + 368
    - 158

    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

    ) open
  13. 13
    + 356
    - 134

    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

    ) open
  14. 14
    + 266
    - 120

    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

    ) open
  15. 15
    + 244
    - 112

    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

    ) open
  16. 16
    + 349
    - 189

    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

    ) open
  17. 17
    + 261
    - 109

    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

    ) open
  18. 18
    + 287
    - 144

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

    ) open
  19. 19
    + 288
    - 128

    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

    ) open
  20. 20
    + 320
    - 193

    Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

    ) open
  21. 21
    + 266
    - 147

    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

    ) open
  22. 22
    + 264
    - 105

    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

    ) open
  23. 23
    + 217
    - 100

    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

    ) open
  24. 24
    + 186
    - 77

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

    ) open
  25. 25
    + 162
    - 84

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

    ) open
  26. 26
    + 257
    - 185

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

    ) open
  27. 27
    + 230
    - 177

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

    ) open
  28. 28
    + 165
    - 84

    ranked low on reranks 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

    ) open
  29. 29
    + 200
    - 146

    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

    ) open
  30. 30
    + 180
    - 105

    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

    ) open
  31. 31
    + 141
    - 75

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

    ) open
  32. 32
    + 149
    - 71

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

    ) open
  33. 33
    + 129
    - 77

    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

    ) open
  34. 34
    + 168
    - 101

    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

    ) open
  35. 35
    + 152
    - 87

    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

    ) open
  36. 36
    + 143
    - 93

    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

    ) open
  37. 37
    + 101
    - 37

    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

    ) open
  38. 38
    + 164
    - 106

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

    ) open
  39. 39
    + 164
    - 87

    Life of Pi, Lust, Caution

    ) open
  40. 40
    + 163
    - 116

    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

    ) open
  41. 41
    + 115
    - 59

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

    ) open
  42. 42
    + 116
    - 67

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

    ) open
  43. 43
    + 150
    - 107

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

    ) open
  44. 44
    + 110
    - 62

    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

    ) open
  45. 45
    + 130
    - 80

    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

    ) open
  46. 46
    + 111
    - 56

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

    ) open
  47. 47
    + 145
    - 89

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

    ) open
  48. 48
    + 120
    - 78

    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

    ) open
  49. 49
    + 129
    - 101

    Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Life Interrupted

    ) open
  50. 50
    + 84
    - 42

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

    ) open
380 +

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