The Greatest Directors in Movie History

77k votes 5.7k voters 110k views 626 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
    + 1,916
    - 540

    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
    + 1,628
    - 361


    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

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  3. 3
    + 1,602
    - 417


    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

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  4. 4
    + 1,338
    - 688

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

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  5. 5
    + 1,004
    - 420


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

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  6. 6
    + 907
    - 314


    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

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  7. 7
    + 1,480
    - 701


    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

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  8. 8
    + 901
    - 321


    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

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  9. 9
    + 739
    - 339


    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

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  10. 10
    + 637
    - 247


    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

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  11. 11
    + 778
    - 304


    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

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  12. 12
    + 845
    - 335


    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

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  13. 13
    + 1,242
    - 607


    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

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  14. 14
    + 557
    - 241


    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

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  15. 15
    + 799
    - 364


    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

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  16. 16
    + 746
    - 280


    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

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  17. 17
    + 727
    - 390


    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

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  18. 18
    + 577
    - 212


    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

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  19. 19
    + 556
    - 234


    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

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  20. 20
    + 609
    - 299


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

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  21. 21
    + 565
    - 299


    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

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  22. 22
    + 448
    - 193


    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

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  23. 23
    + 620
    - 439

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

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  24. 24
    + 407
    - 178


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

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  25. 25
    + 384
    - 189


    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

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  26. 26
    + 425
    - 218


    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

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  27. 27
    + 364
    - 167


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

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  28. 28
    + 342
    - 171


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

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  29. 29
    + 307
    - 120


    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

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  30. 30
    + 378
    - 244


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

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  31. 31
    + 330
    - 193


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

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  32. 32
    + 366
    - 208


    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

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  33. 33
    + 316
    - 167


    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

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  34. 34
    + 437
    - 328


    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

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  35. 35
    + 274
    - 156


    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

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  36. 36
    + 352
    - 205


    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

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  37. 37
    + 273
    - 138


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

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  38. 38
    + 472
    - 360

    often listed & ranked high on reranks
    The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hot Fuzz ...

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  39. 39
    + 497
    - 378

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

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  40. 40
    + 340
    - 193


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

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  41. 41
    + 283
    - 153


    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

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  42. 42
    + 212
    - 102


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

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  43. 43
    + 254
    - 141


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

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  44. 44
    + 287
    - 213


    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

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  45. 45
    + 254
    - 153


    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

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  46. 46
    + 270
    - 159


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

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  47. 47
    + 224
    - 149


    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

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  48. 48
    + 216
    - 120


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

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  49. 49
    + 300
    - 190


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

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  50. 50
    + 255
    - 162


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

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627 +

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