The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film
Ultimate List
71  reranks 17,505 votes 987 voters 31,943 views more info

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!
List is ranked by a combination of each item's votes & positioning in reranks
  • 71 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
    • Region
  • See list ranked by
</> Rerank List
  1. 1
    Up 400
    Down 58

    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

    open report item
  2. 2
    Up 450
    Down 93

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

    open report item
  3. 3
    Up 375
    Down 75

    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

    open report item
  4. 4
    Up 301
    Down 119

    Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

    open report item
  5. 5
    Up 257
    Down 82

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

    open report item
  6. 6
    Up 310
    Down 138

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

    open report item
  7. 7
    Up 239
    Down 54

    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

    open report item
  8. 8
    Up 217
    Down 64

    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

    open report item
  9. 9
    Up 223
    Down 82

    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

    open report item
  10. 10
    Up 281
    Down 103

    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

    open report item
  11. 11
    Up 178
    Down 47

    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

    open report item
  12. 12
    Up 203
    Down 72

    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

    open report item
  13. 13
    Up 199
    Down 69

    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

    open report item
  14. 14
    Up 212
    Down 55

    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

    open report item
  15. 15
    Up 150
    Down 52

    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

    open report item
  16. 16
    Up 184
    Down 65

    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

    open report item
  17. 17
    Up 158
    Down 79

    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

    open report item
  18. 18
    Up 195
    Down 107

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

    open report item
  19. 19
    Up 142
    Down 42

    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

    open report item
  20. 20
    Up 140
    Down 51

    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

    open report item
  21. 21
    Up 156
    Down 77

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

    open report item
  22. 22
    Up 117
    Down 32

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

    open report item
  23. 23
    Up 157
    Down 66

    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

    open report item
  24. 24
    Up 116
    Down 32

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

    open report item
  25. 25
    Up 145
    Down 58

    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

    open report item
  26. 26
    Up 166
    Down 88

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

    open report item
  27. 27
    Up 116
    Down 58

    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

    open report item
  28. 28
    Up 99
    Down 34

    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

    open report item
  29. 29
    Up 109
    Down 52

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

    open report item
  30. 30
    Up 108
    Down 60

    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

    open report item
  31. 31
    Up 98
    Down 44

    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

    open report item
  32. 32
    Up 78
    Down 39

    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

    open report item
  33. 33
    Up 109
    Down 63

    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

    open report item
  34. 34
    Up 95
    Down 52

    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

    open report item
  35. 35
    Up 88
    Down 36

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

    open report item
  36. 36
    Up 122
    Down 94

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

    open report item
  37. 37
    Up 98
    Down 45

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

    open report item
  38. 38
    Up 88
    Down 41

    Life of Pi, Lust, Caution

    open report item
  39. 39
    Up 71
    Down 30

    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

    open report item
  40. 40
    Up 87
    Down 45

    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

    open report item
  41. 41
    Up 72
    Down 44

    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

    open report item
  42. 42
    Up 68
    Down 33

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

    open report item
  43. 43
    Up 71
    Down 38

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

    open report item
  44. 44
    Up 81
    Down 52

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

    open report item
  45. 45
    Up 82
    Down 63

    Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 127 Hours

    open report item
  46. 46
    Up 76
    Down 46

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

    open report item
  47. 47
    Up 93
    Down 68

    Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Life Interrupted

    open report item
  48. 48
    Up 55
    Down 26

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

    open report item
  49. 49
    Up 67
    Down 31

    ranked low on reranks Le Grande Illusion, The Rules of The Game, The Lower Depths

    open report item
  50. 50
    Up 85
    Down 63

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

    open report item
  51. 259 +

    Something missing? Add it!

Is this list missing something?

items 1 - 50 of 258

think you can do better?

Rerank This List

got a blog or website?

embed this list

viewers of this list also saw

more popular lists