The Greatest Directors in Movie History

72k votes 5.4k voters 102k views 629 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
    + 1,821
    - 497

    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
    + 1,525
    - 348


    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

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  3. 3
    + 1,500
    - 392


    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

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  4. 4
    + 1,270
    - 645

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

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  5. 5
    + 951
    - 389


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

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  6. 6
    + 857
    - 293


    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

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  7. 7
    + 1,380
    - 653


    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

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  8. 8
    + 848
    - 304


    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

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  9. 9
    + 701
    - 320


    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

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  10. 10
    + 595
    - 226


    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

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  11. 11
    + 725
    - 287


    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

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  12. 12
    + 774
    - 314


    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

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  13. 13
    + 1,154
    - 572


    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

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  14. 14
    + 695
    - 371


    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

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  15. 15
    + 523
    - 232


    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

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  16. 16
    + 725
    - 346


    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

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  17. 17
    + 678
    - 257


    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

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  18. 18
    + 546
    - 201


    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

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  19. 19
    + 521
    - 227


    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

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  20. 20
    + 578
    - 287


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

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  21. 21
    + 542
    - 277


    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

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  22. 22
    + 427
    - 183


    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

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  23. 23
    + 591
    - 411

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

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  24. 24
    + 374
    - 171


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

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  25. 25
    + 353
    - 182


    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

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  26. 26
    + 397
    - 209


    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

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  27. 27
    + 336
    - 159


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

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  28. 28
    + 290
    - 110


    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

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  29. 29
    + 355
    - 226


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

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  30. 30
    + 339
    - 196


    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

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  31. 31
    + 304
    - 190


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

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  32. 32
    + 315
    - 168


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

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  33. 33
    + 409
    - 308


    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

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  34. 34
    + 296
    - 160


    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

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  35. 35
    + 332
    - 195


    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

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  36. 36
    + 475
    - 357


    Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

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  37. 37
    + 248
    - 151


    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

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  38. 38
    + 445
    - 344


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

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  39. 39
    + 264
    - 145


    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

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  40. 40
    + 242
    - 132


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

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  41. 41
    + 316
    - 185


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

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  42. 42
    + 197
    - 93


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

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  43. 43
    + 239
    - 134


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

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  44. 44
    + 239
    - 144


    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

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  45. 45
    + 273
    - 204


    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

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  46. 46
    + 252
    - 150


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

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  47. 47
    + 241
    - 153


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

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  48. 48
    + 212
    - 143


    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

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  49. 49
    + 202
    - 114


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

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  50. 50
    + 271
    - 186


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

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630 +

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