The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film
Ultimate List
70  reranks 15,392 votes 899 voters 28,850 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
  • 70 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
    • Region
  • See list ranked by
</> Rerank List
Score
  1. 1
    Up 404
    Down 85

    the people's #1 &most listed
    Stanley Kubrick

    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, ... More
    100
  2. 2
    Up 367
    Down 50
    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much More
    100
  3. 3
    Up 337
    Down 69
    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas More
    96
  4. 4
    Up 273
    Down 109
    Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds More
    86
  5. 5
    Up 234
    Down 73
    The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Apocalypse Now More
    85
  6. 6
    Up 279
    Down 122

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Quentin Tarantino

    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse More
    82
  7. 7
    Up 219
    Down 46

    ranked low on reranks
    Orson Welles

    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth More
    81
  8. 8
    Up 196
    Down 57
    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well More
    79
  9. 9
    Up 207
    Down 71
    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner More
    78
  10. 10
    Up 163
    Down 40
    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath More
    77
  11. 11
    Up 252
    Down 94
    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight More
    77
  12. 12
    Up 184
    Down 63
    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker More
    77
  13. 13
    Up 180
    Down 61
    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis More
    76
  14. 14
    Up 187
    Down 47
    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator More
    75
  15. 15
    Up 133
    Down 43
    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment More
    75
  16. 16
    Up 165
    Down 55
    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino More
    73
  17. 17
    Up 179
    Down 95
    Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love More
    71
  18. 18
    Up 137
    Down 73

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Roman Polanski

    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby More
    70
  19. 19
    Up 140
    Down 66
    Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man More
    70
  20. 20
    Up 127
    Down 44
    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love More
    70
  21. 21
    Up 124
    Down 38

    ranked low on reranks
    Fritz Lang

    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night More
    69
  22. 22
    Up 106
    Down 25
    It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, It Happened One Night ... More
    69
  23. 23
    Up 143
    Down 59
    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network More
    68
  24. 24
    Up 105
    Down 25
    The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage More
    68
  25. 25
    Up 129
    Down 54
    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma More
    66
  26. 26
    Up 153
    Down 78
    The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hot Fuzz ... More
    66
  27. 27
    Up 97
    Down 48
    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice More
    64
  28. 28
    Up 89
    Down 28
    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network More
    63
  29. 29
    Up 98
    Down 45
    Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Monty Python: The Life of Brian, Twelve ... More
    62
  30. 30
    Up 102
    Down 54
    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone More
    61
  31. 31
    Up 69
    Down 32
    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo More
    61
  32. 32
    Up 101
    Down 52
    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights More
    61
  33. 33
    Up 85
    Down 39
    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim More
    60
  34. 34
    Up 83
    Down 46
    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables More
    60
  35. 35
    Up 79
    Down 29
    Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India More
    60
  36. 36
    Up 67
    Down 26
    The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia More
    60
  37. 37
    Up 106
    Down 85

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    James Cameron

    Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy More
    59
  38. 38
    Up 77
    Down 35
    Life of Pi, Lust, Caution More
    59
  39. 39
    Up 78
    Down 38
    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust More
    58
  40. 40
    Up 87
    Down 37
    Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blazing Saddles, Life Stinks More
    58
  41. 41
    Up 60
    Down 24
    One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde More
    58
  42. 42
    Up 63
    Down 36
    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away More
    58
  43. 43
    Up 76
    Down 42
    The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven More
    58
  44. 44
    Up 58
    Down 27
    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible More
    57
  45. 45
    Up 88
    Down 58
    Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Life Interrupted More
    56
  46. 46
    Up 67
    Down 34
    MASH, The Company, Bonanza More
    56
  47. 47
    Up 48
    Down 19
    On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden More
    56
  48. 48
    Up 70
    Down 38
    Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Encounters At The End of The World More
    56
  49. 49
    Up 78
    Down 52
    The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling ... More
    56
  50. 50
    Up 75
    Down 56
    Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 127 Hours More
    56
  51. 269 +

    Something missing? Add it!

Is this list missing something?
RANKERS WHO ADDED ITEMS

items 1 - 50 of 268

think you can do better?

Rerank This List
why?

got a blog or website?

embed this list
why?

viewers of this list also saw

more popular lists