The Greatest Directors in Movie History

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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
    + 1,782
    - 490
    Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History

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

  2. 2
    + 1,500
    - 339
    Alfred Hitchcock is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Alfred Hitchcock Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

  3. 3
    + 1,459
    - 381
    Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Martin Scorsese The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

  4. 4
    + 1,244
    - 627
    Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History

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

  5. 5
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    - 377
    Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Francis Ford Coppola The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Apocalypse Now

  6. 6
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    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

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  7. 7
    + 1,340
    - 640
    Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

  8. 8
    + 834
    - 297
    Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

  9. 9
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    Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Sergio Leone Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

  10. 10
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    - 219


    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

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  11. 11
    + 717
    - 281
    Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Charlie Chaplin Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

  12. 12
    + 740
    - 307
    Joel & Ethan Coen is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Joel & Ethan Coen Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

  13. 13
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    Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Christopher Nolan Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

  14. 14
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    - 364
    Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Ridley Scott The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

  15. 15
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    - 227
    Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Billy Wilder Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

  16. 16
    + 702
    - 337
    Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Clint Eastwood Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

  17. 17
    + 515
    - 222
    John Ford is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    John Ford The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

  18. 18
    + 652
    - 253
    David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    David Fincher Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

  19. 19
    + 533
    - 199
    Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Federico Fellini 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

  20. 20
    + 564
    - 282
    David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  21. 21
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    - 276
    Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Roman Polanski The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

  22. 22
    + 419
    - 180
    Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Fritz Lang Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

  23. 23
    + 582
    - 403
    Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History

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

  24. 24
    + 366
    - 167
    Frank Capra is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  25. 25
    + 345
    - 176


    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

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  26. 26
    + 388
    - 204
    Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Paul Thomas Anderson There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

  27. 27
    + 327
    - 154
    David Lean is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  28. 28
    + 349
    - 218
    Wes Anderson is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  29. 29
    + 281
    - 106


    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

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  30. 30
    + 301
    - 188


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

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  31. 31
    + 403
    - 302
    Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

  32. 32
    + 312
    - 166
    Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  33. 33
    + 330
    - 195


    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

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  34. 34
    + 329
    - 191


    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

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  35. 35
    + 290
    - 159


    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

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  36. 36
    + 470
    - 352
    James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

  37. 37
    + 247
    - 149
    Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Howard Hawks The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

  38. 38
    + 436
    - 339
    Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  39. 39
    + 261
    - 141
    Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


    Buster Keaton The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

  40. 40
    + 238
    - 130
    Elia Kazan is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  41. 41
    + 310
    - 184
    Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  42. 42
    + 192
    - 93


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

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  43. 43
    + 233
    - 133
    Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  44. 44
    + 237
    - 144


    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

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  45. 45
    + 271
    - 202


    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

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  46. 46
    + 248
    - 148


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

    ;
  47. 47
    + 211
    - 142


    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

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  48. 48
    + 234
    - 151
    Terrence Malick is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History


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

  49. 49
    + 199
    - 114


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

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  50. 50
    + 269
    - 184


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

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627 +

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