The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film

The Greatest Directors in Movie History

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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 Criteria: Most important, culturally significant filmmakers of all time who deserve award recognition.

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  Name
Score
  1. 1
    Up 354
    Down 74

    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 312
    Down 42
    The Skin Game, Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock: More Than Just a Profile More
    98
  3. 3
    Up 294
    Down 58
    Casino, The Key to Reserva, Untitled The Departed 2 Sequel More
    94
  4. 4
    Up 241
    Down 94

    often listed
    Steven Spielberg

    Munich, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ... More
    85
  5. 5
    Up 202
    Down 66

    often listed
    Francis Ford Coppola

    Youth Without Youth, One from the Heart, Gardens of Stone More
    83
  6. 6
    Up 252
    Down 104

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Quentin Tarantino

    Love Birds in Bondage, Django Unchained, Four Rooms More
    82
  7. 7
    Up 190
    Down 42

    ranked low on reranks
    Orson Welles

    The Fountain of Youth, The Hearts of Age, Orson Welles' Sketch Book More
    79
  8. 8
    Up 171
    Down 50
    High and Low, Gendai no Noh, Dreams More
    78
  9. 9
    Up 178
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    ranked low on reranks
    Ridley Scott

    The Counselor, A Good Year, Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers ... More
    77
  10. 10
    Up 161
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    often listed
    Sergio Leone

    Once Upon a Time in the West, Hanno rubato un tram, For a Few Dollars More ... More
    77
  11. 11
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    Down 80
    Cinema 16: British Short Films, Batman Begins, Following More
    76
  12. 12
    Up 159
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Joel & Ethan Coen

    The Hudsucker Proxy, Burn After Reading, True Grit More
    76
  13. 13
    Up 165
    Down 37
    The Bond, Those Love Pangs, A King in New York More
    75
  14. 14
    Up 138
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    Stagecoach, Cheyenne Autumn, The Black Watch More
    75
  15. 15
    Up 109
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    Fedora, The Spirit of St. Louis, The Lost Weekend More
    73
  16. 16
    Up 140
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    Mystic River, Heartbreak Ridge, Play Misty for Me More
    72
  17. 17
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Woody Allen

    Broadway Danny Rose, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hollywood Ending More
    72
  18. 18
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Roman Polański

    Tess, Two Men and a Wardrobe, Afternoon of a Champion More
    70
  19. 19
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    Down 37
    The Image Makers, Madame de Sade, The Rite More
    69
  20. 20
    Up 108
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    ranked low on reranks
    Fritz Lang

    The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, Moontide ... More
    69
  21. 21
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    David Lynch

    Lumière and Company, The Short Films of David Lynch, The French as ... More
    68
  22. 22
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    ranked low on reranks
    David Fincher

    Torso, The Beat of the Live Drum, The Game More
    68
  23. 23
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    Down 63

    often listed
    Peter Jackson

    The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the ... More
    67
  24. 24
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    ranked low on reranks
    Frank Capra

    War Comes to America, Rain or Shine, Arsenic and Old Lace More
    66
  25. 25
    Up 106
    Down 45
    Ginger and Fred, Roma, The Voice of the Moon More
    65
  26. 26
    Up 82
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    ranked low on reranks
    John Huston

    The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage More
    64
  27. 27
    Up 77
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Tim Burton

    Planet of the Apes, The Match Girl, Dark Shadows More
    63
  28. 28
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    ranked high on reranks
    David Cronenberg

    From the Drain, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch More
    62
  29. 29
    Up 92
    Down 44
    The Dirk Diggler Story, Magnolia, Inherent Vice More
    61
  30. 30
    Up 72
    Down 25

    ranked low on reranks
    Sidney Lumet

    Gloria, Family Business, Strip Search More
    60
  31. 31
    Up 58
    Down 29

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Howard Hawks

    Fig Leaves, Cradle Snatchers, Paid to Love More
    60
  32. 32
    Up 59
    Down 22

    ranked low on reranks
    Sam Peckinpah

    Noon Wine, Major Dundee, The Glory Guys More
    60
  33. 33
    Up 80
    Down 43

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Terry Gilliam

    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 12 Monkeys, The Brothers Grimm More
    59
  34. 34
    Up 69
    Down 40

    often listed
    Brian De Palma

    The Fury, Obsession, Murder a la Mod More
    59
  35. 35
    Up 68
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    François Truffaut

    Love on the Run, The Woman Next Door, Love at Twenty More
    58
  36. 36
    Up 67
    Down 30

    ranked low on reranks
    Ang Lee

    Life of Pi, Lust, Caution, The Ice Storm More
    58
  37. 37
    Up 76
    Down 31

    ranked low on reranks
    Mel Brooks

    Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Twelve Chairs, History of the World, Part I ... More
    58
  38. 38
    Up 68
    Down 36

    ranked high on reranks
    Buster Keaton

    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust More
    58
  39. 39
    Up 61
    Down 26
    The Sound Barrier, Madeleine, In Which We Serve More
    57
  40. 40
    Up 49
    Down 20
    Semafor: Greatest Hits 2, Loves of a Blonde, The Firemen's Ball More
    57
  41. 41
    Up 91
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    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    James Cameron

    The Abyss, Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day More
    57
  42. 42
    Up 68
    Down 37
    The Tree of Life, Untitled Terrence Malick project, The New World More
    57
  43. 43
    Up 80
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    often listed
    Steven Soderbergh

    Magic Mike, Ocean's Eleven, Schizopolis More
    57
  44. 44
    Up 72
    Down 50

    often listed
    Danny Boyle

    Mystery Men, The Family Stone, Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise More
    57
  45. 45
    Up 52
    Down 24
    Ivan Groznyy: Skaz vtoroy - Boyarskiy zagovor, Strike, Alexander Nevsky ... More
    57
  46. 46
    Up 64
    Down 35
    Land of Silence and Darkness, The Wild Blue Yonder, Game in the Sand More
    57
  47. 47
    Up 57
    Down 27
    Vincent & Theo, Images, The James Dean Story More
    56
  48. 48
    Up 55
    Down 32

    often listed
    Robert Zemeckis

    Back to the Future Part III, Disaster Zone: Volcano in New York, Flight ... More
    56
  49. 49
    Up 71
    Down 47

    often listed &ranked high on reranks
    Wes Anderson

    The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling ... More
    55
  50. 50
    Up 59
    Down 33
    Howl's Moving Castle, Sora Iro no Tane, Kūsō no Sora Tobu Kikaitachi More
    55
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