film The Greatest Directors in Movie History  

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List Rules 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!

1
+ - 2,020 477
Alfred Hitchcock is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Alfred Hitchcock Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

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2
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Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Stanley Kubrick Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Spartacus, 2001: A Space Odyssey

3
+ - 1,979 530
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
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Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Steven Spielberg Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

5
+ - 1,229 547
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
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Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
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Akira Kurosawa is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Akira Kurosawa Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

8
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Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

9
+ - 949 374
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Charlie Chaplin Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

10
+ - 789 334
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ingmar Bergman Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

11
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Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Christopher Nolan Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

12
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Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ridley Scott The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

13
+ - 1,042 441
Joel Coen is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Joel & Ethan Coen Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

14
+ - 872 433
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sergio Leone Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

15
+ - 679 297
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

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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
+ - 926 369
David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Fincher Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

18
+ - 757 363
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lynch Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man

19
+ - 661 292
John Ford is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Ford The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

20
+ - 673 259
Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Federico Fellini 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

21
+ - 671 377
Roman Polański is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Roman Polański The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

22
+ - 537 231
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
+ - 500 218
Frank Capra is listed (or ranked) 23 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

24
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Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Woody Allen Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

25
+ - 464 238
Sidney Lumet is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sidney Lumet 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

26
+ - 540 266
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
+ - 452 207
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
+ - 424 220
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Miloš Forman One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde

29
+ - 407 159
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

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+ - 456 264
Robert Zemeckis is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Zemeckis Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

31
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Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

32
+ - 470 306
Wes Anderson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Wes Anderson The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited

33
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James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

34
+ - 423 257
Brian De Palma is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Brian De Palma Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

35
+ - 388 233
John Huston is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Huston The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage

36
+ - 336 170
Elia Kazan is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Elia Kazan On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden

37
+ - 575 433
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 37 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

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+ - 363 204
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
François Truffaut The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

39
+ - 324 196
Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Howard Hawks The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

40
+ - 409 237
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Terry Gilliam Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Monty Python: The Life of Brian, Twelve Monkeys

41
+ - 330 189
Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Buster Keaton The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

42
+ - 314 179
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Werner Herzog Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Encounters At The End of The World

43
+ - 342 197
Hayao Miyazaki is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Hayao Miyazaki Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoki, The Castle of Cagliostro

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+ - 255 139
Luis Buñuel is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Luis Buñuel The Milky Way, Death in the Garden, The River and Death

45
+ - 298 189
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Altman MASH, The Company, Bonanza

46
+ - 372 238
Mel Brooks is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Mel Brooks Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blazing Saddles, Life Stinks

47
+ - 258 152
Jean Renoir is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Jean Renoir Le Grande Illusion, The Rules of The Game, The Lower Depths

48
+ - 329 254
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Cronenberg The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

49
+ - 312 209
Terrence Malick is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Terrence Malick The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven

50
+ - 240 126
William Wyler is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
William Wyler Ben Hur, Roman Holiday, The Best Years Of Our Lives