The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film
0Ultimate List
tags 30,991 votes 1,837 voters 57,433 views 382 items f p @

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!

  • 80 ReRanks
    • Women
    • Men
    • Age
    • Region
  • See list ranked by
L The List
Z
B Comments
& Embed
G Options
2rerank list
  1. 1
    + 774
    - 180

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

    ) open
  2. 2
    + 659
    - 133

    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

    ) open
  3. 3
    + 615
    - 149

    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

    ) open
  4. 4
    + 516
    - 246

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

    ) open
  5. 5
    + 401
    - 178

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

    ) open
  6. 6
    + 542
    - 255

    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

    ) open
  7. 7
    + 379
    - 126

    ranked low on reranks Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

    ) open
  8. 8
    + 366
    - 127

    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

    ) open
  9. 9
    + 319
    - 142

    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

    ) open
  10. 10
    + 489
    - 221

    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

    ) open
  11. 11
    + 344
    - 120

    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

    ) open
  12. 12
    + 322
    - 131

    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

    ) open
  13. 13
    + 328
    - 142

    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

    ) open
  14. 14
    + 254
    - 110

    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

    ) open
  15. 15
    + 229
    - 102

    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

    ) open
  16. 16
    + 243
    - 98

    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

    ) open
  17. 17
    + 325
    - 177

    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

    ) open
  18. 18
    + 254
    - 137

    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

    ) open
  19. 19
    + 263
    - 134

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

    ) open
  20. 20
    + 307
    - 178

    Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

    ) open
  21. 21
    + 252
    - 96

    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

    ) open
  22. 22
    + 268
    - 120

    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

    ) open
  23. 23
    + 209
    - 91

    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

    ) open
  24. 24
    + 177
    - 70

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

    ) open
  25. 25
    + 159
    - 77

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

    ) open
  26. 26
    + 159
    - 75

    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

    ) open
  27. 27
    + 240
    - 172

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

    ) open
  28. 28
    + 186
    - 136

    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

    ) open
  29. 29
    + 201
    - 166

    often listed & ranked high on reranks Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

    ) open
  30. 30
    + 134
    - 69

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

    ) open
  31. 31
    + 142
    - 67

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

    ) open
  32. 32
    + 123
    - 73

    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

    ) open
  33. 33
    + 158
    - 93

    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

    ) open
  34. 34
    + 145
    - 81

    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

    ) open
  35. 35
    + 161
    - 100

    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

    ) open
  36. 36
    + 132
    - 86

    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

    ) open
  37. 37
    + 155
    - 98

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

    ) open
  38. 38
    + 158
    - 81

    Life of Pi, Lust, Caution

    ) open
  39. 39
    + 110
    - 53

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

    ) open
  40. 40
    + 153
    - 110

    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

    ) open
  41. 41
    + 85
    - 34

    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

    ) open
  42. 42
    + 104
    - 56

    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

    ) open
  43. 43
    + 127
    - 75

    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

    ) open
  44. 44
    + 106
    - 51

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

    ) open
  45. 45
    + 107
    - 63

    The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia

    ) open
  46. 46
    + 138
    - 101

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

    ) open
  47. 47
    + 138
    - 83

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

    ) open
  48. 48
    + 123
    - 95

    Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Life Interrupted

    ) open
  49. 49
    + 110
    - 72

    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

    ) open
  50. 50
    + 79
    - 36

    Ben Hur, Roman Holiday, The Best Years Of Our Lives

    ) open
383 +

Something missing? Add it!

L List Options 2 Rerank List B Comments & Embed z Share Next List >

viewers of this list also saw...

more popular lists