The Greatest Directors in Movie History People In Film
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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!

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  1. 1
    + 1052
    - 257

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

    ) open
  2. 2
    + 868
    - 205

    Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

    ) open
  3. 3
    + 832
    - 212

    The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

    ) open
  4. 4
    + 711
    - 341

    Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

    ) open
  5. 5
    + 532
    - 238

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

    ) open
  6. 6
    + 751
    - 346

    Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

    ) open
  7. 7
    + 495
    - 170

    Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

    ) open
  8. 8
    + 480
    - 170

    Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

    ) open
  9. 9
    + 682
    - 306

    Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

    ) open
  10. 10
    + 441
    - 160

    Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

    ) open
  11. 11
    + 433
    - 171

    Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

    ) open
  12. 12
    + 404
    - 185

    Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

    ) open
  13. 13
    + 445
    - 198

    Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

    ) open
  14. 14
    + 315
    - 138

    The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

    ) open
  15. 15
    + 415
    - 223

    The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

    ) open
  16. 16
    + 314
    - 129

    Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

    ) open
  17. 17
    + 293
    - 132

    Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

    ) open
  18. 18
    + 374
    - 150

    Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

    ) open
  19. 19
    + 350
    - 173

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

    ) open
  20. 20
    + 323
    - 171

    The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

    ) open
  21. 21
    + 317
    - 121

    8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

    ) open
  22. 22
    + 373
    - 241

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

    ) open
  23. 23
    + 253
    - 112

    Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

    ) open
  24. 24
    + 218
    - 91

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

    ) open
  25. 25
    + 201
    - 102

    12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

    ) open
  26. 26
    + 191
    - 105

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

    ) open
  27. 27
    + 287
    - 209

    Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

    ) open
  28. 28
    + 177
    - 89

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

    ) open
  29. 29
    + 250
    - 174

    Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

    ) open
  30. 30
    + 299
    - 216

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

    ) open
  31. 31
    + 198
    - 117

    Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

    ) open
  32. 32
    + 215
    - 124

    There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

    ) open
  33. 33
    + 176
    - 111

    Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

    ) open
  34. 34
    + 178
    - 85

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

    ) open
  35. 35
    + 151
    - 88

    The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

    ) open
  36. 36
    + 197
    - 123

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

    ) open
  37. 37
    + 173
    - 97

    The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

    ) open
  38. 38
    + 195
    - 118

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

    ) open
  39. 39
    + 126
    - 50

    Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

    ) open
  40. 40
    + 136
    - 68

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

    ) open
  41. 41
    + 183
    - 129

    The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

    ) open
  42. 42
    + 130
    - 74

    Battleship Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, Ivan The Terrible

    ) open
  43. 43
    + 179
    - 101

    Life of Pi, Lust, Caution

    ) open
  44. 44
    + 129
    - 81

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

    ) open
  45. 45
    + 149
    - 89

    The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

    ) open
  46. 46
    + 138
    - 87

    MASH, The Company, Bonanza

    ) open
  47. 47
    + 125
    - 63

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

    ) open
  48. 48
    + 164
    - 102

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

    ) open
  49. 49
    + 153
    - 115

    Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Life Interrupted

    ) open
  50. 50
    + 145
    - 97

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

    ) open
395 +

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