Film Directors The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
60.7k votes 4.6k voters 149.5k views 251 items

List Rules The best directors currently living.

List of the best living filmmakers (though not necessarily still actively making films.) When discussing the finest directors of all time, a few names immediately pop to mind. John Ford. John Huston. Frank Capra. But adding in the condition that they must still be living adds a level of difficulty.

Sure, you still have a few luminaries who are with us and clearly are contenders for the title - Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg. These guys are no slouches. But it starts to make the list a bit more challenging to compile, particularly when you consider the vast array of genres and styles in which these directors are working. Can John Lasseter's work in animation be directly compared to Sofia Coppola's atmospheric character studies? Can John Carpenter's '80s horror classics comfortably sit side-by-side with Wes Anderson's twee indie adventures? These are the kinds of tough calls Ranker listers are just going to have to make.

One final element to consider would be consistency. Terrence Malick has made far fewer films than most of the entrants on this list, but most (if not all) have been of a remarkably high level of quality. Does that earn him a spot above, say, Clint Eastwood, who has worked a lot but with a somewhat more spotty record? Tough choices... but isn't that what ranking is all about?

1
1,537 497
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Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed

2
1,421 687
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Steven Spielberg E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Schindler's List

3
1,456 678
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Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds

4
1,016 520
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Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now

5
959 493
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Joel Coen Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski

6
1,492 526
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

7
952 424
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David Fincher Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

8
964 579
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Clint Eastwood Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

9
834 421
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ridley Scott Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

10
736 437
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David Lynch Mullholland Drive, Elephant Man, Blue Velvet

11
748 559
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James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar Avatar 2

12
698 370
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Paul Thomas Anderson The Master, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

13
663 501
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Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns

14
609 444
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ron Howard Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind

15
660 334
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Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums

16
605 408
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Peter Jackson The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

17
495 293
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Robert Zemeckis Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

18
700 597
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Woody Allen Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, To Rome

19
427 164
Ethan Coen is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
StacyWolfe added Ethan Coen The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Fargo

20
489 368
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Roman Polanski Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist

21
423 300
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Brian De Palma Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables

22
456 331
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Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs

23
449 392
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George Lucas Star Wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

24
437 122
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Stanley Kubrick The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

25
456 382
J.J. Abrams is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
J.J. Abrams Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Armageddon

26
416 308
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Steven Soderbergh Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

27
405 286
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John Carpenter Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York

28
318 129
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Guillermo del Toro Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim

29
393 282
Ang Lee is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ang Lee Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger

30
390 333
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Oliver Stone Platoon, Scarface, JFK

31
284 127
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
beernbugs added Terry Gilliam Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

32
280 178
Danny Boyle is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Danny Boyle Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire

33
329 257
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Terrence Malick The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Badlands

34
319 203
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Miloš Forman One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Hair

35
286 221
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Michael Mann Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator

36
280 205
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Richard Linklater Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Beavis and Butt-head Do America

37
309 256
Rob Reiner is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Rob Reiner The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me

38
239 158
Peter Weir is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Peter Weir Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

39
239 176
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
PeteBoyle added David Cronenberg The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome

40
263 257
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Sam Raimi Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

41
220 185
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Mike Nichols The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl

42
224 72
Alfonso Cuarón is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Alfonso Cuarón Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pan's Labyrinth, Gravity

43
196 179
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William Friedkin The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.

44
234 176
Mel Gibson is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
looksharp added Mel Gibson Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Pocahontas

45
209 120
Spike Jonze is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Spike Jonze The Wolf of Wall Street, Being John Malkovich, Moneyball

46
234 192
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George A. Romero The Silence of the Lambs, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

47
197 123
Frank Darabont is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
laaaarrge added Frank Darabont The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, King Kong

48
231 198
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Gus Van Sant Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Milk

49
195 112
Alejandro González Iñárritu is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Alejandro González Iñárritu Babel, Amores perros

50
189 85
Hayao Miyazaki is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke