film directors The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked  

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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?
list ordered by

1
1,277 379
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Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed

The Greatest Indian Music Directors of All Time The Best Horror TV Shows

2
1,129 546
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Steven Spielberg E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Schindler's List

3
843 411
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Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now

4
1,156 544
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Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds

5
792 399
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Joel Coen Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski

6
1,178 426
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
770 352
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David Fincher Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

8
807 473
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Clint Eastwood Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

9
686 335
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ridley Scott Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

10
617 357
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David Lynch Mullholland Drive, Elephant Man, Blue Velvet

11
556 308
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Paul Thomas Anderson The Master, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

12
597 457
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James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar Avatar 2

13
520 364
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ron Howard Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind

14
556 407
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Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns

15
613 484
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Woody Allen Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, To Rome

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16
528 282
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Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums

17
482 339
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 17 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

18
397 244
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Robert Zemeckis Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

19
317 127
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
413 309
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Roman Polanski Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist

21
352 254
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Brian De Palma Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables

22
391 284
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Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs

23
343 235
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John Carpenter Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York

24
356 269
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Steven Soderbergh Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

25
381 317
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
355 331
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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

27
279 85
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Stanley Kubrick The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

28
337 238
Ang Lee is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ang Lee Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger

29
345 290
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Oliver Stone Platoon, Scarface, JFK

The Very Best Black Directors, Ranked How To Annoy Your Bartender

30
231 98
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 30 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

31
216 96
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Guillermo del Toro Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim

32
236 143
Danny Boyle is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Danny Boyle Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire

33
287 219
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Terrence Malick The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Badlands

34
268 172
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
249 193
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Michael Mann Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator

36
270 221
Rob Reiner is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Rob Reiner The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me

37
198 131
Peter Weir is listed (or ranked) 37 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

38
225 176
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Richard Linklater Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Beavis and Butt-head Do America

39
197 153
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Mike Nichols The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl

40
199 145
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
PeteBoyle added David Cronenberg The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome

41
232 221
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Sam Raimi Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

42
173 149
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William Friedkin The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.

43
179 127
Mel Gibson is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
looksharp added Mel Gibson Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Pocahontas

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44
159 50
Alfonso Cuarón is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Alfonso Cuarón Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pan's Labyrinth, Gravity

45
197 166
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George A. Romero The Silence of the Lambs, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

46
153 97
Frank Darabont is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
laaaarrge added Frank Darabont The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, King Kong

47
161 96
Spike Jonze is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Spike Jonze The Wolf of Wall Street, Being John Malkovich, Moneyball

48
201 169
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Gus Van Sant Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Milk

49
139 82
Alejandro González Iñárritu is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Alejandro González Iñárritu Babel, Amores perros

50
134 58
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