Film Directors The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
62.1k votes 4.7k voters 150.2k views 258 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?
list ordered by

1
1,562 514
Ranker Video
Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed

2
1,457 697
Ranker Video
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Schindler's List

3
1,482 692
Ranker Video
Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds

4
1,038 529
Ranker Video
The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now

5
1,526 539
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

6
978 499
Ranker Video
Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski

7
973 430
Ranker Video
Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

8
984 586
Ranker Video
Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

9
851 430
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

10
755 445
Ranker Video
Mullholland Drive, Elephant Man, Blue Velvet

11
716 377
Ranker Video
The Master, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

12
767 568
Ranker Video
Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar Avatar 2

13
676 510
Ranker Video
Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns

14
452 129
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

15
617 453
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind

16
672 341
Ranker Video
Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums

17
614 415
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
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
507 298
Ranker Video
Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

19
438 167
Ethan Coen is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
StacyWolfe added The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Fargo

20
708 608
Ranker Video
Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, To Rome

21
329 133
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim

22
495 377
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist

23
429 310
Ranker Video
Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables

24
464 337
Ranker Video
Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs

25
457 400
Ranker Video
Star Wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

26
422 314
Ranker Video
Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

27
414 290
Ranker Video
Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York

28
466 392
J.J. Abrams is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Armageddon

29
400 289
Ang Lee is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger

30
292 130
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
beernbugs added Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

31
394 338
Ranker Video
Platoon, Scarface, JFK

32
288 182
Danny Boyle is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire

33
326 206
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Hair

34
332 263
Ranker Video
The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Badlands

35
293 226
Ranker Video
Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator

36
286 211
Ranker Video
Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Beavis and Butt-head Do America

37
316 260
Rob Reiner is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me

38
244 164
Peter Weir is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

39
199 27
Denis Villeneuve is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Arianne added Prisoners, Incendies, Polytechnique - Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival, Blade runner 2049

40
246 179
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
PeteBoyle added The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome

41
238 197
Ranker Video
The Silence of the Lambs, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

42
266 261
Ranker Video
Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

43
228 77
Alfonso Cuarón is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pan's Labyrinth, Gravity

44
222 189
Ranker Video
The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl

45
238 180
Mel Gibson is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
looksharp added Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Pocahontas

46
211 123
Spike Jonze is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added The Wolf of Wall Street, Being John Malkovich, Moneyball

47
197 182
Ranker Video
The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.

48
199 127
Frank Darabont is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
laaaarrge added The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, King Kong

49
200 117
Alejandro González Iñárritu is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Babel, Amores perros

50
233 202
Ranker Video
Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Milk