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
1,311 399
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Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed

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2
1,173 566
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Steven Spielberg E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Schindler's List

3
871 429
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Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now

4
1,197 565
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Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds

5
825 409
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Joel Coen Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski

6
1,234 435
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
796 363
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David Fincher Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

8
835 484
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Clint Eastwood Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

9
705 352
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ridley Scott Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

10
630 368
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David Lynch Mullholland Drive, Elephant Man, Blue Velvet

11
578 316
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Paul Thomas Anderson The Master, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

12
621 474
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James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar Avatar 2

13
535 375
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ron Howard Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind

14
571 421
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Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns

15
623 502
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Woody Allen Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, To Rome

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16
549 289
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Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums

17
501 351
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
409 252
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Robert Zemeckis Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

19
338 130
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
425 318
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Roman Polanski Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist

21
365 259
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Brian De Palma Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables

22
399 291
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Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs

23
373 272
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Steven Soderbergh Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

24
352 244
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John Carpenter Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York

25
302 89
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Stanley Kubrick The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

26
397 328
J.J. Abrams is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
J.J. Abrams Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, Armageddon

27
368 342
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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

28
234 99
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
346 245
Ang Lee is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ang Lee Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger

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30
354 296
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Oliver Stone Platoon, Scarface, JFK

31
238 103
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
246 149
Danny Boyle is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Danny Boyle Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire

33
295 225
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Terrence Malick The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Badlands

34
278 176
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
257 196
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Michael Mann Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator

36
208 132
Peter Weir is listed (or ranked) 36 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

37
273 226
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
236 181
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Richard Linklater Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Beavis and Butt-head Do America

39
201 158
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Mike Nichols The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl

40
204 149
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
178 153
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William Friedkin The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.

42
188 131
Mel Gibson is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
looksharp added Mel Gibson Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Pocahontas

43
235 227
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Sam Raimi Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

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44
168 51
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
171 99
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
205 170
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George A. Romero The Silence of the Lambs, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

47
159 101
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
205 174
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Gus Van Sant Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Milk

49
148 85
Alejandro González Iñárritu is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Alejandro González Iñárritu Babel, Amores perros

50
140 60
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