film 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
1,239 360
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Martin Scorsese Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Departed

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2
1,084 519
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Steven Spielberg E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Schindler's List

3
822 384
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Francis Ford Coppola The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now

4
1,115 521
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Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Inglourious Basterds

5
758 388
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Joel Coen Fargo, No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski

6
1,120 402
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
743 336
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David Fincher Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

8
777 454
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Clint Eastwood Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

9
660 319
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ridley Scott Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

10
590 338
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David Lynch Mullholland Drive, Elephant Man, Blue Velvet

11
529 295
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Paul Thomas Anderson The Master, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

12
579 435
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James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Avatar Avatar 2

13
503 338
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ron Howard Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind

14
530 394
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Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns

15
593 461
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Woody Allen Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, To Rome

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16
508 265
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Wes Anderson Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums

17
460 320
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
378 233
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Robert Zemeckis Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit

19
398 289
Roman Polański is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Roman Polański Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist

20
293 120
Ethan Coen is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
StacyWolfe added Ethan Coen The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Fargo

21
340 242
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Brian De Palma Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables

22
380 273
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Mel Brooks Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs

23
341 260
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Steven Soderbergh Ocean's Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Traffic

24
324 229
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John Carpenter Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York

25
362 296
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
340 312
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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
336 278
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Oliver Stone Platoon, Scarface, JFK

28
324 230
Ang Lee is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Ang Lee Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, Crouching Tiger

29
229 131
Danny Boyle is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Danny Boyle Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire

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30
276 209
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Terrence Malick The Thin Red Line, The Tree of Life, Badlands

31
196 90
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
223 89
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 32 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

33
261 167
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Miloš Forman One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Hair

34
260 77
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Stanley Kubrick The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

35
192 125
Peter Weir is listed (or ranked) 35 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

36
242 190
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Michael Mann Heat, The Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator

37
264 215
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
214 167
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Richard Linklater Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Beavis and Butt-head Do America

39
190 146
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Mike Nichols The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl

40
221 216
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Sam Raimi Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3

41
168 116
Mel Gibson is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
looksharp added Mel Gibson Braveheart, Lethal Weapon, Pocahontas

42
186 141
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
PeteBoyle added David Cronenberg The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome

43
167 145
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William Friedkin The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.

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44
148 90
Frank Darabont is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
laaaarrge added Frank Darabont The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, King Kong

45
197 161
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Gus Van Sant Good Will Hunting, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Milk

46
151 91
Spike Jonze is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Spike Jonze The Wolf of Wall Street, Being John Malkovich, Moneyball

47
147 46
Alfonso Cuarón is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
AlanSmithee added Alfonso Cuarón Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Pan's Labyrinth, Gravity

48
188 162
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George A. Romero The Silence of the Lambs, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead

49
102 3
Denis Villeneuve is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked
Guest_cfb127ec-5b5a-446c-8ebf-d620282faff0 added Denis Villeneuve Prisoners, Incendies, Polytechnique

50
128 53
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