Entertainment

The Greatest Directors In Movie History

List Rules
Vote up the directors you believe to be most important, culturally significant, and deserving of recognition.

This is a list of the greatest directors in movie history, who are most deserving of Academy Awards and critical recognition. The list includes directors who have already won major awards, those who continue to have the potential to win Oscars, and filmmakers who were overlooked by the Academy during their lifetime.

Often, the greatest of these filmmakers will go unrecognized by the Motion Picture Academy, particularly during the most active, vital period of their careers. Alfred Hitchcock famously never took home a statue for best director, despite being perhaps the one of the most iconic film directors, and certainly one of the most significant contributors to contemporary film language and genre. Another of the best film directors in history, Martin Scorsese, eventually did take home best director for his work on The Departed, but this film came long after the movies for which Scorsese will likely be best remembered - Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and so on.

Who is the best film director? Do you think Guillermo del Toro is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time? Some say David Lynch is one of the greatest Hollywood directors of all time. If you don’t agree that they are some of the best movie directors, here's your chance to make your opinion known.

The top 10 people on this list are perhaps the 10 best directors of all time. Vote up those you believe are the best filmmakers of all time. Then check back to see if your favorites topped the list! 

Photo:
list ordered by
  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), A Clockwork Orange (1972), and Barry Lyndon (1976)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Spartacus (1961), Lolita (1963), A Clockwork Orange (1972), and Barry Lyndon (1976)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for The Departed (2007)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Gangs of New York (2003) and Hugo (2012)

    Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (2010)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Rebecca (1941), Lifeboat (1945), Spellbound (1946), Rear Window (1955), and Psycho (1961)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Frenzy (1973)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1968) and Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (1972)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for Schindler's List (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1999)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Schindler's List (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1999)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1987) and the Cecil B. DeMille Award (2008)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Ran (1985)

    Won for Best International Feature Film Oscar for Dersu Uzala (1976)

    Winner of the Palme D'Or for Kagemusha (1980)

    Won the Academy Honorary Oscar (1990)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for The Godfather Part II (1974)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for The Godfather (1972), and Apocalypse Now(1979)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (2011)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Pulp Fiction (1994), Inglorious Basterds (2009), and Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Pulp Fiction (1994), Inglorious Basterds (2009), Django Unchained (2012), and Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for No Country for Old Men (2007)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Fargo (1996), and True Grit (2010)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Fargo (1996), and No Country for Old Men (2007)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Cries and Whispers (1972), Face to Face (1976), and Fanny and Alexander (1982)

    Won for Best International Feature Film Oscar for The Virgin Spring (1961), Through A Glass Darkly (1962), and Fanny and Alexander (1984)

    Won for Best Foreign Language Film Golden Globe for Wild Strawberries (1960), The Virgin Spring (1961), Scenes from a Marriage (1975), Face to Face (1977),  Autumn Sonata (1979), and Fanny and Alexander (1984)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1971)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Dunkirk (2017)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Inception (2010), and Dunkirk (2017)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Citizen Kane (1942)

    Winner of the Academy Honorary Oscar (1971)

  • Winner of the Academy Honorary Oscar for The Circus (1929)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for Unforgiven (1992), and Million Dollar Baby (2004)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Mystic River (2003), and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Bird (1988), Unforgiven (1992), and Million Dollar Baby (2004)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Mystic River (2003), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), and Invictus (2009)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1995) and Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (1988)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010), and Mank (2020)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Gone Girl (2014), and Mank (2020)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for The Social Network (2010)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Elephant Man (1980), Blue Velvet (1986), and Mulholland Dr. (2001)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Elephant Man (1980), and Mulholland Dr. (2001)

    Won the Academy Honorary Oscar (2019)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for There Will Be Blood (2007), and Phantom Thread (2017)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 1/2 (1963), Fellini Satyricon (1969), and Amarcord (1973)

    Won for Best International Feature Film Oscar for La Strada (1956), Nights of Cabiria (1957), 8 1/2 (1963), and Amarcord (1973)

    Won the Academy Honorary Oscar (1992)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Thelma and Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), and Black Hawk Down (2001)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Gladiator (2000), American Gangster (2007), The Martian (2015), and All the Money in the World 

  • Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for The Informer (1936), The Grapes of Wrath (1941), How Green Was My Valley (1942), and The Quiet Man (1953)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Stagecoach (1939), and The Quiet Man (1952)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Quiet Man (1953)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for The Lost Weekend (1945), and The Apartment (1960)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Double Indemnity (1944), Sunset Boulevard (1951), Stalag 17 (1953), Sabrina (1954), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), and Some Like it Hot (1959)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for The Lost Weekend (1945), and Sunset Boulevard (1951)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Witness for the Prosecution (1957), The Apartment (1960), and Avanti! (1972)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1988)

  • Won for Best Director Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can't Take It With You (1938)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Lady for a Day (1933), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

  • Nominated for Best Director Oscar for 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), and The Verdict (1982)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Network (1976)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for 12 Angry Men (1957), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Prince of the City (1981), The Verdict

    (1982), and Running on Empty (1988)

    Won the Academy Honorary Oscar (2005)

  • Won for Best Animated Feature Film for Spirited Away (2001)

    Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for Howl's Moving Castle (2004), and The Wind Rises (2013)

    Won the Academy Honorary Oscar (2015)