oscars The Greatest Directors in Movie History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
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List Rules Most important, culturally significant filmmakers of all time who deserve award recognition.

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 lifetimes. The skill set of a high-level director is massive - everything from working with and managing large teams to a strong aesthetic and artistic sensibility to the ability to sell ideas to studio executives and potential collaborators. Though many have mastered the actual work of getting films made, only a rare few have managed to create truly memorable, important motion pictures that will stand the test of time.

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 MOST iconic of all film directors, and certainly one of the most significant contributors to contemporary film language and genre. 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.

This list disregards the quibbles over who has won in the past or will win in the future, and instead focuses purely on the quality of the filmmaking and the importance of the films themselves. Vote for your favorite directors, and if some of your choices haven't yet made the list, make your own version of the list and add them on there!
list ordered by

1
3,682 1,361
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Stanley Kubrick Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Spartacus, 2001: A Space Odyssey

2
3,205 983
Alfred Hitchcock is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Alfred Hitchcock Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

3
3,180 1,004
Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Martin Scorsese The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

4
3,039 1,523
Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Steven Spielberg Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

5
1,941 1,018
Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Francis Ford Coppola The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Apocalypse Now

6
3,035 1,494
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
1,801 792
Akira Kurosawa is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Akira Kurosawa Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

8
2,961 1,285
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Christopher Nolan Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

9
1,617 752
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

10
1,634 768
Joel Coen is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Joel & Ethan Coen Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

11
1,498 639
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Charlie Chaplin Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

12
1,241 598
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ingmar Bergman Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

13
1,477 807
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ridley Scott The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

14
1,025 506
Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Billy Wilder Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

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15
1,489 612
David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Fincher Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

16
1,558 764
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Clint Eastwood Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

17
1,231 609
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lynch Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man

18
1,261 690
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sergio Leone Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

19
1,045 441
Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Federico Fellini 8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

20
945 470
John Ford is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Ford The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

21
803 358
Frank Capra is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Frank Capra It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, It Happened One Night

The Best Comedy Directors in Film History

22
767 400
Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Fritz Lang Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

23
952 663
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Roman Polanski The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

24
1,038 930
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Woody Allen Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

25
904 431
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Paul Thomas Anderson There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

26
712 369
Sidney Lumet is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sidney Lumet 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

27
707 324
David Lean is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lean Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India

28
751 317
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

The Most Iconoclastic Directors in Film History

29
643 347
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Miloš Forman One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde

30
1,088 730
James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

31
781 447
Robert Zemeckis is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Zemeckis Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

32
924 674
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

33
818 496
Wes Anderson is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Wes Anderson The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited

34
533 274
Elia Kazan is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Elia Kazan On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden

35
912 642
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Peter Jackson The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hot Fuzz

The Best Wheels and Tire Brands

36
537 333
John Huston is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Huston The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage

37
544 335
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
François Truffaut The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

38
651 409
Brian De Palma is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Brian De Palma Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

39
499 304
Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Howard Hawks The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

40
608 320
Hayao Miyazaki is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Hayao Miyazaki Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoki, The Castle of Cagliostro

41
495 157
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Coen Brothers True Grit

42
609 360
Mel Brooks is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Mel Brooks Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blazing Saddles, Life Stinks

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43
586 375
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Terry Gilliam Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Monty Python: The Life of Brian, Twelve Monkeys

44
457 287
Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Buster Keaton The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

45
654 458
George Lucas is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
George Lucas Star Wars Trilogy, Indiana Jones Trilogy, American Graffiti

46
441 297
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Altman MASH, The Company, Bonanza

47
512 271
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Carpenter Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing

48
416 212
John Hughes is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Hughes The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone

49
465 296
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Werner Herzog Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Encounters At The End of The World

50
384 260
Luis Buñuel is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Luis Buñuel The Milky Way, Death in the Garden, The River and Death