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The Greatest Directors In Movie History 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated May 15, 2020 320.2k votes 27.7k voters 334.3k views 780 items

List Rules Most important, culturally significant filmmakers of all time most deserving of critical acclaim and 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 one of the MOST iconic film directors, and certainly one of the most significant contributors to contemporary film language and genre. Martin 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, make your voice known!

The top 10 people on this list are perhaps the 10 best directors of all time. 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 the best filmmakers of all time, and if some of your choices for top film directors haven't yet made the list, be sure to add them. 

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list ordered by
1
Alfred Hitchcock is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much
2
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Spartacus, 2001: A Space Odyssey
3
Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas
4
Akira Kurosawa is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well
5
Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds
6
Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Apocalypse Now
7
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love
8
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth
9
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse
10
Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma
11
Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment
12
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker
13
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator
14
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice
15
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight
16
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis
17
Frank Capra is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, It Happened One Night
18
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights
19
John Ford is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath
20
David Lean is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India
21
David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network
22
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man
23
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner
24
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino
25
Sidney Lumet is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors In Movie History
12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network