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 Academy of Motion Pictures, 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 one 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! 

Ranked by
  • Sam Wood
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
    297 votes
    • Credits (Film): Gone with the Wind, A Night at the Opera, The Pride of the Yankees, A Day at the Races, Goodbye

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939), Kitty Foyle (1940), and Kings Row (1942)

  • Satyajit Ray
    Kolkata, India
    800 votes
    • Credits (Film): The Stranger, Panther Panchali, Charulata, The Chess Players

    Won the Academy Honorary Oscar (1992)

  • Spike Jonze
    Rockville, Maryland, United States of America
    1,065 votes
    • Credits (Film): Her, Where The Wild Things Are, Being John Malkovich, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Being John Malkovich (1999)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Adaptation (2002)

  • Stanley Kramer
    Hell's Kitchen, New York City, New York
    399 votes
    • Credits (Film): It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, High Noon

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Defiant Ones (1958), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Defiant Ones (1958), On the Beach (1959), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Award (1962)

    Winner of the Golden Globe Artistic Integrity Award (1961)

  • John Lasseter
    Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
    650 votes
    • Credits (Film): Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, Cars
  • Robert Mulligan
    New York City, New York, USA
    399 votes
    • Credits (Film): To Kill a Mockingbird, Summer of '42, Kiss Me Goodbye, The Pursuit of Happiness, The Man in the Moon

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), and Summer of '42 (1971)

  • Luc Besson
    Paris, France
    886 votes
    • Credits (Film): Léon: The Professional, Atlantis, The Fifth Element, Taken 2
  • Michael Mann

    Michael Mann

    Chicago, Illinois, USA
    1,098 votes
    • Credits (Film): Collateral, The Keep, The Jericho Mile, Ali, Miami Vice

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Insider (1999)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Insider (1999)

  • Sam Mendes
    South East England, Eurasia, Reading
    1,128 votes
    • Credits (Film): Skyfall, Jarhead, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Cabaret

    Won for Best Director Oscar for American Beauty (1999)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for 1917 (2019)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for American Beauty (1999), and 1917 (2019)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Revolutionary Road (2008)

  • Norman Jewison
    Canada, Ontario, Toronto
    329 votes
    • Credits (Film): In the Heat of the Night, Moonstruck, The Hurricane, Fiddler on the Roof, Rollerball

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for In the Heat of the Night (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and Moonstruck (1987)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for In the Heat of the Night (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Hurricane (1999)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Award (1999)

  • Sofia Coppola
    New York City, New York, United States of America
    870 votes
    • Credits (Film): The Bling Ring, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, Virgin Suicides

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Lost in Translation (2003)

  • John Boorman
    Shepperton, United Kingdom
    439 votes
    • Credits (Film): Excalibur, Deliverance, Hope and Glory, The Tailor of Panama

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Deliverance (1972), and Hope and Glory (1987)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Deliverance (1972), and Hope and Glory (1987)

  • Peter Bogdanovich
    Kingston, New York, USA
    667 votes
    • Credits (Film): The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, Targets, What's up, Doc?

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Last Picture Show (1971)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Last Picture Show (1971), and Paper Moon (1973)

  • Raoul Walsh
    New York City, New York, United States of America
    551 votes
    • Credits (Film): White Heat, The Roaring Twenties, High Sierra, Objective, Burma!
  • Vittorio De Sica
    Italy, Sora
    1,009 votes
    • Credits (Film): The Voyage, A Place For Lovers, Bicycle Theives, The Children Are Watching Us
  • Wolfgang Petersen
    Emden, Germany
    509 votes
    • Credits (Film): Troy, Das Boot, The NeverEnding Story, Air Force One

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Das Boot (1981)

  • Franklin J. Schaffner
    227 votes
    • Credits (Film): Patton, Planet of the Apes, Papillon, The Boys from Brazil, Nicholas and Alexandra

    Won for Best Director Oscar for Patton (1970)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Patton (1970)

  • Carol Reed
    Putney, London, United Kingdom
    760 votes
    • Credits (Film): The Third Man, Oliver!, The Fallen Idol, The Agony and the Ecstasy

    Won for Best Director Oscar for Oliver! (1968)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Fallen Idol (1948), and The Third Man (1949)

  • John Frankenheimer
    New York City, New York, United States of America
    644 votes
    • Credits (Film): Ronin, The Manchurian Candidate, Reindeer Games, The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Nicholas Ray
    Galesville, Wisconsin, United States of America
    656 votes
    • Credits (Film): Rebel Without A Cause, Johnny Guitar, In A Lonely Place, King of Kings
  • Wes Craven
    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    836 votes
    • Credits (Film): Scream 3, Scream 4, Red Eye, The Last House on the Left, Swamp Thing
  • Barry Levinson
    Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America
    512 votes
    • Credits (Film): Young Sherlock Holmes, Rain Man, Sphere, You Don't Know Jack, Tootsie

    Won for Best Director Oscar for Rain Man (1988)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Bugsy (1991)

  • Wong Kar-wai
    Shanghai, China
    620 votes
    • Credits (Film): 2046, In The Mood For Love, The Grandmaster, My Blueberry Nights
  • Kenji Mizoguchi
    Tokyo City
    764 votes
    • Credits (Film): Ugetsu, The Life of Oharu, Sansho the Bailiff, Sisters of the Gion
  • Chuck Jones
    Spokane, Washington, United States of America
    526 votes
    • Credits (Film): Merry Melodies: Starring Bugs Bunny and his Friends, Bugs Bunny's Overture to Disaster, The Bugs and Daffy Show

    Winner of the Academy Honorary Oscar (1996)

  • George Stevens
    Oakland, California, USA
    624 votes
    • Credits (Film): Shane, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Giant, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Place in the Sun

    Won for Best Director Oscar for A Place in the Sun (1951), and Giant (1956) 

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The More The Merrier (1943), Shane (1953), and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for A Place in the Sun (1951), Giant (1956), and The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

  • Tony Scott
    North Shields, North East England, Eurasia
    557 votes
    • Credits (Film): Top Gun, Enemy of the State, Beverly Hills Cop II, Romeo + Juliet
  • John Schlesinger
    London, England
    472 votes
    • Credits (Film): Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man, Pacific Heights, The Day of the Locust, Darling

    Won for Best Director Oscar for Midnight Cowboy (1969)

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Darling (1965), and Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Darling (1965), Midnight Cowboy (1969), and Marathon Man (1976)

  • Henry King
    Christiansburg, Virginia, United States of America
    237 votes
    • Credits (Film): Twelve O'Clock High, Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, The Gunfighter, Carousel, The Song of Bernadette

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for The Song of Bernadette (1943), and Wilson (1944)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Song of Bernadette (1943)

  • Jean-Pierre Melville
    485 votes
    • Credits (Film): Breathless, Le Samouraï, The Red Circle, Army of Shadows, Bob le flambeur