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
3,802 1,427
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
3,304 1,032
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
3,280 1,055
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
3,150 1,572
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
1,999 1,056
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
3,136 1,546
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
1,855 826
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
3,051 1,335
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
1,654 781
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

10
1,680 795
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
1,530 666
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
1,523 831
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ridley Scott The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

13
1,259 622
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ingmar Bergman Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

14
1,047 524
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

The Worst Movie Directors of All Time

15
1,536 632
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
1,599 793
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
1,260 633
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
1,285 709
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
1,067 456
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
966 486
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
833 368
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 Greatest U.S. Vice Presidents of All Time

22
973 685
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Roman Polanski The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

23
780 414
Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Fritz Lang Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

24
929 442
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Paul Thomas Anderson There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

25
1,050 962
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Woody Allen Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

26
728 380
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
724 334
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
766 328
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

The Best Horror Directors in Film History

29
659 354
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
1,129 749
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
803 462
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
951 698
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

33
842 511
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
548 284
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
933 662
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 Scariest Movies Ever Made

36
553 343
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
669 419
Brian De Palma is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Brian De Palma Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

38
555 345
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
François Truffaut The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

39
511 311
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
622 329
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
522 166
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Coen Brothers True Grit

42
632 370
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

The Greatest Female Film Directors

43
601 383
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
687 471
George Lucas is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
George Lucas Star Wars Trilogy, Indiana Jones Trilogy, American Graffiti

45
465 296
Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Buster Keaton The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

46
438 219
John Hughes is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Hughes The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone

47
451 307
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Altman MASH, The Company, Bonanza

48
528 281
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Carpenter Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing

49
474 303
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
535 318
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
MatthewCoy added Ron Howard Splash, Far and Away, Apollo 13