oscars The Greatest Directors in Movie History  

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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
2,925 978
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

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2
2,562 686
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
2,509 737
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
2,297 1,190
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
1,560 739
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
2,364 1,175
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
1,432 577
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
1,360 554
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

9
2,173 1,012
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Christopher Nolan Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

10
1,308 587
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
1,219 505
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
1,016 455
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
851 393
Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Billy Wilder Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

14
1,072 561
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sergio Leone Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

15
1,176 633
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ridley Scott The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

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16
996 479
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lynch Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man

17
1,180 482
David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Fincher Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

18
1,258 619
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Clint Eastwood Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

19
857 346
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
819 381
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
670 311
Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Fritz Lang Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

22
655 284
Frank Capra is listed (or ranked) 22 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

23
822 512
Roman Polański is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Roman Polański The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

24
882 718
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
596 307
Sidney Lumet is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sidney Lumet 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

26
576 228
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

27
700 346
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Paul Thomas Anderson There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

28
535 291
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Miloš Forman One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde

29
585 268
David Lean is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lean Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India

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30
845 583
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
607 350
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
624 394
Wes Anderson is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Wes Anderson The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited

33
709 545
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

34
427 251
Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Howard Hawks The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

35
435 223
Elia Kazan is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Elia Kazan On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden

36
459 261
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
François Truffaut The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

37
464 289
John Huston is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
John Huston The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage

38
535 340
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
732 535
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 39 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

40
502 313
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 40 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

41
481 253
Hayao Miyazaki is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Hayao Miyazaki Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoki, The Castle of Cagliostro

42
404 239
Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Buster Keaton The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

43
487 301
Mel Brooks is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Mel Brooks Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blazing Saddles, Life Stinks

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44
367 245
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Altman MASH, The Company, Bonanza

45
388 235
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Werner Herzog Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Encounters At The End of The World

46
333 108
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Coen Brothers True Grit

47
407 214
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
318 199
Luis Buñuel is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Luis Buñuel The Milky Way, Death in the Garden, The River and Death

49
401 314
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Cronenberg The Fly, Crash, The Dead Zone

50
386 276
Terrence Malick is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Terrence Malick The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven