VOTE The Greatest Directors in Movie History  

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Originally by Ranker Community
200.9k votes 16.2k voters 233.4k views 853 items

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
4,989 2,034
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 1 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

2
4,338 1,508
Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

3
4,239 1,446
Alfred Hitchcock is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Psycho, The Birds, The Man Who Knew Too Much

4
4,360 2,054
Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Munich, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, War of the Worlds

5
4,294 2,033
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

6
2,604 1,408
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
2,426 1,126
Akira Kurosawa is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

8
4,192 1,751
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

9
2,115 988
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

10
2,158 1,021
Joel Coen is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Burn After Reading, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis

11
1,953 869
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

12
1,639 782
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

13
1,918 1,075
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

14
1,326 664
Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

15
2,054 1,036
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

16
1,999 820
David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

17
1,569 856
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

18
1,632 815
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man

19
1,332 579
Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

20
1,224 597
John Ford is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Searchers, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath

21
1,053 476
Frank Capra is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
It's A Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, It Happened One Night

22
953 511
Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

23
1,222 901
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

24
1,232 557
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights

25
1,052 430
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

26
1,559 968
James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

27
1,300 1,245
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

28
888 462
Sidney Lumet is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network

29
901 411
David Lean is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India

30
837 434
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde

31
1,168 648
Wes Anderson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited

32
1,060 569
Robert Zemeckis is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

33
1,286 891
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

34
1,227 803
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Hobbit: There and Back Again, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Hot Fuzz

35
794 227
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
True Grit

36
835 396
Hayao Miyazaki is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoki, The Castle of Cagliostro

37
675 349
Elia Kazan is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden

38
839 501
Brian De Palma is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

39
663 404
John Huston is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Asphalt Jungle, Wise Blood, The Red Badge of Courage

40
619 370
Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

41
669 409
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

42
810 454
Mel Brooks is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Blazing Saddles, Life Stinks

43
719 465
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Monty Python: The Life of Brian, Twelve Monkeys

44
772 345
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Pan's Labryinth, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army

45
729 344
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing

46
971 635
George Lucas is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Star Wars Trilogy, Indiana Jones Trilogy, American Graffiti

47
619 300
John Hughes is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Home Alone

48
548 363
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
MASH, The Company, Bonanza

49
554 355
Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

50
702 404
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
MatthewCoy added Splash, Far and Away, Apollo 13