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
3,154 1,103
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
2,768 784
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
2,710 826
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
2,511 1,299
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
1,673 838
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
2,583 1,271
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
1,546 636
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
1,422 618
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

9
2,452 1,085
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
1,421 645
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
1,318 539
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
1,080 492
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
908 424
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
1,287 681
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ridley Scott The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

The Worst Movie Directors of All Time

15
1,288 513
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
1,132 595
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sergio Leone Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

17
1,353 652
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Clint Eastwood Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

18
1,072 515
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lynch Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Elephant Man

19
919 372
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
847 398
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
697 297
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 Very Best Dog Breeds, Ranked

22
697 328
Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Fritz Lang Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

23
857 559
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Roman Polanski The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

24
927 789
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
628 317
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
631 252
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

27
761 366
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
619 279
David Lean is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
David Lean Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, A Passage to India

The Best Horror Directors in Film History

29
559 304
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
669 380
Robert Zemeckis is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Zemeckis Back To The Future Trilogy, Forrest Gump, Cast Away

31
688 421
Wes Anderson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Wes Anderson The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited

32
786 587
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

33
915 639
James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

34
463 232
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
485 281
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
François Truffaut The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

Stars Who Passed on Iconic Hollywood Roles

36
453 260
Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Howard Hawks The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

37
482 295
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
788 568
Peter Jackson is listed (or ranked) 38 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

39
568 358
Brian De Palma is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Brian De Palma Scarface, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables

40
518 266
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
525 327
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 41 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

42
386 117
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Coen Brothers True Grit

The Greatest Female Film Directors

43
525 313
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

44
414 249
Buster Keaton is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Buster Keaton The General, Mixed Magic, Excuse My Dust

45
339 211
Luis Buñuel is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Luis Buñuel The Milky Way, Death in the Garden, The River and Death

46
383 251
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Altman MASH, The Company, Bonanza

47
413 249
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Werner Herzog Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn, Encounters At The End of The World

48
442 226
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
531 378
George Lucas is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
George Lucas Star Wars Trilogy, Indiana Jones Trilogy, American Graffiti

50
331 177
William Wyler is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
William Wyler Ben Hur, Roman Holiday, The Best Years Of Our Lives