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!
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list ordered by

1
5,534 2,308
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
4,816 1,719
Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, Goodfellas

3
4,683 1,650
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
4,840 2,309
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
2,883 1,544
Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Cotton Club, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Apocalypse Now

6
4,852 2,274
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
2,686 1,241
Akira Kurosawa is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Rashomon, Hakuchi, The Bad Sleep Well

8
4,729 1,959
Christopher Nolan is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Batman Begins, Memento, The Dark Knight

9
2,339 1,078
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

10
2,373 1,131
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
2,134 953
Charlie Chaplin is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Modern Times, City Lights, The Great Dictator

12
1,808 853
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

13
1,459 727
Billy Wilder is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Some Like it Hot, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment

14
2,094 1,203
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Counselor, American Gangster, Blade Runner

15
2,243 1,129
Clint Eastwood is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino

16
1,714 916
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

17
1,469 622
Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
8 1/2, La Dolce Vita, Roma

18
1,806 903
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
2,188 908
David Fincher is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network

20
1,332 643
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
1,146 523
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
1,038 553
Fritz Lang is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Metropolis, Scarlet Street, Clash by Night

23
1,324 999
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby

24
1,184 465
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

25
1,359 617
Paul Thomas Anderson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights