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
3,981 1,532
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
3,436 1,097
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
3,435 1,120
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
3,323 1,632
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
2,084 1,108
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
3,278 1,620
Quentin Tarantino is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Quentin Tarantino Django Unchained, Reservoir Dogs, Grindhouse

7
1,926 868
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
3,189 1,401
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
1,720 812
Orson Welles is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Orson Welles Citizen Kane, Don Quixote, Macbeth

10
1,748 824
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
1,582 694
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
1,580 871
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
1,084 543
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
1,303 650
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Ingmar Bergman Persona, Cries & Whispers, A Lesson of Love

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15
1,603 662
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
1,668 829
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
1,323 726
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Sergio Leone Once Upon A Time In America, Duck, You Sucker

18
1,310 659
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
1,098 472
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
1,004 501
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
861 382
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 Best Comedy Directors in Film History

22
797 424
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
1,003 713
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
970 456
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
749 390
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
1,079 1,002
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Woody Allen Annie Hall, Anything Else, To Rome With Love

27
746 345
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
794 343
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris, Andrei Rublev, The Sacrifice

The Most Iconoclastic Directors in Film History

29
1,189 771
James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
James Cameron Titanic, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Alien Quadrilogy

30
680 366
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Miloš Forman One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Loves of a Blonde

31
843 475
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
889 528
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
988 730
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Beetlejuice

34
569 291
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
972 676
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

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36
566 351
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
691 430
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
527 317
Howard Hawks is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Howard Hawks The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, Rio Bravo

39
567 354
François Truffaut is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
François Truffaut The 400 Blows, The Last Metro, Jules and Jim

40
648 336
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
556 173
Coen brothers is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
The Coen Brothers True Grit

42
655 379
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

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43
616 394
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
729 490
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
479 303
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
465 227
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
555 287
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
465 316
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Robert Altman MASH, The Company, Bonanza

49
488 309
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
549 284
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directors in Movie History
Guillermo del Toro Pan's Labryinth, Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army