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The Greatest Directors In Movie History

Updated April 26, 2021 362.9k votes 31.2k voters 363.2k views732 items

List RulesVote up the directors you believe to be most important, culturally significant, and deserving of recognition.

This is a 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 lifetime.

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 one of the most iconic film directors, and certainly one of the most significant contributors to contemporary film language and genre. Another of the best film directors in history, 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.

Who is the best film director? Do you think Guillermo del Toro is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time? Some say David Lynch is one of the greatest Hollywood directors of all time. If you don’t agree that they are some of the best movie directors, here's your chance to make your opinion known.

The top 10 people on this list are perhaps the 10 best directors of all time. Vote up those you believe are the best filmmakers of all time. Then check back to see if your favorites topped the list! 

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  • 1
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    3,568

    Alfred Hitchcock

    Leytonstone, London

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Rebecca (1941), Lifeboat (1945), Spellbound (1946), Rear Window (1955), and Psycho (1961)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Frenzy (1973)

    Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (1972)

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  • 2
    9,217
    4,232

    Stanley Kubrick

    New York City, New York

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1965), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969), A Clockwork Orange (1972), and Barry Lyndon (1976)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for Spartacus (1961), Lolita (1963), A Clockwork Orange (1972), and Barry Lyndon (1976)

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  • 3
    8,695
    3,654

    Martin Scorsese

    New York City, New York

    Won for Best Director Oscar for The Departed (2007)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Gangs of New York (2003) and Hugo (2012)

    Winner of the Cecil B. DeMille Award (2010)

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  • 4
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    Akira Kurosawa

    Shinagawa, Japan
  • 5
    3,362
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    Ingmar Bergman

    Uppsala, Sweden

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  • 6
    9,006
    4,049

    Quentin Tarantino

    Knoxville, Tennessee

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  • 7
    3,263
    1,566

    Sergio Leone

    Rome, Italy

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  • 8
    2,454
    1,152

    Andrei Tarkovsky

    Yuryevetsky District
  • 9
    4,878
    2,352

    Francis Ford Coppola

    Detroit, Michigan

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  • 10
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    3,469

    Christopher Nolan

    London, United Kingdom

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  • 11
    3,093
    1,475

    David Lynch

    Missoula, Montana

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  • 12
    4,257
    2,026

    The Coen Brothers

    Area code 218, Minneapolis

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  • 13
    2,797
    1,352

    Federico Fellini

    Rimini, Italy

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  • 14
    8,282
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    Steven Spielberg

    Cincinnati, Ohio

    Won for Best Director Oscar for Schindler's List (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1999)

    Won for Best Director Golden Globe for Schindler's List (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1999)

    Winner of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award (1987) and the Cecil B. DeMille Award (2008)

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  • 15
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    Frank Capra

    Bisacquino, Italy

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  • 16
    1,672
    772

    Sidney Lumet

    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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  • 17
    2,773
    1,342

    Billy Wilder

    Sucha Beskidzka, Poland

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  • 18
    3,605
    1,669

    David Fincher

    Denver, Colorado

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  • 19
    2,234
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    David Lean

    Croydon, London

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  • 20
    2,531
    1,206

    Paul Thomas Anderson

    Studio City, California

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  • 21
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    2,100

    Orson Welles

    Kenosha, Wisconsin

    Nominated for Best Director Oscar for Citizen Kane (1942)

    Winner of an Honorary Oscar (1971)

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  • 22
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    Hayao Miyazaki

    Bunkyo, Tokyo

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  • 23
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    584

    Denis Villeneuve

    Gentilly, Quebec
  • 24
    1,053
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    George Cukor

    Manhattan, New York City

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  • 25
    2,588
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    John Ford

    Cape Elizabeth, Maine

    Won for Best Director Oscar for The Informer (1936), The Grapes of Wrath (1941), How Green Was My Valley (1942), and The Quiet Man (1953)

    Nominated for Best Director Golden Globe for The Quiet Man (1953)

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