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The Best Horror Directors in Film History 

Ranker Film
Originally by
Updated October 11, 2019 15.4k votes 1.8k voters 76k views 54 items

This list of the best horror directors in film history has ranked by the community as the absolute best in the genre. This list features the film industry’s best horror directors of all time and includes pictures and titles of their best horror films. Who are the absolute best horror directors in film history? The directors on this list have made some of the scariest, most frightening movies ever.

This list details the best horror directors in history and many of these directors have received numerous awards for their best work. The directors featured here are from all around the world and from different time periods in history. Many are still currently creating amazing films in the horror genre today.

This list features the film industry’s best horror directors and includes great directors like Wes Craven, Alfred Hitchcock, George A. Romero, David Lynch, David Argento, Mario Brava, John Carpenter, James Whale, and Terence Fisher, Roman Polanski.

Vote up the best horror film directors ever or add the director of scary horror movies you think is best, if he or she isn't already on the list.

You might also enjoy this list of action directors.

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list ordered by
1
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Halloween, The Thing, Dark Star

Birthplace: Carthage, New York, United States of America

Age: 71

John Howard Carpenter (born January 16, 1948) is an American filmmaker, screenwriter and composer. Although Carpenter has worked with various movie genres, he is associated most commonly with ...more
2
Alfred Hitchcock is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Psycho, Shadow Of A Doubt, The Birds

Birthplace: Leytonstone, London, United Kingdom

Age: Dec. at 81 (1899-1980)

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English film director and producer, widely regarded as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. Known ...more
3
Wes Craven is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
The Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes, A Nightmare On Elm Street

Birthplace: USA, Cleveland, Ohio

Age: 80

Wesley Earl Craven (August 2, 1939 – August 30, 2015) was an American film director, writer, producer, and actor. He was known for his pioneering work in the genre of horror films, particularly ...more
4
George A. Romero is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Night Of The Living Dead, The Crazies, Martin

Birthplace: New York City, Area code 917, Contiguous United States, New York, United States of America, + more

Age: 79

George Andrew Romero (; February 4, 1940 – July 16, 2017) was an American filmmaker, writer and editor. He is best known for his series of gruesome and satirical horror films about an imagined ...more
5
Sam Raimi is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Drag Me to Hell

Birthplace: Michigan, USA, Royal Oak

Age: 60

Samuel M. Raimi (born October 23, 1959) is an American filmmaker, actor, and producer, primarily known for creating the cult horror Evil Dead series, and directing the Spider-Man trilogy ...more
6
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Shivers, Videodrome, The Fly

Birthplace: Toronto, Canada

Age: 76

David Paul Cronenberg (born March 15, 1943) is a Canadian filmmaker, writer, and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror genre, with his films ...more
7
James Wan is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
AmmarFawazDagriri added Saw, The Conjuring, Insidious

Birthplace: Kuching, Malaysia

Age: 42

James Wan (born 26 February 1977) is a Malaysian-born Australian film director, screenwriter, and producer.Wan is known for directing the horror film Saw (2004) and creating Billy the Puppet. He ...more
8
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
JodyTurnbull added The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

Age: Dec. at 71 (1928-1999)

Stanley Kubrick (; July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He is frequently cited as one of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic ...more
9
Guillermo del Toro is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth

Birthplace: Guadalajara, Mexico

Age: 55

Guillermo del Toro Gómez (Spanish: [ɡiˈʝeɾmo ðel ˈtoɾo]; born October 9, 1964) is a Mexican filmmaker, author, actor, and former special effects makeup artist. He is best known for ...more
10
Tobe Hooper is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Lifeforce, Poltergeist

Birthplace: Austin, Texas, United States of America

Age: 76

Willard Tobe Hooper (January 25, 1943 – August 26, 2017) was an American director, screenwriter, and producer best known for his work in the horror genre. Among his most recognized films are The ...more
11
Dario Argento is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red, Suspiria

Birthplace: Rome, Italy

Age: 79

Dario Argento (Italian: [ˈdaːrjo arˈdʒɛnto]; born 7 September 1940) is an Italian film director, producer, film critic and screenwriter. He is best known for his work in the horror film genre ...more
12
James Whale is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man

Birthplace: Dudley, United Kingdom

Age: Dec. at 68 (1889-1957)

James Whale (22 July 1889 – 29 May 1957) was an English film director, theater director and actor, who spent the greater part of his career in Hollywood. He is best remembered for several horror ...more
13
Brian De Palma is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Carrie, Dressed To Kill, The Fury

Birthplace: Newark, New Jersey, United States of America

Age: 79

Brian Russell de Palma (born September 11, 1940) is an American film director and screenwriter. With a career spanning over 50 years, he is best known for his work in the suspense, psychological ...more
14
Mario Bava is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Black Sunday, Black Sabbath, Blood And Black Lace

Birthplace: Sanremo, Italy

Age: Dec. at 66 (1914-1980)

Mario Bava (31 July 1914 – 27 April 1980) was an Italian cinematographer, director, special effects artist and screenwriter, frequently referred to as the "Master of Italian Horror" ...more
15
Clive Barker is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Nightbreed, Tortured Souls, Lord of Illusions

Birthplace: Liverpool, Eurasia, Lancashire, North West England, United Kingdom, + more

Age: 67

Clive Barker (born 5 October 1952) is an English writer, film director, and visual artist. Barker came to prominence in the mid-1980s with a series of short stories, the Books of Blood, which ...more
16
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr.

Birthplace: Missoula, Montana, United States of America

Age: 73

David Keith Lynch (born January 20, 1946) is an American filmmaker, painter, musician, actor, and photographer. He is best known for the acclaimed films Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive ...more
17
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Repulsion, The Tenant, Rosemary’s Baby

Birthplace: Paris, France

Age: 86

Rajmund Roman Thierry Polański (born 18 August 1933) is a French-Polish film director, producer, writer, and actor. Since 1978, he has been a fugitive from the U.S. criminal justice system, ...more
18
Tom Holland is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Fright Night, Child's Play, Fatal Beauty

Birthplace: New York City, USA, New York, Poughkeepsie

Age: 76

Tom Holland (born July 11, 1943) is an American screenwriter, actor, and filmmaker best known for his work in the horror film genre, penning the 1983 sequel to the classic Alfred Hitchcock film ...more
19
Robert Wise is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
The Body Snatcher, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting

Birthplace: Winchester, United States of America, Randolph County, United States, with Territories, + more

Age: Dec. at 91 (1914-2005)

Robert Earl Wise (September 10, 1914 – September 14, 2005) was an American film director, producer, and editor. He won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for both West Side Story ...more
20
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Kyle Fowler added Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Dark Shadows

Birthplace: Burbank, California, United States of America

Age: 61

Timothy Walter Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an American filmmaker, artist, writer, and animator. He is known for his dark, gothic, and eccentric horror and fantasy films such as Beetlejuice ...more
21
William Peter Blatty is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
m32flvrs added The Ninth Configuration, The Exorcist III

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States of America

Age: 91

William Peter Blatty (January 7, 1928 – January 12, 2017) was an American writer and filmmaker best known for his 1971 novel The Exorcist and for the Academy Award-winning screenplay of its film ...more
22
Lucio Fulci is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
Zombi 2, The Black Cat, The Beyond

Birthplace: Trastevere, Italy

Age: Dec. at 69 (1927-1996)

Lucio Fulci (Italian: [ˈlutʃo ˈfultʃi]; 17 June 1927 – 13 March 1996) was an Italian film director, screenwriter, producer and actor. Although he worked in a wide array of genres through a ...more
23
Tod Browning is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
London After Midnight, Dracula, Freaks

Birthplace: Louisville, Kentucky, United States of America

Age: Dec. at 82 (1880-1962)

Tod Browning (born Charles Albert Browning Jr.; July 12, 1880 – October 6, 1962) was an American film actor, film director, screenwriter and vaudeville performer. Browning's career spanned the ...more
24
Rob Zombie is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, Halloween

Birthplace: Haverhill, United States of America, United States, with Territories, Massachusetts, + more

Age: 54

Rob Zombie (born Robert Bartleh Cummings; January 12, 1965) is an American musician and filmmaker. He is a founding member of the heavy metal band White Zombie, releasing four studio albums with ...more
25
M. Night Shyamalan is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Horror Directors in Film History
JodyTurnbull added The Sixth Sense, Signs, Unbreakable

Birthplace: French India, Pondicherry district, Puducherry, Mahé, India

Age: 49

Manoj Nelliyattu "M. Night" Shyamalan (born August 6, 1970) is an American filmmaker and actor. He is known for making films with contemporary supernatural plots and twist endings. He ...more