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The Best Horror Directors in Film History

Updated January 19, 2021 16.5k votes 2.1k voters 82.3k views57 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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  • 1

    John Carpenter

    Halloween, The Thing
    805
    193

    BirthplaceCarthage, New York, USA

    Age73

    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 horror,...  more
  • 2

    George A. Romero

    Night Of The Living Dead, The Crazies
    526
    139

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    Age81

    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 zombie...  more
  • 3

    Wes Craven

    The Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes
    711
    171

    BirthplaceCleveland, Ohio, USA

    Age82

    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

    Alfred Hitchcock

    Psycho, Shadow Of A Doubt
    663
    200

    BirthplaceEngland, London

    AgeDec. at 80 (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 as...  more
  • 5

    Sam Raimi

    The Evil Dead, Army of Darkness
    420
    181

    BirthplaceRoyal Oak, Michigan, United States of America

    Age61

    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 (2002–07)....  more
  • 6
    AmmarFawazDagriri added

    James Wan

    Saw, The Conjuring
    511
    227

    BirthplaceKuching, Malaysia

    Age43

    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 also...  more
  • 7

    David Cronenberg

    Shivers, Videodrome
    358
    149

    BirthplaceToronto, Canada

    Age78

    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
  • 8

    Tobe Hooper

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Lifeforce
    357
    144

    BirthplaceAustin, Texas, United States of America

    Age78

    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
  • 9

    Guillermo del Toro

    Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone
    347
    156

    BirthplaceGuadalajara, Mexico

    Age56

    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 the Academy...  more
  • 10

    James Whale

    Frankenstein, The Old Dark House
    227
    100

    BirthplaceDudley, United Kingdom

    AgeDec. 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
  • 11

    Dario Argento

    The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, Deep Red
    330
    134

    BirthplaceRome, Italy

    Age80

    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 during...  more
  • 12
    JodyTurnbull added

    Stanley Kubrick

    The Shining, A Clockwork Orange
    461
    218

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York, United States of America

    AgeDec. at 70 (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 history. His...  more
  • 13

    Mario Bava

    Black Sunday, Black Sabbath
    186
    93

    BirthplaceSanremo, Italy

    AgeDec. 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" and the "Master...  more
  • 14

    Brian De Palma

    Carrie, Dressed To Kill
    227
    118

    BirthplaceNewark, New Jersey, USA

    Age80

    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
  • 15

    David Lynch

    Eraserhead, Blue Velvet
    204
    105

    BirthplaceMissoula, Montana, United States of America

    Age75

    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
  • 16

    Tom Holland

    Fright Night, Child's Play
    183
    88

    BirthplacePoughkeepsie, New York, United States of America

    Age77

    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
  • 17

    Clive Barker

    Nightbreed, Tortured Souls
    239
    124

    BirthplaceLiverpool, United Kingdom

    Age68

    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
  • 18

    Tod Browning

    London After Midnight, Dracula
    143
    78

    BirthplaceLouisville, Kentucky, United States of America

    AgeDec. 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 silent...  more
  • 19
    Kyle Fowler added

    Tim Burton

    Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
    193
    122

    BirthplaceBurbank, California, United States of America

    Age63

    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
  • 20

    Joe Dante

    Piranha, The Howling
    176
    95

    BirthplaceMorristown, New Jersey, United States of America

    Age74

    Joseph James Dante Jr. (; born November 28, 1946) is an American film director, producer, editor and actor. His films—notably Gremlins (1984)—often mix fantastical storylines with comedic...  more
  • 21

    Lucio Fulci

    Zombi 2, The Black Cat
    160
    93

    BirthplaceTrastevere, Italy

    AgeDec. 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 career...  more
  • 22

    Robert Wise

    The Body Snatcher, The Day the Earth Stood Still
    144
    98

    BirthplaceWinchester, White River Township, Indiana, United States of America

    AgeDec. 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
  • 23

    Terence Fisher

    The Curse Of Frankenstein, Dracula
    119
    72

    BirthplaceMaida Vale, London, United Kingdom

    AgeDec. at 76 (1904-1980)

    Terence Fisher (23 February 1904 – 18 June 1980) was a British film director remembered for his work for Hammer Films. He was the first to bring gothic horror alive in full colour, and the sexual...  more
  • 24
    JodyTurnbull added

    M. Night Shyamalan

    The Sixth Sense, Signs
    211
    159

    BirthplaceMahé, India, India

    Age51

    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 was born in...  more
  • 25
    Michael Myers added

    Steve Miner

    Friday the 13th, The Last House on the Left
    128
    55

    BirthplaceWestport, Connecticut, United States of America

    Age69

    Stephen C. "Steve" Miner (born June 18, 1951) is an American director of film and television, film producer, and a member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is notable for his...  more
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