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The Greatest Directors of the 1970s 

Ranker Film
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Updated October 13, 2018 2.1k votes 346 voters 27.8k views 40 items

List Rules Vote based on each director's body of film work between 1970 and 1979

List of the top directors of the '70s. The 1970s were filled with absurd styles and monumental changes in movies, as some of the world's greatest directors began experimenting like never before. Fellini, Bergman, and Truffaut, for instance, inspired Americans like John Cassavetes and Hal Ashby to make some of their most unique and cherished films of the decade.

The top directors of the 1970s made some defining works of art during the period. For instance, Roman Polanski struck gold with Chinatown while Stanley Kubrick did the same with A Clockwork Orange. The same can be said for Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola, whose 1970s filmographies seem unparalleled and as if they could do no wrong. Not only was this decade the time of the two Godfather movies, but the seventies is also when director Sidney Lumet came out with his two Al Pacino spectaculars: the unforgettable '70s hits of Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon.

list ordered by
1
Francis Ford Coppola is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Age: 80

Credits (Film): The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Apocalypse Now, Patton, American Graffiti, + more

Birthplace: Michigan, USA, Detroit

Nationality: Italy, United States of America

The Godfather (1972)
The Conversation (1974)
The Godfather Part II (1974)
Apocalypse Now (1979)

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2
Stanley Kubrick is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 71 (1928-1999)

Credits (Film): The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut, + more

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

Nationality: United States of America

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Barry Lyndon (1975)

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3
Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
clash1977 added Age: 77

Credits (Film): Goodfellas, The Departed, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Gangs of New York, + more

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

Nationality: United States of America

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
New York, New York (1977)

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4
Sidney Lumet is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 87 (1924-2011)

Credits (Film): Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Network, Fail Safe, + more

Birthplace: USA, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nationality: United States of America

The Anderson Tapes (1971)
Child's Play (1972)
The Offence (1972)
Serpico (1973)
Lovin' Molly (1974)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Network (1976)
Equus (1977)
The Wiz (1978)

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5
Ingmar Bergman is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 89 (1918-2007)

Credits (Film): The Seventh Seal, Persona, Fanny and Alexander, Wild Strawberries, Cries and Whispers, + more

Birthplace: Uppsala, Sweden

Nationality: Sweden

The Touch (1971)
Cries and Whispers (1972)
The Magic Flute (1975)
Face to Face (1976)
The Serpent's Egg (1977)
Autumn Sonota (1978)

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6
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Age: 77

Credits (Film): What Dreams May Come, Rescue Dawn, Grizzly Man, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Aguirre, + more

Birthplace: Munich, Germany

Nationality: Germany

Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)
Fata Morgana (1971)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
Heart of Glass (1976)
Nosferatu the Vampire (1979)
Woyzeck (1979)

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7
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 81 (1925-2006)

Credits (Film): MASH, Nashville, The Player, Gosford Park, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, + more

Birthplace: Kansas City, USA, Missouri

Nationality: United States of America

MASH (1970)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller 1971)
Images (1972)
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
California Split (1974)
Nashville (1975)
3 Women (1977)
A Wedding (1978)
Quintet (1979)
A Perfect Couple (1979)

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8
William Friedkin is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Age: 84

Credits (Film): The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A., Blue Chips, Sorcerer, + more

Birthplace: USA, Chicago, Illinois

Nationality: United States of America

The French Connection (1971)
The Exorcist (1973)
Sorcerer (1977)
The Brink's Job (1978)

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9
Federico Fellini is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 73 (1920-1993)

Credits (Film): La Dolce Vita, 8½, La Strada, Amarcord, Fellini Satyricon, + more

Birthplace: Rimini, Italy

Nationality: Italy

The Clowns (1970)
Roma (1972)
Amarcord (1973)
Il Casanova di Federico Fellini (1976)
Orchestra Rehearsal (1978)
10
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dimos Dicoudis added Age: 82

Credits (Film): Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Prometheus, + more

Birthplace: England, South Shields

Nationality: United Kingdom

The Duellists (1977)
Alien (1979)

11
Sergio Leone is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Mollevangsvagen added Dec. at 60 (1929-1989)

Credits (Film): Good, Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, + more

Birthplace: Lazio, Europe, Eurasia, Province of Rome, Rome, + more

Nationality: Italy

Duck, You Sucker (AKA A Fistful of Dynamite, 1971)
My Name Is Nobody (1973)
A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe (1975)

12
Roman Polanski is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Age: 86

Credits (Film): Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Pianist, Repulsion, Rush Hour 3, + more

Birthplace: Paris, France

Nationality: France, Poland

Macbeth (1971)
What? (1972)
Chinatown (1974)
Tess (1979)
The Tenant (1976)

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13
Andrei Tarkovsky is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Mollevangsvagen added Dec. at 54 (1932-1986)

Credits (Film): Solaris, Stalker, Andrei Rublev, Ivan's Childhood, The Mirror, + more

Birthplace: Yuryevetsky District

Nationality: Russia

Solaris (1972)
The Mirror (1975)
Stalker (1979)

14
Hal Ashby is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 59 (1929-1988)

Credits (Film): Harold and Maude, Being There, Coming Home, Shampoo, The Last Detail, + more

Birthplace: USA, Ogden, Utah

Nationality: United States of America

The Landlord (1970)
Harold and Maude (1971)
The Last Detail (1973)
Shampoo (1975)
Bound for Glory (1976)
Coming Home (1978)
Being There (1979)
15
Peter Bogdanovich is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Age: 80

Credits (Film): The Last Picture Show, What's Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, Mask, + more

Birthplace: USA, Kingston, New York

Nationality: United States of America

The Last Picture Show (1971)
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Paper Moon (1973)
Daisy Miller (1974)
At Long Last Love (1975)
Nickelodeon (1976)
Saint Jack (1979)

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16
Miloš Forman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Age: 87

Credits (Film): One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, Hair, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, + more

Birthplace: Čáslav, Czech Republic

Nationality: United States of America, Czech Republic

Taking Off (1971)
Vision of Eight (1973)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Hair (1979)

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17
John Cassavetes is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 60 (1929-1989)

Credits (Film): Rosemary's Baby, The Dirty Dozen, A Woman Under the Influence, The Fury, Shadows, + more

Birthplace: New York City, USA, New York

Nationality: United States of America

Husbands (1970)
Minnie and Moskowitz (1971)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)
Opening Night (1977)

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18
François Truffaut... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 52 (1932-1984)

Credits (Film): Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Breathless, Fahrenheit 451, The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, + more

Birthplace: Paris, France

Nationality: France

The Wild Child (1970)
Bed and Board (1970)
Two English Girls (1971)
A Gorgeous Kid Like Me (1972)
Day for Night (1973)
Small Change (1976)
The Man Who Loved Women (1977)
The Green Room (1978)
19
Bob Fosse is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dec. at 60 (1927-1987)

Credits (Film): Chicago, Cabaret, All That Jazz, Lenny, Liza with a Z, + more

Birthplace: USA, Chicago, Illinois

Nationality: United States of America

Cabaret (1972)
Lenny (1974)
All That Jazz (1979)

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20
Éric Rohmer is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Mollevangsvagen added Dec. at 90 (1920-2010)

Credits (Film): Claire's Knee, My Night at Maud's, I Think I Love My Wife, La Collectionneuse, A Tale of Autumn, + more

Birthplace: Tulle, France

Nationality: France

Love in the Afternoon (1972)
The Marquise of O... (1976)
Perceval le Gallois (1978)

21
Robert Wise is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dimos Dicoudis added Dec. at 91 (1914-2005)

Credits (Film): The Sound of Music, West Side Story, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Haunting, + more

Birthplace: Winchester, White River Township, Indiana, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

The Baby Maker (1970)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
Two People (1973)
The Hindenburg (1975)
Audrey Rose (1977)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

22
Robert Bresson is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Mollevangsvagen added Dec. at 98 (1901-1999)

Credits (Film): A Man Escaped, Au Hasard Balthazar, The Devil Probably, Mouchette, Pickpocket, + more

Birthplace: Bromont-Lamothe, France

Nationality: France

Quatre nuits d'un rêveur (Four Nights of a Dreamer, 1971)
Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the Lake, 1974)
Le diable probablement (The Devil Probably, 1977)

23
Blake Edwards is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Dimos Dicoudis added Dec. at 88 (1922-2010)

Credits (Film): Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, 10, The Return of the Pink Panther, + more

Birthplace: USA, Oklahoma, Tulsa

Nationality: United States of America

Darling Lili (1970)
Wild Rovers (1971)
The Carey Treatment (1972)
The Tamarind Seed (1974)
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) 
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
0 (1979)

24
George Lucas is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
starwarssuperfan added Age: 75

Credits (Film): Star Wars, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, Men in Black, + more

Birthplace: Modesto, California, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

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25
Eldar Ryazanov is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1970s
Alex Gaginsky added Age: 92

Credits (Film): Office Romance, The Irony of Fate, Station for Two, Watch Out for the Automobile, Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia, + more

Birthplace: Russia, Samara

Nationality: Russia

Grandads-Robbers (1971)
Unbelievable Adventures of Italians in Russia (1974)
The Irony of Fate (1975)
Office Romance (1977)
The Garage (1979)