Entertainment

The Greatest Directors of the 1980s 

Ranker Film
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Updated June 14, 2019 2.4k votes 384 voters 20.4k views 46 items

List Rules Vote only based on the director's feature films released in the 1980s.

List of the top directors of the 80s. From 1980 to 1989, film history was shaped by esteemed directors who defined the decade through their movies. After all, what would the eighties be without the Brat Pack movies directed by John Hughes? The 1980s is also the time when when heavyweights like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were honing their directorial skills on epic levels, from the Indiana Jones movies to "E.T."

Woody Allen is also an auteur who made some of his absolute funniest and most dramatic Oscar-winning flicks during the 1980s. And between the "Lethal Weapon" movies and "The Goonies," director Dick Donner made the eighties an unforgettable 10 years for major motion pictures.

With nostalgic '80s movies on the mind, who can forget the arguable directorial peak of Rob Reiner with smash hits like "Spinal Tap," "Stand by Me," "The Princess Bride," and "When Harry Met Sally," which transitioned us into the 1990s.
list ordered by
1
Steven Spielberg is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 73

Credits (Film): Jaws, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, + more

Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Always (1989)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
Empire of the Sun (1987)
The Color Purple (1985)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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2
John Hughes is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Dec. at 59 (1950-2009)

Credits (Film): Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, + more

Birthplace: Michigan, USA, Lansing

Nationality: United States of America

Sixteen Candles (1984)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Weird Science (1985)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
She's Having a Baby (1988)
Uncle Buck (1989)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

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3
Robert Zemeckis is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 68

Credits (Film): Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III, + more

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Used Cars (1980)
Romancing the Stone (1984)
Back to the Future (1985)
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Back to the Future Part II (1989)

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#16 of 223 The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked #25 of 122 The Best Comedy Directors in Film History #185 of 313 Famous People Most Likely to Live to 100

4
John Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 71

Credits (Film): Halloween, The Thing, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, Halloween II, + more

Birthplace: USA, Carthage, New York

Nationality: United States of America

The Fog (1980)
Escape From New York (1981)
The Thing (1982)
Christine (1983)
Starman (1984)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Prince of Darkness (1987)
They Live (1988)

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#36 of 223 The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked #229 of 313 Famous People Most Likely to Live to 100 John Carpenter's Best Horror Characters

5
James Cameron is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 65

Credits (Film): Titanic, Avatar, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator, Aliens, + more

Birthplace: Kapuskasing, Canada

Nationality: Canada

Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
The Terminator (1984)
Aliens (1986)
The Abyss (1989)

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6
Tim Burton is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 61

Credits (Film): Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Batman Returns, + more

Birthplace: Burbank, California, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Batman (1989)

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7
Rob Reiner is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 72

Credits (Film): The Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, When Harry Met Sally..., The Wolf of Wall Street, + more

Birthplace: New York City, USA, New York

Nationality: United States of America

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
The Sure Thing (1985)
Stand by Me (1986)
The Princess Bride (1987)
When Harry Met Sally.... (1989)

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8
John Landis is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 69

Credits (Film): Spider-Man 2, The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon's Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, Coming to America, + more

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Nationality: United States of America

The Blues Brothers (1980)
An American Werewolf in London (1981)
Trading Places (1983)
Spies Like Us (1985)
Three Amigos (1986)
Coming to America (1988)
Into the Night (1985)

More John Landis 

#64 of 223 The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked #39 of 65 The Best Directors Never Nominated for Oscarslisted on List of Jewish Film Directors

9
Martin Scorsese is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
gschwayze 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

Raging Bull (1980)
The Kings of Comedy (1982)
After Hours (1985)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

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10
Richard Donner is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Richard Donner Age: 89

Credits (Film): Superman, The Goonies, Superman II, Lethal Weapon, X-Men: Days of Future Past, + more

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

Nationality: United States of America

The Toy (1982)
The Goonies (1985)
Ladyhawke (1985)
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Scrooged (1988)
Leathal Weapon 2 (1989)

More Richard Donner 

#54 of 223 The Greatest Living Directors, Ranked #57 of 122 The Best Comedy Directors in Film History

11
Ridley Scott is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
outlel added Age: 82

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

Birthplace: England, South Shields

Nationality: United Kingdom

Blade Runner (1982)
Legend (1985)
Someone to Watch Over Me (1987)
Black Rain (1989)

12
Oliver Stone is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 73

Credits (Film): Platoon, Scarface, JFK, Natural Born Killers, Conan the Barbarian, + more

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

Nationality: United States of America

Salvador (1986)
Platoon (1986)
Wall Street (1987)
Talk Radio (1988)
Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

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#1,125 of 2,830 The Most Influential People of All Time #196 of 313 Famous People Most Likely to Live to 100listed on List of Jewish Film Directors

13
David Cronenberg is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 76

Credits (Film): The Fly, The Dead Zone, Videodrome, A History of Violence, Scanners, + more

Birthplace: Toronto, Canada

Nationality: Canada

The Scanners (1981)
Videodrome (1983)
The Dead Zone (1983)
The Fly (1986)
Dead Ringers (1988)

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14
David Lynch is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 73

Credits (Film): Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, + more

Birthplace: USA, Montana, Missoula

Nationality: United States of America

The Elephant Man (1980)
Dune (1984)
Blue Velvet (1986)

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15
Harold Ramis is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Dec. at 70 (1944-2014)

Credits (Film): Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, National Lampoon's Animal House, Caddyshack, As Good as It Gets, + more

Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Caddyshack (1980)
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
Club Paradise (1986)

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#110 of 362 The Funniest People of All Time #655 of 2,003 The Greatest Actors & Actresses in Entertainment Historylisted on List of Jewish Film Directors

16
Ivan Reitman is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
EastOfTheAnduin added Age: 73

Credits (Film): Ghostbusters, National Lampoon's Animal House, Ghostbusters II, Stripes, Space Jam, + more

Birthplace: Komárno, Slovakia

Nationality: Canada, Czechoslovakia

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters II (1989)

Stripes (1981)

Meatballs (1979)

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#6 of 122 The Best Comedy Directors in Film History #312 of 783 The Greatest Directors In Movie History

17
Terry Gilliam is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Mollevangsvagen added Age: 79

Credits (Film): Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Life of Brian, + more

Birthplace: Minneapolis, USA, Minnesota

Nationality: United Kingdom

Time Bandits (1981)
Brazil (1985)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

18
Barry Levinson is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 77

Credits (Film): Rain Man, Tootsie, Good Morning, Vietnam, Donnie Brasco, + more

Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

Diner (1982)
The Natural (1984)
Young Sherlock Homes (1985)
Tin Men (1987)
Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
Rain Man (1988)
19
Woody Allen is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Age: 84

Credits (Film): Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Midnight in Paris, Antz, + more

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

Nationality: United States of America

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Radio Days (1987)
New York Stories (1989)

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20
Robert Altman is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
mchris65 added Dec. at 81 (1925-2006)

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

Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

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#50 of 122 The Best Comedy Directors in Film History #34 of 139 The Greatest Auteurs in Film History Actors in the Most Robert Altman Movies

21
Ron Howard is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
starwarssuperfan added Age: 65

Credits (Film): Apollo 13, American Graffiti, A Beautiful Mind, Willow, The Da Vinci Code, + more

Birthplace: USA, Oklahoma, Duncan

Nationality: United States of America

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22
Alan Clarke is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Mollevangsvagen added Dec. at 55 (1935-1990)

Credits (Film): Scum, Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Made in Britain, Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire, + more

Birthplace: Wallasey, United Kingdom

Nationality: England

Billy the Kid and the Green Baize Vampire (1987)
Rita, Sue and Bob Too (1987)

23
Werner Herzog is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Mollevangsvagen added Age: 77

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

Birthplace: Munich, Germany

Nationality: Germany

Huie's Sermon (1981)
God's Angry Man (1981)
Fitzcarraldo (1982)
Where the Green Ants Dream (1984)
Ballad of the Little Soldier (1984)
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1984)
Cobra Verde (1987)
Herdsmen of the Sun (1989)

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24
Irvin Kershner is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
starwarssuperfan added Dec. at 87 (1923-2010)

Credits (Film): Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, RoboCop 2, The Last Temptation of Christ, Never Say Never Again, Eyes of Laura Mars, + more

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America

Nationality: United States of America

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#247 of 783 The Greatest Directors In Movie Historylisted on List of Jewish Film Directors

25
Hans-Jürgen Syberbe... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directors of the 1980s
Mollevangsvagen added Age: 84

Credits (Film): Hitler: A Film from Germany, Parsifal, The Ister, A Dream, What Else?, + more

Birthplace: Nossendorf, Germany

Nationality: Germany

Parsifal (1982)
Die Nicht (1985)
Edith Clever liest Joyce (1985)
Fräulein Else (1986)
Penthesilea (1987)
Die Marquise von O. (1989)