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The Greatest Directors of the 1980s

Updated September 18, 2020 3.7k votes 476 voters 23.5k views56 items

List RulesVote 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.
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  • Steven Spielberg1
    202
    53
    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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  • John Hughes2
    197
    57

    John Hughes

    Dec. at 59 (1950-2009)
    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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  • John Carpenter3
    138
    46
    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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  • Rob Reiner4
    119
    41

    Rob Reiner

    Age: 73
    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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  • Robert Zemeckis5
    125
    33
    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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  • James Cameron6
    118
    42
    Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)
    The Terminator (1984)
    Aliens (1986)
    The Abyss (1989)

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  • John Landis7
    101
    29
    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)

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  • Martin Scorsese8
    106
    36

    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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  • Tim Burton9
    115
    46

    Tim Burton

    Age: 62
    Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985)
    Beetlejuice (1988)
    Batman (1989)

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  • Ridley Scott10
    83
    31

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

  • Richard Donner11
    82
    22

    Richard Donner

    Age: 90
    The Toy (1982)
    The Goonies (1985)
    Ladyhawke (1985)
    Lethal Weapon (1987)
    Scrooged (1988)
    Leathal Weapon 2 (1989)

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  • Oliver Stone12
    79
    35
    Salvador (1986)
    Platoon (1986)
    Wall Street (1987)
    Talk Radio (1988)
    Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

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  • David Cronenberg13
    69
    33
    The Scanners (1981)
    Videodrome (1983)
    The Dead Zone (1983)
    The Fly (1986)
    Dead Ringers (1988)

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  • Harold Ramis14
    66
    24

    Harold Ramis

    Dec. at 70 (1944-2014)
    Caddyshack (1980)
    National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
    Club Paradise (1986)

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  • David Lynch15
    70
    43
    The Elephant Man (1980)
    Dune (1984)
    Blue Velvet (1986)

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  • Ivan Reitman16
    45
    14

    Ghostbusters (1984)

    Ghostbusters II (1989)

    Stripes (1981)

    Meatballs (1979)

  • Barry Levinson17
    41
    28
    Diner (1982)
    The Natural (1984)
    Young Sherlock Homes (1985)
    Tin Men (1987)
    Good Morning Vietnam (1987)
    Rain Man (1988)
  • Stanley Kubrick18
    17
    2

    Stanley Kubrick

    Dec. at 71 (1928-1999)

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  • Woody Allen19
    50
    46
    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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  • Terry Gilliam20
    49
    40

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

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  • Ron Howard21
    27
    21

    Ron Howard

    Age: 66

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  • John McTiernan22
    10
    0
  • Brian De Palma23
    11
    2

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  • Juliusz Machulski24

    Vabank (1981)
    Seksmisja (1984)
    Vabank II czyli Riposta (1984)
    Kingsajz (1987)
    Déjà vu (1988)

  • Jan Troell25
    23
    20

    Jan Troell

    Age: 88

    Flight of the Eagle (1982)
    Land of Dreams (1988)