Top 100 Directors

Movie directors always play a central role in creating a movie and are often the real author of the film.  The following is a list of some of the most renowned movie directors along with the films that made them famous.  From the early days of cinema with great moviemakers such as Michael Curtiz, Victor Fleming and Jean Renoir, to some of the best contemporary directors such as  Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie and Steven Spielberg, passing by grand masters such as Alfred Hitchcock, Bergman, Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa.

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Top 100 interactive application

The following is the Top 100 all-time Film Directors application with an interactive list and images slider.

Top 100 interactive application

Top Film Directors from the 30’s

The following are the best directors from the 1930’s:

  1. Michael Curtiz (Casablanca)
  2. Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind)
  3. Jean Renoir (La Chienne, La Marseillaise, and La Bete Humaine)
  4. William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives, Ben Hur)
  5. Charlie Chaplin (Modern Times, City Lights )
  6. George Cukor (A Bill of Divorcement, Dinner at Eight, David Copperfield, Romeo and Juliet, and Camille)

Top Film Directors from the 40’s

The following are the best directors from the 1940’s, known as the war years:

  1. John Ford (Stagecoach, The Searchers, How Green Was My Valley, and The Grapes of Wrath)
  2. Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, Chimes at Midnight, and The Magnificent Ambersons)
  3. Howard Hawks (Sergeant York, The Big Sleep, Red River, and His Girl Friday)
  4. Fritz Lang (Western Union, Man Hunt, Cloak and Dagger, Scarlet Street, and The Woman in the Window)
  5. Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front, The General Died at Dawn, and Of Mice and Men)
  6. Frank Capra (It Happened One Night, It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town)

Top Film Directors from the 50’s

The following are the best directors from the 1950’s, known as the post war years:

  1. Walt Disney (Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Donald Duck)
  2. Federico Fellini (La Dolce Vita, Nights of Cabiria, and Casanova)
  3. Alfred Hitchcock (Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The Wrong Man, The Birds and Psycho)
  4. Akira Kurosawa (Scandal, Rashomon, Ikiru, The Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, and The Lower Depths)
  5. Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, and The Seven Year Itch)
  6. John Huston (The Asphalt Jungle, The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, Moulin Rouge, and The Misfits)

Top Film Directors from the 60’s

The following are the best directors from the 1960’s, known as the Rock-and-Roll area:

  1. Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining)
  2. Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America)
  3. Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist, and Oliver Twist)
  4. David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and A Passage to India)
  5. Robert Wise (The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Sand Pebbles )
  6. Ingmar Bergman (Wild Strawberries, Winter Light, The Silence, Shame, The Virgin Spring, and The Passion of Anna)

Top Film Directors from the 70’s

The following are the best directors from the 1970’s, known as the hippies area:

  1. Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, Match Point, Manhattan, and Mighty Aphrodite)
  2. Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers)
  3. Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now)
  4. Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, New York, New York, The Last Waltz, Cape Fear, Casino, Gangs of New York, and The Departed)
  5. John Carpenter (Dark Star and Halloween)
  6. George Romero (Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead. )

Top Film Directors from the 80’s

The following are the best directors from the 1980’s:

  1. James Cameron (Terminator, Rambo First Blood Part II, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Titanic)
  2. Brian de Palma (Scarface, Carlito’s Way, The Untouchables, Carrie, and Mission Impossible )
  3. George Lucas (Star Wars)
  4. Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Crimewave, Darkman, and the Spider-Man trilogy)
  5. Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Saving Private
  6. Ryan)
  7. Jim Henson (The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Return of the Jedi)
  8. John Hughes Jr.(Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Uncle Buck)

Top Film Directors from the 90’s

The following are the best directors from the 1990’s:

  1. Tim Burton (Beetle Juice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks!, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow)
  2. Joel and Ethan Coen (Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Barton Fink, The Ladykillers, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and No Country for Old Men)
  3. Spike Lee (Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, 4 Little Girls, He Got Game, and Summer of Sam)
  4. Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away)
  5. Oliver Stone (Platoon, Heaven and Earth, Born on the Fourth of July, and JFK)
  6. Quentin Tarantino (Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and the Kill Bill series )
  7. Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks II)

Top Film Directors from the 2000’s

The following are the best directors from the 2000s’, known as the noughties:

  1. M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs)
  2. Clint Eastwood (Space Cowboys, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino)
  3. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings, King Kong)
  4. Ridley Scott (Thelma and Louise, Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, and Body of Lies)
  5. Chris Columbus (Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Bicentennial Man, Stepmom, Mrs. Doubtfire)
  6. Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Swept Away, Revolver, RocknRolla)

Top 100 Film Directors complete list

The following are the complete list of the all-time best directors in order of importance:

  1. Orson Welles (Citizen Kane)
  2. Ingmar Bergman (Smiles of a Summer Night)
  3. Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange)
  4. Akira Kurosawa (Ran)
  5. Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas)
  6. Alfred Hitchcock (North by Northwest)
  7. Woody Allen (Annie Hall)
  8. David Lean (The Bridge on the River Kwai)
  9. Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings)
  10. Billy Wilder (Sunset Blvd.)
  11. Joel and Ethan Coen (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
  12. Steven Spielberg (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
  13. William Wyler (The Best Years of our Lives)
  14. Luis Bunuel (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)
  15. Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia)
  16. David Lynch (Mulholland Drive)
  17. Sergei Eisenstein (The Battleship Potemkin)
  18. Sam Mendes (American Beauty)
  19. Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather)
  20. Charlie Chaplin (Modern Times)
  21. Christopher Nolan (The Prestige)
  22. Elia Kazan (A Streetcar Named Desire)
  23. Peter Weir (Dead Poets Society)
  24. Sidney Lumet (Running on Empty)
  25. Clint Eastwood (A Perfect World)
  26. Quentin Tarantino (Jackie Brown)
  27. John Ford (The Grapes of Wrath)
  28. John Huston (The Maltese Falcon)
  29. Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
  30. Roman Polanski (Chinatown)
  31. Milos Forman (Amadeus)
  32. Preston Sturges (The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek)
  33. Fred Zinnemann (From Here to Eternity)
  34. Mike Nichols (Angels in America)
  35. John Boorman (Excalibur)
  36. Stephen Frears (The Queen)
  37. Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away)
  38. F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu)
  39. Federico Fellini (Nights of Cabiria)
  40. Steven Soderbergh (Out of Sight)
  41. Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life)
  42. Kenneth Branagh (In the Bleak Midwinter)
  43. Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous)
  44. Oliver Stone (JFK)
  45. Robert Altman (M*A*S*H)
  46. Fritz Lang (M)
  47. Howard Hawks (The Big Sleep)
  48. Francois Truffaut (Day for Night)
  49. Danny Boyle (Trainspotting)
  50. Warren Beatty (Bulworth)
  51. Alan J. Pakula (All the President’s Men)
  52. Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban)
  53. Alan Parker (The Commitments)
  54. Tim Burton (Ed Wood)
  55. Anthony Minghella (Truly, Madly, Deeply)
  56. Jim Sheridan (In America)
  57. Laurence Olivier (Hamlet)
  58. George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story)
  59. Ridley Scott (Kingdom of Heaven)
  60. Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!)
  61. Jean Renoir (The Grand Illusion)
  62. Satyajit Ray (The Chess Players)
  63. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie)
  64. Michael Powell (A Matter of Life and Death)
  65. Tom Tykwer (Perfume)
  66. Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch)
  67. Louis Malle (May Fools)
  68. Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs)
  69. Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West)
  70. James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment)
  71. Michael Curtiz (Yankee Doodle Dandy)
  72. John Sayles (Lone Star)
  73. Pedro Almodóvar (Talk to Her)
  74. Neil Jordan (The Crying Game)
  75. Erich von Stroheim (Greed)
  76. Bob Fosse (All That Jazz)
  77. Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)
  78. George Lucas (Star Wars)
  79. Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers)
  80. Terrence Malick (Badlands)
  81. Jean Cocteau (La belle et la bette)
  82. Bernardo Bertolucci (The Last Emperor)
  83. Gus Van Sant (Milk)
  84. D.W. Griffith (The Birth of a Nation)
  85. James Whale (The Invisible Man)
  86. Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited)
  87. Rob Reiner (The Princess Bride)
  88. Richard Brooks (The Professionals)
  89. Alejandro Amenabar (The Others)
  90. Mike Leigh (Topsy-Turvy)
  91. Krzysztof Kieslowski (Red)
  92. Paul Greengrass (United 93)
  93. John Schlesinger (Cold Comfort Farm)
  94. Andrei Tarkovsky (Solyaris)
  95. Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra)
  96. David Cronenberg (A History of Violence)
  97. George Stevens (The Diary of Anne Frank)
  98. Michael Mann (The Last of the Mohicans)
  99. Werner Herzog (Aguirre, the Wrath of God)
  100. Robert Redford (Quiz Show)