Top 50 Directors

by maltvaterexpensivebeingpunk | created - 10 Jun 2017 | updated - 1 month ago | Public

1. Charles Chaplin

Writer | The Great Dictator

Considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp; the man with the ...

Seen: all feature-length movies Best: City Lights

2. Milos Forman

Director | One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Milos Forman was born Jan Tomas Forman in Caslav, Czechoslovakia, to Anna (Svabova), who ran a summer hotel, and Rudolf Forman, a professor. During World War II, his parents were taken away by the Nazis, after being accused of participating in the underground resistance. His father died in ...

Seen: 7 Best: Hair

3. Alfred Hitchcock

Director | Psycho

Alfred Joseph Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone, Essex, England. He was the son of Emma Jane (Whelan; 1863 - 1942) and East End greengrocer William Hitchcock (1862 - 1914). His parents were both of half English and half Irish ancestry. He had two older siblings, William Hitchcock (born 1890) and ...

Seen: 38 Best: Psycho

4. Terry Gilliam

Writer | Brazil

Terry Gilliam was born near Medicine Lake, Minnesota. When he was 12 his family moved to Los Angeles where he became a fan of MAD magazine. In his early twenties he was often stopped by the police who suspected him of being a drug addict and Gilliam had to explain that he worked in advertising. In ...

Seen: 11 Best: 12 Monkeys

5. Ernst Lubitsch

Director | To Be or Not to Be

From Ernst Lubitsch's experiences in Sophien Gymnasium (high school) theater, he decided to leave school at the age of 16 and pursue a career on the stage. He had to compromise with his father and keep the account books for the family tailor business while he acted in cabarets and music halls at ...

Seen: 15 (as director), 14 (as producer) Best: Heaven can wait

6. Quentin Tarantino

Writer | Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Jerome Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. His father, Tony Tarantino, is an Italian-American actor and musician from New York, and his mother, Connie (McHugh), is a nurse from Tennessee. Quentin moved with his mother to Torrance, California, when he was four years old.

In January of...

Seen: 12 (as director), 16 (as actor), 15 (as writer), 8 (as producer) Best: Pulp Fiction

7. Joel Coen

Producer | The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Joel Coen was born on November 29, 1954 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA as Joel Daniel Coen. He is a producer and writer, known for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), A Serious Man (2009) and Fargo (1996). He has been married to Frances McDormand since April 1, 1984. They have one child.

Seen: 12 Best: No Country for Old Men

8. Nicolas Roeg

Director | Don't Look Now

When he made his directorial debut in 1970, Nicolas Roeg was already a 23-year veteran of the British film industry, starting out in 1947 as an editing apprentice and working his way up to cinematographer twelve years later. He first came to attention as part of the second unit on David Lean's ...

Seen: 7 Best: Insignificance

9. David Lynch

Writer | Twin Peaks

Born in precisely the kind of small-town American setting so familiar from his films, David Lynch spent his childhood being shunted from one state to another as his research scientist father kept getting relocated. He attended various art schools, married Peggy Lynch and then fathered future ...

Seen: 8 Best: Blue Velvet

10. Billy Wilder

Writer | The Apartment

Originally planning to become a lawyer, Billy Wilder abandoned that career in favor of working as a reporter for a Viennese newspaper, using this experience to move to Berlin, where he worked for the city's largest tabloid. He broke into films as a screenwriter in 1929 and wrote scripts for many ...

Seen: 23 Best: Some like it hot

11. Michael Powell

Director | A Matter of Life and Death

The son of Thomas William Powell and Mabel (nee Corbett). Michael Powell was always a self-confessed movie addict. He was brought up partly in Canterbury ("The Garden of England") and partly in the south of France (where his parents ran a hotel). Educated at Kings School, Canterbury and Dulwich ...

Seen: 8 Best: A Matter of Life and Death

12. Akira Kurosawa

Writer | Kakushi-toride no san-akunin

After training as a painter (he storyboards his films as full-scale paintings), Kurosawa entered the film industry in 1936 as an assistant director, eventually making his directorial debut with Sanshiro Sugata (1943). Within a few years, Kurosawa had achieved sufficient stature to allow him greater...

Seen: 7 Best: Rashomon

13. Sergio Leone

Writer | Once Upon a Time in America

Sergio Leone was virtually born into the cinema - he was the son of Roberto Roberti (A.K.A. Vincenzo Leone), one of Italy's cinema pioneers, and actress Bice Valerian. Leone entered films in his late teens, working as an assistant director to both Italian directors and U.S. directors working in ...

Seen: 6 (+ 7 as assistant director) Best: Once upon a Time in the West

14. Luc Besson

Writer | The Fifth Element

Luc Besson spent the first years of his life following his parents, scuba diving instructors, around the world. His early life was entirely aquatic. He already showed amazing creativity as a youth, writing early drafts of The Big Blue (1988) and The Fifth Element (1997), as an adolescent bored in ...

Seen: 6 Best: Leon

15. Stanley Kubrick

Director | 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick was born in Manhattan, New York City, to Sadie Gertrude (Perveler) and Jacob Leonard Kubrick, a physician. His family were Jewish immigrants (from Austria, Romania, and Russia). Stanley was considered intelligent, despite poor grades at school. Hoping that a change of scenery would ...

Seen: 10 Best: The Shining

16. Wes Anderson

Writer | Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wesley Wales Anderson was born in Houston, Texas. His mother, Texas Ann (Burroughs), is an archaeologist turned real estate agent, and his father, Melver Leonard Anderson, worked in advertising and PR. He has two brothers, Eric and Mel. Anderson's parents divorced when he was a young child, an ...

Seen: 6 Best: The Grand Budapest Hotel

17. Luis Buñuel

Writer | El ángel exterminador

The father of cinematic Surrealism and one of the most original directors in the history of the film medium, Luis Buñuel was given a strict Jesuit education (which sowed the seeds of his obsession with both religion and subversive behavior), and subsequently moved to Madrid to study at the ...

Seen: 8 Best: Un Chien Andalou /Viridiana

18. John Carpenter

Soundtrack | Escape from New York

John Howard Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, to mother Milton Jean (Carter) and father Howard Ralph Carpenter. His family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his father, a professor, was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University. He attended Western Kentucky ...

Seen: 16 Best: Escape from New York

19. Robert Zemeckis

Writer | Back to the Future

A whiz-kid with special effects, Robert is from the Spielberg camp of film-making (Steven Spielberg produced many of his films). Usually working with writing partner Bob Gale, Robert's earlier films show he has a talent for zany comedy (Romancing the Stone (1984), 1941 (1979)) and special effect ...

Seen: 13 Best: Back to the Future/Forrest Gump

20. John Ford

Director | The Quiet Man

John Ford came to Hollywood following one of his brothers, an actor. Asked what brought him to Hollywood, he replied "The train". He became one of the most respected directors in the business, in spite of being known for his westerns, which were not considered "serious" film. He won six Oscars, ...

Seen: 23 Best:The Grapes of Wrath

21. David Lean

Director | Lawrence of Arabia

An important British filmmaker, David Lean was born in Croydon on March 25, 1908 and brought up in a strict Quaker family (ironically, as a child he wasn't allowed to go to the movies). During the 1920s, he briefly considered the possibility of becoming an accountant like his father before finding ...

Seen: 11 Best: Great Expectations

22. Alan Parker

Director | Evita

Prior to moving into film, Alan was noted as one of London's most talented advertising copywriters. He worked for the Collet Dickinson Pearce (CDP) ad agency in the 1960's and early 1970's, and began directing his own tvc scripts in their basement. Formed a partnership with David Puttnam as his ...

Seen: 11 Best: Pink Floyd - The Wall

23. Clint Eastwood

Actor | Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a manufacturing executive for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth Wood, a housewife turned IBM operator. He had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in nearby Piedmont. At school Clint took interest in music...

Seen: 15 (as actor: 33) Best: Gran Torino

24. Hayao Miyazaki

Director | Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi

Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan's greatest animation directors. The entertaining plots, compelling characters, and breathtaking animation in his films have earned him international renown from critics as well as public recognition within Japan. The Walt Disney Company's commitment to introduce the ...

seen: 9 Best: Spirited Away

25. Woody Allen

Writer | Manhattan

Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy...

Seen: 23 Best: Zelig

26. Roman Polanski

Director | Chinatown

Roman Polanski is a Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few truly international filmmakers. Roman Polanski was born in Paris in 1933.

His parents returned to Poland from France in 1936, three years ...

Seen: 12 Best: Repulsion/Frantic

27. Orson Welles

Actor | Citizen Kane

His father was a well-to-do inventor, his mother a beautiful concert pianist; Orson Welles was gifted in many arts (magic, piano, painting) as a child. When his mother died (he was nine) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr....

Seen: 5 (as actor: 23) Best: Citizen Kane

28. Lasse Hallström

Director | What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Lasse Hallström was born on June 2, 1946 in Stockholm, Stockholms län, Sweden as Lars Hallström. He is a director and writer, known for What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Chocolat (2000) and The Cider House Rules (1999). He has been married to Lena Olin since March 18, 1994. They have one child. ...

Seen: 6 Best: Hachi: A Dog's Tale

29. Frank Capra

Director | It's a Wonderful Life

One of seven children, Frank Capra was born on May 18, 1897, in Bisacquino, Sicily. On May 10, 1903, his family left for America aboard the ship Germania, arriving in New York on May 23rd. "There's no ventilation, and it stinks like hell. They're all miserable. It's the most degrading place you ...

Seen: 11 Best: It's a Wonderful Life

30. Martin Scorsese

Director | Taxi Driver

Martin Charles Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942 in Queens, New York City, to Catherine Scorsese (née Cappa) and Charles Scorsese, who both worked in Manhattan's garment district, and whose families both came from Palermo, Sicily. He was raised in the neighborhood of Little Italy, which later ...

Seen: 17 Best: Goodfellas/The Departed/Hugo/The Wolf of Wall Street

31. William Wyler

Director | The Best Years of Our Lives

William Wyler was an American filmmaker who, at the time of his death in 1981, was considered by his peers as second only to John Ford as a master craftsman of cinema. The winner of three Best Director Academy Awards, second again only to Ford's four, Wyler's reputation has unfairly suffered as the...

Seen: 15 Best: Jezebel

32. Carol Reed

Director | The Third Man

Carol Reed was the second son of stage actor, dramatics teacher and impresario founder of the Royal School of Dramatic Arts Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Reed was one of Tree's six illegitimate children with Beatrice Mae Pinney, who Tree established in a second household apart from his married life. ...

Seen: 8 Best: The Third Man

33. François Truffaut

Writer | La nuit américaine

French director François Truffaut began to assiduously go to the movies at age seven. He was also a great reader but not a good pupil. He left school at 14 and started working. In 1947, aged 15, he founded a film club and met André Bazin, a French critic, who became his protector. Bazin helped the ...

Seen: 7 Best: The Bride wore Black

34. Bob Fosse

Director | Cabaret

Bob Fosse was born on June 23, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Robert Louis Fosse. He is known for his work on Cabaret (1972), Lenny (1974) and All That Jazz (1979). He was married to Gwen Verdon, Joan McCracken and Mary Ann Niles. He died on September 23, 1987 in Washington, District of Columbia...

Seen: 4 Best: Cabaret

35. Ridley Scott

Producer | The Martian

Described by film producer Michael Deeley as "the very best eye in the business", director Ridley Scott was born on November 30, 1937 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear (then County Durham). His father was an officer in the Royal Engineers and the family followed him as his career posted him ...

Seen: 14 Best: Blade Runner/Gladiator

36. William Friedkin

Director | The French Connection

Friedkin's mother was an operating room nurse. His father was a merchant seaman, semi-pro softball player and ultimately sold clothes in a men's discount chain. Ultimately, his father never earned more than $50/week in his whole life and died indigent. Eventually young Will became infatuated with ...

Seen: 4 Best: The French Connection

37. Fritz Lang

Actor | Le mépris

Fritz Lang was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1890. His father managed a construction company. His mother, Pauline Schlesinger, was Jewish but converted to Catholicism when Lang was ten. After high school, he enrolled briefly at the Technische Hochschule Wien and then started to train as a painter. ...

Seen: 13 Best: Clash by Night

38. John Landis

Director | The Blues Brothers

John Landis began his career in the mail room of 20th Century-Fox. A high-school dropout, 18-year-old Landis made his way to Yugoslavia to work as a production assistant on Kelly's Heroes (1970). Remaining in Europe, Landis found work as an actor, extra and stuntman in many of the Spanish/Italian "...

Seen: 12 Best: Trading Places

39. Robert Altman

Director | Gosford Park

Robert Altman was born on February 20th, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri, to B.C. (an insurance salesman) and Helen Altman. He entered St. Peters Catholic school at the age six, and spent a short time at a Catholic high school. From there, he went to Rockhurst High School. It was then that he started...

Seen: 10 Best: Nashville

40. John Waters

Writer | Pecker

Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s, John Waters was not like other children; he was obsessed by violence and gore, both real and on the screen. With his weird counter-culture friends as his cast, he began making silent 8mm and 16mm films in the mid-'60s; he screened these in rented Baltimore ...

Seen: 8 Best: Pink Flamingos

41. Werner Herzog

Director | Fitzcarraldo

Director. Writer. Producer. Actor. Poet. He studied history, literature and theatre for some time, but didn't finish it and founded instead his own film production company in 1963. Later in his life, Herzog also staged several operas in Bayreuth, Germany, and at the Milan Scala in Italy. Herzog has...

Seen: Best: Woyzeck

42. Oliver Stone

Producer | JFK

Oliver Stone has become known as a master of controversial subjects and a legendary film maker. His films are filled with a variety of film angles and styles, he pushes his actors to give Oscar-worthy performances, and despite his failures, has always returned to success.

William Oliver Stone was ...

Seen: 8 Best: Natural Born Killers

43. Robert Aldrich

Director | What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Robert Aldrich entered the film industry in 1941 when he got a job as a production clerk at RKO Pictures. He soon worked his way up to script clerk, then became an assistant director, a production manager and an associate producer. He began writing and directing for TV series in the early 1950s, ...

Seen: 12 (as director, +4 as assistant director), 7 (as producer) MFM: Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte

44. Jonathan Demme

Director | The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme was born on February 22, 1944 in Baldwin, Long Island, New York, USA as Robert Jonathan Demme. He was a director and producer, known for The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993) and Rachel Getting Married (2008). He was married to Joanne Howard and Evelyn Purcell. He died...

Seen: 5 Best: Stop making sense

45. Jim Jarmusch

Director | Broken Flowers

Moved to New York City at the age of seventeen from Akron, Ohio. Graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in English, class of '75. Without any prior film experience, he was accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts, New York.

Seen: 5 Best: Down by Law/Dead Man/Ghost Dog

46. Elia Kazan

Director | On the Waterfront

Known for his creative stage direction, Elia Kazan was born Elias Kazantzoglou on September 7, 1909 in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey). Noted for drawing out the best dramatic performances from his actors, he directed 21 actors to Oscar nominations, resulting in nine wins. He ...

Seen: 10 Best: East of Eden

47. Francis Ford Coppola

Producer | Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola was born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in a New York suburb in a creative, supportive Italian-American family. His father, Carmine Coppola, was a composer and musician. His mother, Italia Coppola (née Pennino), had been an actress. Francis Ford Coppola graduated ...

Seen: 12 (as director), 7 (as Best: Bram Stroker's Dracula/Dementia 13

48. Ron Howard

Actor | Arrested Development

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard is one of this generation's most popular directors. From the critically acclaimed dramas A Beautiful Mind (2001) and Apollo 13 (1995) to the hit comedies Parenthood (1989) and Splash (1984), he has created some of Hollywood's most memorable films.

Howard ...

Seen: 13 Best: A Beautiful Mind

49. Barbet Schroeder

Director | La virgen de los sicarios

Barbet Schroeder was born on August 26, 1941 in Tehran, Iran. He is a director and producer, known for Our Lady of the Assassins (2000), Single White Female (1992) and Murder by Numbers (2002). He has been married to Bulle Ogier since April 1991.

Seen: 5 MFM: Barfly

50. Tim Burton

Producer | Edward Scissorhands

Timothy Walter Burton was born in Burbank, California, to Jean Rae (Erickson), who owned a cat-themed gift shop, and William Reed Burton, who worked for the Burbank Park and Recreation Department. He spent most of his childhood as a recluse, drawing cartoons, and watching old movies (he was ...

Seen: 13 (as director) Best: Ed Wood/Big Fish

51. Blake Edwards

Writer | The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Blake Edwards' stepfather's father J. Gordon Edwards was a silent screen director, and his stepfather Jack McEdward was a stage director and movie production manager. Blake acted in a number films, beginning with Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942) and wrote a number of others, beginning with ...

Seen: 17 Best: A Shot in the Dark



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