The Top 15 Best Contemporary European Directors

Purely based on my personal taste.
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1.
Lars von Trier
Writer, Melancholia
Lars von Trier (the "von" was adopted during his stay at the Danish Film School) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in April 1956. He graduated from the Danish Film School in 1983 with his short film Befrielsesbilleder ("Images of Relief"), which won the Best Film award at the Munich Film Festival the following year...
 
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Werner Herzog
Director, Grizzly Man
Director. Writer. Producer. Has studied history, literature and theatre, but hasn't finished it. Founded his own production company in 1963. Has staged several operas, besides others in Bayreuth, Germany, and at the Milan Scala in Italy. Herzog has won numerous national and international awards for his films.
 
8.
Ken Loach
Unlike virtually all his contemporaries, Ken Loach has never succumbed to the siren call of Hollywood, and it's virtually impossible to imagine his particular brand of British socialist realism translating well to that context. After studying law at St. Peter's College, Oxford, he branched out into the theater...
 
9.
Thomas Vinterberg
Director, The Hunt
With Last Round (Last Round), his graduation short from The National Film School of Denmark, he got an early taste of critical success. He received the Jury's and Producers' Awards at the International Student Film Fest in Munich and won the 1st Prize at the Tel Aviv Film Fest. Popular success followed with his breakthrough short fiction film...
 
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“ Along with his brother Jean-Pierre Dardenne. ” - Andrias Høgenni
 
11.
Pedro Almodóvar
Writer, Talk to Her
The most internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker since Luis Buñuel was born in a small town (Calzada de Calatrava) in the impoverished Spanish region of La Mancha. He arrived in Madrid in 1968, and survived by selling used items in the flea-market called El Rastro. Almodóvar couldn't study filmmaking because he didn't have the money to afford it...
 
13.
Aleksandr Sokurov
Director, Russkiy kovcheg
He was born with a disability because of an anatomic defect of his leg, in 1951 in Podorvikha village in Siberian Russia. His father was a Red Army veteran of WW2. One of most important contemporary filmmakers, Sokurov worked extensively in television and later graduated from the prestigious film school...
 
14.
Oliver Hirschbiegel
Director, Downfall
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1957. In his teens he left high school and worked as a cooker in a boat. Then he studied painting and graphism in the Academy of arts in Hamburg where he also started experimenting with video and photography. Those experimental movies attracted the attention of some producers of the German TV...
 
15.
Lone Scherfig
Director, An Education
Lone Scherfig graduated from the Danish Film School in 1984. In her native Denmark, Lone Scherfig began her career directing award-winning commercials and television dramas. Her first feature as director, The Birthday Trip, premiered at the 1991 Berlin Festival and won several awards at festivals worldwide. Her second feature, On Our Own, won the Grand Prize at the Montreal Film Festival...