Top 35 Best Living Directors

The best directors alive, in my opinion.
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1.
Lars von Trier
Writer, Melancholia
Probably the most ambitious and visually distinctive filmmaker to emerge from Denmark since Carl Theodor Dreyer over 60 years earlier, Lars von Trier studied film at the Danish Film School and attracted international attention with his very first feature, The Element of Crime. A highly distinctive blend of film noir and German Expressionism with stylistic nods to Dreyer...
 
2.
David Lynch
Born in 1946 in Missoula, Montana, David Lynch was raised in small-town America. After high school, he went to Boston to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Shortly after that, he planned a three-year trip to Europe to work on his art, but didn't take to it and left after 15 days. In 1977...
 
3.
Martin Scorsese
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 provided the inspiration for several of his films...
 
4.
Quentin Tarantino
Writer, Pulp Fiction
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 1992...
 
5.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Producer, The Revenant
His six feature films - Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel (comprising the "Death Trilogy"), Biutiful, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and The Revenant - have garnered critical acclaim and numerous accolades, including Academy Award nominations and wins. In 2015, Iñárritu won the Academy Award for Best Director...
 
6.
Woody Allen
Writer, Annie Hall
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...
 
7.
Roman Polanski
Director, The Pianist
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 before World War II began...
 
8.
Steven Spielberg
Undoubtedly one of the most influential film personalities in the history of film, Steven Spielberg is perhaps Hollywood's best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. Spielberg has countless big-grossing, critically acclaimed credits to his name, as producer, director and writer...
 
9.
Christopher Nolan
Best known for his cerebral, often nonlinear story-telling, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of 15 years of film-making, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever made. At 7 years old...
 
10.
Clint Eastwood
Perhaps the icon of macho movie stars, and a living legend, Clint Eastwood has become a standard in international cinema. Born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the elder of two children in a middle-class family, Eastwood stayed in high school until the comparatively late age of nineteen and worked menial jobs over a period of several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
 
11.
David Fincher
Director, Fight Club
David Fincher was born in 1962 in Denver, Colorado, and was raised in Marin County, California. When he was 18 years old he went to work for John Korty at Korty Films in Mill Valley. He subsequently worked at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) from 1981-1983. Fincher left ILM to direct TV commercials and music videos after signing with N...
 
12.
Jane Campion
Writer, The Piano
Jane Campion was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and now lives in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Having graduated with a BA in Anthropology from Victoria University of Wellington in 1975, and a BA, with a painting major, at Sydney College of the Arts in 1979, she began filmmaking in the early 1980s...
 
16.
Alejandro Amenábar
Writer, The Others
Amenábar was born in Santiago Chile, on the eve of Pinochet's 1973 coup-de-état, such that his mother, who had already gone through the Spanish Civil War, uprooted the whole family and fled back to Spain. He grew up in Madrid and entered the Sciences Information Faculty at Madrid's Complutense University...
 
18.
Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky was born February 12, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up, Darren was always artistic: he loved classic movies and, as a teenager, he even spent time doing graffiti art. After high school, Darren went to Harvard University to study film (both live-action and animation). He won several film awards after completing his senior thesis film...
 
19.
Sofia Coppola
Writer, Somewhere
Sofia Coppola was born on May 14, 1971 in New York City, New York, USA as Sofia Carmina Coppola. She is a director, known for Somewhere, Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. She has been married to Thomas Mars since August 27, 2011. They have two children. She was previously married to Spike Jonze.
 
20.
Spike Jonze
Producer, Her
Spike Jonze made up one-third (along with Andy Jenkins and Mark Lewman) of the triumvirate of genius minds behind Dirt Magazine, the brother publication of the much lamented ground-breaking Sassy Magazine. These three uncommon characters were all editors for Grand Royal Magazine as well, under...
 
21.
Pedro Almodóvar
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...
 
22.
Ang Lee
Director, Life of Pi
Born in 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Ang graduated from the National Taiwan College of Arts in 1975 and then came to the U.S. to receive a B.F.A. Degree in Theatre/Theater Direction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Masters Degree in Film Production at New York University...
 
24.
Baz Luhrmann
Baz Luhrmann grew up in rural Australia. He first became enthralled by the world of movies and the power of storytelling at his father's theatre. He also encountered a variety of interesting people while working at the local gas station, and Luhrmann went on to use these experiences as a source for his own creativity...
 
25.
Ridley Scott
Producer, Blade Runner
Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. Following his commercial breakthrough with the science-fiction horror film Alien (1979), his best known works are the noir science fiction film Blade Runner (1982), crime drama Thelma & Louise (1991), historical drama and Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator (2000)...
 
26.
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.
 
27.
William Friedkin
Director, The Exorcist
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 Orson Welles after seeing Citizen Kane...
 
28.
Guillermo del Toro
Writer, Hellboy
Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. In his filmmaking career, del Toro has alternated between Spanish-language dark fantasy pieces, such as the gothic horror film The Devil's Backbone, and Pan's Labyrinth, and more mainstream American action movies, such as the vampire superhero action film Blade II...
 
29.
Stephen Daldry
Director, The Reader
In 1989, Stephen Daldry worked as a freelance reader of unsolicited manuscripts for Literary Manager Nicholas Wright in the Scripts Department at the Royal National Theatre. In July of that year, he directed a Dadaist/expressionist production of "Judgement Day," a play by Odon von Horvath, at the Old Red Lion in London.
 
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33.
Alfonso Cuarón
Writer, Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón Orozco was born on November 28th in Mexico City, Mexico. From an early age, he yearned to be either a film director or an astronaut. However, he did not want to enter the army, so he settled for directing. He didn't receive his first camera until his twelfth birthday, and then immediately started to film everything he saw...
 
34.
Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer, director, and producer Nicolas Winding Refn was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1970, to Anders Refn, a film director and editor, and Vibeke Winding (née Tuxen), a cinematographer. Just before he turned 11, in 1981, he moved to New York with his parents, where he lived out his teenage years. New York quickly became his city and soon began to shape Nicolas's future...
 
35.
Lee Daniels
Writer, Empire
Lee Daniels gave his parents an early Christmas present when he entered the world on December 24, 1959; unfortunately, the Philadelphia native was to have a difficult relationship with his police officer father who later reacted violently to his son's sexuality. Despite the brutality of his childhood...