My 40 Favorite Directors

They may not be the greatest of all time, but they're my favorite.
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1.
Akira Kurosawa
Writer, Yojimbo
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. Within a few years, Kurosawa had achieved sufficient stature to allow him greater creative freedom...
“ Are there any other directors with the sheer amount of amount of masterpieces as Kurosawa? ” - firewithfire
 
2.
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...
“ Almost! Just about everything Spielberg turned out became a classic. ” - firewithfire
 
3.
Sergio Leone
Sergio Leone was an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter, credited as the inventor of "Spaghetti Western" genre. Leone's film-making style includes juxtaposing extreme close-up shots with lengthy long shots. His movies include the sword and sandal action films The Last Days of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes...
“ King of the Spaghetti Western - and I like Spaghetti Westerns. ” - firewithfire
 
4.
Stanley Kubrick
Director, The Shining
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 produce better academic performance...
“ Can there even be an argument against Kubrick? ” - firewithfire
 
5.
“ And Ethan!

Pure awesome. These guys just don't make bad movies (The Ladykillers never happened!) ” - firewithfire
 
6.
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...
“ Been turning out greats since the 70s and still going strong today. ” - firewithfire
 
7.
James Cameron
Writer, Aliens
James Francis Cameron was born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. He moved to the United States in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University before switching to English, and eventually dropping out. He then drove a truck to support his screenwriting ambition...
“ I was a little apprehensive about putting Jim this high because I absolutely detest Avatar, but props for everything else he's done.

He's also probably the best around at getting good performances out of bad actors. ” - firewithfire
 
8.
Alfred Hitchcock
Actor, 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 Eileen Hitchcock (born 1892)...
“ "The Birds" was the first horror movie I ever saw, and each Hitchcock film I see is better than the last. ” - firewithfire
 
9.
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...
“ The Social Network was pretty interesting, but wouldn't warrant a top 10 pick. Fight Club & Seven, however, do. ” - firewithfire
 
10.
Billy Wilder
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 German films until Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933...
“ So many quality films (and Oscars). Also a great writer. ” - firewithfire
 
11.
Christopher Nolan
Best known for his cerebral, often nonlinear storytelling, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of 15 years of filmmaking, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever made. At 7 years old...
“ He's only at the beginning of his career and is already a super star. This one will go far. ” - firewithfire
 
12.
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...
“ It's Tarantino - you know. ” - firewithfire
 
13.
Ridley Scott
Producer, Blade Runner
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 throughout the United Kingdom and Europe before they eventually returned to Teesside. Scott wanted to...
“ He's starting to slow down, but hopefully he goes out with a bang as big as so many other fine films he's made. ” - firewithfire
 
14.
Hayao Miyazaki
Director, Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist. Through a career that has spanned five decades, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a masterful storyteller and as a maker of anime feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli...
“ Finest animator of all time, methinks. ” - firewithfire
 
15.
Ron Howard
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard is one of this generation's most popular directors. From the critically acclaimed dramas A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13 to the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, he has created some of Hollywood's most memorable films. Howard directed and produced Cinderella Man starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe...
“ How many directors have more memorable movies? Maybe not the best, but classic all the same. ” - firewithfire
 
16.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Anderson was born in 1970. He was one of the first of the "video store" generation of film-makers. His father was the first man on his block to own a V.C.R., and from a very early age Anderson had an infinite number of titles available to him. While film-makers like Spielberg cut their teeth making 8 mm films, Anderson cut his teeth shooting films on video and editing them from V.C.R. to V.C.R...
“ PTA will be remembered as great by the time he is done. ” - firewithfire
 
17.
“ This dude is messed up. But I love it. ” - firewithfire
 
18.
Michael Mann
Producer, Heat
A student of London's International Film School, Michael Mann began his career in the late 70s, writing for TV shows like Starsky and Hutch. He directed his first film, the award-winning prison drama The Jericho Mile, in 1979. He followed that in 1981 with his first theatrical release, Thief starring James Caan as a safe-cracker who falls under the spell of the mob...
“ Awesome action movies...until Public Enemies. ” - firewithfire
 
19.
Robert Zemeckis
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, 1941) and special effect vehicles (Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future)...
“ Back to the Future, Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump...what more do you need? ” - firewithfire
 
20.
Edgar Wright
Edgar Howard Wright (born 18 April 1974) is an English director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. He is best known for his comedic Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World's End (2013), made with recurrent collaborators Simon Pegg...
“ Hasn't made a movie I didn't love yet. ” - firewithfire
 
21.
Clint Eastwood
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 and mechanics...
“ It's hard to argue with Clint Eastwood. ” - firewithfire
 
22.
Rob Reiner
Robert Reiner was born in New York City, to Estelle Reiner (née Lebost) and Emmy-Winning actor, comedian, writer, and producer Carl Reiner. Robert as a child often looked up to his father as his inspiration and role-model. Carl Reiner was on The Dick Van Dyke Show which Carl Reiner created and also starred in...
“ Just look at his filmography and tell me he doesn't deserve to be on this list. ” - firewithfire
 
23.
Wes Anderson
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 event that he described as the most crucial event of his brothers and his growing up...
“ Life. Aquatic. ” - firewithfire
 
24.
Sidney Lumet
Director, 12 Angry Men
Sidney Lumet was a master of cinema, best known for his technical knowledge and his skill at getting first-rate performances from his actors -- and for shooting most of his films in his beloved New York. He made over 40 movies, often complex and emotional, but seldom overly sentimental. Although his politics were somewhat left-leaning and he often treated socially relevant themes in his films...
“ Should probably be higher, but I just don't rewatch his movies like I do some others. ” - firewithfire
 
25.
Frank Darabont
Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont was born in a refugee camp in 1959 in Montbeliard, France, the son of Hungarian parents who had fled Budapest during the failed 1956 Hungarian revolution. Brought to America as an infant, he settled with his family in Los Angeles and attended Hollywood High School...
“ Shawshank. That is all you need know. ” - firewithfire
 
26.
Edward Zwick
Edward Zwick is well-known for his heroic movies that include Glory, and the breathtaking works of art that include Legends of the Fall. Zwick has also been known for his thoughtfulness as a director, and for his record of working with television series and other films as a producer. Born in 1952...
“ Had a chance to be an all time great, but he left Tom Cruise alive. ” - firewithfire
 
27.
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...
“ He might climb the charts in the coming years, but his resume isn't long enough to put him in the top 10 yet. ” - firewithfire
 
28.
“ Have you SEEN Oldboy? ” - firewithfire
 
29.
Milos Forman
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 Buchenwald and his mother died in Auschwitz...
“ Made a few quality movies, but Cuckoo's Nest is an all time classic 10/10. And for that, he deserves recognition. ” - firewithfire
 
30.
“ In a word - Nostalgia. ” - firewithfire
 
31.
Kevin Smith
Producer, Comic Book Men
Kevin Patrick Smith was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, to Grace (Schultz) and Donald E. Smith, a postal worker. He is very proud of his native state; this fact can be seen in all of his movies. Kevin is of mostly German, with some Irish and English, ancestry. His first movie, Clerks, was filmed in the convenience store in which Smith worked...
“ C'mon, who doesn't like at least ONE Kevin Smith movie? ” - firewithfire
 
32.
Guillermo del Toro
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 ; El espinazo del diablo (2001)_, and El laberinto del fauno (2006)_, and more mainstream American action movies...
“ King of the monster movie - great artistic style. ” - firewithfire
 
33.
Sam Mendes
Samuel Alexander Mendes was born on August 1, 1965 in Reading, England, UK to parents James Peter Mendes, a retired university lecturer, and Valerie Helene Mendes, an author who writes children's books. Their marriage didn't last long, James divorced Sam's mother in 1970 when Sam was just 5-years-old...
“ I'm surprised to see he's not on more people's lists. ” - firewithfire
 
34.
Guy Ritchie
Director, Snatch
Guy Ritchie was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK on September 10, 1968. After watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as a child, Guy realized that what he wanted to do was make films. He never attended film school, saying that the work of film school graduates was boring and unwatchable. At 15 years old, he dropped out of school and in 1995...
“ Lock Stock and Snatch I can watch again and again. ” - firewithfire
 
35.
Mel Gibson
Actor, Braveheart
Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson was born January 3, 1956 in Peekskill, New York, USA, as the sixth of eleven children of Hutton Gibson, a railroad brakeman, and Anne Patricia (Reilly) Gibson (who died in December of 1990). His mother was Irish, from County Longford, while his American-born father is of mostly Irish descent...
“ Braveheart? Apocalypto? Greatness. ” - firewithfire
 
36.
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...
“ Creepster. Good movies. Lots. ” - firewithfire
 
37.
Rian Johnson
Director, Looper
Rian Johnson was born in Maryland and at a young age, he moved to San Clemente, California, where he was raised. After graduating from high school, he went on to attend the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. His first feature film Brick was released in 2005 and was the metaphorical building block that launched his career...
“ This guy will likely skyrocket up the list once he has a few more pictures under his belt. Brick is one of my all-time favs and Bros. Bloom is a rare quality "fun" movie I really enjoyed. ” - firewithfire
 
38.
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. He served in WWII, and afterwards got a job playing the drums at nightclubs in the Catskills. Brooks eventually started a comedy act and also worked in radio and as Master Entertainer at Grossinger's Resort before going to television...
“ List of quality comedies as long as my leg! ” - firewithfire
 
39.
Zack Snyder
Director, 300
Zachary Edward "Zack" Snyder (born March 1, 1966) is an American film director, film producer, and screenwriter, best known for action and science fiction films. Snyder made his feature film debut with the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead and has gone on to be known for his comic book movies and superhero films...
“ King of the green screen - I'm interested to see what he'll do with Superman. ” - firewithfire
 
40.
“ And Bobby!

They make the list for Dumb and Dumber alone (but they have some other good ones, too). ” - firewithfire