The Best Directors of Film History

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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...
 
2.
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)...
 
3.
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...
 
4.
Charles Chaplin
Writer, Modern Times
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 toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk...
 
5.
Orson Welles
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. Maurice Bernstein...
 
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...
 
7.
Federico Fellini
Writer,
The women who both attracted and frightened him and an Italy dominated in his youth by Mussolini and Pope Pius XII - inspired the dreams that Fellini started recording in notebooks in the 1960s. Life and dreams were raw material for his films. His native Rimini and characters like Saraghina (the devil herself said the priests who ran his school)...
 
8.
Francis Ford Coppola
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 with a degree in drama from Hofstra University...
 
9.
Ingmar Bergman
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July 14, 1918, the son of a priest. The film and T.V. series, The Best Intentions is biographical and shows the early marriage of his parents. The film 'Söndagsbarn' depicts a bicycle journey with his father. In the miniseries Private Confessions is the trilogy closed. Here, as in 'Den Goda Viljan' Pernilla August play his mother...
 
10.
Sergei M. Eisenstein
The son of an affluent architect, Eisenstein attended the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd as a young man. With the fall of the tsar in 1917, he worked as an engineer for the Red Army. In the following years, Eisenstein joined up with the Moscow Proletkult Theater as a set designer and then director...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
Sergio Leone
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 Italy (usually making Biblical and Roman epics...
 
13.
Frank Capra
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 could ever be," Capra said about his Atlantic passage...
 
14.
John Ford
Director, The Searchers
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, counting (he always did) the two that he won for his WWII documentary work...
 
15.
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was a Greek-American director, producer, writer and actor. Noted for drawing out the best dramatic performances from his actors, he directed 21 actors to Oscar nominations, resulting in nine wins. He directed a string of successful films, including A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden...
 
16.
Fritz Lang
Director, M
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. From 1910 to 1914...
 
17.
Cecil B. DeMille
His parents Henry C. DeMille and Beatrice DeMille were playwrights. His father died when he was 12, and his mother supported the family by opening a school for girls and a theatrical company. Too young to enlist in the Spanish-American War, Cecil followed his brother William C. de Mille to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts...
 
18.
François Truffaut
François began to assiduously go to the movies at 7. 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 becomes his protector. Bazin helped the delinquent Truffaut and also when he was put in jail because he deserted the army...
 
19.
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...
 
20.
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...
 
21.
Andrei Tarkovsky
Writer, Solaris
The most famous Soviet film-maker since Sergei M. Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky (the son of noted poet Arseniy Tarkovsky) studied music and Arabic in Moscow before enrolling in the Soviet film school V.G.I.K. He shot to international attention with his first feature, Ivan's Childhood, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival...
 
22.
Michelangelo Antonioni
Writer, Blow-Up
Michelangelo Antonioni was born in 1912 into a middle-class family and grew up in bourgeois surroundings of the Italian province. In Bologna he studied economics and commerce while he painted and also wrote criticism for a local newspaper. In 1939 he went to Rome and worked for the journal "Cinema" studying directorship at the School of Cinema...
 
24.
Jean-Luc Godard
Director, My Life to Live
Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris on December 3, 1930, the second of four children in a bourgeois Franco-Swiss family. His father was a doctor who owned a private clinic, and his mother came from a preeminent family of Swiss bankers. During World War II Godard became a naturalized citizen of Switzerland and attended school in Nyons (Switzerland)...
 
25.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Writer, Accattone
Pier Paolo Pasolini achieved fame and notoriety long before he entered the film industry. A published poet at 19, he had already written numerous novels and essays before his first screenplay in 1954. His first film Accattone was based on his own novel and its violent depiction of the life of a pimp in the slums of Rome caused a sensation...
 
26.
Mihalis Kakogiannis
Director, Zorba the Greek
Sent to London to read for the Bar, Cacoyannis gravitated instead to the Old Vic stage school. He had a short stage career under the name "Michael Yannis" before deciding he wanted to direct films.
 
27.
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. Held back in school, Clint moved with his parents to Seattle...
 
28.
David Lynch
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 director Jennifer Lynch shortly after he turned 21...
 
29.
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Krzysztof Kieslowski graduated from Lódz Film School in 1969, and became a documentary, TV and feature film director and scriptwriter. Before making his first film for TV, Pedestrian Subway (The Underground Passage), he made a number of short documentaries. His next TV title, Personnel (The Staff)...
 
30.
John Huston
An eccentric rebel of epic proportions, this Hollywood titan reigned supreme as director, screenwriter and character actor in a career that endured over five decades. The ten-time Oscar-nominated legend was born John Marcellus Huston in Nevada, Missouri, on August 5, 1906. His ancestry included English...
 
31.
Louis Malle
Louis Malle, the descendant of a French nobleman who made a fortune in beet sugar during the Napoleonic Wars, created films that explored life and its meaning. Malle's family discouraged his early interest in film but, in 1950, allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris...
 
32.
Theodoros Angelopoulos
Theo Angelopoulos began to study law in Athens but broke up his studies to go to the Sorbonne in Paris in order to study literature. When he had finished his studies, he wanted to attend the School of Cinema at Paris but decided instead to go back to Greece. There he worked as a journalist and critic for the newspaper "Demokratiki Allaghi" until it was banned by the military after a coup d'état...
 
33.
Billy Wilder
The second of two sons, his father ran a chain of railway station cafes. As a youth he was obsessed with everything American. encouraged by his mother he enrolled as a law student at the University of Vienna but quit after 3 months to be a writer on a magazine which although poorly paid it gave him a great amount of experience interviewing such as Richard Strauss and Sigmund Freud...
 
34.
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...
 
35.
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...
 
36.
Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director whose films are known for their colorful visual style, was born in Parma, Italy, in 1940. He attended Rome University and became famous as a poet. He served as assistant director for Pier Paolo Pasolini in the film Accattone and directed The Grim Reaper. His second film...
 
37.
Vittorio De Sica
Director, Bicycle Thieves
Vittorio De Sica grew up in Naples, and started out as an office clerk in order to raise money to support his poor family. He was increasingly drawn towards acting, and made his screen debut while still in his teens, joining a stage company in 1923. By the late 1920s he was a successful matinee idol of the Italian theatre...
 
38.
Costa-Gavras
Director, Missing
 
39.
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...
 
40.
Emir Kusturica
Director, Underground
A Serbian film director. Born in 1954 in Sarajevo. Graduated in film directing at the prestigious Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague in 1978. During his studies, he was awarded several times for his short movies including Guernica (1978), which took first prize at the Student's Film Festival in Karlovy Vary...
 
41.
Howard Hawks
Director, The Big Sleep
What do the classic films Scarface, Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, Sergeant York, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rio Bravo have in common? Aside from their displays of great craftsmanship, the answer is director Howard Hawks...
 
42.
Sam Peckinpah
"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah's bloody, high-body-count eulogy to the mythologized Old West. "Pouring new wine into the bottle of the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle", observed critic Pauline Kael. That exploding bottle...
 
43.
Luis Buñuel
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 university there, where his close friends included Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca...
 
44.
Michael Curtiz
Director, Casablanca
Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. After WWI, he continued his filmmaking career in Austria and Germany and into the early 1920s when he directed films in other countries in Europe. Moving to the US in 1926, he started making films in Hollywood for Warner Bros...
 
45.
Jean Renoir
Son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste, he had a happy childhood. Pierre Renoir was his brother, and Claude Renoir was his nephew. After the end of World War I, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he moved from scriptwriting to filmmaking. He married Catherine Hessling, for whom he began to make movies; he wanted to make a star of her...
 
46.
Tim Burton
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 especially fond of films with Vincent Price)...
 
47.
Jean-Pierre Melville
Writer, Le Samouraï
The name "Melville" is not immediately associated with film. It conjures up images of white whales and crackbrained captains, of naysaying notaries and soup-spilling sailors. It is the countersign to a realm of men and their deeds, both heroic and villainous. It is the American novel, with its Ishmaels and its Claggarts a challenge to the European canon...
 
48.
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...
 
49.
Brian De Palma
Director, Scarface
Brian De Palma is one of the well-known directors who spear-headed the new movement in Hollywood during the 1970s. He is known for his many films that go from violent pictures, to Hitchcock-like thrillers. Born on the 11th of September in 1940, De Palma was born in New Jersey in an American-Italian family...
 
50.
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...
 
51.
Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick was born in Ottawa, Illinois. His family subsequently lived in Oklahoma and he went to school in Austin, Texas. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in philosophy in 1965. A member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, he attended Magdalen College...
 
52.
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...
 
53.
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...