EliteDirectors

List of directors who are the absolutely the best at filmmaking, without having to resort to excessive special effects and CGI in their films. These directors have not made only one successful film but have made multiple critically aclaimed films. There is no ranking of this and this list represents directors from 1970-current.
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1.
Martin Scorsese
After serious deliberations about entering the priesthood - he entered a seminary in 1956 - Martin Scorsese opted to channel his passions into film. He graduated from NYU as a film major in 1964. Catching the eye of producer Roger Corman with his 1960s student films (including co-editing Woodstock)...
 
2.
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...
 
3.
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...
 
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6.
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 finished high school at the comparatively late age of 19 and worked odd jobs for several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
 
7.
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...
 
8.
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...
 
9.
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...
 
12.
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 Chambers Lynch shortly after he turned 21...
 
13.
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...
 
14.
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.
 
15.
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...
 
17.
David Cronenberg
Director, The Fly
David Cronenberg, also known as the King of Venereal Horror or the Baron of Blood, was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1943. His father was a journalist, and his mother was a piano player. After showing an inclination for literature at an early age (he wrote and published eerie short stories, thus following his father's path) and for music (playing classical guitar until he was 12)...
 
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Ridley Scott
Producer, Blade Runner
Ridley Scott was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear (then County Durham) on 30 November 1937. His father was an officer in the Royal Engineers and the family followed him as his career posted him throughout the UK and Europe before they eventually returned to Teesside. Scott wanted to join Army (his...
 
20.
Tony Scott
Producer, Man on Fire
Tony Scott was a British-born film director and producer. He was the youngest of three brothers, one of whom is fellow film director Ridley Scott. He was born in North Shields, Northumberland, England to parents Jean and Colonel Francis Percy Scott. As a result of his father's career in the British military...
 
22.
Paul Verhoeven
Director, Total Recall
Paul Verhoeven graduated from the University of Leiden, with a degree in math and physics. He entered the Royal Netherlands Navy, where he began his film career by making documentaries for the Navy and later for TV. In 1969, he directed the popular Dutch TV series, Floris, about a medieval knight...
 
23.
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 but, after graduating, drove a truck to support his screenwriting ambition. He landed his first professional film job as art director...
 
24.
Steven Soderbergh
Director, Ocean's Eleven
Steven Andrew Soderbergh was born on January 14, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the second of six children of Mary Ann (Bernard) and Peter Soderbergh. His father was of Swedish and Irish descent, and his mother was of Italian ancestry. While he was still at a very young age, his family moved to Baton Rouge...
 
25.
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...
 
26.
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...
 
27.
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...
 
28.
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...
 
29.
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...
 
31.
Oliver Stone
Director, Platoon
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 born in New York City...
 
32.
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...
 
33.
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...
 
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Antoine Fuqua
Director, Training Day
Antoine Fuqua is an American film director and film producer. His first feature film was the action film The Replacement Killers (1998), starring Chow Yun Fat. He then directed the crime thriller Training Day (2001), for which star Denzel Washington won an Oscar, the action war drama Tears of the Sun (2003)...
 
36.
Kathryn Bigelow
Director, The Hurt Locker
A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be critiqued by people like Richard Serra...
 
37.
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...
 
38.
Harold Ramis
Born on November 21, 1944 in Chicago, Illinois, Harold Allen Ramis got his start in comedy as Playboy magazine's joke editor and reviewer. In 1969, he joined Chicago's Second City's Improvisational Theatre Troupe before moving to New York to help write and perform in "The National Lampoon Show" with other Second City graduates including John Belushi...
 
39.
Adam McKay
Producer, Step Brothers
Adam McKay (born April 17, 1968) is an American screenwriter, director, comedian, and actor. McKay has a comedy partnership with Will Ferrell, with whom he co-wrote the films Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and The Other Guys. Ferrell and McKay also founded their comedy website Funny or Die through their production company Gary Sanchez Productions...
 
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Larry Charles
Larry Charles (born February 20, 1956) is an American writer, director, and producer. He is best known as a staff writer for the American sitcom Seinfeld for its first 5 seasons, contributing some of the show's darkest and most absurd story-lines. He has also directed the films Borat, Religulous and Brüno.
 
43.
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...
 
44.
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...
 
45.
Cameron Crowe
Certainly idiosyncratic as a writer, Cameron Crowe has created a series of scripts that, while liked by the critics, were considered offbeat and difficult to market. Cameron Bruce Crowe was born in Palm Springs, California, to Alice Marie Crowe (née George), a teacher and activist, and James A. Crowe...
 
46.
Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam was born in Minnesota near Medicine Lake. When he was 12 his family moved to Los Angeles where he became a fan of Mad magazine. In his early 20's he was often stopped by the police who often suspected him of being a drug addict and Gilliam had to explain that he worked in advertisement...
 
48.
Ted Demme
Director, Blow
 
49.
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)...
 
50.
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...
 
51.
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...
 
52.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Alejandro González Iñárritu (ih-nyar-ee-too), born August 15th, 1963, is a Mexican film director. González Iñárritu is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and by the Directors Guild of America for Best Director. He is also the first Mexican-born director to have won the Prix de la mise en scene or best director award at Cannes (2006)...
 
53.
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...
 
54.
Jim Jarmusch
Jarmusch came to New York City from Akron, Ohio to study at Columbia and NYU's film school. He would also study film at the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris. He worked as an assistant on Lightning Over Water, a film by Nicholas Ray and Wim Wenders, before making his first film, _Permanent Vacation (1982)_...
 
55.
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...
 
56.
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...
 
58.
Mel Brooks
Melvin James Kaminsky was born on June 28th, 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...
 
59.
Barry Levinson
Producer, Sleepers
Barry Levinson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Violet (Krichinsky) and Irvin Levinson, who worked in furniture and appliance. He is of Russian Jewish descent. Levinson graduated from high school in 1960, attended college at American University in Washington, DC. He did well, but decided he wanted to go to Los Angeles...
 
60.
Michael Cimino
Michael Cimino studied architecture and dramatic arts; later he filmed advertisements and documentaries and also wrote scripts until the actor, producer and director Clint Eastwood gave him the opportunity to direct the thriller Thunderbolt and Lightfoot. But his biggest success was The Deer Hunter which won the Oscar for best film...
 
61.
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...
 
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Richard Attenborough
Lord Richard Attenborough was born in Cambridge, England, the son of Mary (née Clegg), a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council, and Frederick Levi Attenborough, a scholar and academic administrator who was a don at Emmanuel College and wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law. Attenborough...
 
64.
Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn is a Danish film director, screenwriter and producer. He moved to the United States in 1981 and is known for directing the crime dramas Bleeder (1999) and the Pusher films (1996, 2004, 2005), the fictionalised biographical film Bronson (2008), the dramatic adventure film Valhalla Rising (2009)...
 
65.
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 producer (Puttnam had been a photographers' agent)...
 
66.
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...
 
67.
Lodge Kerrigan
Lodge Kerrigan is a New York film director who has made only four films in fifteen years but whose works have left a deep imprint on the minds of those who have seen them. Difficult indeed to forget Peter Green, the schizophrene of Clean, Shaven, Claire Dolan, the reluctant call-girl of Claire Dolan and William Keane...
 
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Todd Solondz
Director, Happiness
Todd Solondz was born in Newark, New Jersey. One of his earliest jobs in the film industry was when, as a young man, he worked as a messenger for the Writers' Guild of America. During this time, he wrote several screenplays. Solondz's first color film with sync sound was the short "Schatt's Last Shot" (1985)...
 
70.
George Clooney
Actor, Gravity
George Timothy Clooney was born on May 6, 1961, in Lexington, Kentucky, to Nina Bruce (née Warren), a former beauty pageant queen, and Nick Clooney, a former anchorman and game show host (who was also the brother of singer Rosemary Clooney). He has Irish, English, and German ancestry. Clooney spent most of this youth in Ohio and Kentucky...
 
71.
Curtis Hanson
After small films like The Bedroom Window and Sweet Kill, Curtis Hanson went on to direct major features including The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild and the Academy Award-winning L.A. Confidential. Setting his sights on another city, Hanson was critically acclaimed for directing Eminem in Universal Pictures' 8 Mile...
 
73.
Tony Kaye
Tony Kaye was born in London, United Kingdom. He has made several well-known music videos, including the video for "Runaway Train" by Soul Asylum, which won a Grammy Award, "Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, "What God Wants" by Roger Waters, and "Help Me" and "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash...
 
75.
Alex Proyas
Director, Dark City
Alex Proyas has moved effortlessly between helming TV commercials and music videos to feature films. Born to Greek parents in Egypt, Proyas relocated to Australia with his family when he was three years old. He began making films at age ten and went on to attend the Australian Film Television and Radio School along with Jane Campion and Jocelyn Moorhouse...
 
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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...