Originals: Irreplaceable Directors

The good, the bad and the clearly insane. A list of the directors Hollywood will never learn from!
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
Don Siegel
Director, Dirty Harry
Don Siegel was educated at Cambridge University, England. In Hollywood from the mid-'30s, he began his career as an editor and second unit director. In 1945 he directed two shorts (Hitler Lives and Star in the Night) which both won Academy Awards. His first feature as a director was 1946's The Verdict...
 
2.
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...
 
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...
 
4.
Walter Hill
Producer, Aliens
Hill was born in Long Beach, California and educated at Mexico City College and Michigan State University. He worked in oil drilling and construction in the 60s before becoming a 2nd assistant director in 1967. He has written and co-written screenplays, including several uncredited works. He has produced and directed films since 1975.
 
5.
George A. Romero
George A. Romero never set out to become a Hollywood figure; however, by all indications, he was very successful. The helmer of the groundbreaking "Living Dead" films was born February 4, 1940 in New York City, New York, to a Cuban father and a Lithuanian-American mother. He grew up in NY, until attending the renowned Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania...
 
6.
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...
 
7.
Alfred Hitchcock
Director, 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)...
 
8.
John Carpenter
Writer, Halloween
John Howard Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, to mother Milton Jean (Carter) and father Howard Ralph Carpenter. His family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his father, a professor, was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University. He attended Western Kentucky University and then USC film school in Los Angeles...
 
9.
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...
 
10.
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...
 
11.
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...
 
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.
John Singleton
Director, Four Brothers
Son of mortgage broker Danny Singleton and pharmaceutical company sales executive Sheila Ward and raised in separate households by his unmarried parents, John Singleton attended the Film Writing Program at USC after graduating from high school in 1986. While studying there, he won three writing awards from the university...
 
14.
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...
 
15.
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...
 
16.
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...
 
17.
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...
 
18.
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...
 
19.
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)...
 
20.
Johnnie To
Producer, Hak se wui
With over thirty directing and producing credits to his name, Johnnie To enjoyed international breakthroughs with Election, Triad Election (aka "Triad Election") and Exiled; those films enjoyed multiple international film festival appearances and were separately sold to more than 21 foreign territories (including theatrical distributions in France and USA)...
 
21.
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...
 
22.
John Woo
Director, Face/Off
Born in southern China, John Woo grew up in Hong Kong, where he began his film career as an assistant director in 1969, working for Shaw Brothers Studios. He directed his first feature in 1973 and has been a prolific director ever since, working in a wide variety of genres before A Better Tomorrow established...
 
24.
 
25.
 
26.
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...
 
27.
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...
 
28.
John Irvin
Director, Raw Deal
John Irvin is a British director who has made more than thirty motion pictures in his career so far, and has received mixed success over the years. Born in England, Irvin began his career in television before he filmed the gritty and violent theatrical motion picture, The Dogs of War. The film, starring Christopher Walken and Tom Berenger...
 
29.
Luc Besson
Luc Besson spent the first years of his life following his parents, scuba diving instructors, around the world. His early life was entirely aquatic. He already showed amazing creativity as a youth, writing early drafts of The Big Blue and The Fifth Element, as an adolescent bored in school. He...
 
30.
 
31.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Director, Amélie
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a self-taught director who was very quickly interested by cinema, with a predilection for a fantastic cinema where form is as important as the subject. Thus he started directing TV commercials and video clips (such as Julien Clerc in 1984). At the same time he met designer/drawer Marc Caro with whom he made two short animation movies: L'évasion and Le manège...
 
32.
John Badham
Director, WarGames
English-born "Army brat" John Badham is the son of English actress Mary Hewitt and the stepson of an American Army general. Raised in Alabama and schooled at Yale, he cut his teeth producing and directing for TV before making his feature debut with The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. Badham's breakthrough credit was the box office smash Saturday Night Fever...
 
33.
 
34.
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...
 
35.
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...
 
36.
Antoine Fuqua
Director, Training Day
Attended West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia on an athletic scholarship for basketball. He studied electrical engineering (focusing on electromagnetism and signal processing) before moving back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (this move was brief and only to figure out his true calling) and then to New York, New York to work in film.
 
39.
Robert Altman
Director, Gosford Park
Robert Altman was born on February 20th, 1925 in Kansas City, Missouri, to B.C. (an insurance salesman) and Helen Altman. He entered St. Peters Catholic school at the age six, and spent a short time at a Catholic high school. From there, he went to Rockhurst High School. It was then that he started exploring the art of exploring sound with the cheap tape recorders available at the time...
 
40.
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...
 
41.
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...
 
42.
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...
 
43.
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...
 
44.
 
46.
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...
 
47.
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...
 
48.
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...
 
49.
Joss Whedon
Writer, The Avengers
Joss Whedon is the middle of five brothers - his younger brothers are Jed Whedon and Zack Whedon. Both his father, Tom Whedon and his grandfather, John Whedon were successful television writers. Joss' mother, Lee Stearns, was a history teacher and she also wrote novels as Lee Whedon...
 
50.
Brian De Palma
Director, Scarface
Brian De Palma is the son of a surgeon. He studied physics but at the same time felt his dedication for the movies and made some short films. After seven independent productions he had his first success with Sisters and his voyeuristic style. Restlessly he worked on big projects with the script writers Paul Schrader...
 
51.
 
52.
John Landis
John Landis began his career in the mail room of 20th Century-Fox. A high-school dropout, 18-year-old Landis made his way to Yugoslavia to work as a production assistant on Kelly's Heroes. Remaining in Europe, Landis found work as an actor, extra and stuntman in many of the Spanish/Italian "spaghetti" westerns...
 
53.
John Frankenheimer
Director, Ronin
Born in New York and raised in Queens, John Frankenheimer wanted to become a professional tennis player. He loved movies and his favorite actor was Robert Mitchum. He decided he wanted to be an actor but then he applied for and was accepted in the Motion Picture Squadron of the Air Force where he realized his natural talent to handle a camera...
 
54.
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)...
 
55.
 
56.
Peter Hyams
Director, 2010
Peter Hyams was born in New York on July 26, 1943, and attended Hunter College Elementary School. He studied art and music at the Art Students League and the High School of Music and Art as well as at Syracuse University, where he majored in music and art. Before he became a CBS News news anchor in...
 
57.
Wolfgang Petersen
Director, Troy
This director seems to shine most when making movies that can best be described as part action movies/part disaster movies. Beginning with Outbreak (1995) about the outbreak of a killer virus. This film had shades of an Irwin Allen disaster movie, The Swarm (1978), about the outbreak of killer bees. Both films had the military and scientists clash, also both had choppers all over the place...
 
58.
Roland Emmerich
Roland Emmerich is a German film director of blockbuster films like The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Independence Day and The Patriot. Before fame, he originally wanted to be a production designer, but decided to be a director, after watching the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Emmerich began his career in his native Germany...
 
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.
M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night Shyamalan is an Indian-American film director, screenwriter, producer and occasional actor known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots. His major films include the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense (1999), the superhero drama thriller Unbreakable (2000), the science fiction thriller Signs (2002)...
 
61.
Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson was born as an only child in a small coast-side town in New Zealand in 1961. When a friend of his parents bought him a super 8 movie camera (because she saw how much he enjoyed taking photos), the then eight-year-old Peter instantly grabbed the thing to start recording his own movies, which he made with his friends...
 
62.
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...
 
63.
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...
 
64.
Robert Rodriguez
Producer, Grindhouse
Robert Anthony Rodriguez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, USA, to Rebecca (Villegas), a nurse, and Cecilio G. Rodríguez, a salesman. His family is of Mexican descent. Of all the people to be amazed by the images of John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi parable, Escape from New York, none were as captivated as the 12-year-old Rodriguez...
 
67.
Tim Burton
Timothy Walter Burton was born in Burbank, California, to Jean Rae (Erickson), cat-themed gift shop owner, 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)...
 
68.
Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro was born October 9, 1964 in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Raised by his Catholic grandmother, del Toro developed an interest in filmmaking in his early teens. Later, he learned about makeup and effects from the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist) and worked on making his own short films...
 
69.
Ingmar Bergman
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July fourteenth, 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...
 
70.
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...
 
71.
Spike Lee
Director, Inside Man
Spike Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee on March 20, 1957, in Atlanta, Georgia. At a very young age, he moved from pre-civil rights Georgia, to Brooklyn, New York. Lee came from artistic, education-grounded background; his father was a jazz musician, and his mother, a schoolteacher. He attended school in Morehouse College in Atlanta and developed his film making skills at Clark Atlanta University...
 
73.
Abel Ferrara
Director, Bad Lieutenant
Born in the Bronx, Ferrara started making amateur films on Super 8 in his teens before making his debut with violent exploitation films such as 'Driller Killer' and 'Ms.45'. Good reviews for the latter helped create his cult reputation, leading to larger budgets, studio funding and 'name' actors (Christopher Walken...
 
74.
Ivan Reitman
Producer, Ghostbusters
Ivan Reitman, as a producer and director, has created many of American cinema's most successful and best loved feature film comedies and has worked with Hollywood's acting elite. Reitman has produced such hits as the ground-breaking sensation National Lampoon's Animal House, which introduced John Belushi to American filmgoers...
 
76.
Russell Mulcahy
Dynamic film/video director Russell Mulcahy was born June 23, 1953, in Melbourne, Australia. He first gained fame directing visually striking music video clips for such artists as Elton John, Duran Duran, The Buggles and Bonnie Tyler. He is also well known for feature films, starting off with the comedy Derek and Clive Get the Horn...
 
77.
Kevin Smith
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...
 
78.
Richard Linklater
Director, Before Sunset
Self-taught writer-director Richard Stuart Linklater was born in Houston, Texas, to Diane Margaret (Krieger), who taught at a university, and Charles W. Linklater III. Richard was among the first and most successful talents to emerge during the American independent film renaissance of the 1990s. Typically setting each of his movies during one 24-hour period...
 
79.
Sam Raimi
Writer, Spider-Man 3
Highly inventive U.S. film director/producer/writer/actor Sam Raimi first came to the attention of film fans with the savage, yet darkly humorous, low-budget horror film, The Evil Dead. From his childhood, Raimi was a fan of the cinema and, before he was ten-years-old, he was out making movies with an 8mm camera...
 
80.
Mike Nichols
Director, Closer
He, along with the other members of the "Compass Players" including Elaine May, Paul Sills, Byrne Piven, Joyce Hiller Piven and Edward Asner helped start the famed "Second City Improv" company. They used the games taught to them by fellow cast mate, Paul Sills 's mother, Viola Spolin...
 
81.
John Schlesinger
Director, Midnight Cowboy
Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger, who was born in London, on February 16, 1926, was the eldest child in a solidly middle-class Jewish family. Berbard Schlesinger, his father, was a pediatrician, and his mother, Winifred, was a musician. He served in the Army in the Far East during World War II...
 
83.
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...
 
85.
 
86.
Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike was born in the small town of Yao on the outskirts of Osaka, Japan. His main interest growing up was motorbikes, and for a while he harbored ambitions to race professionally. At the age of 18 he went to study at the film school in Yokohama founded by renowned director Shôhei Imamura, primarily because there were no entrance exams...
 
87.
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...
 
89.
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)...