Top 100 German Directors

The list also includes Austrian, Dutch, German-Swiss and Flemish directors.
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1.
Paul Wegener
Actor, The Golem
Paul Wegener was born in Arnoldsdorf, West Prussia, part of the German Empire. His birthplace is currently part of Poland, under the name "Jarantowice". Wegener's family included a number of scientists, the most notable being his cousin Alfred Wegener (1880-1930). Alfred is remembered as the originator of the theory of continental drift...
 
3.
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from Gliwice, Poland. His family was Jewish. After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W...
 
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5.
Fritz Lang
Director, M
He studied at the College of Technical Sciences of Vienna's Academy of Graphic Arts but unhappy with the career path chosen for him by his parents, he ran away to study art in Munich and Paris. He then spent many years travelling the world including Asia. In 1913, he returned to Paris to paint. When World War I began...
 
6.
F.W. Murnau
Director, Nosferatu
Director. First was assistant to Max Reinhardt. Began making movies in Germany in 1919. Went to the USA in 1926.
 
8.
Paul Leni
Art Director, Waxworks
 
9.
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Director, Pandora's Box
Georg Wilhelm Pabst is considered by many to be the greatest director of German cinema, in his era. He was especially appreciated by actors and actresses for the humane way in which he treated them. This was in contrast to some of his contemporaries, such as Arnold Fanck, who have been characterized as martinets.
 
10.
Joe May
A businessman and operetta director, Joe May, one of the founders of the German cinema, started directing films in 1911 and started his own production company a few years later. He gave famous German director Fritz Lang his start in films, employing him as a screenwriter in his early films. After the Nazi takeover...
 
12.
Josef von Sternberg
Director, The Blue Angel
Josef von Sternberg split his childhood between Vienna and New York City. His father, a former soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, could not support his family in either city; Sternberg remembered him only as "an enormously strong man who often used his strength on me." Forced by poverty to drop out of high school...
 
13.
Curt Siodmak
Writer, The Wolfman
Born in Dresden, Germany, in 1902, Curt Siodmak worked as an engineer and a newspaper reporter before entering the literary and movie fields. It was as a reporter that he got his first break (of sorts) in films: in 1926 he and his reporter-wife hired on as extras on Fritz Lang's Metropolis in order to get a story on the director and his film...
 
18.
Max Reinhardt
Max Reinhardt was from an Austrian merchant family (surname officially changed from the family name Goldmann to Reinhardt in 1904), and even as a boy, after his family moved to Vienna, he haunted the "Hofburg Theater" and tried to see every play. In 1890 he studied at the Sulkowsky Theater in Matzleinsdorf...
 
19.
Leni Riefenstahl
Leni Riefenstahl's show-biz experience began with an experiment: she wanted to know what it felt like to dance on the stage. Success as a dancer gave way to film acting when she attracted the attention of film director Arnold Fanck, subsequently starring in some of his mountaineering pictures. With Fanck as her mentor, Riefenstahl began directing films...
 
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21.
William Dieterle
Born in Ludwigshafen, Germany, Wilhelm Dieterle was the youngest of nine children of parents Jacob and Berthe Dieterle. They lived in poverty, and when he was old enough to work, young Wilhelm earned money as a carpenter and a scrap dealer. He dreamed of better things, though, and theater caught his eye as a teen...
 
22.
Ernst Lubitsch
From Ernst Lubitsch's experiences in Sophien Gymnasium (high school) theater, he decided to leave school at the age of 16 and pursue a career on the stage. He had to compromise with his father and keep the account books for the family tailor business while he acted in cabarets and music halls at night...
 
24.
Herbert Selpin
Director, Titanic
Dissatisfied with the scenario of the film Titanic, Selpin openly critised its writer Walter Zerlett-Olfenius and the whole German Navy. Goebbels had him arrested by the Gestapo. Selpin was found hung in his cell the following day. Suicide or murder?
 
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28.
Robert Siodmak
Director, The Killers
The director Robert Siodmak (which he insisted, be pronounced 'See-odd-mack') was a masterful film maker who successfully blended the techniques of German Expressionism with contemporary styles of American film, particularly film noir, in the process creating a handful of moody, sometimes chilling, and always memorable motion pictures...
 
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32.
Peter Lorre
Actor, Casablanca
Peter was born in Rózsahegy, Hungary, to Alois and Elvira Löwenstein. He was educated in elementary and secondary schools in Vienna, Austria. He ran away from home when he was 17 and joined an improvised theater. In 1922, he worked as a bank clerk. Did bits with a company in Breslau, then secured a part in Galsworthy's "Society" in Zurich...
 
33.
Fred Zinnemann
Director, High Noon
Initially grew up wanting to be a violinist, but while at the University of Vienna decided to study law. While doing so, he became increasingly interested in American film and decided that was what he wanted to do. He became involved in European filmaking for a short time before going to America to study film.
 
34.
Otto Preminger
Otto Ludwig Preminger was born in Wiznitz, Bukovina, Austria-Hungary. His father was a prosecutor, and Otto originally intended to follow his father into a law career; however, he fell in love with the theater and became a stage director. He directed his first film in 1931, and came to the US in 1936 to direct on the Broadway stage...
 
35.
Henry Koster
Director, Harvey
Henry Koster was born Herman Kosterlitz in Berlin, Germany, on May 1, 1905. His maternal grandfather was a famous operatic tenor, Julius Salomon (who died of tuberculosis in the 1880s). His father was a salesman of ladies unmentionables who left the family while Henry was at a young age, leaving him to support the family...
 
36.
Max Ophüls
Director, Lola Montès
Director Max Ophüls was born Max Oppenheimer in Saarbrücken, Germany. He began his career as a stage actor and director in the golden twenties. He worked in cities such as Stuttgart, Dortmund, Wuppertal, Vienna, Frankfurt, Breslau and Berlin. In 1929 his son Marcel Ophüls was born in Frankfurt, Germany...
 
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38.
Kurt Neumann
Director, The Fly
 
39.
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...
 
40.
Douglas Sirk
Film director Douglas Sirk, whose reputation blossomed in the generation after his 1959 retirement from Hollywood filmmaking, was born Hans Detlef Sierck on April 26, 1897, in Hamburg, Germany, to a journalist. Both of his parents were Danish, and the future director would make movies in German, Danish and English...
 
41.
Konrad Wolf
He was the son of the German dramatist Friedrich Wolf. He left Germany with his family for the USSR and came back to Germany as a nineteen year old Lieutenant in the Russian Army in 1945. Was a short time commander of the town Bernau near Berlin in Spring 1945. _Ich war 19 (1968)_ is an autobiographical movie about this time.
 
43.
Alexander Kluge
Writer. Director. Producer. Studied law and graduated. Was one of the founders of the Oberhausener Manifest in 1962. Since 1962 Headmaster of the 'Institut fuer Filmgestaltung' at the 'Hochschule fuer Gestaltung' in Ulm, Germany. Since 1988 produces broadcastings dealing with cultural aspects in German private TV channels RTL and SAT.1 in his own responsibility (DCTP program).
 
46.
André Delvaux
After having studied German philology, law, piano and composition Andre Delvaux filmed some TV documenturies. In 1965 he debuted at the movies with a film adapted from a novel of 'Johan Daisne'. His films always played in a set between reality and fantasy. Writing his own scripts he filmed e.g. "Femme...
 
47.
Ulrich Schamoni
Director, Es
 
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49.
Jesús Franco
He was only six years old when he started composing music under the protection of his brother Enrique. After the Spanish Civil War he was able to continue his studies at the Real Conservatorio de Madrid, where he finished piano and harmony. Being a Bachelor of Law and an easy-read novel writer (under the pseudonym David Khume)...
“ A Spanish director who worked in Germany in the 1960s and made more than 20 horror films including Necronomicon - Geträumte Sünden ” - minalex
 
51.
Peter Fleischmann
Director. Writer. Studied at the Deutsches Institut fuer Film und Fernsehen (DIFF) in Munich, Germany, as well as at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographiques (IDHEC) in Paris, France. In 1969 he founded the production company Hallelujah Film together with Volker Schlöndorff. Since 1992 he is co-manager of the Babelsberg studios in Potsdam, Germany (former UFA/DEFA).
 
52.
Werner Schroeter
The key person of the New German Cinema of the '70s. His works, mostly shot in 16mm, combine an intense interest and knowledge of German history and personal dramatic and emotional investigations. Malina which stars Isabelle Huppert is one of the great classics of modern cinema and deals with a perpetually burning apartment...
 
53.
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.
 
55.
Klaus Lemke
Director, Amore
 
56.
Volker Schlöndorff
Director, The Tin Drum
Has studied economy and political sciences as well as at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinematographique (IDHEC) in Paris, France. Worked as an assistant director with Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville and Alain Resnais. Founded his own production company Bioskop Film together with Reinhard Hauff and Eberhard Junkersdorf in 1973...
 
57.
Margarethe von Trotta
Director, Hannah Arendt
Margarethe von Trotta was born in Berlin in 1942. In the 1960s she moved to Paris where she worked for film collectives, collaborating on scripts and co-directing short films. She also pursued an acclaimed acting career, starring in films by well known German directors such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Volker Schlöndorff...
 
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61.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Above all, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a rebel whose life and art was marked by gross contradiction. Openly homosexual, he married twice; one of his wives acted in his films and the other served as his editor. Accused variously by detractors of being anticommunist, male chauvinist, antiSemitic and even antigay...
 
63.
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...
 
64.
Dick Maas
Writer, Sint
 
65.
Edgar Reitz
Studied theatre science, German philology, art history, and publicism in Munich. Published some poems and short stories during early 1950s, co-edited the literature magazine "Spuren". In 1952, he took acting lessons, co-founded a student theatre which became established as the university's studio stage in 1954...
 
67.
Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders is an Oscar-nominated German filmmaker who was born Ernst Wilhelm Wenders on August 14, 1945 in Düsseldorf, which then was located in the British Occupation Zone of what became the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany, known colloquially as West Germany until reunification)...
 
69.
Percy Adlon
Director, Bagdad Cafe
Percy Adlon is best known for his film "Bagdad Cafe" aka "Out of Rosenheim". He was born in Munich, June 1, 1935, and grew up in Ammerland/Starnbergersee, in the Bavarian countryside. He studied art and theater history, and German literature at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilian University, took acting and singing classes...
 
71.
Ulrike Ottinger
Director. Writer. Has studied arts in Munich, Germany. Worked as a painter and photographer in Paris, France. Has staged several plays of Elfriede Jelinek in Graz, Austria.
 
74.
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...
 
75.
Harun Farocki
Writer, Phoenix
The German film director, screenwriter and media artist Harun Farocki was born on the 9th January 1944 in Nový Jicín [Neutitschein], at that time a part of Czechoslovakia annexed by the Third Reich. He was the son of an immigrated Indian doctor and a German woman. Farocki first studied Theatre, Sociology and Journalism at the 'Freie Universität (FU)' in West-Berlin...
 
76.
Jan de Bont
Cinematographer, Die Hard
Jan de Bont was born in the Netherlands to a Roman Catholic Dutch family on the 22 of October 1943. He has always had a creative mind and good mentality for camera techniques and soon got into film as a popular cinematographer. He worked on a huge number of films before finding himself on the production of the film Speed...
 
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80.
Michael Haneke
A true master of his craft, Michael Haneke is one of the greatest film artists working today and one who challenges his viewers each year and work goes by, with films that reflect real portions of life in realistic, disturbing and unforgettable ways. One of the most genuine filmmakers of the world cinema...
 
81.
Tom Tykwer
Composer, Cloud Atlas
Director, writer, producer and composer Tom Tykwer was born in 1965 in Wuppertal, Germany. He showed an interest in film-making from childhood, making super 8 films from the age of 11. Among his first jobs was working at a local art-house cinema. Tykwer eventually relocated to Berlin, first working as a film projectionist and then becoming head of programming at the Moviemento Theater...
 
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83.
Wolfgang Becker
Director, Good Bye Lenin!
Director. Cinematographer. Writer. Studied germanistics, history and americanistics in film, Berlin, Germany. Studied at the Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie (DFFB) in Berlin, Germany.
 
84.
Oliver Hirschbiegel
Director, Downfall
Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1957. In his teens he left high school and worked as a cooker in a boat. Then he studied painting and graphism in the Academy of arts in Hamburg where he also started experimenting with video and photography. Those experimental movies attracted the attention of some producers of the German TV...
 
85.
Götz Spielmann
Director, Revanche
Born in Wels in 1961, grew up in Vienna. Started writing and directing while still in school. His first film was aired on television in 1978. In 1980 he started studying screenwriting and directing at the Vienna Film Academy. Two films completed during his studies received international prizes and were screened at the Stadtkino...
 
88.
Fatih Akin
Director, Head-On
Fatih Akin was born in 1973 in Hamburg of Turkish parentage. He began studying Visual Communications at Hamburg's College of Fine Arts in 1994. His collaboration with Wueste Film also dates from this time. In 1995, he wrote and directed his first short feature, "Sensin - You're The One!" ("Sensin - Du bist es!")...
 
90.
Dennis Gansel
Director, The Wave
Born in 1973 in Hannover, Germany, Dennis Gansel studied at Munich Film School HFF. Remarkably his first feature length movie Das Phantom was shot while he was still studying. Between his movies Girls on Top, Before the Fall and The Wave he spent a long time struggling for the budget of the films. During these times he shot commercials. Dennis Gansel lives in Berlin.
 
91.
Robert Schwentke
Director, RED
 
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Roland Emmerich
Roland Emmerich is a German film director and producer 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...
 
95.
Jan Vogel
Cinematographer, Wasted Youth
 
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Christian Petzold
Director, Phoenix
Christian Petzold was born in Hilden in 1960. After studying German and Drama at the Freie Universität Berlin, he enrolled in Berlin's German Academy for Film and Television (DFFB). There he studied film direction while at same time working as an assistant director to Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky...
 
100.
Maren Ade
Producer, Toni Erdmann
Maren Ade was born in Karlsruhe on 12 December 1976 to a couple of teachers.She studied cinema at Munich's Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film. As of 2001 she co-founded, together with Janine Jackowski, a fellow graduate from HFF, the "Komplizen" film company. It is through Komplizen that Maren would later co-produce...