Independent cinema directors

Best independent cinema directors of all time, in no particular order.
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1.
Jean-Jacques Annaud
Jean-Jacques Annaud is a French film director, screenwriter and producer, best known for directing Quest for Fire, The Name of the Rose, The Lover, Seven Years in Tibet and Wolf Totem. Annaud has received numerous awards for his work, including four César Awards, one David di Donatello Award, and one National Academy of Cinema Award...
 
2.
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...
 
3.
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...
 
4.
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...
 
5.
Andy Warhol
Director, Chelsea Girls
Andrew Warhol's father, Ondrej, came from the Austria-Hungary Empire (now Slovakia) in 1912, and sent for his mother, Julia Zavacky Warhola, in 1921. His father worked as a construction worker and later as a coal miner. Around some time, the family moved to Pittsburgh. During his teenage years, Andy suffered from several nervous breakdowns...
 
8.
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)...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
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...
 
13.
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...
 
15.
Carl Theodor Dreyer
The illegitimate son of a Danish farmer and his Swedish housekeeper, Carl Theodor Dreyer was born in Copenhagen on the 3th of February, 1889. He spent his early years in various foster homes before being adopted by the Dreyers at the age of two. Contrary to popular belief (perhaps nourished by the fact...
 
17.
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...
 
18.
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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20.
Jean-Pierre Dardenne
After studying drama in the arts institute, Jean Pierre Dardenne and his brother Luc made some videos about the rough life in blue-collar small towns in the Wallonie. After their meeting with filmmaker Armad Gatti and cinematographer Ned Burgess, they decided to enter in the movie business. In 1978 they shot their first documentary...
“ & Luc Dardenne ” - adrianvieitez
 
21.
Jacques Audiard
Writer, A Prophet
Born in Paris, France, in 1952. Jacques Audiard's family has always been involved in movie business. His father, Michel, was a popular screenwriter and director and his uncle a producer. But in his teens he refused that world and wanted to be a teacher. He studied literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne but didn't finish his degree...
 
22.
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...
 
23.
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...
 
24.
Catherine Breillat
Catherine Breillat is a Paris based filmmaker and writer who became famous for her distinctively personal films on sexuality, gender trouble and sibling rivalry. Accused of being a "porno auteuriste", Breillat allowed for an unbiased view of sexuality and extended the language of mainstream movies. She is also a best-selling novelist and wrote her first novel...
 
25.
Robert Bresson
Robert Bresson trained as a painter before moving into films as a screenwriter, making a short film (atypically a comedy), Public Affairs in 1934. After spending more than a year as a German POW during World War II, he made his debut with Angels of Sin in 1943. His next film, Les dames du Bois de Boulogne would be the last time he would work with professional actors...
 
26.
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...
 
27.
Leos Carax
Director, Holy Motors
Leos Carax made several short films and also wrote film criticism, then at the age of 24 years made a very strong first feature Boy Meets Girl. The film played at the 1984 Cannes film festival and was a critical triumph. It paved the way for Carax's second feature Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood). That film was a giant step forward in the same direction that he was going in with his first film...
 
28.
Claude Chabrol
Director, La Cérémonie
French film director considered a master in the mystery genre. He is credited with starting the "nouvelle vague" French film movement.
 
29.
Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau was one of the most multi-talented artists of the 20th century. In addition to being a director, he was a poet, novelist, painter, playwright, set designer, and actor. He began writing at 10 and was a published poet by age 16. He collaborated with the "Russian Ballet" company of Sergei Diaghilev...
 
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31.
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...
 
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33.
Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta on May 2, 1921. His father, Sukumar Ray was an eminent poet and writer in the history of Bengali literature. In 1940, after receiving his degree in science and economics from Calcutta University, he attended Tagore's Viswa-Bharati University. His first movie Pather Panchali won several International Awards and set Ray as a world-class director...
 
34.
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...
 
36.
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...
 
37.
Dino Risi
Dino Risi became a movie director by chance. In 1940 he met Alberto Lattuada at a friend's boutique. Lattuada told him they needed an assistant director for the movie Piccolo mondo antico. Risi accepted just for fun, not for work. Later, he became a psychiatrist and wrote some articles for a local newspaper in his spare time...
 
38.
Jacques Rivette
Although François Truffaut has written that the New Wave began "thanks to Rivette," the films of this masterful French director are not well known. Rivette, like his "Cahiers du Cinéma" colleagues Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer, did graduate to filmmaking but, like Rohmer...
 
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42.
F.W. Murnau
Director, Nosferatu
He studied art and literature history at the University of Heidelberg. During World War I, he was a combat pilot.
 
43.
Max Ophüls
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...
 
45.
Nagisa Ôshima
Born in Kyoto, Japan. Studied law at Kyoto University. After graduation, joined the Shochiku Film Company in 1954 as an assistant director.
 
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47.
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.
 
48.
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...
 
49.
Nikita Mikhalkov
Russian film-maker and actor Nikita Sergeyevich Mikhalkov was born on October, 21, 1945, a son of a well-known Russian poet Sergey Mikhalkov, who provided lyrics for the Russian anthem, and Natalya Petrovna Konchalovskaya, also a poet. As a child he was exposed to genuine literary talk at home, which was a fulcrum for a Russian art community...
 
50.
Nanni Moretti
Nanni Moretti was born on the 19th of August, 1953. He lives in Rome, where since he was a kid he devotes himself to his two passions: cinema and water-polo. In 1970 he also played in water-polo first division in Italy, and in the junior National team. In those years he was also very committed in politcs...
 
51.
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...
 
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53.
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...
 
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56.
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...
 
57.
David Lynch
Born in 1946 in Missoula, Montana, David Lynch was raised in small-town America. After high school, he went to Boston to attend the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Shortly after that, he planned a three-year trip to Europe to work on his art, but didn't take to it and left after 15 days. In 1977...
 
58.
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...
 
61.
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)_...
 
62.
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...
 
63.
Kar-Wai Wong
Wong Kar-wai (born 17 July 1956) is a Hong Kong Second Wave filmmaker, internationally renowned as an auteur for his visually unique, highly stylised, emotionally resonant work, including Ah fei zing zyun (1990), Dung che sai duk (1994), Chung Hing sam lam (1994), Do lok tin si (1995), Chun gwong cha sit (1997)...
 
64.
Abbas Kiarostami
Abbas Kiarostami was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1940. He graduated from university with a degree in fine arts before starting work as a graphic designer. He then joined the Center for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, where he started a film section, and this started his career as a filmmaker at the age of 30...
 
65.
Ki-duk Kim
He studied fine arts in Paris in 1990-1992. In 1993 he won the award for Best Screenplay from the Educational Institute of Screenwriting with "A Painter and A Criminal Condemned to Death". After two more screenplay awards, he made his directorial debut with Crocodile. Then he went on to direct Wild Animals...
 
66.
Takeshi Kitano
Takeshi Kitano was born in Tokyo in 1947 and entered show business in 1972 as "Beat" Takeshi, the stage name he continues to use today as a performer. As part of the comic duo Two Beats, Kitano was one of the leading figures in the manzai (stand-up comedy) boom in the late 1970s. With his distinctive art of speech and his idiosyncratic perspective...
 
68.
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Mr. Kieslowski started his career shooting documentaries and later became associated with the "cinema of moral anxiety" movement. It grouped several Polish directors, including Krzysztof Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda, and aimed at depicting the conditions of Poles under communism. His best known work was the Three Colors trilogy: Three Colors: Red...
 
69.
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...
 
70.
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...
 
71.
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)...
 
72.
Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway trained as a painter and began working as a film editor for the Central Office of Information in 1965. Shortly afterwards he started to make his own films. He has produced a wealth of short and feature-length films, but also paintings, novels and other books. He has held several one-man shows and curated exhibitions at museums world-wide.
 
74.
Hal Hartley
Director, Trust
Hal Hartley is an American filmmaker, writer, director, producer, and composer who has made twelve feature films since 1988. Popularly associated with the American independent filmmaking scene of the early nineties, he went on to write and direct such films as No Such Thing (2001) for United Artists and Fay Grim (2006) for HD Net Films...
 
76.
Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Writer, The Assassin
Of the ten films that Hsiao-Hsien Hou directed between 1980 and 1989, seven received best film or best director awards from prestigious international films festivals in Venice, Berlin, Hawaii, and the Festival of the Three Continents in Nantes. In a 1988 worldwide critics' poll, Hou was championed as "one of the three directors most crucial to the future of cinema." Hou's birthplace...
 
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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...
 
81.
Dziga Vertov
Born in Bialystok, Poland, studied music and enrolled in St. Petersburg Neurological Institute in 1916. Worked on first Soviet newsreel, Kinonedelia (1918-1919), then on subsequent newsreel series (inc. Kinopravda, 1922-1925).
 
82.
Jacques Tati
The comic genius Jacques Tati was born Taticheff, descended from a noble Russian family. His grandfather, Count Dimitri, had been a general in the Imperial Army and had served as military attaché to the Russian Embassy in Paris. His father, Emmanuel Taticheff, was a well-to-do picture framer who conducted his business in the fashionable Rue de Castellane and had taken a Dutch-Italian woman...
 
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84.
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)...
 
85.
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)...
 
86.
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...
 
88.
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...
 
89.
Aleksandr Sokurov
Director, Russkiy kovcheg
Alexandr Sokurov is a Russian director of avant-garde and independent films that have won him international acclaim. A son of an army officer, Sokurov was born in 1951, and spent his childhood traveling with his family around Russia as his father was transferred from one location to another. This fast change of places and schools kept him lonely...
 
90.
Roberto Rossellini
The master filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, as one of the creators of neo-realism, is one of the most influential directors of all time. His neo-realist films influenced France's nouvelle vague movement in the 1950s and '60s that changed the face of international cinema. He also influenced American directors, including Martin Scorsese...
 
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93.
Éric Rohmer
Admirers have always had difficulty explaining Éric Rohmer's "Je ne sais quoi." Part of the challenge stems from the fact that, despite his place in French Nouvelle Vague (i.e., New Wave), his work is unlike that of his colleagues. While this may be due to the auteur's unwillingness to conform, some have argued convincingly that...
 
94.
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)...
 
96.
Robert Wise
Robert Earl Wise was born on September 10, 1914 in Winchester, Indiana, the youngest of three sons of Olive R. (Longenecker) and Earl Waldo Wise, a meat packer. His parents were both of Pennsylvania Dutch (German) descent. At age nineteen, the avid moviegoer came into the film business through an odd job at RKO Radio Pictures...
 
97.
Valerio Zurlini
Valerio Zurlini was born on March 19, 1926. During his law studies in Rome, he started working in the theatre. In 1943, he joined the Italian resistance. Zurlini became a member of the Italian Communist Party. He filmed short documentaries in the immediate post-war period and in 1954 directed his first feature film...
 
99.
Lars von Trier
Writer, Melancholia
Lars von Trier (the "von" was adopted during his stay at the Danish Film School) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark in April 1956. He graduated from the Danish Film School in 1983 with his short film Befrielsesbilleder ("Images of Relief"), which won the Best Film award at the Munich Film Festival the following year...
 
100.
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 seven) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr...