A Sense of Cinema Great Directors

by film geek | created - 22 Oct 2011 | updated - 02 Aug 2012 | Public

1. Tim Burton

Producer | Edward Scissorhands

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 ...

2. Joe Dante

Director | Innerspace

Joe Dante is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art. After a stint as a film reviewer, he began his filmmaking apprenticeship in 1974 as trailer editor for Roger Corman's New World Pictures. He made his directorial debut in 1976 with Hollywood Boulevard (co-directed with Allan Arkush), a ...

3. Woody Allen

Writer | Manhattan

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...

4. Theodoros Angelopoulos

Director | Topio stin omichli

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 ...

5. Gerardo de Leon

Director | Noli me tángere

Gerardo de Leon was born on September 12, 1913 in Manila, Philippines as Gerardo de Leon Ilagan. He was a director and actor, known for Noli me tángere (1961), Huwag Mo Akong Limutin (1960) and El filibusterismo (1962). He died on July 25, 1981 in Manila.

6. Craig Baldwin

Director | Spectres of the Spectrum

Craig Baldwin attended lectures by the experimental film-maker Bruce Conner during his studies at San Francisco State University. He also studied the work of Dziga Vertov, John Heartfield, Robert Nelson, Paul Sharits and other artists who use found images. Baldwin is also active in performance, ...

7. Ritwik Ghatak

Director | Meghe Dhaka Tara

Ritwik Ghatak was born on November 4, 1925 in Dacca, Bengal Presidency, British India as Ritwik Kumar Ghatak. He was a director and writer, known for The Cloud-Capped Star (1960), Madhumati (1958) and Jukti Takka Arr Gappo (1974). He died on February 6, 1976 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India.

8. Stanley Kubrick

Director | 2001: A Space Odyssey

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 ...

9. Akira Kurosawa

Writer | Kakushi-toride no san-akunin

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 (1943). Within a few years, Kurosawa had achieved sufficient stature to allow him greater...

10. 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. ...

11. Jean-Pierre Melville

Actor | À bout de souffle

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 ...

12. Pier Paolo Pasolini

Writer | Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma

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 (1961) was based on his own novel and its violent depiction of the life ...

13. Sam Peckinpah

Writer | Straw Dogs

"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch (1969), 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 ...

14. Ken Russell

Director | The Devils

Ken Russell tried several professions, before choosing to become a film director. He was a still photographer, a dancer and even served in the army, but it was film that was to be Mr. Russell's destiny. He began by making several short films, and those paved the way for his brilliant television ...

15. Éric Rohmer

Director | Ma nuit chez Maud

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, ...

16. John Sayles

Writer | Eight Men Out

A bright child, John Sayles began reading novels before age 9. A Williams grad in 1972, he shunned a corporate career to work various blue-collar jobs, moving to east Boston to take a factory job. He wrote stories and submitted them to various magazines, and the Atlantic Monthly gave him the idea ...

17. Martin Scorsese

Director | Taxi Driver

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 ...

18. Steven Spielberg

Producer | Artificial Intelligence: AI

Undoubtedly one of the most influential personalities in the history of film, Steven Spielberg is perhaps Hollywood's best known director and certainly one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. Spielberg has countless big-grossing, critically acclaimed credits to his name, as producer, ...

19. Andrei Tarkovsky

Writer | Solyaris

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 (1962), which ...

20. Bertrand Tavernier

Director | Un dimanche à la campagne

Bertrand Tavernier was a law student that preferred write film criticisms. He also wrote a few books about American movies. Then his first film won a few awards in France and abroad and established his reputation.

22. Andy Warhol

Director | Blue Movie

Andrew Warhol's father, Ondrej, came from the Austria-Hungary Empire (now Slovakia) in 1912, and sent for his mother, Julia Zavackyová Warholová, 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...

23. Peter Weir

Director | Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Peter Weir was born on August 21, 1944 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia as Peter Lindsay Weir. He is a director and writer, known for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), Witness (1985) and The Truman Show (1998). He has been married to Wendy Stites since 1966. They have two...

24. Edward Yang

Writer | Yi yi

Born on November 6, 1947 in Shanghai, China, Edward Yang has become one of the most talented international filmmakers of his generation. Along with Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang, Yang ranks among the leading artists of the Taiwanese New Wave, and one of the world's most brilliant auteurs. ...

25. Billy Wilder

Writer | The Apartment

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 ...

26. Doris Wishman

Director | Satan Was a Lady

Doris Wishman was born on June 1, 1912 in New York City, New York, USA. She was a director and producer, known for Satan Was a Lady (2001), Diary of a Nudist (1961) and Nude on the Moon (1961). She was married to Lou and Jack Abrahms. She died on August 10, 2002 in Miami, Florida, USA.

27. Peter Jackson

Producer | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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,...

28. Douglas Sirk

Director | Schlußakkord

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, ...

29. Jerzy Skolimowski

Actor | The Avengers

Born in Lódz, Poland, in 1938. Director, playwright, scriptwriter, and actor. Graduated in ethnology, literature and history from Warsaw University in 1959. Graduated from Lódz Film Academy in directing in 1962. Feature debut: _Identification Marks - None_ (Rysopis, 1964, scr., dir, act.), awarded ...

30. Carol Reed

Director | The Third Man

Carol Reed was the second son of stage actor, dramatics teacher and impresario founder of the Royal School of Dramatic Arts Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Reed was one of Tree's six illegitimate children with Beatrice Mae Pinney, who Tree established in a second household apart from his married life. ...

31. Stephen Quay

Director | The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes

The identical twin Brothers Quay (the other being Timothy) were born near Philadelphia in a town with a large European immigrant population, which fuelled their interest in European (especially Eastern European) culture. They moved to London in the late 1960s to study at the Royal College of Art ...

32. Timothy Quay

Director | The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes

The identical twin Brothers Quay (the other being Stephen) were born near Philadelphia in a town with a large European immigrant population, which fuelled their interest in European (especially Eastern European) culture. They moved to London in the late 1960s to study at the Royal College of Art ...

33. Nicolas Roeg

Director | Don't Look Now

When he made his directorial debut in 1970, Nicolas Roeg was already a 23-year veteran of the British film industry, starting out in 1947 as an editing apprentice and working his way up to cinematographer twelve years later. He first came to attention as part of the second unit on David Lean's ...

34. Preston Sturges

Writer | The Great McGinty

Preston Sturges' own life is as unlikely as some of the plots of his best work. He was born into a wealthy family. As a boy he helped out on stage productions for his mother's friend, Isadora Duncan (the scarf that strangled her was made by his mother's company, Maison Desti). He served in the U.S....

35. 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 (1945) and Star in the Night (1945)) which both won Academy Awards. His first feature as a director was ...

36. Roberto Rossellini

Writer | Paisà

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 ...

37. George A. Romero

Writer | Diary of the Dead

George A. Romero never set out to become a Hollywood figure; by all indications, though, he was very successful. The director of the groundbreaking "Living Dead" films was born February 4, 1940 ,in New York City to Ann (Dvorsky) and Jorge Romero. His father was born in Spain and raised in Cuba, and...

38. Tony Richardson

Director | A Taste of Honey

Tony Richardson was born on June 5, 1928 in Shipley, Yorkshire, England as Cecil Antonio Richardson. He was a director and producer, known for A Taste of Honey (1961), Tom Jones (1963) and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962). He was married to Vanessa Redgrave. He died on November 14,...

39. Otto Preminger

Director | Anatomy of a Murder

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 ...

40. Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Writer | All About Eve

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on February 11, 1909, Joseph Leo Mankiewicz first worked for the movies as a translator of intertitles, employed by Paramount in Berlin, the UFA's American distributor at the time (1928). He became a dialoguist, then a screenwriter on numerous Paramount ...

41. Guy Ritchie

Director | Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK on September 10, 1968. After watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 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 ...

42. David Slade

Director | Hard Candy

David Slade was born on September 26, 1969 in the UK. He is a producer and director, known for Hard Candy (2005), Hannibal (2013) and 30 Days of Night (2007).

43. Bill Condon

Director | Dreamgirls

Bill Condon was born on October 22, 1955 in New York City, New York, USA as William Patrick Condon. He is a director and writer, known for Dreamgirls (2006), Kinsey (2004) and Gods and Monsters (1998).

44. Rupert Sanders

Director | Snow White and the Huntsman

Rupert Sanders was born on March 16, 1971 in Westminster, London, England. He is a director and writer, known for Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Ghost in the Shell (2017) and Untitled Rupert Sanders/Sci-Fi Project. He was previously married to Liberty Ross.

45. 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, Milton Cronenberg, was a journalist and editor, and his mother, Esther (Sumberg), was a piano player. After showing an inclination for literature at an early...

46. George Lucas

Writer | Star Wars

George Walton Lucas, Jr. was raised on a walnut ranch in Modesto, California. His father was a stationery store owner and he had three siblings. During his late teen years, he went to Thomas Downey High School and was very much interested in drag racing. He planned to become a professional racecar ...

47. J.J. Abrams

Producer | Lost

Jeffrey Jacob Abrams was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, the son of TV producer parents. Abrams planned on going to dental school, but decided to study film at Sarah Lawrence College. At 15, he wrote the music for Don Dohler's Nightbeast (1982). In his senior year, he and Jill ...

48. Baz Luhrmann

Writer | Moulin Rouge!

Baz's parents did Ballroom competitions, thus growing up around the very subject matter of his first three films.

49. Christopher Nolan

Writer | Interstellar

Best known for his cerebral, often nonlinear storytelling, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of 15 years of filmmaking, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever made.

...

50. Matthew Vaughn

Producer | Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn is an English film producer and director. He is known for producing such films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) and for directing the crime thriller, Layer Cake (2004), the fantasy epic, Stardust (2007), the superhero comedy, Kick-Ass (2010), and the ...

51. Louis Leterrier

Director | The Incredible Hulk

Louis Leterrier was born on June 17, 1973 in Paris, France. He is a director and producer, known for The Incredible Hulk (2008), Now You See Me (2013) and Unleashed (2005).

52. Garry Marshall

Director | Pretty Woman

Garry Marshall was born on November 13, 1934 in New York City, New York, USA as Garry Kent Maschiarelli. He was a writer and producer, known for Pretty Woman (1990), The Princess Diaries (2001) and Happy Days (1974). He was married to Barbara Marshall. He died on July 19, 2016 in Los Angeles, ...

53. Sam Raimi

Director | Spider-Man

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 (1981). From his childhood, Raimi was a fan of the cinema and, before he was ten-years-old, he was out making ...

54. Matthew Vaughn

Producer | Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn is an English film producer and director. He is known for producing such films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) and for directing the crime thriller, Layer Cake (2004), the fantasy epic, Stardust (2007), the superhero comedy, Kick-Ass (2010), and the ...

55. Anne Fontaine

Writer | Les innocentes

Anne Fontaine was born on July 15, 1959 in Luxembourg as Anne Sibertin-Blanc. She is an actress and writer, known for The Innocents (2016), Coco Before Chanel (2009) and Marvin ou la belle éducation (2017). She is married to Philippe Carcassonne. They have one child.

56. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Director | Un long dimanche de fiançailles

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/...