best 65 directors of all time

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1.
Cecil B. DeMille
His parents Henry C. DeMille and Beatrice DeMille were playwrights. His father died when he was 12, and his mother supported the family by opening a school for girls and a theatrical company. Too young to enlist in the Spanish-American War, Cecil followed his brother William C. de Mille to the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts...
 
2.
John Ford
Director, The Searchers
John Ford is, arguably, The Great American Director. When Orson Welles, who repeatedly screened Ford's Stagecoach as a crash course in filmmaking before helming his first film, Citizen Kane, was asked who his three favorite directors were, he answered, "John Ford, John Ford, and John Ford." Along with D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille...
 
3.
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)...
 
4.
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...
 
5.
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...
 
6.
John Huston
An eccentric rebel of epic proportions, this Hollywood titan reigned supreme as director, screenwriter and character actor in a career that endured over five decades. The ten-time Oscar-nominated legend was born John Marcellus Huston in Nevada, Missouri, on August 5, 1906. His ancestry included English...
 
7.
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...
 
9.
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)...
 
10.
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...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
Sergio Leone
Sergio Leone was an Italian film director, producer and screenwriter, credited as the inventor of "Spaghetti Western" genre. Leone's film-making style includes juxtaposing extreme close-up shots with lengthy long shots. His movies include the sword and sandal action films The Last Days of Pompeii and The Colossus of Rhodes...
 
13.
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...
 
14.
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 nineteen and worked odd jobs over a period of several years before enrolling at Los Angeles City College...
 
15.
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...
 
16.
Sydney Pollack
Director, Tootsie
Sydney Pollack was an Academy Award-winning director, producer, actor, writer and public figure, who directed and produced over 40 films. Sydney Irwin Pollack was born July 1, 1934 in Lafayette, Indiana, USA, to Rebecca (Miller), a homemaker, and David Pollack, a professional boxer turned pharmacist...
 
17.
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...
 
18.
Robert Redford
Actor, The Sting
Charles Robert Redford, Jr. was born on August 18, 1936, in Santa Monica, California, to Martha (Hart), from Texas, and Charles Robert Redford, an accountant for Standard Oil, who was originally from Connecticut. He is of English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Robert's mother died in 1955, the year after he graduated from high school...
 
19.
Ridley Scott
Producer, Blade Runner
Ridley Scott is an English film director and producer. Following his commercial breakthrough with the science-fiction horror film Alien (1979), his best known works are the noir science fiction film Blade Runner (1982), crime drama Thelma & Louise (1991), historical drama and Best Picture Oscar winner Gladiator (2000)...
 
20.
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...
 
21.
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...
 
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.
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...
 
25.
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...
 
26.
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...
 
27.
Mike Newell
Attended Cambridge University. Three year training course at Granada Television, with intention of going into theatre. Graduated to directing TV plays, building strong reputation for work with David Hare, David Edgar, Hohn, John Osborne, Jack Rosenthal.
 
28.
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...
 
29.
Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese directed landmark films such as the crime film Mean Streets (1973), the vigilante-thriller Taxi Driver (1976), the biographical sports drama Raging Bull (1980), the black comedy The King of Comedy (1983), and the crime films Goodfellas (1990) and Casino (1995), all of which he collaborated on with actor and close friend Robert De Niro...
 
30.
Gregory Hoblit
Producer, Frequency
Gregory Hoblit was born in Texas but moved to Northern California at a young age because of his father's job in law enforcement, a hint at what might have attracted the mystery/courtroom plots of his movie/TV credits. After graduating from UCLA, he worked as a TV co-producer with Steven Bochco until directing the 80s series...
 
31.
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...
 
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33.
Tony Scott
Director, Top Gun
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...
 
34.
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...
 
35.
George Lucas
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 Downey High School and was very much interested in drag racing. He planned to become a professional race-car driver...
 
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37.
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...
 
38.
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...
 
39.
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...
 
40.
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...
 
41.
Pedro Almodóvar
Writer, Talk to Her
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...
 
42.
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)...
 
44.
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...
 
45.
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...
 
47.
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...
 
48.
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...
 
50.
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...
 
51.
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...
 
53.
Lars von Trier
Writer, Melancholia
Probably the most ambitious and visually distinctive filmmaker to emerge from Denmark since Carl Theodor Dreyer over 60 years earlier, Lars von Trier studied film at the Danish Film School and attracted international attention with his very first feature, The Element of Crime. A highly distinctive blend of film noir and German Expressionism with stylistic nods to Dreyer...
 
54.
Mel Gibson
Actor, Braveheart
Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson was born January 3, 1956 in Peekskill, New York, USA, as the sixth of eleven children of Hutton Gibson, a railroad brakeman, and Anne Patricia (Reilly) Gibson (who died in December of 1990). His mother was Irish, from County Longford, while his American-born father is of mostly Irish descent...
 
55.
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...
 
56.
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)...
 
57.
Spike Lee
Director, Malcolm X
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...
 
58.
Nick Cassavetes
Director, The Notebook
Nick Cassavetes was born in New York City, the son of actress Gena Rowlands and Greek-American actor and film director John Cassavetes. As a child, he appeared in two of his father's films: Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence. After spending so much of his youth surrounded by the film industry, Cassavetes initially decided he did not want to go into the field...
 
59.
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...
 
60.
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...
 
61.
Michael Bay
Producer, Transformers
A graduate of Wesleyan University, Michael Bay spent his 20s working on advertisements and music videos. His first projects after film school were in the music video business. He created music videos for Tina Turner, Meat Loaf, Lionel Richie, Wilson Phillips, Donny Osmond and The Divinyls...
 
62.
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...
 
63.
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...
 
64.
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...
 
65.
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...