AMC Movie Guide's 50 Greatest Directors of All Time

by Filmsite.org's Tim Dirk. (in order)
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1.
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)...
“ "A master of suspense and gallows humor, he turned out classic after classic, including Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds." ” - crunk_juice19
 
2.
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...
“ "He made science trippy in 2001, Cold War politics slapstick in Dr. Strangelove, and Roman slaves au courant in Spartacus." ” - crunk_juice19
 
3.
Martin Scorsese
After serious deliberations about entering the priesthood - he entered a seminary in 1956 - Martin Scorsese opted to channel his passions into film. He graduated from NYU as a film major in 1964. Catching the eye of producer Roger Corman with his 1960s student films (including co-editing Woodstock)...
“ "You talkin' to him? No one captures alienated men on the edge the way he's done in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Departed." ” - crunk_juice19
 
4.
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...
“ "He reworked the the genre crowd-pleasers of his youth into the modern blockbusters Jaws, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark." ” - crunk_juice19
 
5.
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...
“ "Larger than life, he debuted with the dazzling Citizen Kane, then he saw studios hack up The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil." ” - crunk_juice19
 
6.
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...
“ "Part of the first generation of film-school directors, he went from Dementia 13 to epics (The Godfather) and small gems (Rumble Fish)." ” - crunk_juice19
 
7.
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...
“ "A brilliant pop-culture collagist, he thrilled movie lovers with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and the Kill Bill series." ” - crunk_juice19
 
8.
“ "Joel and Ethan Coen are smart alecks with heart, combining dark humour, violence, and potent themes in movies like Fargo and True Grit." ” - crunk_juice19
 
9.
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...
“ "The TV actor turned spaghetti-Western star became an A-list director with Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby." ” - crunk_juice19
 
10.
Charles Chaplin
Writer, Modern Times
Charles Chaplin was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the silent era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona "the Tramp" and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry. His career spanned more than 75 years...
“ "He was a genius of silent comedy and one of its first stars. The Tramp and Modern Times are still comic icons." ” - crunk_juice19
 
11.
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...
“ "In Sleeper, Annie Hall, and Manhattan, he invited moviegoers to laugh at urban neurotics, then got serious in Interiors." ” - crunk_juice19
 
12.
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...
“ "A TV-commercial star turned stylish auteur, he made the cool, slick, Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma & Louise." ” - crunk_juice19
 
13.
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...
“ "The quintessential Westerner, he made icons of Monument Valley and John Wayne in the classics Stagecoach and The Searchers." ” - crunk_juice19
 
14.
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...
“ "His wit and unflinching eye for hypocrisy produced Sunset Blvd. and Ace in the Hole along with the gender-bending Some Like It Hot." ” - crunk_juice19
 
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...
“ "In Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, this international moviemaker probed dark passions and destructive desires." ” - crunk_juice19
 
16.
Frank Capra
One of seven children, Frank Capra was born on May 18, 1897, in Bisacquino, Sicily. On May 10, 1903, his family left for America aboard the ship Germania, arriving in New York on May 23rd. "There's no ventilation, and it stinks like hell. They're all miserable. It's the most degrading place you could ever be," Capra said about his Atlantic passage...
“ "Sentimental but not sappy, his best movies (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life) wrap dark themes in happy endings." ” - crunk_juice19
 
17.
Michael Powell
Director, The Red Shoes
The son of Thomas William Powell & Mabel (nee Corbett). Michael Powell was always a self confessed movie addict. He was brought up partly in Canterbury ("The Garden of England") and partly in the South of France (where his parents ran an hotel). Educated at Kings School, Canterbury & Dulwich College he first worked at the National Provincial Bank from 1922 - 1925...
“ "The U.K. screenwriter-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made popular art movies like Black Narcissus and Peeping Tom." ” - crunk_juice19
 
18.
David Lean
David Lean was an English film director, producer, screenwriter and editor, best remembered for big-screen epics such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965). He is also known for the Dickens adaptations of Great Expectations (1946) and Oliver Twist (1948), as well as the romantic drama Brief Encounter (1945)...
“ "From Lawrence of Arabia to Doctor Zhivago, his movies proved that no desert is as deep or wide as the landscape of the human heart." ” - crunk_juice19
 
19.
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...
“ "This New Zealand-born movie buff started small with the low-budget Bad Taste and worked his way up to the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy." ” - crunk_juice19
 
20.
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...
“ "Artistic, macho, and intellectual, Huston had a career spanning four decades, from The Maltese Falcon to Prizzi's Honor." ” - crunk_juice19
 
21.
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...
“ "His nightmarish Eraserhead paved the way for increasingly surreal movies in mainstream-thriller guises, from Blue Velvet to Mulholland Dr." ” - crunk_juice19
 
22.
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...
“ "Metropolis still defines the future, and thrillers like The Woman in the Window and The Big Heat probed America's past." ” - crunk_juice19
 
23.
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan, known for his creative stage direction, was born "Elia Kazanjoglous" in Istanbul in 1909 to Greek parents. He directed such Broadway plays as "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". He directed the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire and also films written for the screen...
“ "In A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, this controversial director made gritty psychological dramas in resonance." ” - crunk_juice19
 
24.
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...
“ "Never sacrificing a laugh to good taste, Brooks made the sublimely rude Blazing Saddles, Producers, and Young Frankenstein." ” - crunk_juice19
 
25.
Howard Hawks
Director, The Big Sleep
What do the classic films Scarface, Twentieth Century, Bringing Up Baby, Only Angels Have Wings, His Girl Friday, Sergeant York, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Red River Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Rio Bravo have in common? Aside from their displays of great craftsmanship, the answer is director Howard Hawks...
“ "Funny, tough, and funny-tough, he went from Scarface to His Girl Friday and from To Have and Have Not to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." ” - crunk_juice19
 
26.
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)...
“ "Inspired by Halloween and Johnny Depp, this visual stylist made Beetle Juice, Batman, and The Nightmare Before Christmas." ” - crunk_juice19
 
27.
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...
“ "Countercultural attitudes, intersecting stories, and overlapping dialogue distinguish his movies, notably MASH and Nashville." ” - crunk_juice19
 
28.
William Wyler
Director, Ben-Hur
William Wyler was an American filmmaker who, at the time of his death in 1981, was considered by his peers as second only to John Ford as a master craftsman of cinema. The winner of three Best Director Academy Awards, second again only to Ford's four, Wyler's reputation has unfairly suffered as...
“ "His elegant storytelling made dramas (The Best Years of Our Lives), romances (Roman Holiday), and epics (Ben-Hur) sparkle." ” - crunk_juice19
 
29.
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...
“ "Provocative, bombastic, and politically contrarian, he's courted controversy in Midnight Express, Natural Born Killers, and JFK." ” - crunk_juice19
 
30.
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...
“ "Malick's brooding, intellectual anti-Hollywood masterpieces include Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line." ” - crunk_juice19
 
31.
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...
“ "A seventies film-school prodigy, he made Carrie and Scarface but specialized in Hitchcockian thrillers like Dressed to Kill and Body Double." ” - crunk_juice19
 
32.
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...
“ "He was the first master of big-budget even movies, with two Ten Commandments films and The Greatest Show on Earth." ” - crunk_juice19
 
33.
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)...
“ "He used new technologies to seamlessly combine reality and fantasy in movies like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit." ” - crunk_juice19
 
34.
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...
“ "Not only did he create the Star Wars mythos, but he drove the development of widely used sound and special-effects technology." ” - crunk_juice19
 
35.
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...
“ "He escaped the low-budget likes of Piranha Part Two to make the sci-fi spectacles Terminator, Aliens, and Avatar." ” - crunk_juice19
 
36.
Michael Curtiz
Director, Casablanca
The director Michael Curtiz was an American director of Hungarian origin and an Oscar-winner. He received his diploma from the School for Dramatic Arts in 1906. He then went to live in Pécs, then in Szeged. Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. The next year...
“ "He made Casablanca and Elvis Presley's King Creole, along with dozens of movies in every genre, from action to horror to melodrama." ” - crunk_juice19
 
37.
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...
“ "Trained in improv theater, he specializes in character-driven comedies and dramas -- The Graduate, Silkwood, Closer." ” - crunk_juice19
 
38.
Preston Sturges
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...
“ "His witty, sophisticated comedies -- The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story -- are still sharply funny, six decades later." ” - crunk_juice19
 
39.
“ "Wit and class distinguish his sophisticated pictures, which star Katherine and Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo." ” - crunk_juice19
 
40.
D.W. Griffith
David Wark Griffith was born in rural Kentucky to Jacob "Roaring Jake" Griffith, a former Confederate Army colonel and Civil War hero. Young Griffith grew up with his father's romantic war stories and melodramatic nineteenth-century literature that were to eventually mold his black-and-white view of human existence and history...
“ "The father of modern moviemaking, he pioneered film language in such milestones as The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance." ” - crunk_juice19
 
41.
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...
“ "Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be or not to Be have a unique Continental style that defies remaking." ” - crunk_juice19
 
42.
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...
“ "After the film noir Laura, he challenged movie censors with drug abuse, in The Man With the Golden Arm, and rape, in Anatomy of a Murder." ” - crunk_juice19
 
43.
Sam Peckinpah
"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch, 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 exploding bottle...
“ "He upped onscreen violence with his controversial Westerns and dramas, including The Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia." ” - crunk_juice19
 
44.
“ "An actor turned pioneering moviemaker, he paved the way for cinema verite with Shadows and A Woman Under the Influence." ” - crunk_juice19
 
45.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
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 productions in Hollywood...
“ "From the weepie A Letter to Three Wives to the bitch-fest All About Eve, his movies are articulate and wickedly entertaining." ” - crunk_juice19
 
46.
“ "After the Freudian Western The Left Handed Gun, he made new Hollywood classics Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, and Night Moves." ” - crunk_juice19
 
47.
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...
“ "The cult-movie king from Michigan gave us the Evil Dead trilogy (and Bruce Campbell), A Simple Plan, and the blockbuster Spider-Man movies." ” - crunk_juice19
 
48.
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...
“ "This African-American filmmaker provoked discussions via Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, and Summer of Sam." ” - crunk_juice19
 
49.
Vincente Minnelli
Director, Gigi
Born Lester Anthony Minnelli in Chicago on February 28 1903, his father Vincent was a musical conductor of the Minnelli Brothers' Tent Theater. Wanting to pursue an artistic career, Minelli worked in the costume department of the Chicago Theater, then on Broadway during the depression as a set designer and costumer...
“ "He dissected show business in both musicals (An American in Paris) and melodramas (The Bad and the Beautiful)." ” - crunk_juice19
 
50.
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...
“ "He brought a European darkness to the American melodramas Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, and Imitation of Life." ” - crunk_juice19