50 Favorite Directors

I haven't seen every movie known to man. So don't read this as a "50 Best Directors" list, I'm clearly not the one to be judging that. These are my favorites based on the films I've watched.
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1.
Woody Allen
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...
“ Why: Annie Hall, Interiors, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets over Broadway, Match Point, Cassandra's Dream, Midnight in Paris ” - underhill-dm
 
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...
“ Why: Killer's Kiss, The Killing, Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut ” - underhill-dm
 
3.
“ Why: Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, True Grit

*Note: Ethan Coen shares directing credits on some of these and is an uncredited co-director of the rest, so this spot belongs to the Brothers Coen. ” - underhill-dm
 
4.
Martin Scorsese
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 provided the inspiration for several of his films...
“ Why: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, After Hours, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Shutter Island ” - underhill-dm
 
5.
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)...
“ Why: Lifeboat, Rope, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, Frenzy ” - underhill-dm
 
6.
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...
“ Why: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List ” - underhill-dm
 
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...
“ Why: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained ” - underhill-dm
 
8.
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...
“ Why: Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. ” - underhill-dm
 
9.
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...
“ Why: Dead Alive, Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners, The Lord of the Rings trilogy ” - underhill-dm
 
10.
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...
“ Why: Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl ” - underhill-dm
 
11.
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 advertising....
“ Why: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas ” - underhill-dm
 
12.
Wes Anderson
Wesley Wales Anderson was born in Houston, Texas. His mother, Texas Ann (Burroughs), is an archaeologist turned real estate agent, and his father, Melver Leonard Anderson, worked in advertising and PR. He has two brothers, Eric and Mel. Anderson's parents divorced when he was a young child, an event that he described as the most crucial event of his brothers and his growing up...
“ Why: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel ” - underhill-dm
 
13.
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)...
“ Why: Scanners, The Dead Zone, The Fly, Dead Ringers, eXistenZ, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises ” - underhill-dm
 
14.
Billy Wilder
The second of two sons, his father ran a chain of railway station cafes. As a youth he was obsessed with everything American. encouraged by his mother he enrolled as a law student at the University of Vienna but quit after 3 months to be a writer on a magazine which although poorly paid it gave him a great amount of experience interviewing such as Richard Strauss and Sigmund Freud...
“ Why: Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes ” - underhill-dm
 
15.
Tim Burton
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 especially fond of films with Vincent Price)...
“ Why: Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ” - underhill-dm
 
16.
Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. In his filmmaking career, del Toro has alternated between Spanish-language dark fantasy pieces, such as the gothic horror film The Devil's Backbone, and Pan's Labyrinth, and more mainstream American action movies, such as the vampire superhero action film Blade II...
“ Why: Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army ” - underhill-dm
 
17.
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...
“ Why: The Evil Dead trilogy, A Simple Plan, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Drag Me to Hell ” - underhill-dm
 
18.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Anderson was born in 1970. He was one of the first of the "video store" generation of film-makers. His father was the first man on his block to own a V.C.R., and from a very early age Anderson had an infinite number of titles available to him. While film-makers like Spielberg cut their teeth making 8 mm films, Anderson cut his teeth shooting films on video and editing them from V.C.R. to V.C.R...
“ Why: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master ” - underhill-dm
 
19.
Ingmar Bergman
Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July 14, 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, as in 'Den Goda Viljan' Pernilla August play his mother...
“ Why: The Seventh Seal, The Virgin Spring, Persona, Hour of the Wolf, Scenes from a Marriage ” - underhill-dm
 
20.
Richard Linklater
Director, Before Sunset
Self-taught writer-director Richard Stuart Linklater was born in Houston, Texas, to Diane Margaret (Krieger), who taught at a university, and Charles W. Linklater III. Richard was among the first and most successful talents to emerge during the American independent film renaissance of the 1990s. Typically setting each of his movies during one 24-hour period...
“ Why: Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, Boyhood ” - underhill-dm
 
21.
Christopher Nolan
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. At 7 years old...
“ Why: Memento, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises" ” - underhill-dm
 
22.
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...
“ Why: Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Death and the Maiden, The Pianist ” - underhill-dm
 
23.
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...
“ Why: King of the Hill, Out of Sight, The Limey, Traffic, Bubble, Haywire ” - underhill-dm
 
24.
“ Why: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller's Day Off ” - underhill-dm
 
25.
Nicolas Winding Refn
Nicolas Winding Refn is a Danish film director, screenwriter and producer. He moved to the United States in 1981 and is known for directing the crime dramas Bleeder (1999) and the Pusher films (1996, 2004, 2005), the fictionalised biographical film Bronson (2008), the dramatic adventure film Valhalla Rising (2009)...
“ Why: the Pusher trilogy, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Drive ” - underhill-dm
 
26.
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...
“ Why: The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather: Part II, Apocalypse Now" ” - underhill-dm
 
27.
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...
“ Why: Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Dreams ” - underhill-dm
 
28.
Rob Reiner
Robert Reiner was born in New York City, to Estelle Reiner (née Lebost) and Emmy-Winning actor, comedian, writer, and producer Carl Reiner. Robert as a child often looked up to his father as his inspiration and role-model. Carl Reiner was on The Dick Van Dyke Show which Carl Reiner created and also starred in...
“ Why: This Is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery ” - underhill-dm
 
29.
John Landis
John Landis began his career in the mail room of 20th Century-Fox. A high-school dropout, 18-year-old Landis made his way to Yugoslavia to work as a production assistant on Kelly's Heroes. Remaining in Europe, Landis found work as an actor, extra and stuntman in many of the Spanish/Italian "spaghetti" westerns...
“ Why: National Lampoon's Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Three Amigos, Coming to America ” - underhill-dm
 
30.
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)...
“ Why: Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit ” - underhill-dm
 
31.
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...
“ Why: Platoon, Talk Radio, JFK, Natural Born Killers ” - underhill-dm
 
32.
“ Why: Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Millions, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours ” - underhill-dm
 
33.
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks was born Melvin Kaminsky on June 28, 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...
“ Why: The Producers, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, History of the World: Part 1, Spaceballs ” - underhill-dm
 
34.
Jim Jarmusch
Moved to New York City at the age of seventeen from Akron, Ohio. Graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in English, class of '75. Without any prior film experience, he was accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts, New York.
“ Why: Stranger than Paradise, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers, Only Lovers Left Alive ” - underhill-dm
 
35.
Darren Aronofsky
Darren Aronofsky was born February 12, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up, Darren was always artistic: he loved classic movies and, as a teenager, he even spent time doing graffiti art. After high school, Darren went to Harvard University to study film (both live-action and animation). He won several film awards after completing his senior thesis film...
“ Why: Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan ” - underhill-dm
 
36.
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...
“ Why: A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West ” - underhill-dm
 
37.
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.
“ Why: Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, Rescue Dawn, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans ” - underhill-dm
 
38.
Edgar Wright
Edgar Howard Wright (born 18 April 1974) is an English director, screenwriter, producer, and actor. He is best known for his comedic Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World's End (2013), made with recurrent collaborators Simon Pegg...
“ Why: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End ” - underhill-dm
 
39.
John Carpenter
Writer, Halloween
John Howard Carpenter was born in Carthage, New York, to mother Milton Jean (Carter) and father Howard Ralph Carpenter. His family moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where his father, a professor, was head of the music department at Western Kentucky University. He attended Western Kentucky University and then USC film school in Los Angeles...
“ Why: Halloween, Escape from New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live ” - underhill-dm
 
40.
Frank Oz
Frank Richard Oznowicz was born in Hereford, England to puppeteers Frances and Isidore Oznowicz. His family moved to Montana in 1951, eventually settling in Oakland, California. As a teenager, he worked as an apprentice puppeteer at Children's Fairyland amusement park. He is one of the primary puppeteers...
“ Why: The Dark Crystal, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Little Shop of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob? ” - underhill-dm
 
41.
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 before switching to English, and eventually dropping out. He then drove a truck to support his screenwriting ambition...
“ Why: The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies ” - underhill-dm
 
42.
Milos Forman
Milos Forman was born Jan Tomas Forman in Caslav, Czechoslovakia, to Anna (Svabova), who ran a summer hotel, and Rudolf Forman, a professor. During World War II, his parents were taken away by the Nazis, after being accused of participating in the underground resistance. His father died in Buchenwald and his mother died in Auschwitz...
“ Why: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt ” - underhill-dm
 
43.
Alfonso Cuarón
Writer, Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón Orozco was born on November 28th in Mexico City, Mexico. From an early age, he yearned to be either a film director or an astronaut. However, he did not want to enter the army, so he settled for directing. He didn't receive his first camera until his twelfth birthday, and then immediately started to film everything he saw...
“ Why: Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, Gravity ” - underhill-dm
 
44.
Paul Greengrass
Paul Greengrass started his filmmaking career with a super 8 camera he found in his art room in secondary school. Those short movies were animation horror films he made using old dolls, artist dummies, and the general art room clutter. After studying in Cambridge University he got into Granada Television...
“ Why: Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy, United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum ” - underhill-dm
 
45.
Buster Keaton
Joseph Frank Keaton, was born in Piqua, Kansas, October 4, 1895 to Joe Keaton and Myra Keaton. Joe and Myra were Vaudevillian comedians with a popular, ever-changing variety act, giving Keaton an eclectic and interesting upbringing. In the earliest days on stage they traveled with a medicine show that included family friend...
“ Why: Sherlock Jr., The General, Steamboat Bill Jr. ” - underhill-dm
 
46.
“ Why: The Omen, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon, Scrooged, Lethal Weapon 2" ” - underhill-dm
 
47.
Spike Lee
Director, Inside Man
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...
“ Why: Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour ” - underhill-dm
 
48.
“ Why: The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2: X-Men United ” - underhill-dm
 
49.
Spike Jonze
Producer, Her
Spike Jonze made up one-third (along with Andy Jenkins and Mark Lewman) of the triumvirate of genius minds behind Dirt Magazine, the brother publication of the much lamented ground-breaking Sassy Magazine. These three uncommon characters were all editors for Grand Royal Magazine as well, under...
“ Why: Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Her ” - underhill-dm
 
50.
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...
“ Why: Scarface, The Untouchables, Casualties of War, Carlito's Way ” - underhill-dm