The 20 best British film directors

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1.
Richard Attenborough
Lord Richard Attenborough was born in Cambridge, England, the son of Mary (née Clegg), a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council, and Frederick Levi Attenborough, a scholar and academic administrator who was a don at Emmanuel College and wrote a standard text on Anglo-Saxon law. Attenborough...
 
2.
John Boorman
Producer, Excalibur
John Boorman attended Catholic school (Salesian Order) although his family was not, in fact, Roman Catholic. His first job was for a dry-cleaner. Later, he worked as a critic for a women's journal and for a radio station until he entered the television business, working for the BBC in Bristol. There...
 
4.
Guy Hamilton
Director, Goldfinger
Typically British stiff-upper-lip war dramas and action adventure laced with moments of sophisticated comedy were Guy Hamilton's trademark. The son of a British diplomat, he spent most of his youth with his family in France, seemingly destined to be groomed for a career in the diplomatic service. Growing up...
 
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)...
 
6.
Ken Loach
Unlike virtually all his contemporaries, Ken Loach has never succumbed to the siren call of Hollywood, and it's virtually impossible to imagine his particular brand of British socialist realism translating well to that context. After studying law at St. Peter's College, Oxford, he branched out into the theater...
 
7.
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, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. He is also known for the Dickens adaptations of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist, as well as the romantic drama Brief Encounter...
 
8.
Nicolas Roeg
Director, Walkabout
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 Lawrence of Arabia...
 
9.
Ken Russell
Director, Tommy
When he was age 8 he was given a 9.5 mm projector for Xmas. He graduated to 35mm together with a box of silents that had been salvaged from the liner Mauretania when she was being broken up. He attended a nautical school where he made his first short film, trained as an Air Force electrician and tried unsuccessfully to break into the world of ballet and the theatre...
 
10.
John Schlesinger
Director, Midnight Cowboy
Oscar-winning director John Schlesinger, who was born in London, on February 16, 1926, was the eldest child in a solidly middle-class Jewish family. Berbard Schlesinger, his father, was a pediatrician, and his mother, Winifred, was a musician. He served in the Army in the Far East during World War II...
 
11.
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...
 
13.
Peter Ustinov
Actor, Robin Hood
Peter Ustinov was a two-time Academy Award-winning film actor, a director, writer, journalist and raconteur. He wrote and directed many acclaimed stage plays and led numerous international theatrical productions. He was born Peter Alexander Freiherr von Ustinov on April 16, 1921, in Swiss Cottage, London...
 
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15.
Anthony Asquith
Director, Pygmalion
British film director Anthony Asquith was born on November 9, 1902, to H.H. Asquith, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his second wife. A former home secretary and the future leader of the Liberal Party, H.H. Asquith served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1908-1916 and was subsequently elevated to the hereditary peerage...
 
17.
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....
 
18.
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.
 
19.
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...
 
20.
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...