The Most Successful & Powerful Filmmakers (producers, directors...)

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1.
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 Divinyls...
 
2.
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...
 
3.
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)...
 
4.
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...
 
5.
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...
 
6.
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 Thomas Downey High School and was very much interested in drag racing. He planned to become a professional race-car driver...
 
7.
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)...
 
8.
Chris Columbus
Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Ohio, Chris Columbus was first inspired to make movies after seeing "The Godfather" at age 15. After enrolling at NYU film school, he sold his first screenplay (never produced) while a sophomore there. After graduation Columbus tried to sell his fourth script, "Gremlins"...
 
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...
 
10.
Ridley Scott
Producer, Blade Runner
Ridley Scott was born on November 30, 1937 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear (then County Durham). His father was an officer in the Royal Engineers and the family followed him as his career posted him throughout the United Kingdom and Europe before they eventually returned to Teesside. Scott wanted to...
 
11.
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...
 
12.
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...
 
13.
Gore Verbinski
Gore Verbinski, one of American cinema's most inventive directors who was a punk-rock guitarist as a teenager and had to sell his guitar to buy his first camera, is now the director of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest which made the industry record for highest opening weekend of all time ($135,600,000) and grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide...
 
14.
John Lasseter
Writer, Toy Story
Although born in Hollywood John and his twin sister, Johanna were raised in Wittier near Los Angeles,. His parents were Paul Eual Lassiter, a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership and Jewel Mae, an art teacher. His mother's profession contributed to his interest in animation and particularly the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons which he would watch on television...
 
15.
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...
 
16.
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...
 
17.
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...
 
18.
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...
 
19.
Gary Ross
Gary Ross is an American writer, director and actor born November 3rd, 1956 in Los Angeles, California. His father was screenwriter Arthur A. Ross (1920 - 2008). After writing for television series The Hitchhiker in 1986, Ross broke through by penning the Tom Hanks hit Big, his first screenplay to be made into a feature film...
 
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24.
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...
 
25.
Kathryn Bigelow
Director, The Hurt Locker
A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be critiqued by people like Richard Serra...
 
26.
Frank Darabont
Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont was born in a refugee camp in 1959 in Montbeliard, France, the son of Hungarian parents who had fled Budapest during the failed 1956 Hungarian revolution. Brought to America as an infant, he settled with his family in Los Angeles and attended Hollywood High School...
 
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29.
Paul Feig
Actor, Spy
 
30.
James Wan
Producer, The Conjuring 2
James Wan (born 26 February 1977) is an Australian film producer, screenwriter and film director of Malaysian Chinese descent. He is widely known for directing the horror film Saw and creating Billy the puppet. Wan has also directed Dead Silence, Death Sentence, Insidious, The Conjuring and Furious 7...
 
31.
David O. Russell
David Owen Russell is an American film writer, director, and producer, known for a cinema of intense, tragi-comedic characters whose love of life can surpass dark circumstances faced in very specific worlds. His films address such themes as mental illness as stigma or hope; invention of self and survival; the family home as nexus of love...
 
32.
Justin Lin
Justin Lin is a Taiwanese American film director whose films have grossed $2 billion worldwide. He is best known for his work on Better Luck Tomorrow, The Fast and the Furious 3-6 and Star Trek Beyond. He is also known for his work on television shows like Community and the second season of True Detective...
 
34.
Paula Wagner
Paula Wagner has worked in the top ranks of the entertainment industry as a talent agent, film producer, and studio executive. She develops and produces film, theatre, and television projects through her production company Chestnut Ridge Productions (CRP). Wagner began her career as an agent at Creative Artists Agency where she spent 15 years representing some of some of Hollywood's top actors...
 
36.
Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy worked in San Diego local television before moving to Los Angeles, where she was hired by Steven Spielberg as a secretary on the production of 1941. Both later reported that she was lacking as a typist but had good production ideas. She was an associate to Mr. Spielberg on Raiders of the Lost Ark and associate producer on his production of Poltergeist...
 
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42.
D.J. Caruso
Director, Disturbia
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, Caruso came west to play tennis and study Television Production at Pepperdine University. Interned at Disney Studios in the Product Placement department and later hooked up with Director John Badham, who mentored him into a second-unit director, after Badham lost his 2nd-unit director Rob Cohen to a first-unit directing career...
 
43.
Colin Wilson
Producer, Avatar
 
45.
Adam Sandler
Adam Richard Sandler was born September 9, 1966 in Brooklyn, New York, to Judith (Levine), a teacher at a nursery school, and Stanley Alan Sandler, an electrical engineer. He is of Russian Jewish descent. At 17, he took his first step towards becoming a stand-up comedian when he spontaneously took the stage at a Boston comedy club...
“ As a producer. ” - Death_is_Good
 
47.
Jon Landau
Producer, Titanic
 
48.
K.C. Hodenfield
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director, Saving Mr. Banks
 
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53.
M. Night Shyamalan
Born in Puducherry, India, and raised in the posh suburban Penn Valley area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, M. Night Shyamalan is a film director, screenwriter, producer, and occasional actor, known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots. He is the son of Jayalakshmi, a Tamil obstetrician and gynecologist...
 
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56.
Seth MacFarlane
Writer, Ted
Seth Woodbury MacFarlane was born in the small New England town of Kent, Connecticut, where he lived with his mother, Ann Perry (Sager), an admissions office worker, his father, Ronald Milton MacFarlane, a prep school teacher, and his sister, Rachael MacFarlane, now a voice actress and singer. He is of English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry, and descends from Mayflower passengers...
 
58.
Barbara Broccoli
Producer, Skyfall
She is one of the entertainment industry's most successful female producers. Barbara Broccoli was born to legendary filmmaker Albert R. Broccoli, affectionately known as Cubby, and Dana Broccoli on June 18, 1960. Not long after, Cubby Broccoli and his new partner, Harry Saltzman, secured studio backing...
 
59.
Gale Anne Hurd
Producer, The Terminator
Gale Anne Hurd was born on October 25, 1955 in Los Angeles, California. After graduating from Stanford University, she joined New World Pictures as executive assistant to Roger Corman, the company president. She worked her way up through various administrative positions and eventually became involved in production...
 
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61.
Joel Silver
Producer, The Matrix
As flamboyant as any character in his movies, Joel Silver can be credited along with Jerry Bruckheimer as practically reinventing the action film genre in the 1980s. Born in New Jersey, he attended the New York University Film School. After college, he worked at Lawrence Gordon Pictures, earning his first onscreen credit as associate producer of The Warriors...
 
62.
Graham King
Producer, The Departed
Oscar-winning producer Graham King, has worked behind the scenes with the industry's foremost creative talents on both major motion pictures and independent features. Over the last 30 years, King has produced or executive produced more than 45 films, grossing $1.2 billion at the domestic box office...
 
63.
Ben Affleck
Producer, Argo
American actor and filmmaker Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt was born on August 15, 1972 in Berkeley, California, and was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother, Chris Anne (née Boldt), is a school teacher, and his father, Timothy Byers Affleck, is a social worker; the two are divorced. Ben has a younger brother...
“ Director, producer. ” - Death_is_Good
 
64.
Jason Blum
Producer, Whiplash
Emmy award winning producer, Jason Blum is the founder and CEO of Blumhouse Productions, a multi-media production company that has pioneered a new model of studio filmmaking- producing high-quality micro-budget films. Blumhouse has a first-look deal with Universal Pictures and has produced the highly-profitable Paranormal Activity...
 
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68.
Stephen Sommers
Writer, The Mummy
Stephen Sommers was born on March 20, 1962 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Raised in St. Cloud, Minnesota, he attended St. John's University and the University of Seville in Spain. Afterward, Sommers spent the next four years performing as an actor in theater groups and managing rock bands throughout Europe...
 
69.
Brian Grazer
Producer, 24
Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer has been making movies and television programs for more than 25 years. As both a writer and producer, he has been personally nominated for four Academy Awards, and in 2002 won the Best Picture Oscar for A Beautiful Mind. In addition to winning three other Academy Awards...
 
71.
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...
 
72.
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...