Great Directors

This based on my own opinion. They really have no particular order.
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
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.
 
4.
Richard Boleslawski
Director, Les Misérables
Inventing a stage name "Boleslawski" (later spelled also "Boleslavsky"), young Pole Boleslaw Ryszard Srzednicki left his second home (Odessa, Russian Empire) to study theatre and train as an actor at the world-famous Moscow Art Theatre before and during WW I. He also acted in a few early Russian films...
 
5.
Richard Brooks
Richard Brooks was an Academy Award-winning film writer who also earned six Oscar nominations and achieved success as a film director and producer. He was born Ruben Sax on May 18, 1912, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants. He graduated from West Philadelphia HS...
 
6.
Clarence Brown
Director, National Velvet
Clarence Leon Brown was the son of Larkin Harry and Catherine Ann (Gaw) Brown of Clinton, Massachusetts. His family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, when he was 12 years old. He graduated from Knoxville High School in 1905 and from the University of Tennessee with a B.A. in mechanical and electrical engineering in 1912...
 
8.
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...
 
9.
Claude Chabrol
Director, La Cérémonie
French film director considered a master in the mystery genre. He is credited with starting the "nouvelle vague" French film movement.
 
10.
Damien Chazelle
Writer, Whiplash
Damien Sayre Chazelle is an American director and screenwriter. He was born in Providence, Rhode Island. His mother, Celia Sayre (Martin) Chazelle, is an American-Canadian writer and professor of history at The College of New Jersey. His father, Bernard Chazelle, is a French-American Eugene Higgins Professor of computer science at Princeton University...
 
11.
Jack Conway
Director, Libeled Lady
Born Hugh Ryan Conway of Irish ancestry, Jack Conway was one of a team of MGM contract directors (others included Sam Wood and Robert Z. Leonard), who forsook any pretense to a specific individual style in favor of working within the strictures set forth by studio management--as embodied by Irving Thalberg and his production supervisors...
 
12.
Merian C. Cooper
Thanks, King Kong
In 1920, Merian C. Cooper was a member of volunteer of the American Kosciuszko Squadron that supported the Polish army in the war with Soviet Russia, where he met best friend and producing partner Ernest B. Schoedsack. On 26 July 1920, his plane was shot down, and he spent nearly nine months in the Soviet prisoner-of-war camp...
 
14.
Roger Corman
Producer, Death Race
Roger William Corman was born April 5, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan. Initially following in his father's footsteps, Corman studied engineering at Stanford University but while in school, he began to lose interest in the profession and developed a growing passion for film. Upon graduation, he worked a total of three days as an engineer at US Electrical Motors...
 
16.
John Cromwell
Actor / director John Cromwell was born December 23, 1887, in Toledo, OH. He made his Broadway debut on October 14, 1912, in Marian De Forest's adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" at the Playhouse Theatre. The show was a hit, running for a total of 184 performances. Cromwell appeared in another 38 plays on Broadway between February 24...
 
17.
 
18.
Michael Curtiz
Director, Casablanca
Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. After WWI, he continued his filmmaking career in Austria and Germany and into the early 1920s when he directed films in other countries in Europe. Moving to the US in 1926, he started making films in Hollywood for Warner Bros...
 
19.
Ian Dalrymple
Writer, The Citadel
British writer-producer, educated at Rugby and at Trinity College, Cambridge. 'Dal', as he came to be known, began in the industry as a cutter and assistant director under Michael Balcon. He was promoted to supervising editor, in which capacity he worked at Gaumont-British and Gainsborough from the late 1920's to the mid-1930's...
 
20.
Jules Dassin
Director, Rififi
Jules Dassin was an Academy Award-nominated director, screenwriter and actor best known for his films Rififi, Never on Sunday, and Topkapi. He was born Julius Samuel Dassin on 18 December 1911, in Middletown, Connecticut, USA. He was one of eight children of Russian-Jewish immigrants...
 
21.
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...
 
22.
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...
 
23.
Roy Del Ruth
Director, Topper Returns
Roy Del Ruth was born on Oct. 18, 1895, in Philadelphia, PA. He began his Hollywood career as a writer for Mack Sennett in 1915. He began directing in 1919 for Sennett with the two-reeler Hungry Lions and Tender Hearts. In the early 1920s he moved over to features with such efforts as Asleep at the Switch, The Hollywood Kid...
 
24.
Julien Duvivier
Revered by such legendary fellow directors as Ingmar Bergman and Jean Renoir, Julien Duvivier is one of the greatest figures in the history of French cinema and of world cinema in general. He is perhaps the most neglected of the "Big Five" of classic French cinema (the other four being Jean Renoir, Rene Clair...
 
25.
 
29.
Victor Fleming
Victor Fleming entered the film business as a stuntman in 1910, mainly doing stunt driving - which came easy to him, as he had been a mechanic and professional race-car driver. He became interested in working on the other side of the camera, and eventually got a job as a cameraman on many of the films of Douglas Fairbanks...
 
30.
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...
 
31.
 
32.
Edmund Goulding
Director, songwriter ("Love, Your Magic Spell Is Everywhere", "Mam'selle"), composer, producer and author. He came to the US in 1919 and joined ASCAP in 1947. His chief musical collaborators included Elsie Janis and 'Mack Gordon (I)', and his other popular song compositions include "Sweetest Moment"...
 
33.
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...
 
35.
Jim Handley
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director, The Reluctant Dragon
 
36.
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...
 
37.
 
38.
Graham Heid
Director, Bambi
 
39.
Alfred Hitchcock
Actor, 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)...
 
40.
William K. Howard
Director William K. Howard was born in St. Marys, OH, in 1893. He studied engineering and law at Ohio State University but gravitated towards film distribution when he took a job as sales manager for Vitagraph. After serving in an artillery unit with the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...
 
41.
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...
 
43.
Garson Kanin
Writer, Adam's Rib
Garson Kanin has worked as an actor on stage and as a director on Broadway and in Hollywood, but his best-known work is as a writer. During the Great Depression, he dropped out of high school to help support his family by working as a musician and later as a comedian. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts from 1932 to 1933...
 
44.
Elia Kazan
Known for his creative stage direction, Elia Kazan was born Elias Kazantzoglou on September 7, 1909 in Constantinople, Ottoman Empire (now Istanbul, Turkey). Noted for drawing out the best dramatic performances from his actors, he directed 21 actors to Oscar nominations, resulting in nine wins. He directed a string of successful films...
 
45.
William Keighley
William Keighley's professional career spanned three distinct mediums: the theatre, motion pictures and, finally, radio. Initially trained as a stage actor and Broadway director, he arrived in Hollywood shortly after the advent of sound, landing a job with Warner Brothers (where he spent most of his career) as an assistant director and dialog director before helming his first film there in 1932...
 
46.
Henry King
For more than three decades, Henry King was the most versatile and reliable (not to mention hard-working) contract director on the 20th Century-Fox lot. His tenure lasted from 1930 to 1961, spanning most of Hollywood's "golden" era. King was renowned as a specialist in literary adaptations (A Bell for Adano...
 
48.
Alexander Korda
One of a large group of Hungarian refugees who found refuge in England in the 1930s, Sir Alexander Korda was the first British film producer to receive a knighthood. He was a major, if controversial, figure and acted as a guiding force behind the British film industry of the 1930s and continued to influence British films until his death in 1956...
 
50.
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...
 
51.
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...
 
52.
Walter Lang
Director, The King and I
Walter Lang entered the film industry in New York when he got a job as a clerk in the office of a film production company. He worked his way up to assistant director, and directed his first film in 1926. By the time sound arrived Lang was already a well-regarded director, but he left the business at that time to try his hand as an artist in Paris...
 
53.
Jean-Paul Le Chanois
For many decades, no French director was held in greater contempt than Jean-Paul Le Chanois (1909-1985). He was the perfect target of criticism by the New Wave filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s. However, unlike other targets of the Young Turks, Chanois was never restored to favor. Nevertheless, a small number of his films deserve recognition...
 
54.
David Lean
An important British filmmaker, David Lean was born in Croydon on March 25, 1908 and brought up in a strict Quaker family (ironically, as a child he wasn't allowed to go to the movies). During the 1920s, he briefly considered the possibility of becoming an accountant like his father before finding a job at Gaumont British Studios in 1927...
 
55.
Mervyn LeRoy
Director, Mister Roberts
The great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906 was a tragedy for Mervyn LeRoy. While he and his father managed to survive, they lost everything they had. To make money, LeRoy sold newspapers and entered talent contests as a singer. When he entered vaudeville, his act was "LeRoy and Cooper--Two Kids and a Piano"...
 
56.
Joseph H. Lewis
Director, The Rifleman
The term "style over content" fits director Joseph H. Lewis like a glove. His ability to elevate basically mundane and mediocre low-budget material to sublime cinematic art has gained him a substantial cult following among movie buffs. The Bonnie & Clyde look-alike Gun Crazy, shot in 30 days on a budget of $400,000...
 
57.
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...
 
58.
Ida Lupino
Ida was born in London to a show business family. In 1933, her mother brought Ida with her to an audition and Ida got the part her mother wanted. The picture was Her First Affaire. Ida, a bleached blonde, came to Hollywood in 1934 and played small and insignificant parts. Peter Ibbetson was one of her...
 
59.
 
60.
Alexander Mackendrick
One of the most distinguished (if frequently overlooked) directors ever to emerge from the British film industry, Alexander Mackendrick, was in fact born in the US (to Scottish parents), but grew up in his native Scotland, where he studied at the Glasgow School of Art. He started out as a commercial illustrator...
 
62.
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...
 
63.
Anthony Mann
Director, El Cid
 
64.
Daniel Mann
Director, BUtterfield 8
Stage, television and film director Daniel Mann was born Daniel Chugerman on August 8, 1912, in Brooklyn, NY. He was a child performer and attended the New York's Professional Children's School. He studied with renowned acting teacher Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse, eventually becoming his assistant. Mann was one of the first acting teachers at the Actors Studio...
 
66.
Joshua Meador
Visual Effects, Fantasia
 
67.
Georges Méliès
Georges Méliès was a French illusionist and film director famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema. Méliès was an especially prolific innovator in the use of special effects, popularizing such techniques as substitution splices, multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color...
 
68.
Lewis Milestone
Lewis Milestone, a clothing manufacturer's son, was born in Bessarabia (now Moldova), raised in Odessa (Ukraine) and educated in Belgium and Berlin (where he studied engineering). He was fluent in both German and Russian and an avid reader. Milestone had an affinity for the theatre from an early age...
 
69.
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...
 
70.
Hayao Miyazaki
Director, Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese film director, producer, screenwriter, animator, author, and manga artist. Through a career that has spanned five decades, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a masterful storyteller and as a maker of anime feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli...
 
71.
Larry Morey
Soundtrack, Saving Mr. Banks
American lyricist and author Lawrence L. 'Larry' Morey was chiefly noted for co-writing (with the composer and songwriter Frank Churchill) the musical numbers for Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, including "Heigh-Ho", "I'm Wishing" and "Whistle While You Work". He also worked on the picture as a sequence director...
 
73.
Fred Niblo
Fred Niblo entered films in 1917 after two decades as a touring actor in vaudeville and one-time manager of 'The Four Cohans' (he married Josephine Cohan, the sister of George M. Cohan). He made his film debut with two early Australian silent films in 1916. He worked for Thomas H. Ince from 1917 as producer-director...
 
74.
Max Ophüls
Director, Lola Montès
Director Max Ophüls was born Max Oppenheimer in Saarbrücken, Germany. He began his career as a stage actor and director in the golden twenties. He worked in cities such as Stuttgart, Dortmund, Wuppertal, Vienna, Frankfurt, Breslau and Berlin. In 1929 his son Marcel Ophüls was born in Frankfurt, Germany...
 
76.
 
77.
Nicholas Ray
Nicholas Ray was born Raymond Nicholas Kienzle in 1911, in small-town Galesville, Wisconsin, to Lena (Toppen) and Raymond Joseph Kienzle, a contractor and builder. He was of German and Norwegian descent. Ray's early experience with film came with some radio broadcasting in high school. He left the University of Chicago after a year...
 
78.
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, Scottish, Cornish, and Irish ancestry. Robert's mother died in 1955, the year after he graduated from high school...
 
79.
Wolfgang Reitherman
Director, The Jungle Book
Wolfgang Reitherman was a German-born American animator who was one of Disney's Nine Old Men. He began working for Disney in 1933, along with future Disney legends Ward Kimball and Milt Kahl. The three worked together on a number of classic Disney shorts. Reitherman directed several Disney animated feature films including: One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)...
 
80.
Jean Renoir
Son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste, he had a happy childhood. Pierre Renoir was his brother, and Claude Renoir was his nephew. After the end of World War I, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he moved from scriptwriting to filmmaking. He married Catherine Hessling, for whom he began to make movies; he wanted to make a star of her...
 
81.
Jerome Robbins
Miscellaneous Crew, West Side Story
 
82.
Bill Roberts
Director, Dumbo
 
85.
 
86.
 
87.
Victor Saville
An art dealer's son, Victor Saville was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School in Birmingham. He served in the British Army during World War I, was wounded at the Battle of Loos in 1915 and invalided out the following year. His first involvement with the film business was as manager of a small theater in Coventry...
 
90.
 
91.
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...
 
92.
John M. Stahl
John Stahl was the final executive in charge of Tiffany Pictures (located on the Talisman lot, later owned by Monogram Pictures), once a big fish in the pond of "Poverty Row", which in those days also included Columbia Pictures. With a B-movie history dating back to the silent era and after making 70 talkies...
 
93.
George Stevens
Director, Giant
George Stevens, a filmmaker known as a meticulous craftsman with a brilliant eye for composition and a sensitive touch with actors, is one of the great American filmmakers, ranking with John Ford, William Wyler and Howard Hawks as a creator of classic Hollywood cinema, bringing to the screen mytho-poetic worlds that were also mass entertainment...
 
96.
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...
 
97.
Richard Thorpe
Director, Jailhouse Rock
After working in vaudeville, on the stage and in early movies, Richard Thorpe launched his directing career in 1923. After directing dozens of low-budget comedies and westerns, his talents were recognized in the mid-'30s when he went to work for MGM. Studio chief Louis B. Mayer valued efficiency in his directors...
 
98.
W.S. Van Dyke
Director, The Thin Man
For the better part of his career, Woodbridge Strong Van Dyke lived up to his sobriquet "One-Take Woody" by steadfastly adhering to his credo of shooting each scene as quickly and efficiently as possible. Over his 25-year career, he economically directed over 90 diverse entertainments, which not only...
 
99.
Charles Vidor
Director, Gilda
Hungarian-born Karoly Vidor spent the First World War as a lieutenant in the Austro-Hungarian infantry. Following the armistice, he made his way to Berlin and worked for the German film company Ufa, as editor and assistant director. In 1924, he emigrated to the U.S. and, for several years, earned his living as a singer in Broadway choruses and (at one time) with a Wagnerian troupe...
 
100.