My Favorite Directors

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1.
Andrei Tarkovsky
Writer, Solaris
The most famous Soviet film-maker since Sergei M. Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky (the son of noted poet Arseniy Tarkovsky) studied music and Arabic in Moscow before enrolling in the Soviet film school V.G.I.K. He shot to international attention with his first feature, Ivan's Childhood, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival...
 
2.
Charles Chaplin
Writer, Modern Times
Considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk...
 
3.
Sergei M. Eisenstein
The son of an affluent architect, Eisenstein attended the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd as a young man. With the fall of the tsar in 1917, he worked as an engineer for the Red Army. In the following years, Eisenstein joined up with the Moscow Proletkult Theater as a set designer and then director...
 
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5.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Writer, Accattone
Pier Paolo Pasolini achieved fame and notoriety long before he entered the film industry. A published poet at 19, he had already written numerous novels and essays before his first screenplay in 1954. His first film Accattone was based on his own novel and its violent depiction of the life of a pimp in the slums of Rome caused a sensation...
 
6.
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 nine) he traveled the world with his father. When his father died (he was fifteen) he became the ward of Chicago's Dr. Maurice Bernstein...
 
7.
Robert Bresson
Robert Bresson trained as a painter before moving into films as a screenwriter, making a short film (atypically a comedy), Public Affairs in 1934. After spending more than a year as a German POW during World War II, he made his debut with Angels of Sin in 1943. His next film, Les dames du Bois de Boulogne would be the last time he would work with professional actors...
 
8.
Michelangelo Antonioni
Writer, Blow-Up
Michelangelo Antonioni was born in 1912 into a middle-class family and grew up in bourgeois surroundings of the Italian province. In Bologna he studied economics and commerce while he painted and also wrote criticism for a local newspaper. In 1939 he went to Rome and worked for the journal "Cinema" studying directorship at the School of Cinema...
 
9.
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...
 
10.
Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau was one of the most multi-talented artists of the 20th century. In addition to being a director, he was a poet, novelist, painter, playwright, set designer, and actor. He began writing at 10 and was a published poet by age 16. He collaborated with the "Russian Ballet" company of Sergei Diaghilev...
 
11.
Abel Gance
Writer, Napoleon
Despite parental pressure to pursue a 'respectable' career, Abel Gance was addicted to the theatre, and made his acting debut at the age of 19. He started acting in films in 1909 because he needed the money - he was deeply unimpressed with the film medium at that point. But he continued acting...
 
13.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Above all, Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a rebel whose life and art was marked by gross contradiction. Openly homosexual, he married twice; one of his wives acted in his films and the other served as his editor. Accused variously by detractors of being anticommunist, male chauvinist, antiSemitic and even antigay...
 
14.
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from Gliwice, Poland. His family was Jewish. After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W...
 
16.
Luis Buñuel
The father of cinematic Surrealism and one of the most original directors in the history of the film medium, Luis Buñuel was given a strict Jesuit education (which sowed the seeds of his obsession with both religion and subversive behavior), and subsequently moved to Madrid to study at the university there, where his close friends included Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca...
 
17.
Victor Sjöström
Director, Körkarlen
Victor Sjöström was born on September 20, 1879, and is the undisputed father of Swedish film, ranking as one of the masters of world cinema. His influence lives on in the work of Ingmar Bergman and all those directors, both Swedish and international, influenced by his work and the works of directors whom he himself influenced...
 
18.
Carl Theodor Dreyer
The illegitimate son of a Danish farmer and his Swedish housekeeper, Carl Theodor Dreyer was born in Copenhagen on the 3th of February, 1889. He spent his early years in various foster homes before being adopted by the Dreyers at the age of two. Contrary to popular belief (perhaps nourished by the fact...
 
19.
Jean-Luc Godard
Director, My Life to Live
Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris on December 3, 1930, the second of four children in a bourgeois Franco-Swiss family. His father was a doctor who owned a private clinic, and his mother came from a preeminent family of Swiss bankers. During World War II Godard became a naturalized citizen of Switzerland and attended school in Nyons (Switzerland)...
 
20.
Krzysztof Kieslowski
Krzysztof Kieslowski graduated from Lódz Film School in 1969, and became a documentary, TV and feature film director and scriptwriter. Before making his first film for TV, Pedestrian Subway (The Underground Passage), he made a number of short documentaries. His next TV title, Personnel (The Staff)...
 
21.
F.W. Murnau
Director, Nosferatu
He studied art and literature history at the University of Heidelberg. During World War I, he was a combat pilot.
 
22.
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...
 
23.
Federico Fellini
Writer,
The women who both attracted and frightened him and an Italy dominated in his youth by Mussolini and Pope Pius XII - inspired the dreams that Fellini started recording in notebooks in the 1960s. Life and dreams were raw material for his films. His native Rimini and characters like Saraghina (the devil herself said the priests who ran his school)...
 
24.
Ousmane Sembene
Director, Black Girl
The first film director from an African country to achieve international recognition, Ousmane Sembene remains the major figure in the rise of an independent post-colonial African cinema. Sembene's roots were not, as might be expected, in the educated élite. After working as a mechanic and bricklayer...
 
25.
Marcel Carné
Marcel Carné, the son of a cabinet maker, entered the movies as the assistant of Jacques Feyder. At the age of 25 he directed his first movie Jenny. Colaborating with the writer Jacques Prévert, the decorator Alexandre Trauner, the musician and composer Maurice Jaubert and the actor Jean Gabin...
 
26.
Fritz Lang
Director, M
Fritz Lang was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1890. His father managed a construction company. His mother, Pauline Schlesinger, was Jewish but converted to Catholicism when Lang was ten. After high school, he enrolled briefly at the Technische Hochschule Wien and then started to train as a painter. From 1910 to 1914...
 
28.
Yasujirô Ozu
Director, Tokyo Story
Tokyo-born Yasujiro Ozu was a movie buff from childhood, often playing hooky from school in order to see Hollywood movies in his local theatre. In 1923 he landed a job as a camera assistant at Shochiku Studios in Tokyo. Three years later, he was made an assistant director and directed his first film the next year...
 
29.
François Truffaut
François began to assiduously go to the movies at 7. He was also a great reader but not a good pupil. He left school at 14 and started working. In 1947, aged 15, he founded a film club and met André Bazin, a French critic, who becomes his protector. Bazin helped the delinquent Truffaut and also when he was put in jail because he deserted the army...
 
30.
Henri-Georges Clouzot
Writer, Diabolique
Beginning his film career as a screenwriter, Henri-Georges Clouzot switched over to directing and in 1943 had the distinction of having his film Le Corbeau banned by both the German forces occupying France and the Free French forces fighting them, but for different reasons. He shot to international fame with The Wages of Fear and consolidated that success with Diabolique...
 
31.
Jean-Pierre Melville
Writer, Le Samouraï
The name "Melville" is not immediately associated with film. It conjures up images of white whales and crackbrained captains, of naysaying notaries and soup-spilling sailors. It is the countersign to a realm of men and their deeds, both heroic and villainous. It is the American novel, with its Ishmaels and its Claggarts a challenge to the European canon...
 
33.
Lars von Trier
Writer, Melancholia
Probably the most ambitious and visually distinctive filmmaker to emerge from Denmark since Carl Theodor Dreyer over 60 years earlier, Lars von Trier studied film at the Danish Film School and attracted international attention with his very first feature, The Element of Crime. A highly distinctive blend of film noir and German Expressionism with stylistic nods to Dreyer...
 
34.
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.
 
35.
Shôhei Imamura
Director, The Eel
Shohei Imamura's films dig beneath the surface of Japanese society to reveal a wellspring of sensual, often irrational, energy that lies beneath. Along with his colleagues Nagisa Ôshima and Masahiro Shinoda, Imamura began his serious directorial career as a member of the New Wave movement in Japan...
 
36.
Kenji Mizoguchi
Director, Ugetsu
Coming from a lower class family Mizoguchi entered the production company Nikkatsu as an actor specialized in female roles. Later he became an assistant director and made his first film in 1922. Although he filmed almost 90 movies in the silent era, only his last 12 productions are really known outside of Japan because they were especially produced for Venice (e.g...
 
37.
Carlos Saura
Writer, Cria Cuervos
Spanish director, writer, producer (2 films) and actor (2 films). His interest on cinema started when he was very young. His mother, who was a pianist, instilled in him the liking for music, and his brother, Antonio, who was a painter, the passion for art. When he was an teenager he started to practice photography...
 
39.
Theodoros Angelopoulos
Theo Angelopoulos began to study law in Athens but broke up his studies to go to the Sorbonne in Paris in order to study literature. When he had finished his studies, he wanted to attend the School of Cinema at Paris but decided instead to go back to Greece. There he worked as a journalist and critic for the newspaper "Demokratiki Allaghi" until it was banned by the military after a coup d'état...
 
40.
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)...
 
41.
Emir Kusturica
Director, Underground
A Serbian film director. Born in 1954 in Sarajevo. Graduated in film directing at the prestigious Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague in 1978. During his studies, he was awarded several times for his short movies including Guernica (1978), which took first prize at the Student's Film Festival in Karlovy Vary...
 
43.
Éric Rohmer
Admirers have always had difficulty explaining Éric Rohmer's "Je ne sais quoi." Part of the challenge stems from the fact that, despite his place in French Nouvelle Vague (i.e., New Wave), his work is unlike that of his colleagues. While this may be due to the auteur's unwillingness to conform, some have argued convincingly that...
 
44.
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...
 
45.
Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Director, Pandora's Box
Georg Wilhelm Pabst is considered by many to be the greatest director of German cinema, in his era. He was especially appreciated by actors and actresses for the humane way in which he treated them. This was in contrast to some of his contemporaries, such as Arnold Fanck, who have been characterized as martinets.
 
46.
Andrzej Wajda
Director, Katyn
Andrzej Wajda is an Academy Award-wining director. He is the most prominent filmmaker in Poland known for The Promised Land, Man of Iron, and Katyn. He was Born on March 6, 1926, in Suwalki, Poland. His mother, Aniela Wajda, was a teacher at a Ukrainian school. His father, Jakub Wajda, was a captain in the Polish infantry...
 
47.
Aki Kaurismäki
Aki Kaurismäki did a wide variety of jobs including postman, dish-washer and film critic, before forming a production and distribution company, Villealfa (in homage to Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville) with his older brother Mika Kaurismäki, also a film-maker. Both Aki and Mika are prolific film-makers...
 
48.
Vittorio De Sica
Director, Bicycle Thieves
Vittorio De Sica grew up in Naples, and started out as an office clerk in order to raise money to support his poor family. He was increasingly drawn towards acting, and made his screen debut while still in his teens, joining a stage company in 1923. By the late 1920s he was a successful matinee idol of the Italian theatre...
 
49.
Hiroshi Teshigahara
Hiroshi Teshigahara was born the son of Sofu Teshigahara who was the founder of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana (flower arrangement). In 1950, he graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in oil painting. In 1958, he became the director of Sogetsu Art Centre and took a leading role in avant-garde activities in many fields of art...
 
50.
Jerzy Skolimowski
Born in Lódz, Poland, in 1938. Director, playwright, scriptwriter, and actor. Graduated in ethnology, literature and history from Warsaw University in 1959. Graduated from Lódz Film Academy in directing in 1962. Feature debut: _Identification Marks - None_ (Rysopis, 1964, scr., dir, act.), awarded in Warsaw 1964 and Arnhem 1965...
 
51.
Andrey Zvyagintsev
Director, Leviathan
Andrei Zvyagintsev is a Russian filmmaker and was born on Feb.6, 1964 in the northern city of Novisibirsk. He graduated from the Novosibirsk Actors School in 1984 and started to act on stage in provincial theatres. In the early 1990s he came to Moscow - the centre of the Russian film industry - with the ambition to star in movies...
 
52.
Satyajit Ray
Satyajit Ray was born in Calcutta on May 2, 1921. His father, Late Sukumar Ray was an eminent poet and writer in the history of Bengali literature. In 1940, after receiving his degree in science and economics from Calcutta University, he attended Tagore's Viswa-Bharati University. His first movie Pather Panchali won several International Awards and set Ray as a world-class director...
 
53.
Jacques Becker
Writer, Le Trou
His interest in films was stimulated by a meeting with King Vidor, who offered him employment in the US as actor and assistant director. However, he remained in France and became assistant to Jean Renoir, a friend of the family, during that director's peak period (1932-39). In 1934 he ventured briefly into independent production...
 
54.
Kon Ichikawa
Kon Ichikawa has been influenced by artists as diverse as Walt Disney and Jean Renoir, and his films cover a wide spectrum of moods, from the comic to the overwhelmingly ironic and even the perverse. Ichikawa began his career as a cartoonist, and this influence is apparent in his skillful use of the widescreen...
 
56.
Abbas Kiarostami
Director, Certified Copy
Abbas Kiarostami was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1940. He graduated from university with a degree in fine arts before starting work as a graphic designer. He then joined the Center for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, where he started a film section, and this started his career as a filmmaker at the age of 30...
 
57.
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...
 
59.
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...
 
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61.
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...
 
62.
Christian Petzold
Director, Phoenix
Christian Petzold was born in Hilden in 1960. After studying German and Drama at the Freie Universität Berlin, he enrolled in Berlin's German Academy for Film and Television (DFFB). There he studied film direction while at same time working as an assistant director to Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky...
 
63.
Roberto Rossellini
The master filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, as one of the creators of neo-realism, is one of the most influential directors of all time. His neo-realist films influenced France's nouvelle vague movement in the 1950s and '60s that changed the face of international cinema. He also influenced American directors, including Martin Scorsese...
 
64.
Aleksandr Sokurov
Director, Russkiy kovcheg
He was born with a disability because of an anatomic defect of his leg, in 1951 in Podorvikha village in Siberian Russia. His father was a Red Army veteran of WW2. One of most important contemporary filmmakers, Sokurov worked extensively in television and later graduated from the prestigious film school...
 
65.
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...
 
66.
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...
 
67.
Josef von Sternberg
Director, The Blue Angel
Josef von Sternberg split his childhood between Vienna and New York City. His father, a former soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, could not support his family in either city; Sternberg remembered him only as "an enormously strong man who often used his strength on me." Forced by poverty to drop out of high school...
 
68.
Bernardo Bertolucci
Bernardo Bertolucci, the Italian director whose films are known for their colorful visual style, was born in Parma, Italy, in 1940. He attended Rome University and became famous as a poet. He served as assistant director for Pier Paolo Pasolini in the film Accattone and directed The Grim Reaper. His second film...
 
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70.
William A. Wellman
Director, A Star Is Born
William Wellman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter-director of the original A Star Is Born, was called "Wild Bill" during his World War I service as an aviator, a nickname that persisted in Hollywood due to his larger-than-life personality and lifestyle. A leap-year baby born in 1896 on the 29th of February in Brookline...
 
71.
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...
 
72.
Mikio Naruse
Director, Ukigumo
 
75.
Louis Malle
Louis Malle, the descendant of a French nobleman who made a fortune in beet sugar during the Napoleonic Wars, created films that explored life and its meaning. Malle's family discouraged his early interest in film but, in 1950, allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies in Paris...
 
76.
René Clément
Director, Forbidden Games
René Clément was one of the leading French directors of the post-World War II era. He directed what are regarded as some of the greatest films of the time, such as The Battle of the Rails, Forbidden Games and The Day and the Hour. He was later almost forgotten as a director. He was back in public attention briefly when his epic Is Paris Burning? (with an all-star cast of famous actors) was released in 1966...
 
77.
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...
 
78.
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was a Greek-American director, producer, writer and actor. 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, including A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden...
 
79.
Jean Negulesco
Jean Negulesco made his reputation as a director of both polished, popular entertainments as well as critically acclaimed dramatic pictures in the 1940s and 1950s. Born in Craiova, Romania, he left home at age 12, ending up in Paris. He earned some money washing dishes, which paid for his art tuition...
 
81.
John Ford
Director, The Searchers
John Ford came to Hollywood following one of his brothers, an actor. Asked what brought him to Hollywood, he replied "The train". He became one of the most respected directors in the business, in spite of being known for his westerns, which were not considered "serious" film. He won six Oscars, counting (he always did) the two that he won for his WWII documentary work...
 
82.
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...
 
83.
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...
 
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85.
Nicholas Ray
Nicholas Ray was born Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, Jr. 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...
 
87.
Samuel Fuller
At age 17, Samuel Fuller was the youngest reporter ever to be in charge of the events section of the New York Journal. After having participated in the European battle theater in World War II, he directed some minor action productions for which he mostly wrote the scripts himself and which he also produced (e.g...
 
88.
Joseph Losey
Director, The Servant
Belonging to an important family clan in Wisconsin, Joseph Losey studied philosophy but was always interested in theater and thus worked together with Bertolt Brecht. After directing some shorts for MGM, he made his first important film, The Boy with Green Hair, for RKO. While he was filming The Prowler in Italy he was summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee...
 
89.
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.
 
90.
Jacques Rivette
Although François Truffaut has written that the New Wave began "thanks to Rivette," the films of this masterful French director are not well known. Rivette, like his "Cahiers du Cinéma" colleagues Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer, did graduate to filmmaking but, like Rohmer...