The REAL list of Best Modern Film Directors with 3 Great Movies or More

by codesamurai | created - 01 Aug 2013 | updated - 02 Aug 2013 | Public

An advanced course in doing justice to great modern film directors and NOT the likes of Stephen Sommers, Marcus Nispel and Joel Schumacher. And really? No, Tarantino or Scorsese? C'MON MAN! YOU KRAY KRAY

1. Martin Scorsese

Director | Taxi Driver

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 ...

*The Godfathers*

The man who shoed in modern filmmaking. With a focus on storytelling, nuanced characters, anti-heroes he paved the way for brave new styles and influences. And continues to produce provocative, socially aware work to this day.

Personal "Top Shelf" Choices: Goodfellas, The Departed, Hugo, Casino, Taxi Driver, The Color Of Money,

Career Highlights: Raging Bull, Mean Streets, Shutter Island, The Aviator, Gangs of New York

Career Lows: Bring out the Dead

2. James Cameron

Writer | Avatar

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 ...

*The Godfathers*

I remember the argument my parents got into over me being to young to watch The Terminator, but my Father's insistence won and my fragile young mind was eternally blown. And thus the magic of moviemaking. Cameron has always known how to tap into that, with an eye for story first, great characters and of course the action leaves all his peers in the dust. Although he may be getting a little soft in his old age, he still pushes the technology forward to allow new boundaries into other worlds to be crossed.

Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Terminator, T2: Judgment Day, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies (and he was responsible for inspiring Predator)

Career Highlights: Avatar, Piranha Part 2: The Spawning

Career Lows: Titanic (I'm sorry, I hate this movie)

3. Stanley Kubrick

Director | 2001: A Space Odyssey

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 ...

*The Godfathers*

Thought provoking, shocking, cunning, brilliant, arrogant, pretentious, crazy. Nothing left audiences more divided then Kubrick. But he was the avant garde that paved the way for young brash filmmakers to follow, constantly defying expectations to craft something unique.

Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Shining, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, Spartacus

Career Highlights: Clockwork Orange, Lolita, Barry Lyndon

Career Lows: Eyes Wide Shut

4. Terry Gilliam

Writer | Brazil

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....

*The Godfathers*

Personal Top Shelf Choices: Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail, 12 Monkeys, Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing Las Vegas, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Muncheasun

Career Highlights: The Fisher King, Monty Python

Career Lows: The Brothers Grimm, Tideland, The Imaginarium of Dr. Panassus

5. Steven Spielberg

Producer | Artificial Intelligence: AI

One of the most influential personalities in the history of cinema, Steven Spielberg is Hollywood's best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. He has an extraordinary number of commercially successful and critically acclaimed credits to his name, either as a director, ...

*The Godfathers*

We wouldn't even know what a Blockbuster would be until Spielberg, forever igniting the imagination of every kid in the '80s and giving happy endings to all! (that sounds dirty) Then turning his work towards history movies, with darker tones, more risky storytelling and are now cornerstones in important films.

Personal Top Shelf Choices: Saving Private Ryan, E.T. Indiana Jones, Jaws, Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Minority Report, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Lincoln, War of the Worlds, The Terminal

Career Highlights: Munich, Catch Me If You Can, Empire of the Sun, Amistad

Career Lows: The Lost World: Jurassic Park

6. Robert Zemeckis

Writer | Back to the Future

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 (1984), 1941 (1979)) and special effect ...

*The Godfathers*

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Back to the Future, Castaway,

Career Highlights: Flight

Career Lows:

7. Ridley Scott

Producer | The Martian

Described by film producer Michael Deeley as "the very best eye in the business", director 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 ...

*The Godfathers*

One of the true visionaries of film. His scope is grand but his attention to character is detailed and is a master of all genres.

Personal Top Shelf Choices: Alien, Blade Runner, Legend, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Kingdom Of Heaven (The director's cut, not the botched FOX studio's theatrical cut), Matchstick Men, American Gangster, Promethius

Career Highlights: Robin Hood, G.I. Jane, Thelma & Louise, Body of Lies

Career Lows: Hannibal, A Good Year

8. Tony Scott

Producer | Domino

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...

*The Game Changers*

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Man On Fire, True Romance, Deja Vu Domino

Career Highlights: Top Gun, Days Of Thunder

Career Lows:

9. Quentin Tarantino

Writer | Reservoir Dogs

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...

*The Game Changers*

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Inglorious Basterds, Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, Django Unchained

Career Lows: Jackie Brown

10. Robert Rodriguez

Producer | El mariachi

Robert Anthony Rodriguez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, USA, to Rebecca (Villegas), a nurse, and Cecilio G. Rodríguez, a salesman. His family is of Mexican descent.

Of all the people to be amazed by the images of John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi parable, Escape from New York (1981), none ...

*The Game Changers*

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Desperado, El Marachi, From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City, Grindhouse: Planet Terror

Career Highlights: Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Machete

Career Lows: Spy Kids (it's great you're a dad and all...)

11. Christopher Nolan

Writer | Interstellar

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.


*The Game Changers*

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Dark Knight Trilogy, Memento, Insomania, The Prestige, Inception, The Following

12. David Fincher

Director | Se7en

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...

*The Game Changers*

Personal Top Shelf: Fight Club, Seven, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Zodiac,The Game

Career Highlights: The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network

Career Lows: Panic Room, Aliens 3 (the only reason this is a low is because FOX studios botched Fincher's vision for the movie and what Fincher actually got done isn't half bad)

13. Danny Boyle

Director | 127 Hours

Danny Boyle was born on October 20, 1956 in Manchester, England as Daniel Boyle. He is a director and producer, known for 127 Hours (2010), 28 Days Later... (2002) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

* The Game Changers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: 28 Days Later, Sunshine, The Beach, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, Slumdog Millionaire

Career Highlights: 127 Hours, Trance, Shallow Grave

Career Lows:

14. Guy Ritchie

Director | Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK on September 10, 1968. After watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) 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 ...

* The Game Changers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Rock N Rolla

Career Highlights: Sherlock Holmes,

Career Lows: Swept Away, Revolver

15. Michael Mann

Producer | The Insider

A student of London's International Film School, Michael Mann began his career in the late 70s, writing for TV shows like Starsky and Hutch (1975). He directed his first film, the award-winning prison drama The Jericho Mile (1979), in 1979. He followed that in 1981 with his first theatrical release,...

* The Story Tellers *

Personal Top Shelf Choices: Heat, The Last of The Mohicans, Public Enemies, Collateral,

Career Highlights: The Insider, Miami Vice (more the show, really), Ali, Manhunter

16. James Mangold

Producer | Logan

James Mangold is an American film and television director, screenwriter and producer. Films he has directed include Girl, Interrupted (1999), Walk the Line (2005), which he also co-wrote, the 2007 remake 3:10 to Yuma (2007), The Wolverine (2013), and Logan (2017).

Mangold also wrote and directed Cop...

* The Story Tellers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: 3:10 to Yuma, Identity, Copland, Walk the Line

Career Highlights: The Wolverine, Knight and Day

Career Lows:

17. Edward Zwick

Producer | The Last Samurai

Edward Zwick is well-known for his heroic movies that include Glory (1989), and the breathtaking works of art that include Legends of the Fall (1994). Zwick has also been known for his thoughtfulness as a director, and for his record of working with television series and other films as a producer.


* The Story Tellers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Glory, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance, Legends of the Fall

Career Highlights: The Siege, Courage Under Fire

Career Lows: Love & Other Drugs

18. Joe Wright

Director | Pride & Prejudice

Joe Wright is an English film director. He is best known for Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007), Anna Karenina (2012), and Darkest Hour (2017).

Wright always had an interest in the arts, especially painting. He would also make films on his Super 8 camera as well as spend time in the evenings...

* The Story Tellers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, Hanna

Career Highlights: The Soloist, Anna Karenina

19. J.J. Abrams

Producer | Lost

Jeffrey Jacob Abrams was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, the son of TV producer parents. Abrams planned on going to dental school, but decided to study film at Sarah Lawrence College. At 15, he wrote the music for Don Dohler's Nightbeast (1982). In his senior year, he and Jill ...

* The Torch Bearers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Super 8, MI:3

20. Rian Johnson

Director | Looper

Rian Johnson was born in Maryland and at a young age, he moved to San Clemente, California, where he was raised. After graduating from high school, he went on to attend the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. His first feature film Brick (2005) was released in 2005 and was ...

* The Torch Bearers *

Personal Top Shelf: Brick, The Brother's Bloom, Looper

21. Joss Whedon

Writer | Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon is the middle of five brothers - his younger brothers are Jed Whedon and Zack Whedon. Both his father, Tom Whedon and his grandfather, John Whedon were successful television writers. Joss' mother, Lee Stearns, was a history teacher and she also wrote novels as Lee Whedon. Whedon was ...

*The Torch Bearers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Serenity, The Avengers

Career Highlights: Much Ado about Nothing

22. Matthew Vaughn

Producer | Kick-Ass

Matthew Vaughn is an English film producer and director. He is known for producing such films as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000) and for directing the crime thriller, Layer Cake (2004), the fantasy epic, Stardust (2007), the superhero comedy, Kick-Ass (2010), and the ...

* The Torch bearer *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Layer Cake, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class

Career Highlights: Stardust

23. 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 ...

* The Torch Bearers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Children of Men, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

Career Highlights: Y Tu Mama Tambien

24. Duncan Jones

Director | Moon

Duncan Jones was born on May 30, 1971 in Bromley, Kent, England as Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. He is a director and writer, known for Moon (2009), Source Code (2011) and Warcraft (2016). He has been married to Rodene Ronquillo since November 6, 2012. They have one child.

* The Torch Bearer *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Moon, The Source Code

25. Tim Burton

Producer | Edward Scissorhands

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 ...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Batman

Career Highlights: Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks!

Career Lows: Planet of The Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and Chocolate Factory

26. Peter Jackson

Producer | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

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,...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, The Frighteners, Dead Alive

Career Highlights: King Kong, Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles

Career Lows: The Lovely Bones

27. Guillermo del Toro

Writer | El laberinto del fauno

Guillermo del Toro was born October 9, 1964 in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Raised by his Catholic grandmother, del Toro developed an interest in filmmaking in his early teens. Later, he learned about makeup and effects from the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist (1973)) and worked on making his ...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Pacific Rim, Pan's Labrynth, Hellboy, Hellboy: The Golden Army, Blade 2, The Devil's Backbone

Career Highlights: Mimic

Career Lows:

28. Lilly Wachowski

Writer | The Matrix

Director, writer and producer Lilly Wachowski was born in 1967 in Chicago as Andrew Wachowski, the son of Lynne, a nurse and painter and Ron, a businessman. Lilly was educated at Kellogg Elementary School in Chicago, before moving on to Whitney Young High School. After graduating from high school, ...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Matrix Trilogy, Cloud Atlas, Bound

Career Highlights: Speed Racer

29. Zack Snyder

Director | 300

Zachary Edward "Zack" Snyder (born March 1, 1966) is an American film director, film producer, and screenwriter, best known for action and science fiction films. Snyder made his feature film debut with the 2004 remake Dawn of the Dead and has gone on to be known for his comic book movies and ...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: 300, Watchmen Director's cut, Man of Steel

Career Highlights: Sucker Punch, Dawn of the Dead

30. Antoine Fuqua

Producer | The Magnificent Seven

Antoine Fuqua is an American film director, known for his work in the film Training Day as well as The Replacement Killers, Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, Shooter, Brooklyn's Finest, Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer.

He has directed music videos for such artists as Arrested Development, Prince, ...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Training Day, Tears of The Sun, The Replacement Killers, King Arthur Director's Cut

Career Highlights: Olympus Has Fallen, Shooter, Brooklyn's Finest

Career Lows: Bait

31. Michael Bay

Producer | Armageddon

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. His work won...

* The Visionaries *

My Personal Top Shelf (err guilty pleasures) Choices: The Rock, The Island, Transformers, Bad Boys II

Career Highlights: Armageddon, Transformers: Dark of The Moon, Bad Boys

Career Lows: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Pearl Harbor

32. Joel Coen

Writer | Fargo

Joel Coen was born on November 29, 1954 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA as Joel Daniel Coen. He is a producer and writer, known for Fargo (1996), A Serious Man (2009) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). He has been married to Frances McDormand since April 1, 1984. They have one child.

* The Kings of Quirk *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading, Fargo,

Career Highlights:

Career Lows: Intolerable Cruelty,

33. Wes Anderson

Writer | Fantastic Mr. Fox

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 ...

* The Kings of Quirk *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, Fantastic Mr.Fox, Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenembums,

Career Highlights: The Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

34. Sam Mendes

Director | Skyfall

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-...

* The Kings of the Quirk "

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Skyfall, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Away We Go

Career Highlights: Revolution Road, Jarhead

Career Lows:

35. Paul Thomas Anderson

Director | Punch-Drunk Love

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...

* The Kings of Quirk *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Master, Punch Drunk Love, Magnolia

Career Highlights: Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood

36. David O. Russell

Writer | Three Kings

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 ...

* The Kings of Quirk *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Three Kings, The Fighter, Silver Lining Playbook, Flirting With Disaster

Career Highlights: I Heart Huckabees

37. Neill Blomkamp

Director | District 9

Neill Blomkamp was born on September 17, 1979 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a director and writer, known for District 9 (2009), Elysium (2013) and Chappie (2015). He is married to Terri Tatchell. They have one child.

* The Up & Comers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: District 9

38. Michel Gondry

Director | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

He grew up in Versailles with a family who was very influenced by pop music. When he was young, Gondry wanted to be a painter or an inventor. In the 80s he entered in an art school in Paris where he could develop his graphic skills and where he also met friends with whom he created a pop-rock band ...

* The Up & Comers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep

Career Highlights: Be Kind Rewind, The Green Hornet

39. John Hillcoat

Director | The Road

John Hillcoat was born in 1961 in Queensland, Australia. He is a director, known for The Road (2009), The Proposition (2005) and Ghosts... of the Civil Dead (1988).

* The Up & Comers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: The Road, The Proposition

Career Highlights: Lawless

40. Martin McDonagh

Writer | Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh was born on March 26, 1970 in Camberwell, London, England. He is a writer and director, known for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), In Bruges (2008) and Seven Psychopaths (2012).

* The Up & Comers *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths

41. M. Night Shyamalan

Producer | Lady in the Water

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 ...

* Please, Come back to reality *

My Personal Top Shelf Choices: Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, The Village

Career Highlights: Signs, Lady in the Water

Career Lows: The Happening, After Earth, The Last Airbender