The Greatest Action Movie Director of All Time

by The-Social-Introvert | created - 10 Apr 2015 | updated - 21 Jul 2015 | Public

Crash! Bang! Wallop! Who, in your opinion, is the greatest action movie director of all time?

Special Mentions

The following people are considered fine action movie directors but didn't quite make the list:

Buster Keaton, William Wyler, Martin Campbell, Joe Carnahan, Louis Leterrier, George Miller, Guy Ritchie

Discuss the list here

1. 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 ...

Known for:

The Terminator

Aliens

The Abyss

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

True Lies

Titanic

Avatar

2. John McTiernan

Director | Die Hard

John McTiernan was born on January 8, 1951 in Albany, New York, USA as John Campbell McTiernan Jr. He is a director and producer, known for Die Hard (1988), Predator (1987) and Last Action Hero (1993). He has been married to Gail Sistrunk since 2012. He was previously married to Kate Harrington, ...

Known for:

Predator

Die Hard

The Hunt for Red October

Last Action Hero

Die Hard: With a Vengeance

The 13th Warrior

Basic

3. 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...

Known for:

Top Gun

Beverly Hills Cop II

Days of Thunder

The Last Boy Scout

Crimson Tide

Enemy of the State

Spy Game

Man on Fire

Deja Vu

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

4. 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 ...

Known for:

Blade Runner

Black Rain

Gladiator

Black Hawk Down

Kingdom of Heaven

Body of Lies

Exodus

5. John Woo

Director | Ying hung boon sik

Born in southern China, John Woo grew up in Hong Kong, where he began his film career as an assistant director in 1969, working for Shaw Brothers Studios. He directed his first feature in 1973 and has been a prolific director ever since, working in a wide variety of genres before A Better Tomorrow ...

Known for:

The Young Dragons

A Better Tomorrow

A Better Tomorrow II

The Killer

Just Heroes

Bullet in the Head

Hard Boiled

Hard Target

Broken Arrow

Face/Off

Mission: Impossible II

Windtalkers

Paycheck

Red Cliff

Red Cliff II

6. 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...

Known for:

Bad Boys

The Rock

Bad Boys II

Armageddon

Pearl Harbor

The Island

Transformers

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Pain and Gain

Transformers: Age of Extinction

7. Woo-Ping Yuen

Wo hu cang long

Woo-Ping Yuen was born on January 1, 1945 in Guangzhou, China as Yuen Woo Ping. He is known for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) and Fearless (2006).

Known for:

Snake in the Eagle's Shadow

Drunken Master

Dance of the Drunken Mantis

The Miracle Fighters

Last Hero in China

Drunken Tai Chi

Iron Monkey

True Legend

8. Hark Tsui

Producer | Wong Fei Hung

Tsui Hark recently became the fourth Chinese film director to join the board of judges for the 57th Cannes Film Festival in the feature films category this year.

An internationally acclaimed visionary director, Hark started making experimental movies with 8mm film when he was only 13. After ...

Known for:

Once Upon a Time in China

Once Upon a Time in China II

Once Upon a Time in China III

Once Upon a Time in China V

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

9. Paul Greengrass

Director | United 93

Paul Greengrass started his filmmaking career with a super 8 camera he found in his art room in secondary school. Those short movies were animation horror films he made using old dolls, artist dummies, and the general art room clutter.

After studying in Cambridge University he got into Granada ...

Known for:

The Bourne Supremacy

The Bourne Ultimatum

Green Zone

10. Sam Peckinpah

Writer | The Wild Bunch

"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch (1969), 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 ...

Known for:

The Wild Bunch

The Getaway

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The Killer Elite

11. Wolfgang Petersen

Director | Das Boot

This director seems to shine most when making movies that can best be described as part action movies/part disaster movies.

Beginning with Outbreak (1995) about the outbreak of a killer virus. This film had shades of an Irwin Allen disaster movie, The Swarm (1978), about the outbreak of killer bees....

Known for:

Das Boot

Enemy Mine

Outbreak

In the Line of Fire

Air Force One

Troy

12. Walter Hill

Writer | 48 Hrs.

Hill was born in Long Beach, California and educated at Mexico City College and Michigan State University. He worked in oil drilling and construction in the 60s before becoming a 2nd assistant director in 1967. He has written and co-written screenplays, including several uncredited works. He has ...

Known for:

The Driver

The Warriors

48 Hrs.

Red Heat

Last Man Standing

Bullet to the Head

13. 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,...

Known for:

Thief

The Last of the Mohicans

Heat

Collateral

Miami Vice

Blackhat

14. Richard Donner

Director | Superman

Richard Donner was born on April 24, 1930 in New York City, New York, USA as Richard D. Schwartzberg. He is a director and producer, known for Superman (1978), Ladyhawke (1985) and Lethal Weapon (1987). He has been married to Lauren Shuler Donner since November 27, 1986.

Known for:

Superman

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Weapon 2

Lethal Weapon 3

Lethal Weapon 4

16 Blocks

15. Paul Verhoeven

Director | RoboCop

Paul Verhoeven graduated from the University of Leiden, with a degree in math and physics. He entered the Royal Netherlands Navy, where he began his film career by making documentaries for the Navy and later for TV. In 1969, he directed the popular Dutch TV series, Floris (1969), about a medieval ...

Known for:

Robocop

Total Recall

Starship Troopers

16. Gareth Evans

Director | Serbuan maut

Welsh born writer/director, in 2003 directed a short film "Samurai Monogatari" telling the tale of a Samurai waiting to be executed. The short was in Japanese language and starred students from Tokyo who were studying at Cardiff University at the time.

In 2003 he also graduated with an MA in ...

Known for:

The Raid: Redemption

The Raid 2

Merantau

17. David Ayer

Writer | End of Watch

David Ayer is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. David Ayer was born in Champaign, Illinois and grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Bethesda, Maryland, where he was kicked out of his house by his parents as a teenager. Ayer then lived with his cousin in Los Angeles, ...

Known for:

Harsh Times

Street Kings

End of Watch

Sabotage

Fury

18. Sylvester Stallone

Actor | Rocky

This athletically built, dark-haired American actor/screenwriter/director may never be mentioned by old-school film critics in the same breath as, say, Richard Burton or Alec Guinness; however, movie fans worldwide have been flocking to see Stallone's films for over 30 years, making "Sly" one of ...

Known for:

Rocky II

Rocky III

Rocky Balboa

Rambo

The Expendables

19. Doug Liman

Producer | Edge of Tomorrow

Doug Liman was born on July 24, 1965 in New York City, New York, USA. He is a producer and director, known for Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Swingers (1996) and Fair Game (2010).

Known for:

The Bourne Identity

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Edge of Tomorrow

20. Justin Lin

Producer | Furious 6

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 ...

Known for:

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Fast & Furious

Fast Five

Fast & Furious 6

21. Christopher Nolan

Writer | Dunkirk

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.

...

Known for:

Batman Begins

The Dark Knight

Inception

The Dark Knight Rises

22. Steven Spielberg

Producer | Schindler's List

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, ...

Known for:

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Jurassic Park

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Saving Private Ryan

War of the Worlds

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Adventures of Tintin

23. Antoine Fuqua

Director | 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, ...

Known for:

Training Day

The Equalizer

Olympus Has Fallen

Shooter

24. 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 ...

Known for:

X-Men: First Class

Kick-Ass

Kingsman: The Secret Service

25. Stephen Chow

Actor | Kung fu

Stephen Chow was the only boy of his family, and has grown up as a Bruce Lee fan and a martial arts addict. His career started on TV, where he presented a children show ( "430 Space Shuttle" (1983)) and started becoming popular. He got some supporting roles, after that, and won the Taiwanese Golden...

Known for:

Kung Fu Hustle

Shaolin Soccer

From Beijing with Love

26. Jaume Collet-Serra

Producer | The Shallows

Jaume Collet-Serra was born on March 23, 1974 in Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. He is a producer and director, known for The Shallows (2016), Unknown (2011) and Orphan (2009).

Known for:

Unknown

Non-Stop

Run All Night

27. Simon West

Director | Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Simon West was born in 1961 in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, England. He is a producer and director, known for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), The General's Daughter (1999) and Stolen (2012).

Known for:

Con Air

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

The Mechanic

The Expendables 2

Stolen

Wild Card

28. Roland Emmerich

Writer | Independence Day

Roland Emmerich is a German film director and producer of blockbuster films like The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Godzilla (1998), Independence Day (1996) and The Patriot (2000). Before fame, he originally wanted to be a production designer, but decided to be a director, after watching the original ...

Known for:

Universal Soldier

Stargate

Independence Day

The Day After Tomorrow

White House Down

29. 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 ...

Known for:



Hellboy

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Pacific Rim

30. 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 ...

Known for:

Point Break

Blue Steel

Strange Days

31. Akira Kurosawa

Writer | Ran

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 (1943). Within a few years, Kurosawa had achieved sufficient stature to allow him greater...

Known for:

Seven Samurai

Throne of Blood

Yojimbo

32. Sam Raimi

Director | Spider-Man

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 (1981). From his childhood, Raimi was a fan of the cinema and, before he was ten-years-old, he was out making ...

Known for:

Darkman

The Quick and the Dead

Spider-Man

Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 3

33. Bryan Singer

Director | X-Men

Bryan Singer was born on September 17, 1965 in New York City, New York, USA as Bryan Jay Singer. He is a producer and director, known for X-Men (2000), The Usual Suspects (1995) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).

Known for:

X-Men

X-Men 2

Superman Returns

X-Men: Days of Future Past

34. John Sturges

Director | The Great Escape

John Sturges was born on January 3, 1910 in Oak Park, Illinois, USA as John Elliott Sturges. He was a director and producer, known for The Great Escape (1963), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). He was married to Katherine Helena Soules and Dorothy Lynn Brooks. He ...

Known for:

The Great Escape

The Magnificent Seven

The Eagle Has Landed

Joe Kidd

Marooned

Gunfight at the O.K. Corrall

Escape from Fort Bravo

35. Robert Aldrich

Director | What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Robert Aldrich entered the film industry in 1941 when he got a job as a production clerk at RKO Pictures. He soon worked his way up to script clerk, then became an assistant director, a production manager and an associate producer. He began writing and directing for TV series in the early 1950s, ...

Known for:

The Dirty Dozen

The Longest Yard

The Flight of the Phoenix

Ten Seconds to Hell

...All the Marbles

The Choirboys



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