Greatest Directors In History - Top 30.
Updated: Jan 28, 2022
So many directors, yet only a handful of them can truly tell a story they way they envision it. Here are our top 30 directors of all time. These geniuses give storytelling a whole new meaning.
30. Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg has created some of the most enjoyable films with an extensive range in genre and size. Spielberg is a man that is willing to adapt to modern movie techniques to create something that we all can enjoy. Remembering a Speilberg film is like looking into the past and feeling that same nostalgia once more. His movies are so impactful that they leave a time-stamp in most people’s lives. Many people remember watching E.T. as a child or Jaws as a teen. Spielberg was destined to make this list with great hits such as Jurassic Park (1993), Saving Private (1998), Catch Me While You Can (2002), and the Indiana Jones trilogy.
29. John Ford
When you think of the western genre, who do you think of? If you didn’t say, John Wayne or John Ford, then you must be lying. John Ford, with his acclaimed films such as Stagecoach (1939), Fort Apache (1948), and The Searchers (1956), has established himself as the king of westerns. With over 140 films under his directing belt, we can safely assume that his directing career was well deserved.
28. Christopher Nolan
Since Christopher Nolan’s rise to fame in the early 2000s, he has quickly risen as the king of Hollywood. Nolan has been known to even break past 1 trillion dollars in worldwide gross. His films are a perfect blend of all things that make cinema an excellent platform for interpretation. Nolan is a perfect example of a great director willing to follow the structure of storytelling and cinema while actively pushing the envelope to newer heights.
27. James Cameron
Even after almost 25 years, James Cameroon’s Titanic still holds third place in the worldwide box office. Cameroon’s film Avatar, released in 2009, had the number one title for ten years and was only beaten after the release of Avengers: Endgame. James Cameroon will hold the title of box-office king for some time to come. The techniques that Cameroon has added to the history of film over the years is unmatched. Even if you have only seen a handful of movies in your entire life, there is still a good chance one is a James Cameron film.
26. Ernest Lubitsch
Though it has been said that Ernest Lubitsch was challenging to work with, many filmmakers have noted that he works with elegance and finesse. Lubitsch’s subtle use of cinema has led to the creation of the term “the Lubitsch touch.” This “Lubitsch touch” is widely used today and refers to the complex use of subtlety, charisma, and well..... Lubitsch!
25. Sofia Coppola
Putting Sofia Coppola at the top of this list feels like a disservice to her and her filmmaking abilities. With notable films such as The Virgin Suicides (1999), Lost in Translation (2003), and Marie Antoinette (2006), Coppola has perfected her craft. Even her earlier shorts are masterfully crafted and represent her inevitable success in filmmaking.
24. Fritz Lang
Born in Austria, Fritz Lang began making feature-length films and eventually moved to Hollywood. His earlier silent films are regarded as his best works: Metropolis, M, and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. Lang was a key founder in the German Expressionist movement, and his career was groundbreakingly influential to the art cinema. During World War II, Lang was forced to move out of the country and found himself in Hollywood’s Golden Era. Here Lang would make a career for himself until the early 1960s where he would retire. A veteran filmmaker who saw the rise of films to the creation of sync-sound and even color.
23. The Coen Brothers
Joel and Ethan Coen are famed directors that work together as one team. They have been known to alternate between film genres without any difficulties. Take a look at some of their bigger-known films, as you will see what we mean (i.e., Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs). These two are an unstoppable duo and have received the nickname “The Two-Headed Director”.
22. David Lynch
Any artists/writers who may have trouble finding a way to express their emotions artistically must look into the life of David Lynch. If you have ever listened to an interview with Lynch, you would understand that he loves to dive into the concept of “ideas”. Lynch will go on long spiels about where ideas come from and how he manifests these ideas into something more significant. He talks a great deal about the subconscious, which can be noticeable in his works such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and his most renowned film Mulholland Dr.
21. Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky gave everything to break the rules of cinema. His most notable films were Solaris, Mirror, Stalker, and Andrei Rublev Tarkovsky, where he pushed filmmaking and storytelling boundaries. His films force the audience to look inwards at their individuality and humanity. Though his films may seem drawn out and slow, they are meant to allow the audience time to think and ponder the presented concepts. Tarkovsky not only wants the audience to think about what they are viewing, he forces them to.
20. Charlie Chaplin
From his famous Tramp persona’s spontaneous creation to his intricate style of directing, Charlie Chaplin is one of the best actor and director combos to date. Even if you haven’t seen a single film with Chaplin in it, you have at least seen his famous mustache and tramp costume in some form or fashion. In Hollywood, pictures of him range from morals to statues. He is a gem of his area, and many of his films are regarded as the best ever made. It goes to show that you don’t need sync-sound to be funny.
19. Howard Hawks
Howard Hawks is a man of many genres, from Scarface (1932), a crime/noir film that follows Tony Camonte’s gangster lifestyle, to Rio Bravo, a western starring John Wayne. Though Howard Hawks’s name was forgotten by most of the world after his death in 1977, many cinephiles still refer to his movies as some of the best made. He was a brilliant director with the ability to create any style of film.
17. FW Murnau
Even if you have an innate dislike for silent films, F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans will have you screaming for more. Murnau’s skill in representing the characters as three-dimensional humans that will and can make mistakes is done so masterfully that many modern films fail in comparison. His master of the camera and storytelling is unmatched even by today’s standards.
16. Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma’s understanding of the dark underbelly of human nature is directly presented in his films. De Palma is willing to explore concepts, such as taboos, that many Hollywood filmmakers try and avoid. Scarface (1983), Carrie (1976), The Untouchables (1987) are all great examples of films that are still loved today.
15. François Truffaut
Cinema would not be the same if not for François Truffaut. He was one of the primary founders of the French New Wave and created films that many critics regard as expertly crafted. As a young critic, Truffaut was notoriously harsh and unyielding, and he was known for destroying the reputation of many french films. In 1959, Truffaut would prove his criticisms and make his first film, The 400 Blows. Regarded as one of the greatest French films ever created.
14. Sergei Eisenstein
If you have ever taken a film class, then you have seen Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1926) at least once. Eisenstein’s works served as the grounds for many popular modern films. Eisenstein is most famo