Woody Allen
AMC Movie List

The 50 Greatest Directors of All Time

Filmsite.org‘s Tim Dirks spotlights the top 50 directors in Hollywood history. Which one is your favorite?

rank title points votes your vote
1 Alfred Hitchcock
A master of suspense and gallows humor, he turned out classic after classic, including Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds.
4554 33010
2 Charlie Chaplin
He was a genius of silent comedy and one of its first stars. The Tramp and Modern Times are still comic icons.
3971 16711
3 Stanley Kubrick
He made science trippy in 2001, Cold War politics slapstick in Dr. Strangelove, and Roman slaves au courant in Spartacus.
3901 33887
4 Orson Welles
Larger than life, he debuted with the dazzling Citizen Kane, then he saw studios hack up The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil.
3252 14798
5 Billy Wilder
His wit and unflinching eye for hypocrisy produced Sunset Blvd. and Ace in the Hole along with the gender-bending Some Like It Hot.
3109 8591
6 Woody Allen
In Sleeper, Annie Hall, and Manhattan, he invited moviegoers to laugh at urban neurotics, then got serious in Interiors.
3103 12829
7 Frank Capra
Sentimental but not sappy, his best movies (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life) wrap dark themes in happy endings.
3101 8123
8 John Ford
The quintessential Westerner, he made icons of Monument Valley and John Wayne in the classics Stagecoach and The Searchers.
2933 8951
9 Martin Scorsese
You talkin' to him? No one captures alienated men on the edge the way he's done in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Departed.
2692 21590
10 Francis Ford Coppola
Part of the first generation of film-school directors, he went from Dementia 13 to epics (The Godfather) and small gems (Rumble Fish).
2486 13620
11 Roman Polanski
In Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, this international moviemaker probed dark passions and destructive desires.
2406 9052
12 Quentin Tarantino
A brilliant pop-culture collagist, he thrilled movie lovers with Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and the Kill Bill series.
2361 20883
13 William Wyler
His elegant storytelling made dramas (The Best Years of Our Lives), romances (Roman Holiday), and epics (Ben-Hur) sparkle.
2318 6334
14 Steven Spielberg
He reworked the genre crowd-pleasers of his youth into the modern blockbusters Jaws, E.T., and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
2279 25435
15 David Lean
From Lawrence of Arabia to Doctor Zhivago, his movies proved that no desert is as deep or wide as the landscape of the human heart.
2186 12046
16 Howard Hawks
Funny, tough, and funny-tough, he went from Scarface to His Girl Friday and from To Have and Have Not to Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
2106 6204
17 John Huston
Artistic, macho, and intellectual, Huston had a career spanning four decades, from The Maltese Falcon to Prizzi's Honor.
2041 6343
18 Elia Kazan
In A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, this controversial director made gritty psychological dramas with resonance.
1949 6415
19 Fritz Lang
Metropolis still defines the future, and thrillers like The Woman in the Window and The Big Heat probed America's past.
1697 5475
20 George Cukor
Wit and class distinguish his sophisticated pictures, which star Katharine and Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo.
1485 4661
21 Mike Nichols
Trained in improv theater, he specializes in character-driven comedies and dramas -- The Graduate, Silkwood, and Closer.
1397 4705
22 John Cassavetes
An actor turned pioneering moviemaker, he paved the way for cinema verite with Shadows and A Woman Under the Influence.
1378 4756
23 Preston Sturges
His witty, sophisticated comedies -- The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story -- are still sharply funny, six decades later.
1250 4440
24 Robert Altman
Countercultural attitudes, intersecting stories, and overlapping dialogue distinguish his movies, notably MASH and Nashville.
1054 4968
25 Michael Powell
The U.K. screenwriter-director team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made popular art movies like Black Narcissus and Peeping Tom.
974 4486
26 Joel Coen
Joel and Ethan Coen are smart alecks with heart, combining dark humor, violence, and potent themes in movies like Fargo and True Grit.
940 9484
27 Cecil B. DeMille
He was the first master of big-budget event movies, with two Ten Commandments films and The Greatest Show on Earth.
918 4510
28 Ernst Lubitsch
Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and To Be or Not to Be have a unique Continental style that defies remaking.
917 3993
29 David Lynch
His nightmarish Eraserhead paved the way for increasingly surreal movies in mainstream-thriller guises, from Blue Velvet to Mulholland Dr.
907 8079
30 Joseph L. Mankiewicz
From the weepie A Letter to Three Wives to the bitch-fest All About Eve, his movies are articulate and wickedly entertaining.
907 3917
31 Tim Burton
Inspired by Halloween and Johnny Depp, this visual stylist made Beetle Juice, Batman, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
879 8869
32 Ridley Scott
A TV-commercial star turned stylish auteur, he made the cool, slick Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma & Louise.
873 11487
33 Brian De Palma
A seventies film-school prodigy, he made Carrie and Scarface but specialized in Hitchcockian thrillers like Dressed to Kill and Body Double.
870 5404
34 Clint Eastwood
The TV actor turned spaghetti-Western star became an A-list director with Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby.
860 16308
35 Vincente Minnelli
He dissected show business in both musicals (An American in Paris) and melodramas (The Bad and the Beautiful).
848 4206
36 Arthur Penn
After the Freudian Western The Left Handed Gun, he made New Hollywood classics Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, and Night Moves.
840 3982
37 Douglas Sirk
He brought a European darkness to the American melodramas Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, and Imitation of Life.
831 4203
38 Mel Brooks
Never sacrificing a laugh to good taste, Brooks made the sublimely rude Blazing Saddles, Producers, and Young Frankenstein.
812 6186
39 Michael Curtiz
He made Casablanca and Elvis Presley's King Creole, along with dozens of movies in every genre, from action to horror to melodrama.
808 3992
40 D.W. Griffith
The father of modern moviemaking, he pioneered film language in such milestones as The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance.
698 4578
41 Terrence Malick
Malick's brooding, intellectual anti-Hollywood masterpieces include Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line.
400 5246
42 Peter Jackson
This New Zealand-born movie buff started small with the low-budget Bad Taste and worked his way up to the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy.
354 9298
43 Spike Lee
This African-American filmmaker provoked discussion via Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues, and Summer of Sam.
233 7495
44 Robert Zemeckis
He used new technologies to seamlessly combine reality and fantasy in movies like Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
233 5517
45 James Cameron
He escaped the low-budget likes of Piranha Part Two to make the sci-fi spectacles Terminator, Aliens, and Avatar.
70 10906
46 George Lucas
Not only did he create the Star Wars mythos, but he drove the development of widely used sound and special-effects technology.
56 8252
47 Otto Preminger
After the film noir Laura, he challenged movie censors with drug abuse, in The Man With the Golden Arm, and rape, in Anatomy of a Murder.
47 3721
48 Sam Peckinpah
He upped onscreen violence in his controversial Westerns and dramas, including The Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
-660 4358
49 Oliver Stone
Provocative, bombastic, and politically contrarian, he's courted controversy in Midnight Express, Natural Born Killers, and JFK.
-776 6610
50 Sam Raimi
The cult-movie king from Michigan gave us the Evil Dead trilogy (and Bruce Campbell), A Simple Plan, and the blockbuster Spider-Man movies.
-1023 5633