The 100 Greatest Modern Directors

The 100 greatest directors in modern film. Works that best typify each artist’s talents are loosely ranked within.  (Must have at least one 21st Century theatrical film to be considered “modern.”)

  1. Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999): 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut, The Killing, Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, Spartacus, Lolita.    (*Even though Kubrick passed away before the turn of the millennium, his substantial contributions to AI: Artificial Intelligence, which was released in 2001, make him just eligible.)

  2.  Martin Scorsese: Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Departed, Mean Streets, The King of Comedy, After Hours, Casino, The Irishman, Gangs of New York, Shutter Island, The Last Waltz, The Wolf of Wall Street, Cape Fear, The Color of Money, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Aviator, The Age of Innocence, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.
  3.  Steven Spielberg: Schindler’s List, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, E.T: The Extra Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Catch Me if You Can, Munich, Minority Report, Poltergeist, The Color Purple, Bridge of Spies, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Amistad, The Post.
  4.  Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather, The Godfather II, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The Rainmaker, The Outsiders, You’re A Big Boy Now.
  5.  Paul Thomas Anderson: There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master, Phantom Thread, Punch-Drunk Love, Hard Eight, Inherent Vice.
  6.  Joel/Ethan Cohen: No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, A Serious Man, Miller’s Crossing, Inside Llewyn Davis, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, True Grit, The Man Who Wasn’t There, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Blood Simple, The Hudsucker Proxy.
  7.  Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, Inglourious Basterds, Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood, Django Unchained, Kill Bill, The Hateful Eight.
  8.  David Fincher: Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, Gone Girl, The Game, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Mindhunter.
  9. Sidney Lumet (1924-2011): 12 Angry Men, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Serpico, Murder on the Orient Express, Running on Empty, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Fail-Safe
  10.  James Cameron: Terminator 2, Titanic, Aliens, The Abyss, Avatar, The Terminator, True Lies
  11. Robert Altman (1925-2006): M.A.S.H., Nashville, The Player, Gosford Park, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Short Cuts, The Long Goodbye, 3 Women.
  12.  Mike Nichols (1931-2014): The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Catch-22, Silkwood, Working Girl, Charlie Wilson’s War, Carnal Knowledge, The Birdcage, Closer, Wolf.
  13.  Christopher NolanMemento, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Dunkirk, Inception, Interstellar, Batman Begins, Insomnia.
  14.  David LynchMulholland Drive, The Elephant Man, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, Eraserhead, Dune, Lost Highway.
  15.  Ridley Scott: Alien, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, The Martian, Thelma and Louise, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, The Duelists, Matchstick Men.
  16.  Terrence Malick: The Thin Red Line, Badlands, The Tree of Life, Days of Heaven.
  17.  Steven Soderbergh: Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Out of Sight, The Knick, Erin Brockovich, Che, Contagion, Sex Lies and Videotape, Magic Mike, Logan Lucky.
  18.  Spike Lee: Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Inside Man, 25th Hour, Clockers, 4 Little Girls, He Got Game, Crooklyn, She’s Gotta Have It, BlacKKKlansman, Mo’ Better Blues.
  19.  Brian De Palma: Scarface, Carrie, Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, Blow Out, The Untouchables, Casualties of War, Dressed to Kill.
  20.  William Friedkin: The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Boys in the Band, Sorcerer, To Live and Die in LA, The Brink’s Job, Blue Chips, Killer Joe.
  21. Milos Forman (1932-2018): One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ragtime, Man on the Moon, The Fireman’s Ball, Taking Off, Hair, Valmont.
  22.  Clint Eastwood: Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County, Gran Torino, Flags of our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, High Plains Drifter, Play Misty For Me, A Perfect World, Changeling, Invictus, American Sniper, Sully, Pale Rider, Bird, .
  23.  Woody Allen: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Stardust Memories, Midnight in Paris, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Bullets Over Broadway, Sleeper.
  24.  Oliver Stone: Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, Salvador, Any Given Sunday, The Doors, Nixon.
  25.  Roman Polanski: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Pianist, Tess, Repulsion, The Tenant, Pirates, Knife in the Water.
  26. Richard Linklater: Boyhood, Before Sunrise Trilogy, Dazed and Confused, Slacker, Everybody Wants Some!!, Waking Life.
  27.  Wes Anderson: The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs, Bottle Rocket.
  28.  Alfonso Cuaron: Children of Men, RomaGravity, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, A Little Princess.
  29.  Werner Herzog: Aguirre the Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Rescue Dawn, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Stroszek.
  30.  David Cronenberg: A History of Violence, The Fly, Eastern Promises, Dead Ringers, Videodrome, The Dead Zone.
  31.  Kathryn Bigelow: The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break, Detroit, Strange Days.
  32.  Denis Villenueve: Sicario, Arrival, Incendies, Prisoners, Blade Runner 2049, Enemy.
  33.  Alejandro González Iñárritu: The Revenant, 21 Grams, Birdman, Amores Perros, Biutiful, Babel.
  34.  Robert Zemeckis: Forrest Gump, Back to the Future trilogy, Cast Away, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Romancing the Stone, Flight, Contact, What Lies Beneath.
  35.  Michael Mann: Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans, Collateral, Manhunter, Thief.
  36.  Terry Gilliam: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, The Fisher King, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
  37.  Gus Van Sant: Good Will Hunting, Milk, Finding Forrester, Drugstore Cowboy, Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot, Elephant.
  38.  George Lucas: Star Wars: A New Hope, American Graffiti, TXH 1138, The Phantom Menace, Revenge of the Sith.
  39.  Sydney Pollack: Out of Africa, Tootsie, Jeremiah Johnson, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, The Way We Were.
  40.  Peter Jackson: The Return of the King, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, King Kong, They Shall Not Grow Old, The Lovely Bones.
  41.  Ang Lee: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm.
  42.  John Carpenter: Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China.
  43. Bernardo Bertolucci (1941-2018): The Conformist, Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor, 1900, The Dreamers
  44.  Barry Levinson: Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, The Natural, Sleepers, Bugsy.
  45.  Danny Boyle: Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Steve Jobs, 127 Hours.
  46.  Tony Scott (1944-2012): Crimson Tide, Top Gun, True Romance, Man on Fire, Unstoppable, Beverly Hills Cop II, Enemy of the State
  47.  Bong Joon-Ho: Parasite, Memories of Murder, Snowpiercer, The Host, Okja
  48. Peter Bogdanovich: The Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc, Paper Moon, Mask, Saint Jack
  49. Lars Von Trier: Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville, Europa, Melancholia, Nymphomanic I & II
  50.  Ron Howard: A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, Cocoon, Apollo 13, Rush
  51. Tim Burton: Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Batman, Big Fish, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride.
  52. David O. Russell: American Hustle, The Fighter, Three Kings, Silver Linings Playbook, Flirting With Disaster.
  53. Rob Reiner: A Few Good Men, This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally…, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, Misery, The American President.
  54. Luc Besson: Leon the Professional, The Fifth Element, La Femme Nikita, The Big Blue, Lucy
  55. Norman Jewison: In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Cincinnati Kid, Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, And Justice For All, Moonstruck, The Hurricane
  56. Pedro Almodóvar: All About My Mother, Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Pain and Glory, Talk to Her, Volver
  57. Chan-wook Park: Oldboy, The Handmaiden, Lady Vengeance, The Little Drummer Girl, Stoker, Thirst, Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, Joint Security Area
  58.  Darren Aronofsky: Requiem For a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan, Pi, Mother!, The Fountain.
  59. Sam Mendes: 1917, Skyfall, Road to Perdition, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Jarhead
  60. Wong Kar-Wai: Chungking Express, In the Mood For Love, Happy Together, Fallen Angels, 2046
  61. Alexander Payne: Sideways, Election, About Schmidt, The Descendants, Nebraska
  62. Wolfgang Peterson: Das Boot, In the Line of Fire, The Neverending Story, Air Force One, Outbreak, The Perfect Storm
  63. Jim Jarmusch: Dead Man, Down by Law, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Paterson, Broken Flowers, Coffee and Cigarettes, Stranger than Paradise, Night on Earth
  64. Paul Verhoeven: Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Robocop, Starship Troopers, The 4th Man, Black Book
  65. Jane Campion: The Piano, Top of the Lake, An Angel at My Table, Sweetie, Bright Star
  66. Peter Weir: Dead Poets Society, Witness, Master and Commander, The Truman Show, Gallipoli
  67. John McTiernan: Die Hard, The Hunt For Red October, Predator, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Last Action Hero
  68.  Edward Zwick: Glory, Blood Diamond, Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai, The Siege, Legends of the Fall
  69. Michael Haneke: Cache, Funny Games, Amour, The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher
  70. John Woo: Face/Off, Hard Boiled, The Killer, Mission Impossible II, A Better Tomorrow
  71. Jim Sheridan: My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, In America, Brothers
  72. Guillermo del Toro: Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water, The Devil’s Backbone
  73. James Mangold: Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, Ford v Ferrari, Logan, Copland, Girl Interrupted
  74. Curtis Hanson (1945-2016): LA Confidential, 8 Mile, The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, Wonder Boys, Too Big To Fail
  75. Fernando Meirelles: City of God, The Two Popes, The Constant Gardener
  76. Alan Parker: Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning, The Commitments, Angel Heart, Fame, Pink Floyd: The Wall, The Life of David Gale, Angela’s Ashes
  77. Steve McQueen: 12 Years a Slave, Hunger, Widows, Shame
  78. Spike Jonze: Her, Being John Malkovich, Adaptation
  79. Ryan Coogler: Black Panther, Fruitvale Station, Creed
  80. Damian Chazelle: Whiplash, La La Land, First Man
  81. Joel Schumacher: St Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Falling Down, A Time To Kill, 8MM, Phone Booth
  82. Noah Baumbach: Frances Ha, Kicking and Screaming, Marriage Story, The Squid and the Whale, Mistress America
  83. Edgar Wright: Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The World’s End, Baby Driver
  84. Ben Affleck: Gone Baby Gone, The Town, Argo, Live by Night
  85. Kevin Smith: Clerks, Dogma, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Chasing Amy
  86. Cary Joji Fukunaga: True Detective S1, Sin Nombre, No Time to Die, Beasts of No Nation, Jane Eyre, Maniac
  87. Mel Brooks: Blazing Saddles, The Producers, Young Frankenstein, History of the World Part One, Spaceballs, Silent Movie
  88. Zhang Yimou: Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern, To Live, The Flowers of War
  89. Andrew Dominik: The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly, Chopper
  90. Barry Jenkins: Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk
  91. Jean-Pierre Jeunet: Amelie, Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children, A Very Long Engagement, Micmacs
  92. Todd Haynes: Safe, I’m Not There, Carol, Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, Mildred Pierce
  93. Tom McCarthy: Spotlight, The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win
  94. Rian Johnson: Knives Out, The Last Jedi, Looper, Brick
  95. Yorgos Lanthimos: The Favourite, The Lobster, The Killing of A Sacred Deer, Dogtooth
  96. Greta Gerwig:  Lady Bird, Little Women
  97. Alex Garland: Ex Machina, Annihilation, Devs
  98. The Wachowskis: The Matrix, Cloud Atlas, Bound, Matrix Reloaded, Sense8
  99. Bennett Miller: Moneyball, Capote, Foxcatcher
  100. Safdie Brothers: Uncut Gems, Good Time, Heaven Knows What

Bubble: Lynne Ramsey, Hayao Miyazaki, Jean-Marc Vallee, Luca Guadagnino, Robert Rodriguez, Martin McDonagh, Claire Denis, Paul Greengrass, Sam Raimi, Doug Limon, Cameron Crowe, Guiseppe Tornatore, Wes Craven, Sofia Coppola, Edward Yang, Roland Joffé, Abbas Kiarosami, Kelly Reichardt, Tomas Alfredson, John Singleton, Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Abel Ferrara, Stephen Daldry, Neil Jordan, J.J. Abrams, Michel Gondry, M. Knight Shymalan, James L. Brooks, Antoine Fuqua, Scott Cooper, Debra Granik, Robert Benton, Adam McKay, John Schlesinger, Michelle MacClaren, James Ivory, Stephen Frears, Brad Bird, David Lowery, James Gray, Taylor Hackford, Tom Hooper, George Miller, Mel Gibson, Tom Ford, Patty Jenkins, Jordan Peele, Tony Gilroy, Warren Beatty, Harmony Korine, Thomas Vinterberg, Guy Ritchie, Anthony Minghella, Frank Darabount, Gore Verbinski, Robert Redford, Nicolas Winding Refn, Alejandro Amenabar, J.C. Chandor, Richard Attenborough, Kevin Costner, Jason Reitman, Baz Luhrmann, Lasse Hallstrom, Martin Brest, Sam Esmail, Ari Aster, Todd Phillips, Mike Flanagan, Derek Cianfrance, Taika Waititi, Dan Gilroy, Sean Baker, Lee Daniels, Julian Schnabel, Peter Farrelly, Adrian Lynne

Otherwise modern yet missed date cutoff : Sergio Leone, Ingmar Bergman, Hal Ashby, Sam Peckinpah, Krzysztof Kieślowski, John Cassavetes, Alan J. Pakula, George Roy Hill, Arthur Penn

*Best Director Academy Award winning films in italics

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