The 50 Greatest Modern Directors

The fifty greatest directors in modern film history. Works that best typify each artist’s talents are loosely ranked within.  (Must have at least one 20th Century film to be considered “modern.”)

  1. Martin Scorsese: Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Departed, Mean Streets, Gangs of New York, Casino, 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.
  2. Steven Spielberg: Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E:T: The Extra Terrestrial, Jaws, Lincoln, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, Poltergeist, Catch Me if You Can, The Post, Minority Report, The Color Purple, Bridge of Spies, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Amistad, Munich.
  3. Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather, The Godfather II, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, You’re A Big Boy Now.
  4. Paul Thomas Anderson: There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, The Master, Phantom Thread, Punch-Drunk Love, Hard Eight, Inherent Vice.
  5. Christopher NolanMemento, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Dunkirk, Inception, Interstellar, Batman Begins, Insomnia.
  6. Joel/Ethan Cohen: No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Barton Fink, Miller’s Crossing, Raising Arizona, True Grit, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Blood Simple, A Serious Man, The Hudsucker Proxy.
  7. Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, Django Unchained, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds, The Hateful Eight.
  8. James Cameron: Terminator 2, Titanic, Aliens, The Abyss, Avatar.
  9. David Fincher: Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Game, Mindhunter, Gone Girl.
  10. Alejandro González Iñárritu: The Revenant, 21 Grams, Birdman, Amores Perros, Babel.
  11. Ridley Scott: Alien, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down, The Martian, Thelma and Louise, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, The Duelists, Matchstick Men.
  12. Darren Aronofsky: Requiem For a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan, Pi, Mother!, The Fountain.
  13. 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.
  14. Clint Eastwood: Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Mystic River, The Bridges of Madison County.
  15. Sidney Lumet: 12 Angry Men, Network, Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Murder on the Orient Express
  16. Robert Zemeckis: Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Cast Away, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Romancing the Stone, Flight.
  17. David LynchMulholland Drive, The Elephant Man, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story.
  18. Milos Forman: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Ragtime, Man on the Moon.
  19. Terrence Malick: The Thin Red Line, Badlands, The Tree of Life, Days of Heaven.
  20. Steven Soderbergh: Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, The Knick, Erin Brockovich, Che, Out of Sight, Contagion, Sex Lies and Videotape, Magic Mike, Logan Lucky.
  21. Brian De Palma: Scarface, Carlito’s Way, Mission: Impossible, The Untouchables, Carrie.
  22. Oliver Stone: Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers.
  23. Roman Polanski: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Pianist, Tess, Pirates.
  24. Peter Jackson: The Return of the King, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, King Kong, The Lovely Bones.
  25. Ang Lee: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi, Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm.
  26. David Cronenberg: A History of Violence, The Fly, Eastern Promises, Dead Ringers, Videodrome.
  27. Richard Linklater: Boyhood, Dazed and Confused, Slacker, Before Sunset, Everybody Wants Some!!
  28. Tim Burton: Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Batman, Big Fish.
  29. Wes Anderson: The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  30. Terry Gilliam: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Brazil, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
  31. Michael Mann: Heat, The Insider, The Last of the Mohicans, Collateral, Manhunter.
  32. Gus Van Sant: Good Will Hunting, Milk, Finding Forrester, Drugstore Cowboy, Elephant.
  33. Robert Altman:   MASH, Nashville, The Player, Gosford Park, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Short Cuts
  34. George Lucas: Star Wars: A New Hope, American Graffiti, TXH 1138, The Phantom Menace, Revenge of the Sith.
  35. David O. Russell: American Hustle, The Fighter, Three Kings, Silver Linings Playbook, Flirting With Disaster.
  36. Edward Zwick: Glory, Blood Diamond, Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai, The Siege.
  37. Sam Mendes: American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall, Jarhead.
  38. John Carpenter: Halloween, The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, The Fog, Big Trouble in Little China.
  39. Sydney Pollack: Out of Africa, Tootsie, Jeremiah Johnson, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, The Way We Were.
  40. Barry Levinson: Rain Man, Good Morning Vietnam, The Natural, Sleepers, Bugsy.
  41. Ron Howard: A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon, Cocoon, Apollo 13.
  42. Alfonso Cuaron: Children of Men, Gravity, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, A Little Princess.
  43. Danny Boyle: Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, Steve Jobs, 127 Hours, 28 Weeks Later.
  44. Peter Weir: Witness, Master and Commander, The Truman Show, Dead Poets Society, Green Card.
  45. Kathryn Bigelow: The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Point Break, Detroit, Strange Days.
  46. Denis Villenueve: Sicario, Prisoners, Arrival, Incendies, Blade Runner 2049, Enemies
  47. Spike Lee: Malcolm X, Clockers, Do the Right Thing, Inside Man, 25th Hour.
  48. Rob Reiner: A Few Good Men, This is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, Misery.
  49. Alexander Payne: The Descendants, Election, Nebraska, Sideways, About Schmidt, Downsizing.
  50. Steve McQueen: 12 Years a Slave, Hunger, Shame.

Bubble: William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich, Joel Schumacher, Curtis Hanson, Martin McDonagh, Andrew Dominik, Bennett Miller, Jane Campion, Paul Verhoeven, Ben Affleck, Lynne Ramsey, Edgar Wright, Tom McCarthy, Spike Jonze, Guillermo del Toro, Norman Jewison, Kevin Smith, John Hughes, Mel Brooks, Pedro Almodovar, Zhang Yimou, Michael Haneke

*Best Director Academy Award winners in italics

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