Greatest Film Directors
and Their Best Films


Greatest Film Directors
Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 , Part 6

Greatest Film Directors of All-Time: These honored selections are designed as a tribute to some of the greatest directors of predominantly English-language films, with suggested or recommended Best Films or 'Must-See' Films from their filmographies. Unfortunately, some of these directors have been pushed aside to make way for more recent works, but it should be noted that many of these film-makers were highly innovative mavericks and renegades who challenged the established 'system' that existed during their time.

A Few of the 50 Greatest Film Directors of All Time

D.W. Griffith

William Wyler

Frank Capra

Cecil B. DeMille

Alfred Hitchcock

Woody Allen

George Cukor

John Ford

Howard Hawks

Stanley Kubrick

These choices are meant to encourage discussion and comparison, and to educate filmgoers about some of film history's most legendary and influential forces in film-making.

The premise of honoring these film directors is based upon the debatable auteur theory -- the idea that the director is the primary 'author' or voice of a movie, and through a director's film, we see one person's way of viewing the world -- one that has the potential to change the way we see the world. This theory also holds that the how of a film (mise en scene, literally meaning 'putting in the scene') is something under the director's control. Elements or features of mise en scene include the action, composition, sets, props, lighting, costumes, make-up, cinematographic style and technique, and visual properties - and the theory postulates that these things are more important than the what or subject of the film.

In any regard, the director is probably the most important person responsible for creating 'movie magic' and mixing together all the ingredients of the film-making process.

What were some of the criteria used to select these Greatest Directors?

  • each one has made a significant, indelible and influential contribution to the development of film and the film industry

  • each one has directed a consistent body of work with a number of great movies (of predominantly English-language films) - usually three unquestionably great films mark a top film-maker

  • each one has a compelling vision and groundbreaking style that has helped to define cinema as we know it today

  • each one has a personal stamp that cuts across films, genres, and decades

See also this site's extensive write-up of information about the Best Director Academy Awards. (See the complete list of all Best Director winners here). And for fun, browse this site's information about Afred Hitchcock's Cameos, the Most Famous Film Director Cameos, and Notable Appearances of Directors in Films of Other Directors. A Ranking of the 100 Most Influential People in the History of the Movies from the Film 100 site is also worth a look.

See also this site's multi-part compilation of other deserved film directors (alphabetical) - More Great Film Directors.

Vote below for your favorites for the
50 Greatest Directors of All-Time (in Hollywood History)

50 Greatest Directors of All-Time

Other Rankings of Directors:
In the April 19th, 1996 issue, Entertainment Weekly produced a cover-story article titled "The 50 Greatest Directors and Their 100 Best Movies." These top 50 "Greatest Directors of All Time" from their list are marked with this red 'directors-chair' symbol (see left) -- and the magazine's ranking number.

Criticism may be leveled at Entertainment Weekly's list - it included Jonathan Demme and Jerry Lewis, but left off Charlie Chaplin, William Wyler, Elia Kazan, Mike Nichols, and Michael Curtiz, to name a few.

In 2005, Britain's Empire Magazine commissioned a poll of its readership to come up with a list of the top 40 greatest directors of all time. The Top 40 "Greatest Directors of All Time" (with their ranking number) from their list are marked with an asterisk (see left) -- and their ranking number.

There were some very glaring and obvious omissions from Empire's list (i.e., Frank Capra, George Cukor, Michael Curtiz, Cecil B. DeMille, D. W. Griffith, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Buster Keaton, Ernst Lubitsch, Vincente Minnelli, F.W. Murnau, Roman Polanski, Powell and Pressburger, Otto Preminger, Douglas Sirk, George Stevens, Preston Sturges and William Wyler - to name a few), and their ranking was extremely questionable.

Total Film Magazine (August-September 2007 issues) provided their list of 100 Greatest Directors Ever. The Total Film list included their picks for each director's "picture-perfect" film.
MovieMaker Magazine's 2002 ranking of the 25 Most Influential Directors of All Time, listed below, is also informative:

25 Most Influential Directors of All-Time (ranked) - MovieMaker Magazine
1. Alfred Hitchcock 14. John Cassavetes
2. D.W. Griffith 15. Billy Wilder
3. Orson Welles 16. Jean Renoir
4. Jean-Luc Godard 17. Francis Ford Coppola
5. John Ford 18. Howard Hawks
6. Stanley Kubrick 19. Francois Truffaut
7. Sergei Eisenstein 20. Buster Keaton
8. Charlie Chaplin 21. Fritz Lang
9. Federico Fellini 22. John Huston
10. Steven Spielberg 23. Woody Allen
11. Martin Scorsese 24. Luis Bunuel
12. Akira Kurosawa 25. Ernst Lubitsch
13. Ingmar Bergman  

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star in the following directors' filmographies are the films that
Greatest Films has selected as the "100 Greatest Films"

Greatest Film Directors
Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 , Part 6

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