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The Best Directors of All Time

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The Best Directors of All Time

If you ask 10 people who the best movie directors of all time are, you will get a few different answers. There is no question that any list on this topic is going to be subjective, but there is some methodology to make a proper determination. When looking at this list, you must consider overall film quality, awards, box office success, and longevity in the business. 

The good news is that you have a ton of great directors to choose from. Between legends of the golden age of cinema and the modern day, there is no shortage of big names to include on this list. Whether it’s Hitchcock, Spielberg, or Renoir, the biggest consideration is really what names can’t be included. 

Let’s jump right into the list of the best directors of all time and see who makes the cut.

Jean Renoir

Jean Renoir is widely regarded as the best film director of all time.

Depending on the list you look at, Jean Renoir is arguably considered the best director of all time. Known for his legendary eye for detail, Jean Renoir is the son of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. After striking out on his own, Renoir made a name for himself starting in the 1930s.

His masterpieces included La Grande Illusion and Le regle du jeu, both of which are stories about the horrors of the First World War. There is no question that these films belong on every list that looks at the greatest films ever made.

Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock directed over 50 films during his long career.

When it comes to influential movie directors, Alfred Hitchcock needs no introduction. His directing career spanned over six decades and he is easily regarded as a titan in the film industry. With over 50 film credits to his name, Hitchcock’s shining moment may very well be Psycho.

However, Vertigo currently sits as the British Film Institute’s number-one spot as the greatest film ever made. More than any other director, Alfred Hitchcock all but owned 1950’s cinema in the U.S. with hit after hit.

Jean-Luc Godard

Jean-Luc Godard is regarded as having the best director’s debut of all time.

A French and Swiss film director, Jean-Luc Godard is convincingly one of the best directors of all time. His 1960 A bout de souffle was his debut film and is thought to be a director’s best first film.

While it’s widely agreed that his best work came early in his career, there is no question Godard continued to make great movies until his death. Godard was also at the forefront of the French New Wave movement and rewrote his version of the film language dictionary.

Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick set the bar for science fiction and influenced other directors like Steven Spielberg.

It’s not unusual to see Stanley Kubrick grace any list of best directors as his work is terrific. While he only made 13 films over a 46-year career, Kubrick’s cinematic vision allowed him to live on as Hollywood royalty.

Among his greatest and most memorable films, Kubrick directed The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick earned his first and only Academy Award for Best Visual Effects with the latter film, and many consider it one of the best movies ever made.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg is the most successful director in all of movie history.

One of the greatest living directors, Steven Spielberg remains renowned for his efforts to create the modern-day blockbuster. Ever since Spielberg burst onto the scene with Jaws, Spielberg has had a lengthy history of hits.

Between Indiana Jones, E.T., Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, there isn’t a living director with more hits to their name. Steven Spielberg remains the highest-grossing director of all time with his movies earning just under $11 billion.

Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa had an incredible vision for action while starting his career during World War 2.

Acclaimed for his work, Akira Kurosawa is recognized in a film world dominated by Western filmmakers. Starting in the film industry in 1936, Kurosawa began his career during World War 2 with Sanshiro Sugata.

After the war, Kurosawa’s career took off with a string of hits including Ikiru, Throne of Blood, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo. Though his last film in 1985 is still remembered as excellent, Kurosawa’s most notable years were in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Martin Scorsese

Responsible for some of the most memorable gangster movies in history, Martin Scorcese is one of the best directors ever.

Martin Scorsese is Hollywood director royalty with a string of hits that is a who’s who list of fantastic Hollywood movies. With a career starting in 1962, it was 1976’s Taxi Driver that put Scorsese on the map.

The rest is history with hit after hit including Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Departed, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Killers of the Flower Moon. Often working with personalities like Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio, Scorsese has also dabbled in television from time to time.

Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola has a lengthy resume that includes incredible films like The Godfather.

Beginning his movie career in 1962, Francis Ford Coppola is a film giant and the recipient of five Academy Awards. Many widely regard Coppola as the catalyst of the gangster film drama. His work on The Godfather, alongside that of Scorcese, popularized a whole new genre.

Of course, movies like Apocalypse Now, The Cotton Club, and The Outsiders remain some of his best known projects. Coppola has left a family history as well. His daughter, Sofia Coppola, is also a director while nephews Jason Schwartzman and Nicholas Cage are also big names.

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