Famous Directors

Movies can bring a viewer into a whole new world of wonder and fantasy. For decades people have flocked to the big screen to be entertained, shocked, scared, touched or inspired. There have been many great visionaries behind the creations that we see come to life before our eyes. Indeed, directors are a driving force behind the final product that the audience experiences. Below is a list of some of the greatest directors in the history of the industry.

Famous Directors

Michael-Curtiz Charlie-Chaplin John-Ford
Michael Curtiz (1886 – 1962)
Nationality: Hungarian-American
Known For: Directing Casablanca.
Michael Curtiz directed more than 150 films in Europe and the United States throughout his career. His hit films include The Adventures of Robin Hood, Dodge City, Angels with Dirty Faces, Yankee Doodle Dandy, White Christmas and Mildred Pierce. His direction of the classic film Casablanca won him the Academy Award for Best Director. Actors James Cagney and Joan Crawford won Academy Awards under his direction in the films Yankee Doodle Dandy and Mildred Pierce, respectively.
Charlie Chaplin (1889 – 1977)
Nationality: English
Known For: Being a major director and star during the silent film era.
Famed director and actor Charlie Chaplin first made his presence known on the big screen through his comedic silent film roles. His films, including City Lights, The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator and Modern Times are held in high regard. He was known to be a perfectionist – often spending years on a single project. He was recognized with an Honorary Academy Award in 1972.
John Ford (1894 – 1973)
Nationality: Irish-American
Known For: Directing many hit Westerns.
John Ford directed the hit Western movies Stagecoach, The Quiet Man, The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He has won a record four Academy Awards for being Best Director. Ford is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential directors of all time.
Howard-Hawks Frank-Capra Alfred-Hitchcock
Howard Hawks (1896 – 1977)
Nationality: American
Known For: Creating culturally significant films.
Howard Hawks’s films Bringing Up Baby, The Big Sleep, Red River, His Girl Friday, Scarface, The Thing from Another World, Twentieth Century and Sergeant York have all been added to the National Film Registry. He was given an Honorary Award at the Oscars in 1975 for his work in the industry and is also recognized with a star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Frank Capra (1897 – 1991)
Nationality: Italian-American
Known For: Directing popular and heartwarming comedies.
Capra’s most memorable film may be the Jimmy Stewart starring It’s A Wonderful Life which was nominated for five Academy Awards and won him a Golden Globe for Best Director. In his career, Frank Capra was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director six times – taking home the Oscar on three occaisions. Some popular films of his are It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Arsenic and Old Lace and Meet John Doe.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980)
Nationality: English
Known For: Being nicknamed “The Master of Suspense” for his physchologically thrilling directing methods.
Alfred Hitchcock’s directing career saw the creation of over 50 films and lasted for six decades. He was given a lifetime achievement award by the Directors Guild of America in 1968. In total, Hitchcock was nominated for 66 different movie awards in his life and he took home 32 of them, including two Golden Globes and 8 Laurel Awards. Hitchcock is honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for motion pictures and one for television.
William-Wyler Billy-Wilder John-Huston
William Wyler (1902 – 1981)
Nationality: American
Known For: Directing the film Ben-Hur.
William Wyler won three Academy Awards for Best Director for his films Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years of Our Lives and Ben-Hur. He remains the most nominated director at 12 Academy Award nominations. Wyler’s other popular films were Dead End, Wuthering Heights, These Three, Jezebel and The Little Foxes.
Billy Wilder (1906 – 2002)
Nationality: Austrian-American
Known For: Being a multiple award winning director.
Billy Wilder remains one of just five people in the entertainment industry to have won Academy Awards as writer, director and producer all for one film. He recieved these honors for his movie The Apartment. Wilder made mostly satire and comedy films. He won an Academy Award for Best Director for his film The Lost Weekend which also won him a Best Screenplay Academy Award. He won seven Academy Awards and three Golden Globes in total.
John Huston (1906 – 1987)
Nationality: American
Known For: Writing and directing many films that are considered classics.
John Marcellus Huston was known as a careful and artistic director who’s films needed little editing after being shot. He directed such masterpieces as The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Escape to Victory and Prizzi’s Honor. He was a 15 time nominee for Oscars, of which he took home two for writing and directing The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He notably directed 15 actors in performances that resulted in Oscar nominations – including his father and daughter.
Elia-Kazan Joseph-Mankiwicz Orson-Welles
Elia Kazan (1909 – 2003)
Nationality: Greek-American
Known For: Being behind many award winning movies.
In his career, Elia Kazan saw 59 Oscar nominations for movies he was involved in. They went on to win 21 of these nominations. Specifically, he won Best Director for his films On the Waterfront and Gentleman’s Agreement. Furthermore, Kazan won four Golden Globes for Best Director for the movies America, America, Baby Doll, On the Waterfront and Gentleman’s Agreement.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909 – 1993)
Nationality: American
Known For: Having a long and successful Hollywood career.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz had two major motion picture hits with All About Eve and A Letter to Three Wives. Each of these films resulted in him winning a total of four Academy Awards – two for Best Director and two for Best Screenplay. Other Mankiewicz films were Julius Caesar, Guys and Dolls, Cleopatra and There Was a Crooked Man.
Orson Welles (1915 – 1985)
Nationality: American
Known For: Writing, directing and starring in Citizen Kane.
Welles’ Citizen Kane film is considered one of the more important movies ever made. The film was nominated for 9 Academy Awards. The American Film Institute previously voted Citizen Kane as being the greatest American movie. He was also given the Academy Honorary Award for his work in motion pictures. Welles is famously remembered for his radio rendition of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the World’s.”
Robert--Altman Mel-Brooks Stanley-Kubrick
Robert Altman (1925 – 2006)
Nationality: American
Known For: His unique and atypical approach to directing.
Altman was nominated for and received many awards in his lifetime. Most recently he was posthumously given an Honorary Academy Award for his career in filmmaking. Additionally, he won A Golden Globe for Best Director for the 2001 movie Gosford Park – a film which also won him a BAFTA Award for Best British Film. He recieved another BAFTA Award for Gosford Park for Best Director in that same year. Other award winning and critically acclaimed works by Altman were The Player, MASH, A Wedding, A Prarie Home Companion, Nashville and Short Cuts.
Mel Brooks (1926 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Making widely popular comedy films.
Mel Brooks is one of only eleven entertainers to have won a Tony, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy. His films Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers all rank in the top 20 of the American Film Institute’s top 100 comedy films of all-time. He made his movie The Producers into a Broadway musical to rave reviews. The show won 12 Tony Awards – breaking the record of 10 that was held by “Hello, Dolly!” for 37 years.
Stanley Kubrick (1928 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: His versatility in creating a wide variety of successful films.
Stanley Kubrick was noted for his unique cinematography and constant search for perfection in his film making. He covered genres ranging from war and horror to science fiction and romance. Some of his most popular works were Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick won a BAFTA Award for Best Direction for his film Barry Lyndon as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America.
Clint-Eastwood Mike-Nichols Roman-Polanski
Clint Eastwood (1930 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Having a long and prosperous directing and acting career.
Clint Eastwood began his career as an actor and worked his way to becoming an award winning director. He has directed more than 30 films ranging from Westerns to dramas. He was won the Academy Award for Best Director for his films Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. He was also nominated for Best Director for his movies Mystic River and Letters to Iwo Jima.
Mike Nichols (1963 – Present)
Nationality: German-American
Known For: Winning numerous awards for his work.
Mike Nichols is one of only eleven entertainers to have won an Emmy, Oscar, Tony and Grammy. His first award came in 1968 when he won the Oscar for Best Director for his movie The Graduate. He has also been honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America, a Laurel Award for Best Director, a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director and an American Film Institute Award for Lifetime Achievement – to name a few.
Roman Polanski (1933 – Present)
Nationaltiy: Polish-French
Known For: Being a controversial international movie director.
Roman Polanski has lived a troubled life with many ups and downs. His pregnant wife was murdered by people in the Charles Manson cult and Polanski was himself convicted of having sex with a 13 year old minor. However, his directing career has seen much success as he has won 8 oscars for some of his works which included Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Tess and The Pianist.
Woody-Allen Ridley-Scott Francis-Ford-Copula
Woody Allen (1935 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Directing and acting in his movies Manhattan and Annie Hall.
Many of Woody Allen’s films often have themes of romance and comedy. He was nominated for 23 Academy Awards, winning four total. He took home an Academy Award for Best Director for the movie Annie Hall, as well as three Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. Allen was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Directors Guild of America.
Ridley Scott (1937 – Present)
Nationality: English
Known For: Making films with pronounced visual style and imagery.
Perhaps best known for his 1979 hit science fiction horror movie Alien, Ridley Scott has gone on to create many memorable and highly regarded movies. Other prominent films that Scott has directed include: Blade Runner, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down and American Gangstger. He won the 1979 Saturn Award for Best Director for the film Alien. Additionally, he has been nominated for three Academy Awards and two Golden Globes – all for Best Director.
Francis Ford Coppola (1939 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Creating The Godfather series.
Besides his amazing success with The Godfather trilogy – which landed Coppola several awards – this director has created many other noteworthy movies. American Graffirti, Apocolypse Now, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Virgin Suicides and Sleepy Hollow are some of Francis For Coppola’s other popular films. The Godfather series alone has brought 29 awards nominations.
Martin-Scorsese George-Lucas Steven-Spielberg
Martin Scorsese (1942 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Consistantly directing critically acclaimed films.
Martin Scorsese has an impressive resume and a strong history of making great movies. He took home the Academy Award for Best Director for his film The Departed and has been up for this award a total of seven times. Some notable Scorsese movies are Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull, The Aviator, Hugo and Shutter Island. He has aslo won a BAFTA Award for Best Direction for his film Goodfellas and a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for Gangs of New York.
George Lucas (1944 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Creating Star Wars.
George Lucas is synonymous with creating and directing the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. His success has landed him many recognitions and awards. The American Film Institute honored him with a Life Achievement Award in 2005. Despite his successes, Lucas has yet to win an Academy Award, although he has been nominated for four. He remains one of the most wealthy filmmakers of all time.
Steven Spielberg (1946 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Directing several award winning films.
Steven Spielberg has directed some widely popular movies, such as: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Saing Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. He has twice won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Additionally, three of his movies, upon their releases, became the top money making films of all time.
David-Lynch Oliver-Stone Robert-Zemeckis
David Lynch (1946 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Creating dark, dream-like and enthralling films.
David Lynch created his own style of cinematography which has been simply described as “Lynchian.” His attention to sound and mood setting sets him apart. Some of his most popular works are Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Mullholland Drive and The Elephant Man. He has been nominated for the Best Director Academy Award four times and won the Best Director award for Mullholland Dr. at the CAnnes Film Festival.
Oliver Stone (1946 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Being a highly recognized and awarded director.
Oliver Stone has won three Academy Awards for his films Born on the Fourth of July (Best Director), Platoon (Best Director) and Midnight Express (Best Screenplay). Additionally, Platoon won three Golden Globes and Born on the Fourth of July won four. Other popular Oliver Stone movies are Salvador, Wall Street, JFK and NIxon.
Robert Zemeckis (1951 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Creating the Back to the Future trilogy.
Robert Zemeckis got his big break when actor Michael Dougles hired him on to direct the film Romancing the Stone. The movie was a surprising hit and this allowed Zemeckis to move forward with his idea for Back to the Future. Zemeckis also directed the film Who Framed Roger Rabit – which won him the Saturn Award for Best Director. His biggest hit that won him an Academy Award for Best Director was Forest Gump.
James-Cameron Ron-Howard Spike-Lee
James Cameron (1954 – Present)
Nationality: Canadian
Known For: Directing several blockbuster hit films.
Known for his major movies such as Aliens, The Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron has won many awards for his directing work in the film industry. He has won the Saturn Award for Best Director four times. His work on the Titanic movie won him an Academy Award for Best Director, while his 2009 film Avator won him a Golden Globe for Best Director.
Ron Howard (1954 – Present)
Nationaltiy: American
Known For: Going from a childhood star to an award winning director.
Ron Howard started his career as an actor on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days. He later turned to directing and has created such films as Apollo 13, Backdraft, The Da Vinci Code, Cocoon and A Beautiful Mind. His direction of A Beautiful Mind won him the Academy Award for Best Director in 2002. The film also won Howard and Brian Grazer an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Spike Lee (1957 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Creating films involving race, violence and politics.
Some of Spike Lee’s most popular movies are She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, He Got Game and Inside Man. He has twice been nominated for an Academy Award and is often harolded or citicized for taking on controversial issues in his films. In 2006, Lee was awarded Best Director at the Black Movie Awards for the film Inside Man.
Tim-Burton Peter-Jackson Quentin-Tarantino
Tim Burton (1958 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: His powerful directing of films that intertwine horror and fantasy.
Director Tim Burton is perhaps best known for his films Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has directed many award winning films. Burton won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture with Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Peter Jackson (1961 – Present)
Nationality: New Zealander
Known For: Directing the Lord of the Rings movies.
Director Peter Jackson won three Academy Awards, four Saturn Awards, three BAFTAs and a Golden Globe in his career. All three of his Academy Awards were for the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in which he won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. His J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy has brought in 11 Oscars.
Quentin Tarantino (1963 – Present)
Nationality: American
Known For: Breaking onto the movie scene with his film Resevoir Dogs.
Quentin Tarantino was a high school dropout that later became a very successful film director, actor, producer and screenwriter. Tarantino is known for his off-beat and often violent and revenge-themed movies such as Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds. He has won two Golden Globes, two Academy Awards, the Palmed’Or and two BAFTA Awards.
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