Best Film Directors of All Time

Here are our picks for the best movie directors in film history!


Honorable Mention: Stanley Kubrick

Honorable Mention: Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick was a true master of the craft who displayed his unique visions on the screen in bold ways. His style can't be copied as it transports the viewer to new places and different times. The director utilized odd camera angles and movements with revolutionary special effects to create strange films that told important stories that challenged audiences.

Kubrick's Must-See Movies:

Paths of Glory (1957)

Spartacus (1960)

Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The Shining (1980)

10. Alfred Hitchcock

10. Alfred Hitchcock

Known as the "Master of Suspense" due to his astonishing ability to build tension in his films, Alfred Hitchcock was a revolutionary figure in film history. His horror/thrillers redefined the genre and ushered in a new era of filmmaking. He used the camera to tell the story and also created groundbreaking effects to realize his vision.

Hitchcock's Must-See Movies:

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

To Catch A Thief (1955)

North by Northwest (1959)

The Birds (1963)

9. Hayao Miyazaki

9. Hayao Miyazaki

When it comes to Japanese animation, or animation in general, no other figure in history has been as influential or acclaimed by critics and audiences as Hayao Miyazaki. This animation director has brought to life some of the most innovative and creative stories ever told on film. His colorful, joyful style and deep, thematic films have changed movies in general and his works continue to be passed on to new generations.

Miyazaki's Must-See Movies:

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Castle in the Sky (1986)

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Porco Rosso (1992)

Princess Mononoke (1997)

8. Ridley Scott

8. Ridley Scott

A director with a visually stunning and emotionally arresting style, Ridley Scott has made a name for himself by bringing audiences experimental and striking movies. The filmmaker has delivered some of the most popular film in recent memory and some breakthrough cult classics as well. All of his films have a unique visual language with a particularly stylish flare and a superb realistic quality which have influenced many younger filmmakers.

Scott's Must-See Movies:

Alien (1979)

Blade Runner (1982)

Gladiator (2000)

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

The Martian (2015)

7. John Ford

7. John Ford

A true American institution, John Ford has influenced every filmmaker in history. He was the one who originated the cinematic language of American cinema, especially that of the western which he cemented as the quintessential American genre with it's magnificent shots of Monument Valley and daring stunt work. His westerns are Hollywood classics and his frequent collaborations with John Wane made them both film icons.

Ford's Must-See Movies:

Stagecoach (1939)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

The Quiet Man (1952)

The Searchers (1956)

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

6. Howard Hawks

6. Howard Hawks

Taking on virtually every genre in the book, Howard Hawks remains perhaps the most versatile director in movie history. From comedy to western to romance to sci-fi, Hawks brought his signature penchant for witty dialogue, amazing special effects, and an active camera that made him stand out. He was at the helm of some of the most popular movies of his day and each of them hold up well to this day.

Hawks' Must-See Movies:

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

The Big Sleep (1946)

Red River (1948)

The Thing from Another World (1951)

5. Akira Kurosawa

5. Akira Kurosawa

Influenced by the likes of John Ford, Akira Kurosawa in turn influenced movie makers like George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. His astounding cinematography and well-written scripts told poignant stories in an epic fashion. He was an inventor of certain movie tropes we often see today and taught audiences that film is a universal language.

Kurosawa's Must-See Movies:

Rashomon (1950)

Seven Samurai (1954)

Throne of Blood (1957)

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

Yojimbo (1961)

4. Michael Curtiz

4. Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz managed to create some of the most influential and innovative films over the course of an historic career.  He made one of the most celebrated romances of all time along with an action/adventure classic, a musical, and much more. His dedication to working with actors on their characters and solid storytelling make him one of the all time greats.

Curtiz's Must-See Movies:

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Casablanca (1942)

Romance on the High Seas (1948)

3. Billy Wilder

3. Billy Wilder

Maybe the best writer of dialogue in film history, Billy Wilder also directed some of the films he wrote with a deft hand. His scripts are superb, but his direction of the actors and execution of intricate action scenes are exceptional. Wilder gave us plenty of unforgettable movies and lots of brilliant movie moments with his memorable and quotable lines of dialogue. 

Wilder's Must-See Movies:

Double Indemnity (1944)

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Ace in the Hole (1951)

2. John Huston

2. John Huston

An amazing storyteller, John Huston crafted treasured films which still pack a punch today. His directorial debut is the definition of the film noir, and he went on to explore other genres like rom-coms, westerns, and musicals. He also helped launch Humphrey Bogart to stardom with his penchant for smart writing and intelligent storytelling.

Huston's Must-See Movies:

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Key Largo (1946)

The African Queen (1951)

Annie (1982)

1. Steven Spielberg

1. Steven Spielberg

The best director of all time is Steven Spielberg. This lifelong movie fan began making films at age twelve and eventually made his way into directing episodes of TV  before breaking through with the first-ever blockbuster, Jaws. The rest is history as Spielberg cranked out hit after hit throughout his remarkable career going from genre to genre producing serious dramas and populist blockbusters with his signature close up shots and hopeful endings. His influence can't be overstated as every young movie maker emulates him whether they know it or not. He has an eye for gorgeous shots, an innate ability to work with actors, and an innovative use of effects which help make him the best of the bunch.

Spielberg's Must-See Movies:

Jaws (1975)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Schindler's List (1993)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Minority Report (2002)

Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Bridge of Spies (2015)

Ready Player One (2018)

Film Movies Directors