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The Ten Greatest Directors

Welcome to the final installment of The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each post removed ten directors from the list with an explanation as to why we cut them. It wasn’t easy, but we’re finally down to the Ten Greatest Directors. There was a lot of debate behind the scenes, but here they are, in no particular order. We’re simply naming them The Ten Greatest Directors.

Jean-Luc Godard
He is one of the pioneers of the French New Wave wasn’t just a great director but changed the language of filmmaking forever. Prior to Godard, such things as having a character address the camera, jump cut editing, and non-linear storytelling were considered taboo. Now, without Godard, we wouldn’t have Tarantino, Von Trier, or Coppola.

Federico Fellini
The ultimate dreamer who made dreams come alive on the screen. His films were a dance with a rhythm, intelligence, and sly wit that no other director in history can match. His legacy is assured and his movies are timeless. Be sure to see La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. They changed the way viewers looked at filmmaking.

Ingmar Bergman
The auteur of the top 10 also is underrated when it comes to delivering a film that also enlightens and entertains. His strongest attribute was dealing with the most basic human emotions: love, life, death, and family and making the films convey these feelings without condescending the audience. I have never watched a Bergman film without thinking about it for at least a week afterwards. They stay with you like all great art.

Charlie Chaplin
Most people know him as The Tramp — the iconic character with the funny mustach, top hat and cane. And it’s a phenominal character, but he also wrote and directed his best films, like The Kid, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. He had 72 films directed, won a lifetime achievement award from the Academy, best actor, and even one for best original score. He knew how to make great films, and was a notorious perfectionist.

Fritz Lang
If you don’t know him, the directors you love certainly do. Lang is one of the most influential directors, and is considered the father of film noir. He never won an Academy Award — most likely because he was born in Germany, and even though he moved to America because of his strong distaste for nazis, was still looked at as a “German filmmaker.” His movies, like M, Metropolis, and Fury are classics still shown in film schools around the world to this day. They are iconic, timeless, and resonate with great awe.

Alfred Hitchcock
He was master storyteller who churned out movies like it was his job… which it was. Over a 50 year career, he cranked out nearly 70 films as a director, plus he wrote and produced his own television series and other films. But he will be remembered most as a director for his uncanny ability to capture suspense, play with our minds with stunning visuals, and create iconic images in films like “Psycho” “The Birds” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and the list goes on. He set the stage for other directors in a genre he brought respect to.

John Ford
He’s arguably the greatest. He directed more than 100 films, including classics like Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, and also was a four-time Oscar winner for directing. His pace, understanding of timing, respect for actors and iconic imagery all make up his incredible talent. A master, through and through, and a workhorse.

Martin Scorsese
He came out of the NYU film school, and lead a generation of directors that bucked the Hollywood system and its traditional film-making techniques  and story lines. He made movies, like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, that challenged the viewer and put them in an uneasy chair. His mafia movies, like Good Fellas and The Departed, are unmatched in the genre. He approaches film humbly, and understands stories and imagery like no other. We love Scorsese, and we hope he never retires.

Stanley Kubrick
Kirk Douglas, after the making of Spartacus, said, “Stanley Kurbick is a talented shit.”

He only made 15 films in his career, which was one of his regrets as a director, but he was a perfectionist and his pictures were a reflection of that. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, took five years to make. No other director has been given that freedom, and for good reason. Every Kubrick film is a masterpiece.

There has never been a director who understood a camera better. He was a still photographer before he became a motion picture director and his use of light and how it impacts stories and characters as a storytelling vehicle is extremely thoughtful. His storytelling skills are superb, but he never used narrative stories, or rarely did. His movies made you feel the story. They never handed it to you on a silver plate. He challenged viewers with his stories and portrayed them with stunning beauty. He was the Mozart of film making.

Akira Kurosawa
Ironically, Kirosawa was panned in Japan in his early days for being too influenced by western directors, like John Ford, and for bringing too much emotion to his pictures. But that was his strength. He captured both the action of war and its drama. He paid exquisite detail even to the most mundane characters, and brought humanity to war and famine. “The Seven Samurai” “Yojimbo” “Rashômon” and “The Hidden Fortress” continue to influence directors to this day.

The Ten Greatest Directors Part 4

File photo of director Woody Allen  on the set of "The Bop Decameron" in downtown Rome
Welcome to part 4 of our series on The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each day until our anniversary have remove five directors from with an explanation as to why we cut them. The next post in the last one, with 15 directors left.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix that weren’t.

Woody Allen
I’m a big fan but Woody Allen is more of a brilliant writer than a director. That doesn’t mean he isn’t great but he’s not one of the ten best ever.

Oliver Stone
Has some amazing work (Platoon, JFK, and Born on the 4th of July) but he’s also made some legendary stinkers, like Alexander, Any Given Sunday, and U-Turn.

Yasujiro Ozu
A legend who’s films get better with age but outside of Late Spring and Tokyo Story, the rest are merely average to good. This one hurt to drop.

Milos Forman
Had three amazing films — One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest, Amadeus, and The People vs Larry Flynt — but his work filmography is short and there’s not much outside those three films. I also contend his work didn’t revolutionize films the way the rest of the directors on the list did.

Christopher Nolan
I think in 10-15 years he may end up in the top 10. But, he hasn’t built up enough of a resume yet to be considered one of the 10 best ever.


Ridley Scott
Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Matchstick Men, and of course, Blade Runner, are all excellent pieces of work. He’s a great director, but when you get right down to it, there are directors left with far greater films.

Sergio Leone
Not a lot of people may realize this, but he only directed 13 films — five of which were uncredited. A Fistful of Dollars is arguably the best western ever made, as is Once Upon a Time in the West. He’s the king of spaghettis westerns, but it’s not enough to be named one of the ten best ever.

Joel and Ethan Coen
Fargo, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn’t There and The Big Lebowski are just a few of their excellent films. They have such a strong case, but I think they’re just on the periphery. Talk to me in a few years.

Paul Thomas Anderson
The Master, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights are all great films, but he has a very small body of work. I think he’ll be considered the best of his generation when he’s done, and maybe one of the best ever. But today, he’s not.

David Lynch
Mulholland Drive is one of the best films of the past 25 years, Eraserhead is an intriguing film with lasting power, and the Elephant Man is a masterpiece. At this point, we’re not cutting directors with ease. This one stings.

Directors Remaining
Quentin Tarantino
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
Fritz Lang
Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
John Huston
Stanley Kubrick
Jean-Luc Godard
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kirosawa
John Ford