Greatest Film Directors
and Their Best Films

Part 1

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

Greatest Film Directors: These honored selections are designed as a tribute to some of the greatest directors of all-time, with suggested or recommended Best Films or 'Must-See' Films from their filmographies.

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

Key to Iconic Symbols: The following additional sources are indicated by icons in Filmsite's compilation:

selections of the "50 Greatest Film Directors" from the entire list are without ranking numbers. A few more than 50 directors are actually listed on these webpages, due to the issue of not having enough slots for the 'best of the best.'

The Greatest Directors and Their Best Films
Part 1
(Alphabetical Order, Unranked)

Witty, Original New York-Based Screenwriter/Director/Film Actor/Comedian Combining Cerebral Wit, Psychological Exposition, and Physical Comedy

In Sleeper, Annie Hall, and Manhattan, he invited moviegoers to laugh at urban neurotics, then got serious in Interiors.

Suggested Filmography: Take the Money and Run (1969), Bananas (1971), Play It Again, Sam (1972) (writer), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (1972), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975), Annie Hall (1977), Interiors (1978), Manhattan (1979), Stardust Memories (1980), A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), Zelig (1983), Broadway Danny Rose (1984), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Radio Days (1987), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Husbands and Wives (1992), Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Deconstructing Harry (1997), Celebrity (1998), Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Small Time Crooks (2000), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), Hollywood Ending (2002), Anything Else (2003), Melinda and Melinda (2005), Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006), Cassandra's Dream (2007), Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008), You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010), Midnight in Paris (2011), To Rome With Love (2012), Blue Jasmine (2013), Magic in the Moonlight (2014), Irrational Man (2015), Café Society (2016), Wonder Wheel (2017), A Rainy Day in New York (2019), Rifkin's Festival (2020), Coup de Chance (2023).

Insightful Oscar-Winning Spanish Writer/Director of Convoluted, Usually Sexually Provocative Films, Nicknamed "the Spanish Hitchcock"

Suggested Filmography (Sp.): Matador (1986, Sp.), La Ley del Deseo/Law of Desire (1987, Sp.), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988, Sp.), ¡Átame!/Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990, Sp.), Tacones Lejanos/High Heels (1991, Sp.), Kika (1993, Sp.), La Flor de Mi Secreto/The Flower of My Secret (1995, Sp.), Carne Trémula/Live Flesh (1997, Sp.), Todo Sobre Mi Madre/All About My Mother (1999, Sp.), Hable Con Ella/Talk to Her (2002, Sp.), La Mala Educación (2004, Sp.) (aka Bad Education), Volver (2006, Sp.), Broken Embraces/Los Abrazos Rotos (2009, Sp.), The Skin I Live In (2011), I'm So Excited! (2013), Julieta (2016), Pain and Glory (2019), Parallel Mothers (2021), .

Innovative, Iconoclastic, Free-Spirited, Unconventional, Original, Countercultural Director

Countercultural attitudes, intersecting stories, and overlapping dialogue distinguish his movies, notably M*A*S*H, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, and Nashville.

Suggested Filmography: That Cold Day in the Park (1969), Brewster McCloud (1970), M*A*S*H (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Long Goodbye (1973), California Split (1974), Thieves Like Us (1974), Nashville (1975), Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976), 3 Women (1977), A Wedding (1978), A Perfect Couple (1979), Popeye (1980), Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean (1982), Secret Honor (1984), Fool for Love (1985), Tanner '88 (1988), Vincent & Theo (1990), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), Pret-a-Porter (1994), The Gingerbread Man (1998), Cookie's Fortune (1999), Dr. T and the Women (2000), Gosford Park (2001), The Company (2003), A Prairie Home Companion (2006).


Suggested Filmography: Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007), The Master (2012), Inherent Vice (2014), Phantom Thread (2017), Licorice Pizza (2021).

One of the Great Film-makers of All Time, From Sweden, of Often Bleak and Deeply Contemplative B/W Sagas

One of the most influential and artistically-powerful directors of all time.

Suggested Filmography: Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), The Magician (1958), The Virgin Spring (1959), The Devil's Eye (1960), Through a Glass, Darkly (1962), Winter Light (1963), The Silence (1963), Persona (1966), Shame (1968), Hour of the Wolf (1968), The Passion of Anna (1969), Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes From a Marriage (1973), The Magic Flute (1975), Face to Face (1976), Autumn Sonata (1978), From the Life of the Marionettes (1980), Fanny and Alexander (1983).

Innovative Choreographer/Director Who Revolutionized the Film Musical with Kaleidoscopic Displays

Suggested Filmography: Whoopee! (1930) (choreographer), Footlight Parade (1933) (choreographer), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) (dance director), 42nd Street (1933) (choreographer), Dames (1934) (choreographer), Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935), Babes in Arms (1939), They Made Me a Criminal (1939), Strike Up the Band (1940), Babes on Broadway (1941), For Me and My Gal (1942), The Gang's All Here (1943), Girl Crazy (1943) (choreographer), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), Annie Get Your Gun (1950) (uncredited), Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) (choreographer).

Italian Film-Maker Famous for Epic, Rhythmic, Sensual, Lyrical Tales in Exotic Locales

Suggested Filmography: Before the Revolution (1962), The Conformist (1970), The Spider's Stratagem (1970), Last Tango in Paris (1972), 1900 (1976), La Luna (1979), The Last Emperor (1987), The Sheltering Sky (1990), Little Buddha (1993), Stealing Beauty (1996), Besieged (1998), The Dreamers (2003).

Hollywood's Great Romanticist with Soft-Focus, Sentimental, Romantic Films of the 30s/40s

Suggested Filmography: Humoresque (1920), Secrets (1924), Seventh Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928), Liliom (1930), Bad Girl (1931), A Farewell to Arms (1932), Man's Castle (1933), Flirtation Walk (1934), Little Man, What Now? (1934), Desire (1936), Green Light (1937), History Is Made At Night (1937), The Shining Hour (1938), Mannequin (1938), Three Comrades (1938), The Mortal Storm (1940), Strange Cargo (1940), Smilin' Through (1941), His Butler's Sister (1943), Stage Door Canteen (1943), The Spanish Main (1945), Moonrise (1948), The Big Fisherman (1959).

Producer/Actor/Director/Writer of Vulgar Comedy Spoofs of Traditional Movie Genres

Never sacrificing a laugh to good taste, Brooks made the sublimely rude Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein.

Suggested Filmography: The Producers (1968), The Twelve Chairs (1970), Blazing Saddles (1974), Young Frankenstein (1974), Silent Movie (1976), High Anxiety (1977), History of the World: Part I (1981), To Be Or Not To Be (1983), Spaceballs (1987), Life Stinks (1991), Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993), Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995), The Producers (2005) (producer only).

Distinguished, Leading Director from MGM Studios, Greta Garbo's Preferred Director

Suggested Filmography: The Last of the Mohicans (1920), The Eagle (1925), Flesh and the Devil (1926), A Woman of Affairs (1928), Anna Christie (1930), A Free Soul (1931), Possessed (1931), Sadie McKee (1934), Ah, Wilderness! (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), Wife vs. Secretary (1936), Conquest (1937), Idiot's Delight (1939), The Rains Came (1939), Edison, The Man (1940), Come Live With Me (1941), The Human Comedy (1943), National Velvet (1944), The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), The Yearling (1946), Intruder in the Dust (1949), Angels in the Outfield (1951), Plymouth Adventure (1952).

LUIS BUNUEL 1900-1983
Spanish Director and Screenwriter, Memorably Known for Original Works and as the "Father of Surrealism in Film"

Suggested Filmography: Un Chien Andalou (1929), L'Age D'Or (1930), Land Without Bread (1933), Los Olvidados/The Young and the Damned (1950), El (1953), The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955), Nazarin (1959), Viridiana (1961), The Exterminating Angel (1962), Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), Belle de Jour (1967), Tristana (1970), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), The Phantom of Liberty (1974), That Obscure Object of Desire (1977).

Wild, Imaginative, Distinctive, Comic-Strip Visualist/Director

Inspired by Halloween and Johnny Depp, this visual stylist made Beetlejuice, Batman, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Suggested Filmography: Vincent (1982), Frankenweenie (1984), Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (producer), Ed Wood (1994), Batman Forever (1995) (producer), Mars Attacks! (1996), James and the Giant Peach (1996) (producer), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows (2012), Frankenweenie (2012), Big Eyes (2014), Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016), Dumbo (2019).

Ambitious, Top-Notch Action-Blockbuster Film Director/Screenwriter of the Modern Era

He escaped the low-budget likes of Piranha Part Two to make the sci-fi spectacles The Terminator, Aliens, and Avatar.

Suggested Filmography: The Terminator (1984), Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) (writer), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), True Lies (1994), Strange Days (1995) (writer, producer), Titanic (1997), Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) (aka Titanic 3D: Ghosts of the Abyss), Aliens of the Deep (2005), Avatar (2009), Avatar: The Way of Water (2022).

FRANK CAPRA 1897-1991
Producer/Director of "Capra-Corn" Social Americana Films as Tribute to the Idealistic Common Man Battling Against Corruption; also Known for His Fast-Paced, Madcap Comedies

Sentimental but not sappy, his best movies (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life) wrap dark themes in happy endings.

Suggested Filmography: The Strong Man (1926), Platinum Blonde (1931), The Miracle Woman (1931), The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933), Lady for a Day (1933), Broadway Bill (1934), It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), Lost Horizon (1937), You Can't Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Meet John Doe (1941), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), It's A Wonderful Life (1946), State of the Union (1948), Here Comes the Groom (1951), A Hole in the Head (1959), Pocketful of Miracles (1961).

First Truly Pioneering American Independent Film Maker with Improvisational, Unpredictable Style Embodied in Realistic Film Stories; also Hollywood Actor

An actor turned pioneering moviemaker, he paved the way for cinema verite with Shadows and A Woman Under the Influence.

Suggested Filmography: Shadows (1959), Faces (1968), Husbands (1970), Minnie and Moskowitz (1971), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), Opening Night (1977), Gloria (1980), Love Streams (1984), Big Trouble (1985).

Extraordinarily-Famed Silent-Screen Tramp Character, Producer, Actor, Director and Dialogue-Less Comedian of Both the Silent and Sound Eras; One of Hollywood's First Super-Stars

He was a genius of silent comedy and one of its first stars. The Tramp and Modern Times are still comic icons.

Suggested Filmography: The Tramp (1915), The Immigrant (1917), Easy Street (1917), A Dog's Life (1918), The Kid (1921), The Pilgrim (1923), A Woman of Paris (1923), The Gold Rush (1925), The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940), Monsieur Verdoux (1947), Limelight (1952), A King in New York (1957), A Countess from Hong Kong (1967).

JOEL COEN 1954- and ETHAN COEN 1957-
Writer/Director/Producer Brother-Team of Offbeat, Irreverent, Often Enigmatic, Unorthodox Yet Cinema-Savvy Films

Joel and Ethan Coen are smart alecks with heart, combining dark humor, violence, and potent themes in movies like Fargo and True Grit.

Suggested Filmography: Blood Simple (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), The Ladykillers (2004), No Country for Old Men (2007), Burn After Reading (2008), A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010), Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), Hail, Caesar! (2016), The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021).

Italian-American Director Acclaimed in the 1970s for the 'Godfather' Films and the Classic War Film Apocalypse Now

Part of the first generation of film-school directors, he went from Dementia 13 to epics (The Godfather) and small gems (Rumble Fish).

Suggested Filmography: Dementia 13 (1963), You're a Big Boy Now (1966), Finian's Rainbow (1968), The Rain People (1969), The Godfather Trilogy: The Godfather (1972), The Godfather, Part II (1974); The Conversation (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979), One From the Heart (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), The Outsiders (1983), The Cotton Club (1984), Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Gardens of Stone (1987), Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), New York Stories (1989), The Godfather, Part III (1990), Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), Jack (1996), The Rainmaker (1997), The Virgin Suicides (1999) (producer, daughter directed), Apocalypse Now Redux (2001), Youth Without Youth (2007), Tetro (2009), Twixt (2011), Distant Vision (2016).

ROGER CORMAN 1926-2024
Extremely Prolific King (Producer and Director) of the Independents and Classic, Tacky, Low-Budget B's (Horror, Action, Teen Movies and Sci-Fi) and Drive-In Movies

Suggested Filmography: Swamp Women (1955), The Day the World Ended (1956), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), The Undead (1957), Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Sorority Girl (1957), Machine-Gun Kelly (1958), A Bucket of Blood (1959), House of Usher (1960), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), The Wasp Woman (1960), The Intruder (1961), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), The Premature Burial (1962), X - The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Raven (1963), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Terror (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1965), The Wild Angels (1966), The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967), The Trip (1967), Bloody Mama (1970), Death Race 2000 (1975), Rock n’ Roll High School (1979), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), Galaxy of Terror (1981), Frankenstein Unbound (1990).

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