Ranking the Academy Award for Best Director

by luke-a-mcgowan | created - 27 Aug 2015 | updated - 29 Mar 2016 | Public

All of the Academy Awards for Best Director, ranked from Best to Worst. This is based on memorability of their film, the amount with which I could feel their influence, and the degree of success I think another director could've had with the film.

1. Peter Jackson

Producer | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson was born as an only child in a small coast-side town in New Zealand in 1961. When a friend of his parents bought him a super 8 movie camera (because she saw how much he enjoyed taking photos), the then eight-year-old Peter instantly grabbed the thing to start recording his own movies,...

The Return of the King

2. Kathryn Bigelow

Director | The Hurt Locker

A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be ...

The Hurt Locker

3. James Cameron

Writer | Avatar

James Francis Cameron was born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. He moved to the United States in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University before switching to English, and eventually dropping out. He then drove a truck to support his ...

Titanic

4. Woody Allen

Writer | Manhattan

Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy...

Annie Hall

5. Jonathan Demme

Director | The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme was born on February 22, 1944 in Baldwin, Long Island, New York, USA as Robert Jonathan Demme. He was a director and producer, known for The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Philadelphia (1993) and Rachel Getting Married (2008). He was married to Joanne Howard and Evelyn Purcell. He died...

The Silence of the Lambs

6. Danny Boyle

Director | 127 Hours

Danny Boyle was born on October 20, 1956 in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, England as Daniel Francis Boyle. He is a director and producer, known for 127 Hours (2010), 28 Days Later... (2002) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008).

Slumdog Millionaire

7. Michael Curtiz

Director | Casablanca

Curtiz began acting in and then directing films in his native Hungary in 1912. After WWI, he continued his filmmaking career in Austria and Germany and into the early 1920s when he directed films in other countries in Europe. Moving to the US in 1926, he started making films in Hollywood for Warner...

Casablanca

8. Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Producer | The Revenant

Alejandro González Iñárritu (ih-nyar-ee-too), born August 15th, 1963, is a Mexican film director.

González Iñárritu is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and by the Directors Guild of America for Best Director. He is also the first Mexican-born ...

Birdman

9. Steven Spielberg

Producer | Schindler's List

One of the most influential personalities in the history of cinema, Steven Spielberg is Hollywood's best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. He has an extraordinary number of commercially successful and critically acclaimed credits to his name, either as a director, ...

Saving Private Ryan

10. John G. Avildsen

Director | Rocky

John G. Avildsen was born on December 21, 1935 in Oak Park, Illinois, USA as John Guilbert Avildsen. He was a director and editor, known for Rocky (1976), Rocky V (1990) and The Karate Kid Part III (1989). He was married to Tracy Brooks Swope and Marie Olga Maturevich. He died on June 16, 2017 in ...

Rocky

11. Tom Hooper

Director | Cats

Tom Hooper was educated at one of England's most prestigious schools, Westminster. His first film, Runaway Dog, was made when he was 13 years old and shot on a Clockwork 16mm Bolex camera, using 100 feet of film. At age 18, he wrote, directed and produced the short film Painted Faces (1992), which ...

The King's Speech

12. Sam Mendes

Producer | 1917

Samuel Alexander Mendes was born on August 1, 1965 in Reading, England, UK to parents James Peter Mendes, a retired university lecturer, and Valerie Helene Mendes, an author who writes children's books. Their marriage didn't last long, James divorced Sam's mother in 1970 when Sam was just 5-...

American Beauty

13. Clint Eastwood

Actor | Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a bond salesman and later manufacturing executive for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth Wood, a housewife turned IBM operator. He had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in nearby Piedmont. At school ...

Million Dollar Baby

14. Alfonso Cuarón

Writer | Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón Orozco was born on November 28th in Mexico City, Mexico. From an early age, he yearned to be either a film director or an astronaut. However, he did not want to enter the army, so he settled for directing. He didn't receive his first camera until his twelfth birthday, and then ...

Gravity

15. Milos Forman

Director | One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Milos Forman was born Jan Tomas Forman in Caslav, Czechoslovakia, to Anna (Svabova), who ran a summer hotel, and Rudolf Forman, a professor. During World War II, his parents were taken away by the Nazis, after being accused of participating in the underground resistance. His father died in ...

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

16. Barry Levinson

Director | Rain Man

Barry Levinson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to Violet (Krichinsky) and Irvin Levinson, who worked in furniture and appliance. He is of Russian Jewish descent. Levinson graduated from high school in 1960, attended college at American University in Washington, DC. He did well, but decided he ...

Rain Man

17. James L. Brooks

Writer | Broadcast News

James L. Brooks was born on May 9, 1940 in Brooklyn, New York, USA as James Lawrence Brooks. He is a writer and producer, known for Broadcast News (1987), As Good as It Gets (1997) and Terms of Endearment (1983). He was previously married to Holly Holmberg Brooks and Marianne Catherine Morrissey.

Terms of Endearment

18. Clint Eastwood

Actor | Million Dollar Baby

Clint Eastwood was born May 31, 1930 in San Francisco, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a bond salesman and later manufacturing executive for Georgia-Pacific Corporation, and Ruth Wood, a housewife turned IBM operator. He had a comfortable, middle-class upbringing in nearby Piedmont. At school ...

Unforgiven

19. Martin Scorsese

Director | Taxi Driver

Martin Charles Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942 in Queens, New York City, to Catherine Scorsese (née Cappa) and Charles Scorsese, who both worked in Manhattan's garment district, and whose families both came from Palermo, Sicily. He was raised in the neighborhood of Little Italy, which later ...

The Departed

20. Francis Ford Coppola

Producer | Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola was born in 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in a New York suburb in a creative, supportive Italian-American family. His father, Carmine Coppola, was a composer and musician. His mother, Italia Coppola (née Pennino), had been an actress. Francis Ford Coppola graduated ...

The Godfather: Part 2

21. Mel Gibson

Actor | Braveheart

Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson was born January 3, 1956 in Peekskill, New York, USA, as the sixth of eleven children of Hutton Gibson, a railroad brakeman, and Anne Patricia (Reilly) Gibson (who died in December of 1990). His mother was Irish, from County Longford, while his American-born father is ...

Braveheart

22. Ethan Coen

Producer | The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Ethan Coen was born on September 21, 1957 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA as Ethan Jesse Coen. He is a producer and writer, known for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), A Serious Man (2009) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). He has been married to Tricia Cooke since October 2, 1990. They have two ...

No Country for Old Men

23. Joel Coen

Producer | The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Joel Coen was born on November 29, 1954 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA as Joel Daniel Coen. He is a producer and writer, known for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), Fargo (1996) and A Serious Man (2009). He has been married to Frances McDormand since April 1, 1984. They have one child.

No Country for Old Men

24. Robert Zemeckis

Writer | Back to the Future

A whiz-kid with special effects, Robert is from the Spielberg camp of film-making (Steven Spielberg produced many of his films). Usually working with writing partner Bob Gale, Robert's earlier films show he has a talent for zany comedy (Romancing the Stone (1984), 1941 (1979)) and special effect ...

Forrest Gump

25. Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Producer | The Revenant

Alejandro González Iñárritu (ih-nyar-ee-too), born August 15th, 1963, is a Mexican film director.

González Iñárritu is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and by the Directors Guild of America for Best Director. He is also the first Mexican-born ...

The Revenant

26. Ang Lee

Director | Wo hu cang long

Born in 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Ang graduated from the National Taiwan College of Arts in 1975 and then came to the U.S. to receive a B.F.A. Degree in Theatre/Theater Direction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ...

Life of Pi



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