Ranking the Best Directors

Today we reach the big two. Over the past two days, I’ve ranked all the Best Supporting Actress winners, the Best Supporting Actor winners, the Best Actress winners, and the Best Actor winners. Now — Best Director, and later, Best Picture.

Again, let me remind you, as always:

  • The rankings are irrelevant. They’re just personal preference. The goal here is to help you discover more movies.
  • Don’t get hung up on the numbers, focus on the fact that it’s about getting people to see more movies. (And if you want to criticize, I require that you’ve seen at least 50 of the efforts, otherwise you’ll be completely ignored.)

There are 84 here because the first Best Director category was split into Comedy/Dramatic categories.

Here’s how I rank all the Best Director winners:

TIER 1: The Best of the Best:

1. Victor Fleming, Gone With the Wind

2. David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia

3. Lewis Milestone, All Quiet on the Western Front

4. Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part II

5. Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan

6. William Wyler, Ben-Hur

7. Steven Spielberg, Schindler’s List

8. John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

9. John Ford, The Grapes of Wrath

10. Michael Curtiz, Casablanca

TIER 2: Really Solid Efforts:

11. George Stevens, Giant

12. Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront

13. Frank Borzage, Seventh Heaven

14. George Roy Hill, The Sting

15. Billy Wilder, The Apartment

16. William Friedkin, The French Connection

17. David Lean, The Bridge on the River Kwai

18. Michael Cimino, The Deer Hunter

19. John G. Avildsen, Rocky

20. Jonathan Demme, The Silence of the Lambs

21. Oliver Stone, Platoon

22. Robert Wise, West Side Story

23. Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

24. Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor

25. Milos Forman, Amadeus

26. James Cameron, Titanic

27. Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven

28. Mike Nichols, The Graduate

29. Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

30. John Ford, The Quiet Man

TIER 3: Awesome Efforts/Sentimental Favorites:

31. Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend

32. Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

33. Martin Scorsese, The Departed

33. Frank Capra, It Happened One Night

35. Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

36. Robert Zemeckis, Forrest Gump

37. Fred Zinnemann, From Here to Eternity

38. Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

39. Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

40. Ang Lee, Life of Pi

41. Franklin J. Schaffner, Patton

42. Norman Taurog, Skippy

43. George Cukor, My Fair Lady

44. John Ford, The Informer

45. Bob Fosse, Cabaret

TIER 4: Solid Efforts All Around (But Not My Favorites):

46. Woody Allen, Annie Hall

47. Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

48. Robert Wise, The Sound of Music

49. Vincente Minnelli, Gigi

50. John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy

51. Carol Reed, Oliver!

52. William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives

53. Warren Beatty, Reds

54. Richard Attenborough, Gandhi

55. Steven Soderbergh, Traffic

56. Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July

57. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve

58. Mel Gibson, Braveheart

59. Delbert Mann, Marty

60. Frank Borzage, Bad Girl

61. Elia Kazan, Gentleman’s Agreement

62. Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth

TIER 5: Efforts That are Good, But….Mehh:

63. Sam Mendes, American Beauty

64. George Stevens, A Place in the Sun

65. John Ford, How Green Was My Valley

66. William Wyler, Mrs. Miniver

67. Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

68. Roman Polanski, The Pianist

69. Milos Forman, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

70. Barry Levinson, Rain Man

71. Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves

72. Leo McCarey, Going My Way

73. Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons

74. Frank Capra, You Can’t Take It With You

75. Robert Benton, Kramer vs. Kramer

76. Frank Capra, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town

77. Anthony Minghella, The English Patient

TIER 6: The Worst of the Worst:

78. Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

79. Fred Richardson, Tom Jones

80. James L. Brooks, Terms of Endearment

81. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives

82. Sydney Pollack, Out of Africa

83. Ron Howard, A Beautiful Mind

84. Lewis Milestone, Two Arabian Knights

85. Frank Lloyd, Cavalcade

86. Robert Redford, Ordinary People

87. Frank Lloyd, The Divine Lady

Also check out:

Ranking the Best Pictures

Ranking the Best Actors

Ranking the Best Actresses

Ranking the Best Supporting Actors

Ranking the Best Supporting Actresses


2 responses

  1. Pingback: Lady Luck Productions » Ranking the Best Directors « B+ Movie Blog

  2. Mike Morrison

    Mel Gibson, Coppla for 1st Godfather, Peter Jackson, and Scorcese should be top 15. Hooper and Ron Howard in worst of worst is absolutetly insane!

    February 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

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