20 of the best directors of all time and their signature styles

20 of the best directors of all time and their signature styles

For a film or a television series to be ranked top, a professional must have directed it. The director's work is to come up with a film idea, put it down, select cast, and follow the due filming process to make the vision materialize. Some of the best directors of all time have continued to shine in the filming industry. Most Hollywood directors have unique styles and techniques of directing. It could be colour, shots, or the use of the same actors over and over.

best directors of all time
Writer Christopher Nolan attends the 2011 Writers Guild Awards Press Room at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in Hollywood, California. Photo: Neilson Barnard
Source: Getty Images

Well-directed films in Hollywood have produced the most outstanding directors in 2021. Some of these directors have filmed for more than 30 years and have continued to satisfy the audiences' needs.

20 best directors of all time

The best way a director can remain on top for long is by maintaining high-standard directing techniques that make their films stand out. In addition, they must understand the filmmaking process by making their actors and actresses translate their ideas to reality. Here is the list of the best directors of all time in 2021.

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1. Steven Spielberg

best directors of all time
Steven Spielberg appears on stage during the Opening Ceremony of the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France. Photo: Pascal Le Segretain
Source: Getty Images

Steven Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States. He is a successful American director, producer, and screenwriter who got into filming in 1959 in the New Hollywood era. He is best known for directing 33 feature movies and co-producing many works.

He mainly uses filmmaking style and cinematography techniques as his signature techniques. Among his most recent directed films are:

  • Bridge of spies (2015)
  • The BFG (2016)
  • The Post (2017)
  • Ready Player One (2018)
  • West Side Story (2021)
  • The Fabelmans (2022)

Steven has received credits as the series executive producer since 1985. In addition, he has received accolades including:

  • Two Academy Awards for Best Director
  • A Kennedy Center honour
  • A Cecil B. Demille Award

2. Martin Scorsese

best directors of all time
Producer Martin Scorsese arrives at the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Frazer Harrison
Source: Getty Images

Martin Scorsese is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and actor. He is well known for his slow motion and freeze frame movies, cameo appearances, religious guilt, political corruption, and repeat collaboration with actors.

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He started directing films in 1962, and his latest film of direction is Killers of The Flower Moon (2021, TBA). Martin has received numerous accolades since 1976. Some of the awards and nominations are:

  • Academy Award for the Best Director
  • Academy Award for the Best Picture
  • Grammy Award
  • Primetime Army Award
  • Silver Lion Award

3. Ava DuVernay

best directors of all time
Filmmaker Ava Duvernay attends Film at Lincoln Center screening of "When They See Us" at Walter Reade Theater in New York City. Photo: John Lamparski
Source: Getty Images

Ava DuVerney is one of the best female directors of all time from America. She was born on August 24, 1972, and started directing films in 2005. She is widely known for her cinematic trademarks. In addition, she received illustrious accolades for her work. These are:

  • The first black woman to win the Directing Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival
  • The first woman to receive nominations for a Best Director Golden Globe and a Best Picture Academy Award in 2014.

DuVernery directs films, television series, music videos, and documentary series. Her top accolades include

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  • Ingenuity Award for Visual Arts (2017)
  • NAACP Image Award (2018)
  • BET Awards (2018)
  • TCA Awards (2018)
  • Primetime Emmy Awards (2019)
  • Directors Guild of America Award (2020)
  • Producers Guild of America Award (2020)

4. Sofia Coppola

best directors of all time
Sofia Coppola attends the photocall of the Chanel Metiers d'art 2019-2020 show at Le Grand Palais in Paris, France. Photo: Stephane Cardinale
Source: Getty Images

Sofia Coppola is an American director, producer, screenwriter, and actress born on May 14, 1971. Her first directorial film was The Virgin Suicides in 1999. She later directed other films such as

  • Lost In Translation (2003)
  • Marie Antoinette (2006)
  • Somewhere (2010)
  • The Bling Ring (2013)
  • The Beguiled (2017)

Sofia is known for her slow-moving portraits with bittersweet emotional palettes. She became the youngest woman to be nominated in the best director category and bagged the following awards and nominations through these and others.

  • Best Picture, Director and Screenplay (2003)
  • Best Director (2007)

5. Kathryn Bigelow

best directors of all time
Director Kathryn Bigelow accepts Best Director award for "The Hurt Locker" onstage during the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre. Photo: Kevin Winter
Source: Getty Images

Kathryn is a 69-year-old director, producer, and screenwriter. She has been in the filming production since 1978. She uses the shifting relationship in cinema, using extensive violence in her films. Her top directing films include:

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  • Touched by the hand of God – New Order (1987)
  • Selling Jesus Skunk Anansie (1995)
  • Last Days (2014)

She has received accolades since 1988, such as:

  • Saturn Awards
  • BAFTA Awards
  • Directors Guild of America Award

6. Quentin Tarantino

best directors of all time
Quentin Tarantino during Kill Bill: Vol. 2 World Premiere - Red Carpet at Arclight Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, California, United States. Photo: Jeff Kravitz
Source: Getty Images

Quentin is an American film director, screenwriter, author, film critic, and actor born on March 27, 1963. His directing style involves crime, drama, action, spaghetti Western, alternate history, black comedy, and neo-noir, making him one of the best directors. He started directing films in 1992 with the film Reservoir Dogs. Later he directed

  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • Jackie Brown (1997)
  • Kill Bill Volume 1 &2(2003-2004)
  • Death proof (2007)
  • Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  • Django Unchained (2012)
  • The Hateful Eight (2015)
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

He has bagged accolades including:

  • Directors Guild of America Award
  • Saturn Awards
  • Grammy Awards
  • Icon of the Decade:10th Empire Award

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7. James Cameroon

best directors of all time
Hollywood director James Cameroon at the dinner party hosted after the India Today Conclave ended in New Delhi. Photo: Ramesh Sharma
Source: Getty Images

James is a 66-year-old Canadian film director, producer, editor, and environmentalist. He is among who produces the best films of all time through his science fiction and epic movies. He gained prominence after directing The Terminator (1984). Later, he directed:

  • Aliens (1986)
  • The Abyss (1989)
  • Terminator 2 (1991)
  • True lies (1994)
  • Titanic (1997)
  • Ghosts of the Abyss (2003)
  • Aliens of the deep (2005)
  • Avatar (2009)

Cameroon is currently directing Avatar 2 to 5, which will run up to 2028. He has bagged numerous awards and nominations through his hard work, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009.

8. Greta Gerwig

best directors of all time
Greta Gerwig attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, California. Photo: Christopher Polk
Source: Getty Images

Greta Gerwig is a 38-year-old American actress and director. She has been in filming since 2006. Her films are based on her own experiences. Her top directed films are:

  • Nights and Weekends (2008)
  • Lady Bird (2017)
  • Little Women (2019)
  • Barbie (2023)

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Barbie received a nomination for the Best Director of the 90th Academy Awards (2018) for Lady Bird film.

9. Christopher Nolan

best directors of all time
Director Christopher Nolan accepts the Nomination Medallion for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for Dunkirk. Photo: Kevork Djansezian
Source: Getty Images

Christopher, the number one director in the world, was born on July 30, 1970. He made his first film debut in 1998. However, he gained prominence with his second film Memento (2000). His movies are directed in existential and epistemological themes. To date, Nolan has received:

  • Five Academy Awards
  • Five British Academy Film Awards
  • Five Golden Globe Awards.

He appeared on the list of the most influential people in the world in 2015. His most recent directed films are:

  • Inception (2010)
  • The Dark Knight Arises (2012)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • Dunkirk (2017)
  • Tenet (2020)

10. Patty Jenkins

best directors of all time
Director Patty Jenkins arrived at the Variety's Creative Impact Awards at Parker Palm Springs in Palm Springs, California. Photo: Leon Bennett
Source: Getty Images

Patty Jenkins is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. She was born on July 24, 1971. Her films mainly focus on morality and feminity. Patty has directed the following famous films:

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  • Moonstar (2003)
  • Wonder Woman (2017 -2020)

She is currently working on Rogue Squadron (2023) and the untitled Wonder Woman 1984 sequel. Her accolades include:

  • Telluride Indifeast (2001)
  • Edgar Allan Poe Awards (2004)
  • Film Independent Spirit Awards (2004)
  • Directors Guild of America Award
  • IGN Awards (2020)
  • Jupiter Awards (2021)
  • Cape & Castle Awards (2021)

11. Kelly Reinhart

best directors of all time
Kelly Reichardt arrives at the Hotel Martinez on the eve of the opening of the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI
Source: Getty Images

Kelly is a 57-year-old American director and screenwriter. She is one of the best film directors of all time who directs minimalist-style films. She made entry into film directing in 1994 with the River of Grass film. Later, he directed a series of films, namely:

  • Old Joy (2006)
  • Wendy and Lucy (2008)
  • Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
  • Night Moves (2013)
  • Certain Woman (2016)
  • First Cow (2019)
  • Showing Up (TBA)

Reinhart has bagged numerous awards, with the latest being:

  • Film Independent Spirit Award for Bonnie Award (2020)
  • Berlin Film Festival for Golden Bear (2020)

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12. Clint Eastwood

best directors of all time
Clint Eastwood arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "The Mule" at the Village Theatre in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Kevin Winter
Source: Getty Images

Clint is one of the oldest and the best directors alive. The 91-year-old is an actor, film director, composer, and producer. He has been active in filming since 1954. Eastwood directs action films, westerns, and dramas. He has directed over 30 films, with the latest being Cry Macho, yet to be released. His other recent films are:

  • Hereafter (2010)
  • J. Edgar (2011)
  • American Sniper (2014)
  • Sully (2016)
  • Richard Jewwell (2019)

He has also bagged numerous awards, including

  • Directors Guild of America Award
  • People’s Choice Awards
  • Lumiere Award

13. Francis Ford Coppola

best directors of all time
Francis Ford Coppola attends the "The Cotton Club" screening during the 57th New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in New York City. Photo: Dominik Bindl
Source: Getty Images

Francis was born on April 7, 1939. He is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter since 1962. Due to his experience and expertise, he is considered one of the famous directors of all time. He has directed films of all styles, such as horror, comedy, and action movies. His popular films include

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  • Youth without Youth
  • Tetro
  • Twixt

His filmography journey has gained him:

  • Five Academy Awards
  • Six Golden Globe Awards
  • Two Palmes d’Or
  • One British Academy Film Award

14. David Fincher

best directors of all time
David Fincher speaks onstage at the Maltin Modern Master Award Honoring Brad Pitt during the 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer
Source: Getty Images

David, who is the best director of all time, was born on August 28, 1962. He is famous for being a director of psychological thrillers and biographical drama films and has been filming since 1980. During this time, he has received 40 nominations for the Academy Awards, three of them being of Best Director. Top on the list of his directing movies and films are:

  • Zodiac (2007)
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
  • The Social Network (2010)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (2011)
  • Gone Girl (2014)
  • Mank (2020)
  • The Killer (TBA)

15. David Keith Lynch

best directors of all time
David Keith stands on the set of the 2000 American movie U-571. Photo: Eric Robert
Source: Getty Images

Keith is a 75-year-old director, painter, visual artist, musician, and actor. He is well known for his cinematic influences and themes in his films. He first directed the Eraserhead film in 1977. He later directed more films, namely:

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  • The Elephant Man
  • Dune
  • Blue Velvet
  • Wild at Heart
  • Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
  • Lost Highway
  • The Straight Story
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Inland Empire

He is currently directing a television series movie, Wisteria/Unrecorded Night. His accolades include:

  • Academy Awards
  • British Academy Film Awards
  • Director’s Guild Awards
  • Primetime Emmy Awards
  • Independent Spirit Awards
  • Writers Guild of America Awards
  • Saturn Awards

16. Nancy Meyers

best directors of all time
Nancy Meyers at the "Home Again" Press Conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Vera Anderson
Source: Getty Images

Meyers is an American filmmaker. She is one of the best female directors of all time for producing and directing numerous commercial and romantic comedy films. Her most popular directed films are:

  • What women want (2000)
  • Something’s Gotta Give (2003)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • It’s Complicated (2009)
  • The Intern (2015)
  • Father of the Bride (2020)

Her awards and nominations include:

  • Writers Guild of America Awards
  • Academy Awards
  • Golden Globe Award
  • Youth in Film Award
  • Teen Choice Award

17. Tim Burton

best directors of all time
Director Tim Burton attends the "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" New York premiere held at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. Photo: Brent N. Clarke
Source: Getty Images

Timothy burton is a 62-year-old American film director, producer, writer, and artist. He produces and directs gothic fantasy and horror films. Some of his movies include:

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  • Beetlejuice
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Ed wood
  • Sleepy hollow
  • Corpse bride
  • Sweeney Todd (2007)
  • The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
  • Alice in Wonderland (2010)
  • Dark Shadows (2012)
  • Frankenweenie (2012)
  • Big Eyes (2014)
  • Miss Peregrine’s home for Peculiar Children (2016)
  • Dumbo (2019)

18. Charlie Chaplain

best directors of all time
Directors Charlie Chaplain posing for the camera. Photo: @ChaplinOfficial
Source: Twitter

Sir Charles Spencer Chaplain was born on April 16, 1889, and died on December 25, 1977. He was an actor, producer, director, and comedian. Chaplain is associated with silent movies. However, he directed movies including dramas, romantic and theatrical films. Some of his directed features include:

  • Modern times (1936)
  • The Great Dictator (1940)
  • Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
  • Limelight (1952)
  • A King in New York (1957)
  • A Countess from Hong Kong ( 1967)

Chaplain is one of the best film directors who received many awards and honours. Some of them include

  • Hollywood Walk of Fame (1972)
  • Academy Awards
  • Honorary Awards
  • Best Actor, Best original screenplay

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19. Sidney Arthur Lumet

best directors of all time
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. during Academy Awards Party Honoring Filmmaker Sidney Lumet at Plaza Athenee in New York City, New York, United States. Photo: Lawrence Lucier
Source: Getty Images

Sidney was an American film director born on June 25, 1924, and died on April 9, 2011. His films specialize in romance, suspense, and drama movies. He is credited for over 50 films. His famous movies include:

  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Equus
  • 12 Angry Men
  • Network
  • Before the Devil Knows
  • You’re Dead
  • Serpico
  • Murder on the Oriento Express
  • The Verdict

Sidney was nominated five times for the Academy Award. Although he did not win any of the nominations, he received an Academy Honorary Award.

20. Joel Coen

best directors of all time
Director Joel Coen attends the 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Press Conference during The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France. Photo: Vittorio Zunino Celotto
Source: Getty Images

Joel is one of the duo Coen brothers. He is a director, producer, screenwriter, and editor, and together with his brother Ethan Coen, they direct films that revolve around crime, drama, and suspense. Joel started filming in 1984. Some of his accredited films include

  • True Gilt (2010)
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
  • Hail! Caesar (2016)
  • The Balland of Buster Scruggs (2018)
  • The Tragedy of Macbeth (TBA)

Joel has bagged numerous accolades, including:

  • Academy Awards nominations and wins
  • Golden Globe Award
  • BAFTA Awards

The best directors of all time have proved their talents, skills, and knowledge in filming. They have gained significant experience, therefore, producing and directing great films over and over. Unfortunately, some of these directors are dead, but their legacy lives to date. They may not appear on screens as cast, but the success or failure of a film is entirely dependent on them.

Yen.com.gh shared an article on the top 20 richest musicians in Ghana 2021 and their net worth. Music has evolved through the years and is now one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. Many people have stepped up and have taken their place in the industry by impressing their fans with great music.

The richest musicians in Ghana continue to make several million dollars as they entertain their local and international fans. Some of them have been in the industry for quite some time while others are upcoming singers. These musicians are the epitome of hard work, passion, and consistency.

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Source: Yen Newspaper

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