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The Top 25 Best Director Winners So Far (Updated)


Well friends, the end of this series draws closer and closer. Until then, we press on. Continuing a tradition I’ve been keen on for years, I’m ranking the new crop of Academy Award winners. For nearly all of the Oscar categories, you’ll see me list the top 25 recipients of that prize. Sometimes, our newest winner will appear. Other times, they’ll be relegated to the Honorable Mention category. Who knows, maybe one or two won’t even make the cut? It’s a list series that I’ll do each and every single year, in the weeks after the ceremony concludes. So, while this is a fun way to think about the Oscars in the aftermath of the latest telecast, it’s also a beginning for another column here on the site. Of course, definitely show us your own lists as well, in the comments section below. We’re definitely keen to know what you think!

Another of the biggest categories hits today…Best Director. The Best Director category has occasionally struggled with being seen as a coattail on the way to Best Picture, but that’s hardly always been the case. One look below will reveal plenty of Director winners that didn’t also take home Picture. For my money, Steven Spielberg has the best win, for Schindler’s List (though his other winner, Saving Private Ryan, isn’t far behind). Other top tier victors include Woody Allen (I know, I know) for Annie HallKathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Bong Joon Ho for Parasite, and Mike Nichols for The Graduate. Where does our most recent winner, Jane Campion, fall for her work on The Power of the Dog? Read on below to find out…

Here now are what I consider to be the 25 best winners of the Oscar for Best Director, to date:

Steven Spielberg

25. John G. Avildsen – Rocky
24. William Friedkin – The French Connection
23. Francis Ford Coppola – The Godfather Part II
22. Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
21. Oliver Stone – Platoon
20. Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump
19. Chloe Zhao – Nomadland
18. John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath
17. Miloš Forman – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
16. Jonathan Demme – The Silence of the Lambs
15. Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
14. Sam Mendes – American Beauty
13. Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog
12. David Lean – Lawrence of Arabia
11. Martin Scorsese – The Departed
10. Billy Wilder – The Apartment
9. Michael Curtiz – Casablanca
8. Elia Kazan – On the Waterfront
7. Damien Chazelle – La La Land
6. Steven Spielberg – Saving Private Ryan
5. Mike Nichols – The Graduate
4. Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
3. Woody Allen – Annie Hall
2. Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
1. Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List

Honorable Mentions: James Cameron – Titanic, Frank Capra – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water, Victor Fleming – Gone With the Wind, Alejandro G. Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and William Wyler – Ben-Hur

Winner for Best Director Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” gives her acceptance speech at the 82nd Academy Awards at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California on March 07, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ Gabriel BOUYS

Stay tuned for another category later on this week or early next week!


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Robert Hamer
7 months ago

I feel an urge to push back on your inclusion of Victor Fleming among the Honorable Mentions.

Yes, obviously, Gone with the Wind remains a titanic achievement of studio willpower and epic “make sure every penny shows up on the screen” production, but, from what I’ve read, Fleming himself directed less than half of the finished film, with the rest of it shot under the supervision of Sam Wood, William Cameron Menzies, and George Cukor.

He wasn’t a bad director, just an unremarkable one; arguably the cat’s paw for the domineering producers of both of his most famous movies.

7 months ago
Reply to  Joey Magidson

As always it’s a challenge. I am always interested when director and picture split and I often think it makes sense.
1. Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
2.!Michael Curtiz – Casablanca
3. Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List
4. Robert Wise – The Sound of Music
5. Bob Fosse – Cabaret
6. Jonathan Demme – The Silence of the Lambs
7. Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
8. Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
9. Jane Campion- The Power of The Dog
10. William Wyler – The Best Years of Our Lives
11. Ang Lee – Brokeback Mountain
12. Joel and Ethan Coen – No County For Old amen
13. Steven Spielberg- Saving Private Ryan
14 . Anthony Minghella – The English Patient
15. Milos Foreman – Amadeus
16. Billy Wilder- The Apartment
17. John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath
18. Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
19. Chloe Zhao- Nomadland
20. Carol Reed – Oliver!
21. Milos Foreman – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
22. James Cameron- Titanic
23. George Roy Hill – The Sting
24. Frank Capra – It Happened One Night
25. Ron Howard – A Beautiful Mind

HM Francis Ford Coppola- The Godfather part Ii, Oliver Stone- Platoon, Clint Eastwood- Unforgiven , Fred Zinniman – From Here To Eternity, Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire, Alejandro G. Inarrtu – Birdman and The Revenant,
Alfonso Cuaron- Roma

7 months ago
Reply to  Joey Magidson

I don’t know how everyone judges this category but I think how the movie ends is as important as the rest of it . I don’t necessarily look for a happy ending ( although I am not against it!)
I look for it to be true to the essence of the film and characters.



Written by Joey Magidson

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