Famous 20th Century Film Directors

Find out more about the greatest 20th Century Directors, including Andy Warhol, Sylvester Stallone, Keanu Reeves, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick.
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: July 26, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, United States
Died: March 7, 1999

Regarded as one of the greatest American filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick was the maker of acclaimed movies like Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon. Stanley Kubrick was known for his exceptional visual style and artistic expression. He began his career as a magazine photographer and subsequently began directing short films. His first big break came with the hit movie Spartacus.

 2 Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock.
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: August 13, 1899
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Leytonstone, London, England
Died: April 29, 1980

Popularly known as the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock pioneered the Hitchcockian style of filmmaking. One of the most studied filmmakers in the world, Hitchcock is also one of the most influential in the history of cinema. In his career, that spanned six decades, he directed some of the greatest films of all time, such as Psycho and Vertigo.

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 3 Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki.
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: January 5, 1941
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Bunkyō

Considered one of the most prominent filmmakers in the history of animated films, Hayao Miyazaki is a Japanese animator and manga artist. A co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki has gained worldwide acclaim as a maker of animated films and a masterful storyteller. Miyazaki has served as an inspiration to several world-renowned animators and directors, including James Cameron and Wes Anderson.

 4 Orson Welles

Orson Welles.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Died: October 10, 1985

American filmmaker, Orson Welles, acted in and directed the 1941 film, Citizen Kane, which is considered to be one the greatest movies ever made. Though hailed as a genius, many of his films didn’t work at the box office. The Stranger, Macbeth, Chimes at Midnight, Touch of Evil and The Trial are some of the other films that he directed.

 5 Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson.
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Famous As: Film Director, Producer & Screenwriter
Birthdate: October 31, 1961
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Pukerua Bay, New Zealand

New Zealand director/producer Peter Jackson is best known for his three-time Academy Award-winning work in The Return of the King, the third part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The third-highest-grossing director ever, he is also the man behind The Hobbit trilogy and the 2005 film King Kong

 6 Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson.
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: June 26, 1970
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Studio City, California
Director Paul Thomas Anderson’s style of using hard-hitting cinematography and flawed characters is distinctive. He first shot to fame with Boogie Nights in 1997 and then impressed his critics with There Will Be Blood in 2007. He has also directed music videos and made a short film for Netflix.

 7 Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog.
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Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: September 5, 1942
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Munich
Werner Herzog, one of the prominent figures of the New German Cinema era, has directed films such as Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, and documentaries such as Grizzly Man. Named to TIME 100, he has written countless books and directed many operas. He was also seen playing The Client in The Mandalorian.
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 8 Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott.
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Famous As: Film Producer, Director
Birthdate: November 30, 1937
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: South Shields

British film director, Ridley Scott,is hailed as a master of his craft and his movies are known for their visual style and intricate details. Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, Prometheus, Alien: Covenant and The Martian are some of his acclaimed and successful films. He was knighted in 2003.

 9 Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa.
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: March 23, 1910
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Shinagawa City, Tokyo, Japan
Died: September 6, 1998

Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker. Widely considered one of the most influential and important filmmakers of all time, Kurosawa's works opened up Western film markets to the products of the Japanese entertainment industry, enabling other Japanese filmmakers to achieve international recognition. Such is his impact as a filmmaker that he is credited with contributing to the development of Asia.

 10 Terry Gilliam

Terry Gilliam
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Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Actor, Animator, Film actor
Birthdate: November 22, 1940
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Minneapolis

 11 Zack Snyder

Zack Snyder.
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: March 1, 1966
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Green Bay, Wisconsin

Zack Snyder is an American filmmaker who specializes in making superhero and comic book films, such as 300, Man of Steel, and Justice League. His style of filmmaking has inspired a lot of young directors all over the world. Away from the film industry, Zack plays an important role in the lives of his children, four of whom he adopted.

 12 John Carpenter

John Carpenter
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Famous As: American film director
Birthdate: January 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Carthage, New York, United States

 13 Taika Waititi

Taika Waititi
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Famous As: Actor, Film director, Screenwriter
Birthdate: August 16, 1975
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Wellington

 14 Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 25, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Died: October 10, 2004

Christopher Reeve had a flying start to his acting career as he played the iconic Superman in four films. Unfortunately, he became a quadriplegic after suffering an accident at an equestrian competition. Despite the setback, he continued contributing to the film industry and also founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation as part of his charitable work.

 15 Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray.
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Famous As: Indian filmmaker
Birthdate: May 2, 1921
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died: April 23, 1992

Satyajit Ray was an Indian film director, music composer, and writer. Considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Ray became the first Indian to be honored with an Academy Honorary Award in 1992. Apart from Indian filmmakers, international directors like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, Wes Anderson, and Christopher Nolan have been influenced by Satyajit Ray. 

 16 Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi
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Famous As: American film director
Birthdate: October 23, 1959
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Royal Oak

 17 Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: November 27, 1951
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: San Carlos, California, United States

 18 Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman.
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Famous As: Director & Actor
Birthdate: July 14, 1918
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Uppsala, Sweden
Died: July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman was a Swedish filmmaker and screenwriter. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and accomplished filmmakers of all time, Ingmar Bergman continues to serve as an inspiration for filmmakers like Woody Allen. His work has also influenced other prominent directors like Martin Scorsese, Thomas Vinterberg, and Richard Ayoade.

 19 Matthew Gray Gubler

Matthew Gray Gubler.
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Famous As: Actor, Director, Model, Painter
Birthdate: March 9, 1980
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Las Vegas

American actor, Matthew Gray Gubler, is best known for playing the character of Dr Spencer Reid in the popular and acclaimed television series Criminal Minds. He has also acted in films like 500 Days of Summer, Suburban Gothic and How to Be a Serial Killer. He won a Daytime Emmy Award for his role in the television series, The Beauty Inside.

 20 John Cassavetes

John Cassavetes.
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Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: December 9, 1929
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Died: February 3, 1989
John Cassavetes is best remembered for his Academy Award-nominated performance in The Dirty Dozen and for his Academy Award-nominated screenplay and direction in Faces and A Woman Under the Influence, respectively. His movies explored the cinéma verité style of filmmaking and included frequent collaborations with his wife, Gena Rowlands.

 21 John Huston

John Huston.
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: August 5, 1906
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Nevada, Missouri, United States
Died: August 28, 1987

Director/screenwriter John Huston is known for making his films with nominal editing and featuring novel adaptations and themes of religion, colonialism, and war. He is known for his Academy Award-winning direction in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and also appeared as an actor in films such as The Cardinal.

 22 Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo Esposito.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 26, 1958
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Copenhagen

The winner of Critics' Choice Television Award, Giancarlo Esposito is known for playing a variety of roles in films and TV series. From portraying drug dealers to policemen, Esposito has proved his versatility in the American film industry. He has also been featured in popular video games, such as Payday 2 and Far Cry 6.

 23 David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg
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Famous As: Film director, Screenwriter, Actor, Film producer, Film editor
Birthdate: March 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Toronto

David Cronenberg is a Canadian actor, film director, and screenwriter. He is considered a pioneer in what is known as the body horror genre. His films have earned numerous awards, and he has both earned critical acclaim and sparked controversy due to the nature of his work. He often collaborates with fellow actor Viggo Mortensen. 

 24 Regina King

Regina King
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 15, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Regina King was first noticed when she appeared in the series 227 and then gained fame with her role in Jerry Maguire. Her performance as Sharon Rivers in If Beale Street Could Talk won her both the Academy and the Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actress.

 25 Henry Winkler

Henry Winkler.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York
Henry Winkler delivered a Golden Globe-winning performance as Fonzie in Happy Days and an Emmy-winning performance in Barry. His other major projects include Childrens Hospital, Royal Pains, and Arrested Development. He is also known for playing Captain Hook on stage and for authoring the Hank Zipzer series of children’s books.

 26 Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma
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Famous As: film director, screenwriter, film producer
Birthdate: September 11, 1940
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Newark

 27 Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 26, 1931
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: February 27, 2015
Three-time Emmy nominee Leonard Nimoy is best known for playing the iconic character Spock in the Star Trek franchise, for almost 50 years. Spock became a cult, and even Nimoy’s autobiographies were named after the character. He also appeared in Zombies of the Stratosphere and hosted a documentary series.

 28 Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 29, 1964
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Kansas City
Don Cheadle is best known for his Academy Award-nominated performance as Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda and as War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has been a UN ambassador for environment and has won the BET Humanitarian Award for his efforts to end genocide in Rwanda and Darfur.

 29 Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle.
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Famous As: Film Director, Screenwriter, Film Producer
Birthdate: October 20, 1956
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Radcliffe

Danny Boyle is best known for his Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. He also amazed audiences with his deft direction in Trainspotting, 127 Hours, and 28 Days Later. He won a BAFTA with his debut film, Shallow Grave. He was the artistic director of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

 30 Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie.
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Famous As: Musician & Filmmaker
Birthdate: January 12, 1965
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Haverhill

The founding member of the popular heavy metal band White Zombie, Rob Zombie is an American singer-songwriter, voice actor, and filmmaker. Having incorporated horror and sci-fi themes into his music and lyrics from the beginning of his career, Zombie often entertains his audience visually in his live shows; he is credited with popularizing shock rock theatricality.

 31 Bob Odenkirk

Bob Odenkirk.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 22, 1962
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berwyn, Illinois, United States

Bob Odenkirk began his career as an SNL writer but shot to fame only after starring as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and its spin-off, Better Call Saul. He has also been part of critically acclaimed movies such as Nebraska and The Post, and has directed and produced several shows.

 32 Ang Lee

Ang Lee
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Famous As: film director, screenwriter, writer
Birthdate: October 23, 1954
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Chaojhou, Pingtung

 33 Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier.
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Birthdate: February 20, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Sidney Poitier is a Bahamian-American actor who became the first Afro-Bahamian and Black male actor to receive an Oscar for Best Actor in 1964. In 2009, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His life and work inspired a couple of documentary films, including the 2008 film Sidney Poitier, an Outsider in Hollywood.

 34 Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 8, 1964
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Melissa Gilbert is an actress and politician. She played an important and influential role in the American film and TV industry while serving as the president of the Screen Actors Guild between 2001 and 2005. Also a writer, Melissa Gilbert has published an autobiography, cookbook, and short story for children.

 35 Zach Braff

Zach Braff.
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Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: April 6, 1975
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: South Orange, New Jersey, U.S.

American actor Zachary Braff made his mark in the entertainment industry with the long running television series Scrubs and later with Alex, Inc. As a director and scriptwriter, his first movie Garden State was critically acclaimed and won numerous awards including a Grammy. The popular actor has done theatres and also voiced for many commercials and Disney animations like Chicken Little.

 36 James Caan

James Caan.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 26, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City, New York

Best known for playing the iconic character of Sonny Corleone in the movie, The Godfather, James Caan is a practising martial artist, apart from being an actor and director. He has trained under Japanese-American master of karate, Takayuki Kubota, for almost 30 years. For his contributions to arts, he was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

 37 David Boreanaz

David Boreanaz.
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Birthdate: May 16, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Buffalo, New York

David Boreanaz is an American actor, director, and television producer. He came into prominence after playing Angel on the popular supernatural drama TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He is also credited with co-founding Chrome Girl, a nail polish line, along with his wife Jaime Bergman ​and their friends Aaron Ravo and Melissa.

 38 Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh
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Famous As: American film producer
Birthdate: January 14, 1963
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Atlanta

 39 James Gunn

James Gunn.
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: August 5, 1966
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri

At the age of 12, James Gunn started making 8 mm zombie films in the woods near his home along with his brothers. What started as a fun activity, eventually helped Gunn establish a career in filmmaking. Apart from filmmaking and acting, he is also interested in music and writing; he founded a band in 1989 and wrote a novel in 2000.

 40 Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes.
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: August 1, 1965
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Reading

Sam Mendes is an English filmmaker known for his dark re-inventions of popular stage musicals. The recipient of a Tony Award, Mendes received the Academy Award for his film directorial debut American Beauty. In the 2020 New Years Honours, he was knighted for services to drama. He was also featured on the 100 most powerful people in British culture list.

 41 Tony Scott

Tony Scott
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: June 21, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Tynemouth, Northumberland, England
Died: August 19, 2012

Tony Scott was an English actor, film director, and producer. He directed several highly successful action and thriller films including Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II. He graduated from the Royal College of Art and began his career directing commercials. He soon shifted to films and enjoyed tremendous success. He died by suicide in 2012.  

 42 Seth Green

Seth Green.
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Birthdate: February 8, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia

Seth Green is a popular American actor and voice artist who is credited with co-creating the famous adult animated comedy TV series Robot Chicken for Adult Swim. As a voice actor, Seth Green has contributed immensely to the success of series, Family Guy.

 43 Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Dorking, Surrey, England
Died: July 11, 1989
Four-time Academy Award-winning actor Laurence Olivier began his career with stage, mostly playing Shakespearean characters. He founded London’s National Theatre. Some of his noteworthy films were Wuthering Heights, Rebecca, and the movie version of Hamlet. He had received the knighthood, the Order of Merit, and a life peerage.

 44 Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 17, 1936
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Venice, Los Angeles, California, United States
Died: May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper was an American actor, photographer, and filmmaker. His directorial film debut Easy Rider glorified the counterculture of the 1960s and became the cinematic symbol of counterculture, inspiring several youngsters. Also a photographer, Hopper’s photographs of the 1963 March on Washington were published. Hopper is also credited with influencing actress Amber Tamblyn whose father was one of his friends.

 45 Vincente Minnelli

Vincente Minnelli
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Famous As: Theatre director, Film director
Birthdate: February 28, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Delaware
Died: July 25, 1986

 46 Teri Hatcher

Teri Hatcher.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 8, 1964
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California
Teri Hatcher is best known for her Golden Globe- and SAG Award-winning performance as Susan Mayer in Desperate Housewives. She also voiced Dottie in the Planes movies and was seen as Lois Lane in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and as Paris Carver in Tomorrow Never Dies.

 47 Federico Fellini

Federico Fellini.
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Famous As: Film Director and Scriptwriter
Birthdate: January 20, 1920
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rimini, Kingdom of Italy
Died: October 31, 1993

Italian film director and screenwriter, Federico Fellini, is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. He was nominated for the Academy Awards 12 times and won four in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. His distinctive style of film-making has inspired generations of directors in both Italy and Hollywood.

 48 Scott Foley

Scott Foley.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 15, 1972
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kansas City, Kansas
Scott Foley is best known for his Teen Choice Award-nominated role of Noel Crane in Felicity and the lead Will Chase in Whiskey Cavalier. Some of his other notable projects are Scrubs, The Unit, and Scandal. He also made his directorial and writing debut with Let's Kill Ward's.

 49 N. T. Rama Rao

N. T. Rama Rao
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 28, 1923
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Nimmakuru, Andhra Pradesh, India
Died: January 18, 1996

 50 Tim Daly

Tim Daly.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: New York City
Tim Daly is best known for his Emmy-nominated performance as J.T. Dolan in The Sopranos. He also amazed audiences with his roles in Wings, Private Practice, and Madam Secretary. He voiced Clark Kent/Superman in Superman: The Animated Series. He is also the president of The Creative Coalition, a liberal non-profit.