Famous American Directors

Who do you think calls the shot in Hollywood? No, it isn't the money minting stars nor the flick funding big, fat, producers. The directors run the show in world's most famous movie industry. America has produced some astute, exceptionally gifted filmmakers who are lauded for their principled artistic vision, iconoclastic individuality, and Oscar-grabbing movies. In this fleeting world of fame and films, while a few talented survived, a great many promising filmmakers just faded with time. Regardless of ups and downs of fame and fortune, some American directors have managed to become the benchmarks of best cinema. Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Alfred Hitchcock, Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino are just a few Hollywood directors that the world easily reckons with, thanks to the large body of quality works that have given to Hollywood. Let us trail the timeline, trivia, and interesting facts on the life of famous American directors in the biographies here.

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 Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 31, 1930
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
The quintessential Western man in the Hollywood movies, Clint Eastwood is regarded as the cultural icon of masculinity. Eastwood’s brilliant portrayal of tough, rugged, ruthless guy in the Western movies endeared him to the masses and brought him international fame.

 2 Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino
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Famous As: Fimmaker
Birthdate: March 27, 1963
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

Popular film director, screenwriter, and producer, Quentin Tarantino, first rose to fame as an independent filmmaker in the early 1990s. His films are known for their nonlinear story-lines and neo-noir elements and have garnered both critical and commercial success. He is the winner of two Academy Awards and has been called "the single most influential director of his generation."

 3 Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: December 18, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Film director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg is one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. A pioneer of the New Hollywood era, he popularized the genre of escapist films. As of 2020, he is the highest-grossing film director in history. He has won the Academy Award for Best Director twice.

 4 Brie Larson

Brie Larson
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 1, 1989
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

Brie Larson is a name that has become synonymous with powerful, independent female warriors, both on and off screen. From an Oscar-winning performance of a kidnapped victim to playing the lead in the first female-led superhero movie, Captain Marvel, Larson has been breaking gender norms and shattering stereotypes. She has been working fiercely towards inclusivity and diversity in Hollywood.

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 5 Woody Allen

Woody Allen
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Famous As: American bass guitarist
Birthdate: December 1, 1935
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Quirky, endearing, bewildered and witty describe not just Woody Allen, but also the characters he masterfully portrays onscreen. In a career spanning over six decades, Allen has given us 13 Oscar-nominated and 3 Oscar-winning movies as a director and scriptwriter. Whether it’s performing in light-hearted comedies, directing psychological thrillers, or writing slapstick humour, Woody Allen is a class of his own.

 6 Justin Theroux

Justin Theroux
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 10, 1971
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

 7 Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito
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Birthdate: November 17, 1944
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

An award-winning actor, Danny DeVito overcame a rare genetic disorder called Fairbank's disease to become an influential figure in the American film industry. Along with Michael Shamberg, he founded a production company called Jersey Films, which went on to produce films like Pulp Fiction. He was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.

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 8 Ron Howard

Ron Howard
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

Ron Howard started his career in the show business as an actor, but it was in direction that he found his true calling. He is highly respected for his craft and films like Solo: A Star Wars Story, Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind. He won the Academy Award for the Best  Director for A Breautiful Mind.

 9 Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 8, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 10 Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: November 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

Martin Scorsese is widely considered one of the most influential and significant film directors in the history of the American film industry. One of the most decorated film directors, Scorsese has nine Oscar nominations, the most for any living director. He has also founded many non-profit organizations like The Film Foundation and World Cinema Foundation.

 11 Regina King

Regina King
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: January 15, 1971
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 12 Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster
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Famous As: Actress & Director
Birthdate: November 19, 1962
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

Jodie Foster is considered to be one of the best actors of her time. She attained fame as a child actor in the acclaimed film Taxi Driver. Some of her memorable roles as an adult are The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs and Sommersby. She’s a director too. Foster has been in the news for her sexual orientation.

 13 Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 10, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

Elizabeth Banks is famous for The Hunger Games film series and Pitch Perfect film series. The 2019 action comedy film Charlie's Angels was directed, written and produced by her, in which she acted too. The Spider-Man trilogy, Seabiscuit, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Next Three Days and Power Rangers are some of her other notable films. 

 14 Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 10, 1952
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

A multi-talented personality, Steven Seagal started his career as a martial artist; he is the first foreigner to run an aikido dojo in Japan. He then showcased his skills in many of his films. Also a skilled guitarist, Seagal has worked with legends like Stevie Wonder. A well-known animal rights activist and environmentalist, Seagal holds American, Russian, and Serbian citizenship.

 15 Laura Dern

Laura Dern
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Famous As: Actress, Director
Birthdate: February 10, 1967
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

American actress, Laura Dern, gained international recognition with the 1993 film Jurassic Park. A Perfect World, Citizen Ruth, Little Fockers, Wild and Star Wars: The Last Jedi are some of her notable films. She has also starred in acclaimed television series like Enlightened and Big Little Lies. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2020 for the film Marriage Story.

 16 Emilio Estevez

Emilio Estevez
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 12, 1962
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

Emilio Estevez is known for acting in movies like The Mighty Ducks, The Breakfast Club and Repo Man as well as Bobby and The Public, the last two of which he also wrote and directed. One of the members of 1980s Brat Pack group of actors, he has also directed television shows like CSI: NY and appeared in music videos.

 17 Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 31, 1961
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

 18 Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: May 14, 1971
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

The daughter of the popular filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia Coppola followed in her father's footsteps to become a screenwriter and filmmaker. Sofia became only the second woman to win the Best Director award in the history of Cannes Film Festival when she won the award at the 2017 Festival.

 19 Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 25, 1952
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
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.

 20 Tim Burton

Tim Burton
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: August 25, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

The quintessential filmmaker of gothic fantasy films in Hollywood, Tim Burton's contribution to the long list of American film industry's quirky movies is immense. Since he is also an artist and animator, he is perhaps best-suited for making the kind of films that he has made so far - Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes, and Alice in Wonderland.

 21 George Lucas

George Lucas
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: May 14, 1944
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
National Medal of Arts-winner George Lucas is best known for his iconic movie series Star Wars and Indiana Jones. He wished to the join the U.S. Air Force but was rejected, following which he studied film production at USC. He is also a Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductee.

 22 Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 8, 1964
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

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.

 23 Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 6, 1970
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

American actor, Ethan Hawke, is an acclaimed artist and has had a successful career. His breakthrough role was of a school student in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. Training Day, First Reformed, Boyhood, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight are some of his critically appreciated movies. He has also directed several films and acted in many stage productions.

 24 Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American

Fran Drescher is an American actress and comedian. Characterized by her thick New York accent and nasal voice, Fran Drescher serves as an inspiration to many cancer patients as she successfully fought off the disease after suffering from uterine cancer. She is also an outspoken LGBT rights activist and healthcare advocate.

 25 Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: June 28, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

Mel Brooks is the director of iconic comedy films and spoofs like The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety and Spaceballs. He is also an actor and a writer and has written for many films. He has received many awards and accolades and won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the film. The Producers, in 1969.

 26 Meg Ryan

Meg Ryan
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 19, 1961
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

The Queen of American romantic comedy movies in 1990s, Meg Ryan is best recognised for her role in When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, all of which earned her prestigious award nominations. After proving her mettle in romantic comedies Meg Ryan showed her versatility as actress by acting in other genre movies. She made her directorial debut with Ithaca.

 27 Orson Welles

Orson Welles
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 6, 1915
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
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.

 28 Ethan Coen

Ethan Coen
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: September 21, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 29 David Lynch

David Keith Lynch
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: January 20, 1946
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

American filmmaker David Lynch is widely regarded as one of the most influential and accomplished directors of the modern era. Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire are some of his acclaimed films. He was given an honorary Oscar in 2019. He is also a painter and a musician.

 30 Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: December 6, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

The founder of Apatow Productions, Judd Apatow is a popular American filmmaker, comedian, and screenwriter. Although often praised for his work, Apatow has also been criticized for making offensive jokes and sexist films. Also a well-known philanthropist, Judd Apatow supports nonprofit organizations, such as 826LA. He is also known for his advocacy of women in Hollywood.

 31 Lake Bell

Lake Bell
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: March 24, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

Lake Bell is an American actress, screenwriter, and director. Also known for her good looks and fashion sense, Bell has been featured on lists like Femme Fatales' 50 Sexiest Women, Maxim's Hot 100, and British Vogue's 10 Best Dressed Women. Apart from being an actress and model, Bell also contributes as an automotive writer and editor to The Hollywood Reporter.

 32 Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

Veteran actor and filmmaker, Tommy Lee Jones, has had a career spanning over half a century.  he has played many notable roles onscreen and is especially known for portraying real-life characters like businessman Howard Hughes. He has won an Academy Award for his performance in the movie, The Fugitive. Tommy Lee Jones is an inductee to the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame.

 33 Lucy Liu

Lucy Liu
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 2, 1968
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

American actress, Lucy Liu, shot to fame with television series Ally McBeal and later proved her acting skills with films like Charlie's Angels, Kill Bill, Volume 1, Shanghai Noon and television series Elementary and Southland. Intelligent and multitalented, she has voiced animated films, turned producer/director, made her Broadway debut and last but not the least, is also a visual artist.

 34 Teri Hatcher

Teri Hatcher
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: December 8, 1964
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
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.

 35 Lisa Ann

Lisa Ann
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 9, 1972
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 36 Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 31, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

A multifaceted personality, Rob Schneider is an actor, comedian, screenwriter, and director. Beginning his career with the NBC sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live, he proceeded to act in films, first appearing in supporting roles and then graduating to starring roles. He is an outspoken critic of childhood vaccinations. His daughter, Elle King, is a popular musician.

 37 Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone
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Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: July 6, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

One of the legendary American actors, screenwriters and directors, Sylvester Stallone is best known for his iconic performance in Rocky and Rambo film series and later in the The Expendables film franchise. Amongst the biggest action stars in the world, Stallone had a tough childhood and did a variety of jobs before eventually making it big in the film industry.

 38 Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson
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Famous As: Producer
Birthdate: May 1, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

Wes Anderson’s movies mostly have eccentric narratives. BBC named his films The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel to their list of the greatest films made since 2000. He owns a production company and has won a Silver Bear for the animation film Isle of Dogs.

 39 Ed Harris

Ed Harris
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Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: November 28, 1950
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 40 Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 15, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

Ben Affleck is actor, director, producer and screenwriter. He started as a child actor and attained fame after winning the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for writing ‘Good Will Hunting’ in 1997. He has been involved in a number of successful and critically acclaimed films. He’s had issues with alcoholism and has been accused by women of inappropriate behaviour.

 41 Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 17, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

Amongst the best actors of his generation, Robert De Niro is known for his exceptional method acting skills. His formidable acting talent has impressed audience and critics alike in movies like Mean Streets, The Godfather Part II and Meet the Parents. The talented actor has also been applauded for his directorial skills in A Bronx Tale and The Good Shepherd.

 42 Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel
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Famous As: Actor, Filmmaker
Birthdate: July 18, 1967
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
The internationally recognised action hero Vin Diesel is known for his work in The Fast and the Furious film series and The Chronicles of Riddick trilogy. Before this the actor, who made his stage debut at the age of seven, was recognised for his work in Saving Private Ryan. Vin is also a director, producer, voice over artist and screenwriter.

 43 Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola
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Famous As: FilmMaker
Birthdate: April 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

Francis Ford Coppola is an American filmmaker. Widely regarded as one of the greatest filmmakers ever, Francis Ford Coppola was a prominent figure in the Hollywood Renaissance filmmaking movement of the 1960s and 1970s. A much revered and celebrated filmmaker, he is credited with directing some of the greatest films of all time, including The Godfather movie series.

 44 John Krasinski

John Krasinski
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Famous As: Actor, Director, Screenwriter
Birthdate: October 20, 1979
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
The charming actor John Krasinski is best recognised for playing Jim Halpert in the famous American television show, The Office. Apart from working in numerous other film and television projects as well as commercials, John Krasinski further cemented his position in the entertainment world by branching out into writing, producing and directing movies like The Promised Land and The Hollars.

 45 Spike Lee

Spike Lee
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: March 20, 1957
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

Spike Lee is a celebrated and one of the most decorated American filmmakers of his generation. Most of his critically acclaimed films explore political issues, such as urban crime and poverty, colorism in the African-American community, and race relations. Four of his films have been selected for conservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

 46 Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 9, 1916
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: February 5, 2020

The quintessential American action hero of the 1950s, Kirk Douglas remained one of the most bankable stars of Hollywood throughout the decade. Regarded as one of the greatest actors of classic Hollywood cinema, Kirk Douglas was a man of many talents. Also known as a writer and philanthropist, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.

 47 James Franco

James Franco
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Famous As: Actor, Writer, Producer, Director, Teacher
Birthdate: April 19, 1978
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

Actor, director, and comedian, James Franco, has been active in the entertainment industry for over two decades. He was studious as a child and wanted to become a marine biologist. However, fate had other plans and he became an actor instead. In addition to acting, he teaches film classes at many universities, including New York University.

 48 Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 13, 1986
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 49 George Clooney

George Clooney
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 6, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Multiple award winning actor, producer, writer and director, George Clooney rose to fame with a medical drama ER and has since then established himself as a bigtime star with movies like Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck and Ocean's Eleven trilogy. The living legend is also known for his humanitarian work and support to numerous social and political causes.

 50 Henry Winkler

Henry Franklin Winkler
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
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.