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.

Vote for Your Favourite American Directors

 1 Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 31, 1930
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States
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
Birthplace: Knoxville

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: film director
Birthdate: December 18, 1946
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

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 Woody Allen

Woody Allen.
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Famous As: American bass guitarist
Birthdate: December 1, 1935
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York City

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.

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 5 Ron Howard

Ron Howard.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1954
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Duncan, Oklahoma, United States

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.

 6 Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese.
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: November 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Queens, New York City, New York, United States

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.

 7 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.

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 8 Tim Burton

Tim Burton.
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: August 25, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Burbank, California, United States

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.

 9 George Lucas

George Lucas.
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: May 14, 1944
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Modesto, California, United States
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.

 10 Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks.
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: June 28, 1926
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

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.

 11 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.

 12 David Lynch

David Keith Lynch.
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: January 20, 1946
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Missoula, Montana

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.

 13 Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson.
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Famous As: Producer
Birthdate: May 1, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, United States

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.

 14 Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola.
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Famous As: FilmMaker
Birthdate: April 7, 1939
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

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.

 15 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.

 16 Spike Lee

Spike Lee.
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: March 20, 1957
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

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.

 17 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.

 18 David Fincher

David Fincher
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Famous As: American director
Birthdate: August 28, 1962
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Denver

 19 Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 6, 1947
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States

 20 Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito.
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Birthdate: November 17, 1944
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Neptune Township, New Jersey, United States

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.

 21 John Hughes

John Hughes
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Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: February 18, 1950
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lansing, Michigan, United States
Died: August 6, 2009

Largely known for popularizing the teen movie genre in the 1980s, John Hughes had dropped out of university to work as an ad copywriter and then a comedy writer. He soared to fame with his stories in National Lampoon magazine and then directed many films of the National Lampoon franchise.

 22 Emilio Estevez

Emilio Estevez.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 12, 1962
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Staten Island, New York, United States

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.

 23 Lilly Wachowski

Lilly Wachowski
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: December 29, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 24 Lana Wachowski

Lana Wachowski
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: June 21, 1965
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 25 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.

 26 John Carpenter

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

 27 Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: November 6, 1970
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Austin, Texas, United States

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.

 28 Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone.
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Famous As: Film Director, Screenwriter, Producer
Birthdate: September 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City

Oliver Stone is a filmmaker best known for his trilogy of war films, which he made based on his own experience in the Vietnam War, where he served as an infantry soldier. Known for making controversial films based on political issues, he is often criticized for misrepresenting real-world events and promoting conspiracy theories in his films.

 29 Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone.
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Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: July 6, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

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.

 30 Brie Larson

Brie Larson.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 1, 1989
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Sacramento, California

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.

 31 Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 15, 1972
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Berkeley, California, United States

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.

 32 Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman.
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Famous As: Actress, Producer, Director
Birthdate: June 9, 1981
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Jerusalem, Israel

Debuting at the age of thirteen, Israeli American actress Natalie Portman is today one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood. Her movie list is impressive with successful projects like Black SwanJackie, Star Wars, Closer and Thor. While pursuing her passion for acting, the Academy award winning actress also ensured to complete her studies and graduated from Harvard University.

 33 Robert De Niro

Robert De Niro.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 17, 1943
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Greenwich Village, New York, United States

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.

 34 John Krasinski

John Krasinski.
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Famous As: Actor, Director, Screenwriter
Birthdate: October 20, 1979
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
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.

 35 Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 9, 1916
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Amsterdam, New York, United States
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.

 36 James Franco

James Franco.
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Famous As: Actor, Writer, Producer, Director, Teacher
Birthdate: April 19, 1978
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, U.S

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.

 37 Ethan Coen

Ethan Coen
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Famous As: Director
Birthdate: September 21, 1957
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: St. Louis Park, Minnesota, United States

 38 George Clooney

George Clooney.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 6, 1961
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lexington, Kentucky, United States
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.

 39 Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 3, 1956
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Peekskill, New York, United States

Actor and director, Mel Gibson is famous for action films like Lethal weapon. His directorial venture, Braveheart, in which he acted too, won him the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. However, his alcoholism issues, drunken driving arrest and his anti-Jew statements landed him in trouble due to which he took a hiatus from Hollywood for a decade.

 40 Courteney Cox

Courteney Cox.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: June 15, 1964
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Birmingham, Alabama, United States

Actress, producer, and director, Courteney Cox first gained international popularity in the mid-1990s owing to her appearance in the NBC sitcom Friends. She soon ventured into films, where also she found success. Besides acting, she owns the film and television company, Coquette Productions. She has won the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Women's Image Network.

 41 Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton.
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Birthdate: May 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.
Died: February 25, 2017

Versatile actor, Bill Paxton is recognised for his work in the movies, Apollo 13, Twister and Titanic, as well as the television series, Big Love. Before these, he began his career as a set-dresser, learnt acting under Stella Adler, did various minor roles and finally bagged films like The Terminator and Alien. His work as a director are Frailty and Fish Heads.

 42 Jack Nicholson

jack nicholson.
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Famous As: Actor, Filmmaker
Birthdate: April 22, 1937
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neptune City, New Jersey, United States

From being a stage and B movie actor, Jack Nicholson went on to become one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors and a huge star. The three time Academy award winning legendary actor has, in his six decades career, delivered performances that have become iconic. His notable performances include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and As Good as It Gets.

 43 Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow.
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Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: December 6, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Flushing, New York, United States

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.

 44 John Wayne

John Wayne .
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: May 26, 1907
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Winterset, Iowa, United States
Died: June 11, 1979

Famous for his roles in Western films in the mid-20th century, actor John Wayne was among the top box office draws for three decades. In a career spanning over half a century, he starred in 142 motion pictures. Upon his death, he came to be recognized as “an enduring icon who symbolized and communicated American values and ideals.”

 45 Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: San Saba, Texas, United States

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.

 46 Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 19, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States

Matthew Perry gained worldwide popularity for playing the character of Chandler Bing on the television sitcom Friends. The sitcom ran from 1994 to 2004 and remains one of the most popular ones till date. He also starred in other television series and a number of films. He has had issued with vicodin, methadone, amphetamines and alcohol addiction.

 47 Sam Raimi

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

 48 Jason Bateman

Jason Bateman.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 14, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rye, New York, United States

The son of a popular actor, Jason Bateman was exposed to Hollywood at a young age and decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. He began acting as a teenager and matured as an actor over the years, taking up a variety of roles. He made his feature film directorial debut in 2013.

 49 Steve Carell

Steve Carell.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 16, 1962
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Emerson Hospital, Concord, Massachusetts, United States

Recognized as "America's Funniest Man" by Life magazine, Steve Carell is an actor, comedian, and writer. He has starred in several hit comedy films and has received numerous awards, including a Golden Globe. Also popular as a comedic TV actor, he has ventured into production and direction as well. Besides comedy, he also plays dramatic roles.

 50 Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider.
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: October 31, 1963
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Francisco, California, United States

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.