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.
6
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 Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg.
6
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.

 3 Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino.
4
Famous As: Fimmaker
Birthdate: March 27, 1963
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Knoxville, Tennessee, United States

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."

 4 Ron Howard

Ron Howard.
4
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.

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 5 Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese.
4
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.

 6 Tim Burton

Tim Burton.
4
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.

 7 George Lucas

George Lucas.
4
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.
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 8 Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick.
4
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.

 9 Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks.
4
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.

 10 Orson Welles

Orson Welles.
4
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.

 11 David Lynch

David Lynch.
4
Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: January 20, 1946
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Missoula, Montana, United States

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.

 12 Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson.
4
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.

 13 Spike Lee

Spike Lee.
4
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.

 14 Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito.
4
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.

 15 Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola.
4
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.

 16 Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve.
4
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.

 17 Emilio Estevez

Emilio Estevez.
4
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.

 18 Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 6, 1947
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States

 19 Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke.
4
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.

 20 Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones.
4
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.

 21 Lilly Wachowski

Lilly Wachowski
4
Famous As: Film director
Birthdate: December 29, 1967
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States

 22 Matthew Gray Gubler

Matthew Gray Gubler.
4
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.

 23 Henry Winkler

Henry Winkler.
4
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.

 24 John Carpenter

John Carpenter
4
Famous As: American film director
Birthdate: January 16, 1948
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Carthage, New York, United States

 25 Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy.
4
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.

 26 Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle.
4
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.

 27 Regina King

Regina King
4
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.

 28 Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider.
4
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.

 29 Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie.
4
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.

 30 Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: September 30, 1957
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Kew Gardens, New York, United States

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.

 31 Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton.
4
Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: October 4, 1895
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Piqua, Kansas, United States
Died: February 1, 1966

Buster Keaton was an American comedian, filmmaker, actor, and stunt performer. Regarded as one of the greatest actor-directors of all time, Keaton was renowned for his physical comedy. Counted among the greatest stars of classic Hollywood cinema by the American Film Institute, Buster Keaton's films remain highly regarded. His 1926 film The General was admired by actors like Orson Welles.

 32 Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: July 8, 1951
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

Born to actor-director John Huston and ballerina Enrica Soma, Anjelica Huston was no stranger to the world of entertainment as a child. Initially a model, she later became full-time actor and won an Academy Award for her role in Prizzi's Honor. She later became a regular in Wes Anderson’s films.

 33 Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert.
4
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.

 34 Bob Odenkirk

Bob Odenkirk.
4
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.

 35 Jennette McCurdy

Jennette McCurdy.
4
Famous As: Actress & Singer
Birthdate: June 26, 1992
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Long Beach, California, United States

An American actress, singer, songwriter, filmmaker, writer, and YouTuber, Jennette McCurdy is truly an inspiration to several young girls and women; despite suffering from conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, and bulimia, McCurdy has managed to establish herself as a successful entertainer. As a writer, she has contributed immensely to publications like The Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Seventeen.

 36 Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone.
4
Famous As: Film Director, Screenwriter, Producer
Birthdate: September 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

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.

 37 David Boreanaz

David Boreanaz.
4
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 ‚Äčand their friends Aaron Ravo and Melissa.

 38 Rob McElhenney

Rob McElhenney
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: April 14, 1977
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

 39 Penny Marshall

Penny Marshall
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 15, 1943
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: The Bronx, New York, United States
Died: December 17, 2018

 40 James Caan

James Caan.
4
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.

 41 Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence

Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence.
4
Famous As: Actor and Comedian
Birthdate: April 16, 1965
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Frankfurt, Germany

Martin Fitzgerald Lawrence is a German-born American actor, stand-up comedian, producer, and writer. Renowned for his comedy roles in popular film series like Bad Boys and Big Momma's House, Lawrence's journey from being a Golden Gloves boxer to becoming one of Hollywood's most-loved comedic actors is quite inspirational. Over the years, he has also had a brush with the law.

 42 James Gunn

James Gunn.
4
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.

 43 Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson.
4
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.

 44 Zach Braff

Zach Braff.
4
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.

 45 Robert Zemeckis

Robert Zemeckis
4
Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: May 14, 1952
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago

 46 Johnny Sins

Johnny Sins
4
Famous As: Adult Film Star
Birthdate: December 31, 1978
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pennsylvania, USA

 47 Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper.
4
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.

 48 Seth Green

Seth Green.
4
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.

 49 Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola.
4
Famous As: Director
Birthdate: May 14, 1971
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States

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.

 50 Teri Hatcher

Teri Hatcher.
4
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.