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, Film Director & Producer
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
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Famous As: The Most Commercially Successful Director of All Time
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
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Famous As: One of the Most Influential Directors of His Generation
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 Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan
4
Famous As: Film Director - Known for His Ambitious & Visually Impressive Films
Birthdate: July 30, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Westminster, London, England

British-American writer and director, Christopher Nolan is known for his distinctive kind of films which are often intelligent, deep and nonlinear. He gained international recognition with Memento and further reached greater heights with big budget movies like The Dark Knight film series, Inception, Interstellar and Dunkirk. The multiple award winning director began shooting short films at the age of seven.

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 5 Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese
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Famous As: Director, Producer
Birthdate: November 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Flushing, 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 George Lucas

George Lucas
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Famous As: Best Known for Creating the 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones'
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.

 7 Ron Howard

Ron Howard
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Famous As: Actor, Director
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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 8 Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick
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Famous As: One of the Greatest Filmmakers in Cinematic History
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
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Famous As: Actor, Comedian And Filmmaker
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 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.

 11 Orson Welles

Orson Welles
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Famous As: One of the Greatest Filmmakers of All Time and Director of 'Citizen Kane'
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 Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson
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Famous As: Filmmaker
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 Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: January 5, 1975
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Abington Township, Pennsylvania, United States

One of the highest-paid actors in the world, Bradley Cooper has been active in Hollywood for over two decades, playing roles ranging from comedic to dramatic. He was named on Time's list of 100 most influential people in the world in 2015. He supports the charity, Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

 14 David Lynch

David Lynch
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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.

 15 Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck
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Famous As: Known for Portrayal of Batman in Superhero Films
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.

 16 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.

 17 Danny DeVito

Danny DeVito
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Famous As: Actor, Director, Producer
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.

 18 Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 1, 1937
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Prominent character actor, Morgan Freeman, has appeared in a range of film genres playing versatile roles. He is known for his distinctive deep voice. In a career spanning over half a century, he has received various accolades, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Besides acting, he is an advocate of environmental causes.

 19 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.

 20 Bryce Dallas Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: March 2, 1981
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

Bryce Dallas Howard is an American actress and filmmaker, who attained fame after starring in the psychological thriller, The Village. Some of her other notable films are Lady in the Water, As You Like, Spiderman 3, Terminator Salvation, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Jurassic World and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. She is the daughter of famous and celebrated director and producer, Ron Howard.

 21 Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder
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Famous As: Actor, Comedian
Birthdate: June 11, 1933
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
Died: August 29, 2016

Perhaps the most loved Willy Wonka of them all, Gene Wilder was one of the main reasons for the popularity of the iconic character, which he played in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Apart from acting and writing, Gene was also instrumental in promoting cancer awareness through his organization Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center.

 22 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.

 23 Tim Burton

Tim Burton
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Famous As: Film Director Known for His 'Gothic Fantasy' & 'Horror' Films
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.

 24 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

 25 Sean Penn

Sean Penn
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 17, 1960
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

Academy Award winner actor, Sean Penn, is known for his powerful and passionate performances. His work in Mystic River and Milk won him tremendous appreciation as an actor while Into the Wild and The Crossing Guard earned him positive review as a director. Sean Penn has also attracted media attention for his personal life, political views and humanitarian work.

 26 Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke
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Famous As: Famous For His Role in 'Before Trilogy'
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.

 27 Angela Bassett

Angela Bassett
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: August 16, 1958
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Best known for playing real-life black women in biopics, Angela Bassett does not mind being typecast as someone who often plays biographical roles. She has portrayed prominent personalities like Tina Turner, Betty Shabazz, Katherine Jackson, and Coretta Scott King. Also a director, producer, and activist, Angela Bassett works toward bettering the lives of African-Americans.

 28 Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: September 13, 1966
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

The amazingly talented, Tyler Perry, is an American actor who topped Forbes list of highest-paid man in entertainment in 2011. Perry is most known as the creator of the boisterous, African-American grandmother character, Madea, which he himself performs with great skill and artistry. From a homeless playwriter to having his own studio, Perry has surely achieved the evasive American dream.

 29 M Night Shyamalan

M Night Shyamalan
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Famous As: Film Director
Birthdate: August 6, 1970
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Mahé, Puducherry, India

M Night Shyamalan is a filmmaker who is known for making original films with twist endings and supernatural plots. Born in India to a doctor couple, he moved to USA with his parents when he was a baby. He was expected to pursue medicine like his parents, but he chose a different path and became a filmmaker, finding success in his chosen profession.  

 30 Edward Norton

Edward Norton
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: August 18, 1969
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Amongst the most talented actors of his generation, Edward Norton won a Golden Globe Award for his debut film Primal Fear. The formidable actor later went on to work in movies like The Illusionist, The Incredible Hulk, The Birdman and American History X. Norton ventured into film direction with Keeping the Faith. He also supports various environmental and social causes.

 31 Sean Astin

Sean Astin
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Famous As: Actor Known for his Portrayal of Samwise Gamgee in the 'Lord of the Rings trilogy'
Birthdate: February 25, 1971
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States

Sean Astin became a widely recognized actor after portraying Samwise Gamgee in one of the most popular film trilogies of all time - The Lord of the Rings. The film series played such an important role in his life that Sean decided to get a tattoo of the word nine in the Tengwar script, commemorating his involvement in the series.

 32 Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: February 20, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Miami, Florida, United States
Died: January 6, 2022

Sidney Poitier was 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.

 33 Natasha Lyonne

Natasha Lyonne
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: April 4, 1979
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States
Best known as Nicky Nichols from Orange Is the New Black and Nadia Vulvokov from Russian Doll, Emmy-nominated actor Natasha Lyonne began her career at age 6, with Pee-wee's Playhouse. Fans loved her as Jessica in the teen-comedy franchise American Pie. Natasha has struggled with legal issues and heroin addiction.

 34 Dax Shepard

Dax Shepard
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Famous As: Known for Portraying Crosby Braverman on NBC's Parenthood
Birthdate: January 2, 1975
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Milford, Michigan, United States

 35 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.

 36 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

 37 Colin Hanks

Colin Hanks
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Famous As: Actor Who Played Prominent Roles in 'Orange County', 'King Kong' and 'The House Bunny'
Birthdate: November 24, 1977
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Sacramento, California, United States

The oldest son of Tom Hanks, Colin Hanks followed in his father's footsteps to become an actor and filmmaker. Although he left Loyola Marymount University without earning a degree, he went on to establish himself in the American film and TV industry. Also a sports enthusiast, he supports American football team, Los Angeles Kings.

 38 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

 39 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.

 40 Oliver Stone

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

 41 Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari
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Famous As: Actor and Comedian Known For His Role In 'Parks And Recreation'
Birthdate: February 23, 1983
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States

Aziz Ansari is an American comedian, actor, and writer. He is credited with creating the popular comedy-drama television series Master of None. His acting skills in the series earned him a Golden Globe, making Ansari the first Asian-American actor to receive the honor. In 2016, he was named in Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world list.

 42 J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams
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Famous As: Filmmaker, Best Known for His Films in Action, Drama & Science Fiction Genres
Birthdate: June 27, 1966
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

J.J. Abrams is an American filmmaker and screenwriter. He is credited with creating television series like Felicity, Alias, Lost, and Fringe. Among his most prominent contribution to the film industry are films like Mission: Impossible III and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which he directed. Apart from being a director, Abrams also works closely with an anti-corruption organization called RepresentUs

 43 Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman
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Famous As: Actor, Director
Birthdate: August 8, 1937
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, United States

One of the most respected and decorated actors of his generation, Dustin Hoffman is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors Award and AFI Life Achievement Award among many other prestigious awards. As a cancer survivor, Dustin Hoffman also serves as an inspiration to many people suffering from cancer.

 44 Rob Schneider

Rob Schneider
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Famous As: Stand-up Comedian & Veteran of The Comedy Series 'Saturday Night Live'
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.

 45 Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy
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Famous As: Actor Know for Playing Spock in The 'Star Trek' Franchise for Almost 50 Years
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.

 46 Anjelica Huston

Anjelica Huston
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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.

 47 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.

 48 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.

 49 James Gunn

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

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.

 50 Forest Whitaker

Forest Whitaker
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: July 15, 1961
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Longview, Texas, United States
Forest Whitaker is best known for his Academy Award-winning performance as real-life dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. Fans also loved him in Rogue One and Ghost Dog. He is an advocate of the UN’s Global Goals and supports peace-building initiatives and programs that help war victims.