The Top 25 Best Director Winners To Date


Well folks, it’s time for a big one. Here we go again with another Top 25 article today, and it’s certainly a major one. Yes, this time around I’ll be tackling one of the biggest of the big eight categories in an effort not to save them all for very last. This one is the Best Director field. This is another category that usually has a rather big tie in with Best Picture, as you’ll see below to some degree once again. As always, I have a few specific titles I’ll be citing in detail later on in this piece, but by now I know how the game works here. You all mostly just want to see the lists I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good folks there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center…

This time around, I’m once again going to be going with the overview route as you might have guessed, especially since a bunch of these Oscar winners I’ll be discussing once again when we get to Best Picture in a few weeks. Also, it really just comes down to taste again here, with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re particularly partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us all, which is commonplace at this point. I know a couple of of my selections are going to seem a bit on the odd side, especially when you see how high I ranked certain ones (especially considering their genre), but that’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone with this sort of a thing.

Right now I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Steven Spielberg’s win for Schindler’s List. I briefly toyed with having his direction of Saving Private Ryan in the top spot, but Schindler’s List is basically perfect filmmaking, so I had to anoint it here. Also in the top half dozen we have Woody Allen for Annie Hall, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Damien Chazelle for La La Land, Mike Nichols for The Graduate, and the aforementioned Spielberg’s work on Saving Private Ryan. Making an even dozen winners are the likes of Michael Curtiz for Casablanca, Elia Kazan for On the Waterfront, David Lean for Lawrence of Arabia, Sam Mendes for American Beauty, Martin Scorsese for The Departed, and Billy Wilder for The Apartment. As mentioned above, I actually have a higher concentration of comedy or at least dramedy in this top ten than most, but that’s what makes me, well…me, I guess. They’re all outstanding achievements though, no doubt about that. In this category, you could easily come up with 50 or 75 winners and not have a bad one in the bunch.

Here now is how I’d rank the 25 top winners of the Best Director Oscar:

25. John G. Avildsen – Rocky
24. James Cameron – Titanic
22. Jonathan Demme – The Silence of the Lambs
22. Francis Ford Coppola – The Godfather Part II
21. Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby
20. Oliver Stone – Platoon
19. Robert Zemeckis – Forrest Gump
18. William Friedkin – The French Connection
17. Victor Fleming – Gone With the Wind
16. Miloš Forman – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
15. William Wyler – Ben-Hur
14. Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
13. John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath
12. Sam Mendes – American Beauty
11. David Lean – Lawrence of Arabia
10. Martin Scorsese – The Departed
9. Billy Wilder – The Apartment
8. Michael Curtiz – Casablanca
7. Elia Kazan – On the Waterfront
6. Damien Chazelle – La La Land
5. Mike Nichols – The Graduate
4. Steven Spielberg – Saving Private Ryan
3. Kathryn Bigelow – The Hurt Locker
2. Woody Allen – Annie Hall
1. Steven Spielberg – Schindler’s List

Honorable Mentions: Frank Capra – Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Stay tuned for another one of these Top 25 installments next week as we begin to wrap up this series!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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