Greatest Film Directors
and Their Best Films

Part 4

Greatest Film Directors
Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 , Part 6

Greatest Film Directors: These honored selections are designed as a tribute to some of the greatest directors of all-time, with suggested or recommended Best Films or 'Must-See' Films from their filmographies. See also this site's multi-part compilation of other deserved film directors (alphabetical) - More Great Film Directors.

Key to Iconic Symbols: The following additional sources are indicated by icons in Filmsite's compilation:

selections of the "50 Greatest Film Directors" from the entire list are without ranking numbers. A few more than 50 directors are actually listed on these webpages, due to the issue of not having enough slots for the 'best of the best.'

The Greatest Directors and Their Best Films
Part 4
(Alphabetical Order, Unranked)

SIDNEY LUMET 1924-2011
American Producer/Director of Films Based in the Urban East/New York, the Consummate Actor's Director

Suggested Filmography: 12 Angry Men (1957), Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962), Fail-Safe (1964), The Pawnbroker (1965), The Hill (1965), Bye-Bye Braverman (1968), Serpico (1973), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976), Equus (1977), Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), Prince of the City (1981), Deathtrap (1982), The Verdict (1982), Garbo Talks (1984), The Morning After (1986), Running on Empty (1988), Q&A (1990), A Stranger Among Us (1992), Guilty as Sin (1993), Night Falls on Manhattan (1996), Gloria (1999), Strip Search (2004), Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), Getting Out (2009).

Acclaimed Writer/Director of Experimental, Avante-Garde, Dark and Disturbing Art House Films

His nightmarish Eraserhead paved the way for increasingly surreal movies in mainstream-thriller guises, from Blue Velvet to Mulholland Drive.

Suggested Filmography: Eraserhead (1977), Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), Inland Empire (2006), Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014).

Rich and Visually-Stylistic, Lyrical, Enigmatic, Hypnotic Contemporary Film-Maker

Malick's brooding, intellectual anti-Hollywood masterpieces include Badlands, Days of Heaven, and The Thin Red Line.

Suggested Filmography: Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), The New World (2005), The Tree of Life (2011), To the Wonder (2012), Knight of Cups (2015), A Hidden Life (2019).

LOUIS MALLE 1932-1995
French-Born Director of French and American Films

Suggested Filmography: Elevator to the Gallows (1958), The Lovers (1959), Zazie (1960), A Very Private Affair (1962), Viva Maria! (1965), The Fire Within (1966), The Thief of Paris (1967), Dearest Heart (1971), Murmur of the Heart (1971), Lacombe Lucien (1974), Pretty Baby (1978), Atlantic City (1981), My Dinner With Andre (1981), Alamo Bay (1985), Au Revoir, Les Enfants (1987), May Fools (1990), Damage (1992), Vanya on 42nd Street (1994).

One of the Greatest Screen Innovators and Stylistic Directors of Hollywood's Golden Age

Suggested Filmography: Applause (1929), City Streets (1931), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932), Love Me Tonight (1932), Queen Christina (1933), Becky Sharp (1935), The Gay Desperado (1936), Golden Boy (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940), Blood and Sand (1941), Laura (1944) (replaced by Otto Preminger), Summer Holiday (1948), Silk Stockings (1957).

Exceptional, Articulate Producer/Writer/Director of Intelligent, Sophisticated Films; Member of Famed Mankiewicz Film Family

From the weepie A Letter to Three Wives to the bitch-fest All About Eve, his movies are articulate and wickedly entertaining.

Suggested Filmography: Dragonwyck (1946), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), No Way Out (1950), People Will Talk (1951), Five Fingers (1952), Julius Caesar (1953), The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Cleopatra (1963), The Honey Pot (1967), There Was a Crooked Man... (1970), Sleuth (1972).

Modern-Day Master of Action/Crime Films

Suggested Filmography: Thief (1981), The Keep (1983), Manhunter (1986), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Heat (1995), The Insider (1999), Ali (2001), Collateral (2004), Miami Vice (2006), Public Enemies (2009), Blackhat (2015), Ferrari (2023).

LEO McCAREY 1898-1969
Masterful Director of Comedies and Films with Sentiment

Suggested Filmography: Big Business (1929), Duck Soup (1933), Belle of the Nineties (1934), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), The Milky Way (1936), The Awful Truth (1937), Make Way For Tomorrow (1937), Love Affair (1939), Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942), Going My Way (1944), The Bells of St. Mary's (1945), Good Sam (1948), Love Happy (1950), An Affair to Remember (1957), Rally 'Round the Flag, Boys! (1958).

Noted for War Films in Various Decades

Suggested Filmography: The Kid Brother (1927), All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), The Front Page (1931), Rain (1932), Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933), The General Died at Dawn (1936), Of Mice and Men (1939), The Westerner (1940) (uncredited), Edge of Darkness (1942), The Purple Heart (1944), A Walk in the Sun (1945), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Arch of Triumph (1948), The Red Pony (1949), Halls of Montezuma (1950), Pork Chop Hill (1959), Ocean's Eleven (1960), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Known for Screen Adaptations of Novels

Suggested Filmography: Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991), Mr. Wonderful (1993), The English Patient (1996), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), Play (2000), Cold Mountain (2003), Breaking and Entering (2006).

Masterful Director of Memorable Musicals With Integrated Song and Dance

He dissected show business in both musicals (An American in Paris) and melodramas (The Bad and the Beautiful).

Suggested Filmography: Cabin in the Sky (1943), Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), The Clock (1945), Yolanda and the Thief (1945), Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Undercurrent (1946), Till the Clouds Roll By (1947), The Pirate (1948), Madame Bovary (1949), The Father of the Bride (1950), An American in Paris (1951), Father's Little Dividend (1951), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), The Band Wagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954), Kismet (1955), The Cobweb (1955), Lust for Life (1956), Tea and Sympathy (1956), Designing Woman (1957), Gigi (1958), The Reluctant Debutante (1958), Some Came Running (1958), Bells Are Ringing (1960), Home From the Hill (1960), Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1961), Two Weeks in Another Town (1963), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), Goodbye Charlie (1964), The Sandpiper (1965), On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970).

Revered Japanese Animator and Director, Known as "the Japanese Walt Disney"

Suggested Filmography (Jp.): Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds (1984, Jp.), Castle in the Sky (1986, Jp.), My Neighbor Totoro (1988, Jp.), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989, Jp.), Porco Rosso (1992, Jp.), Pom Poko (1994, Jp.) (writer), Whisper of the Heart (1995, Jp.) (writer), Princess Mononoke (1997, Jp.), Spirited Away (2001, Jp.), Howl's Moving Castle (2004, Jp.), Ponyo (2008), The Wind Rises (2013), The Boy and the Heron (2023, Jp.).

F. W. MURNAU 1888-1931
Influential, German-Born Silent Film Director Influenced by Poetic and Dark Expressionism

Suggested Filmography: Nosferatu, the Vampire (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), Tartuff (1926), Faust (1926), Sunrise (1927), City Girl (Our Daily Bread) (1930), Tabu (1931).

MIKE NICHOLS 1931-2014
Play Director Turned Film Director of Comedies and Dramas

Trained in improv theater, he specializes in character-driven comedies and dramas -- The Graduate, Silkwood, and Closer.

Suggested Filmography: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Graduate (1967), Catch-22 (1970), Carnal Knowledge (1971), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), The Fortune (1975), Gilda Live (1980), Silkwood (1983), Heartburn (1986), Working Girl (1988), Biloxi Blues (1988), Postcards From the Edge (1990), Regarding Henry (1991), Wolf (1994), The Birdcage (1996), Primary Colors (1998), What Planet Are You From? (2000), Wit (2001), Angels in America (2003) (HBO miniseries), Closer (2004), Charlie Wilson's War (2007).

Acclaimed British-born Writer-Director of Consistently Innovative and Unconventional Works

Suggested Filmography: Following (1998), Memento (2000), Insomnia (2002), Batman Begins (2005), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Interstellar (2014), Dunkirk (2017), Tenet (2020), Oppenheimer (2023).

MAX OPHULS 1902-1957
German-Born European Expatriate Famous For Fluid Tracking Shots and Emphasis on Mise-en-Scene

Suggested Filmography: Liebelei (1933), Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948), Caught (1949), The Reckless Moment (1949), La Ronde (1950), Le Plaisir (1952), The Earrings of Madame De... (1953), Lola Montes (1955).

Iconoclastic, Controversial, Ground-Breaking, Maverick Film-Maker (aka "Mad Sam")

He upped onscreen violence in his controversial Westerns and dramas, including The Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

Suggested Filmography: Ride the High Country (1962), Major Dundee (1965), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), Straw Dogs (1971), The Getaway (1972), Junior Bonner (1972), Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974), The Killer Elite (1975), Cross of Iron (1977), Convoy (1978), The Osterman Weekend (1983).

ARTHUR PENN 1922-2010
Skilled, Perceptive Director of Actors

After the Freudian western The Left Handed Gun, he made New Hollywood classics Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, and Night Moves.

Suggested Filmography: The Left-Handed Gun (1958), The Miracle Worker (1962), The Train (1964) (replaced by John Frankenheimer), Mickey One (1965), The Chase (1966), Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Alice's Restaurant (1969), Little Big Man (1970), Night Moves (1975), The Missouri Breaks (1976), Four Friends (1981), Target (1985), Dead of Winter (1987), Penn & Teller Get Killed/Dead Funny (1989).

Notorious, French-Born, Polish-Educated Successor to Alfred Hitchcock

In Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, this international moviemaker probed dark passions and destructive desires.

Suggested Filmography: Knife in the Water (1963), Repulsion (1965), Cul-De-Sac (1966), The Fearless Vampire Killers or: Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are In My Neck (1967), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Macbeth (1971), Chinatown (1974), The Tenant (1976), Tess (1979), Pirates (1986), Frantic (1988), Bitter Moon (1992), Death and the Maiden (1994), The Ninth Gate (1999), The Pianist (2002), Oliver Twist (2005), To Each His Cinema (2007), The Ghostwriter (2010), Carnage (2011), Venus in Fur (2013), Based on a True Story (2017) (aka D'après une Histoire Vraie), An Officer and a Spy (2019), The Palace (2023).

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