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There are hundreds of notable film directors of the 20th Century and many ways to categorize them. Some historians include the early 1900s filmmakers, but it’s difficult to compare talent involved in silent black and white films with talking color films. Here are ten of the most iconic film directors of the last century.


  1. Steven Spielberg (US, born 1946)

Spielberg has been a champion at making bigger than life films seem down to Earth in blockbusters such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and Jurassic Park (1993). He gained further credibility with more serious films such as The Color Purple (1985) and Schindler’s List (1993).


  1. Martin Scorsese (US, born 1942)

Emphasizing crime, suspense, and drama, Scorsese is a genre specialist who is known for dark violent films in the vein of black comedy. Some of his most well-known films include Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990) and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).


  1. Alfred Hitchcock (UK, 1899-1980)

Hitchcock has been considered the kingpin of horror and suspense films. His career began in the silent film era and he became a director when sound was introduced. His most famous films include Psycho (1960), Rebecca (1940) and Vertigo (1958).


  1. Stanley Kubrick (US, 1928-1999)

Nominated for 13 Oscars, Kubrick received one award for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for best visual effects. As a director, he was most known for war, horror, and science fiction films that included Dr. Strangelove (1964), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Full Metal Jacket (1987).


  1. Francis Ford Coppola (US, born 1939)

Coppola is famous for The Godfather series of films and the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now (1979). He has won five Oscars.


  1. Woody Allen (US, born 1935)

Allen’s film career has spanned over six decades, moving from actor to filmmaker, writer, and director. His most noted film is Annie Hall (1977).


  1. John Huston (US, 1906-1987)

Huston has been a successful actor and screenwriter as well as director. He is known for The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Moby Dick (1956).


  1. Billy Wilder (Austria-Hungary, 1906-2002)

Wilder was a journalist who became a screenwriter in 1929. He went on to direct 27 films including Some Like It Hot (1959).


  1. David Lean (UK, 1908-1991)

Celebrated as a top British filmmaker, Lean specialized in war, romance and adventure films. His most famous film was Lawrence of Arabia (1962).


  1. Charles Chaplin (UK, 1889-1997)

Chaplin was the most famous director of the early film era. He was known for acting and directing dramas, romances and theatrical films, including The Kid (1921), Modern Times (1936), and The Great Dictator (1940).