10 Most Successful Film Directors In History

Spielberg, Hitchcock, Wilder... The best film-makers rise to the top.

Steven Spielberg E T

When it comes to creating a film, there are often hundreds, if not thousands of people involved. It's not just the actors on the screen and a guy with a camera, there are people behind the scenes working to bring a story to life. Of all the people involved, the most important of them all is the director.

The film director is the person who literally directs the action, set creation, script adaptation, and everything else in-between to bring a story to life. Without the director, there really is no movie because it is the director whose principal vision unfolds on screen.

There have been thousands of talented directors over the years, many of which deserve a place on a list like this one. Sadly, not everyone can be included, which is why the likes of George Lucas, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, James Cameron, and countless others barely missed the cut.

In determining whose talent and skills could afford them placement on a list of the ten most successful directors of all time, their life's body of work was analyzed along with another key factor that makes them stand above their peers: influence. Directors whose work influenced others stand as the most important and successful to ever sit in a director's chair and yell the one word they all live for, "Action!"

10. Peter Jackson

Steven Spielberg E T
Warner Bros. Pictures

When it comes to pinpointing a director who is able to weave a narrative over a long series of films, there's no need to look any further than Peter Jackson. The New Zealand director got his start in the late '70s working on low-budget splatter comedies, but soon became a household name thanks to a book he adapted into a major film franchise.

Jackson is probably best known for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, but he has contributed his vision to cinematic history with a number of big-budget, high-octane, special effects-laden films that opened up new worlds to viewers.

Movies like King Kong and Heavenly Creatures quickly showed Jackson's ability to create immersive worlds within worlds, which may be why he is one of the world's greatest fantasy film directors.

Following The Hobbit trilogy, Jackson restored century-old film reels from the Great War for preservation in a documentary titled, They Shall Not Grow Old. His upcoming project, Mortal Engines, based on the book of the same name and set for release in late 2018, will likely open a new franchise opportunity for the director as he sets his sights on expanding into new worlds and new ideas.


Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, writer, and game designer. Jonathan retired from the U.S. Army in 2017 and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects. He writes for ScreenRant, CBR, NerdBastards, Listverse, Ranker, WhatCulture, and many other sites online. You can check out his latest on Twitter: @TalkingBull or on his blog: jonathanhkantor.com