Blogathon Relay: TEN Most Influential Directors Of All Time


This Blog Relay idea is really getting around. I did a similar post a while back with the Most Iconic Movie Characters which generally has the same concept. This time around, the 10 Most Influential Directors relay is spearheaded by John at Hitchcock’s World. Here’s the gist in John’s own words:

I have compiled a list of ten directors I consider to be extremely influential. I will name another blogger to take over. That blogger, in their own article, will go through my list and choose one they feel doesn’t belong, make a case for why that director doesn’t fit, and then bring out a replacement. After making a case for why that director is a better choice, they will pass the baton onto another blogger. That third blogger will repeat the process before choosing another one to take over, and so on.

Thanks to Josh at Classicblanca for passing the baton to me! These nine remain on the list as it stands right now, scroll down below which director I have to let go and his replacement:

10DirectorsRelay_9RemainingClockwise from top left:
Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Georges Méliès, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrik.

Thanks to Two Dollar Cinema for the image idea 🙂

The last addition that Josh added was Ingmar Bergman. Here’s his reasoning: Ingmar Bergman’s films put the human condition in the forefront, combining striking imagery with raw emotion. Where would cinema be without his humanistic approach to storytelling? 

Boy, the list as it stands now makes it incredibly tough for me to remove a single one, but hey, rules are rules and so, even with a heavy hart, one has to make a decision.

Who’s Out?


Francis Ford Coppola

It’s not so much that I’m removing Mr. Coppola, but I’m just moving him down to another spot in the top 15. How about that for diplomacy? 😉 In all seriousness though, I do think Mr. Coppola is indeed an influential director. But the point of this list is just how influential? I mean we’re talking about the most influential of ALL TIME here. Looking at the 10 directors, I feel that I can’t remove anyone else given the prominent contributions they’ve made, even if I haven’t seen any of their films [yet]. I feel that Coppola’s resume is pretty spotty after his glory days in the 70s. So sorry Mr. Coppola, but like I said, I do think you deserve to be in the Top 15!

Who’s In?


Billy Wilder

I’m surprised he wasn’t on the list in the first place, to be honest. Now, even though I haven’t seen all his films, his talent is undeniable and he’s so well-loved by filmmakers and fans alike. He doesn’t just win numerous awards in his illustrious career (27 films, 6 Oscars), but he’s been an inspiration to other great directors. Michel Hazanavicius who won Best Director Oscar for The Artist thanked Wilder three times in his acceptance speech, “… I could thank him like a thousand times because I think he’s the perfect director, the perfect example. He’s the soul of Hollywood and I wanted to thank him and I love him.” [per The Wrap]. Even Ingmar Bergman who’s a legendary director himself has said that Wilder is his favorite Hollywood director [per IMDb]. Cameron Crowe also penned memoir of sort, called Conversations with Wilder, which was the first time Wilder agreed to talk extensively about his life and work. I wish there had been a documentary on him as well.

I’ve recently seen one of Wilder’s best, The Apartment, and I could see why his films are so beloved. He imbued such wit in his films, a dose of cynical humor. He also has a way with actors, having directed no less than 14 actors to Oscar-nominated performances. He’s also a versatile writer/director, as he excelled in numerous genres: drama, noir, comedy as well as war films. He’s one of those directors whose work I still need to see more of, but even from the few that I’ve seen, it’s easy to see how Mr. Wilder belongs in this list.

I’m passing the torch to Mark, one of my favorite bloggers over at Three Rows Back. He’s been doing great work in his Retrospective Series, like this one on A Hard Day’s Night.

Previous relay contributors:
Girl Meets Cinema
And So It Begins
Dell on Movies
Two Dollar Cinema
A Fistful of Films

So folks, agree/disagree with my picks? Let’s hear it!

50 thoughts on “Blogathon Relay: TEN Most Influential Directors Of All Time

    1. Hi John, welcome to FC! 🙂 Great idea for a blogathon, this is a tough one but I feel that Mr. Wilder deserves a spot on the top 10. I’ve only seen 3 of his films so far but just from reading reviews, etc. it seems that he’s VERY influential and inspiring.

    1. Wahoo!! Glad you agree! I know lots of Godfather fans might not be too happy, but for me, Wilder’s amazing resume is far more impressive to me. You said it best, his track record speaks for itself!

      1. Just for clarification Ruth… is this for best track record or most influential? Because a guy Like Clint Eastwood has better track record than Coppola but The Godfather I & II and Apocalypse Now are certainly more influential than anything Clint’s ever done. Lucas is another guy I’d mention with a spotty track record who’s influence is just monumental. Again just to clarify. 🙂

        1. Good point there Dave. I’d say it’s the latter, and I think Mr. Wilder has BOTH the track record and also the power to inspire/influence other filmmakers even after he’s gone. I don’t equate quantity over quality, if that’s what you’re questioning, so yeah, I don’t think I’d put someone like Eastwood on the top 10.

  1. Hi Ruth, I really don’t envy you having to take part in this event because there is such a galaxy of influential directors to choose from.
    Like John I think I’ve only ever seen one of Wilder’s films and that was very recently. Ace in the Hole which starred Kirk Douglas was tuned to perfection, a film with perfect symmetry!

    1. Hi Paul! Yeah, there are so many great directors out there, tough to narrow down to just 10. I thought I was the only person who hasn’t seen most of Mr Wilder’s work. Now I haven’t seen Ace in the Hole yet but I’m not fond of Kirk Douglas.

    1. It was REALLY tough to remove someone, the adding part is easy, ahah. Yeah, apparently Mr. Wilder was beloved by his peers as well as film fans.

  2. Good choice Ruth.Wilder did a ton of films and was beloved by a lot of filmmakers. But I gotta say Akira Kurosawa’s omission is just glaring. Just how influential was he? Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese were on hand to present him with the Academy’s lifetime achievement award out of respect. They all have stated that they all considered him the greatest filmmaker. It’s well known among film buffs that The Hidden Fortress was the inspiration for Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Likewise The Seven Samurai for The Magnificent Seven and Yojimbo for A Fistful of Dollars. Words cannot overstate his influence on cinema.

    Other than that it’s a pretty great list.

    Here’s some food for thought:

    Spike Lee (Gordon Parks may have been first but Spike was the first to really legitimize black filmmaking for generations to come. Of course now we have Tyler Perry… thanks Spike!)
    John Carpenter and George Romero (Other than maybe Hitchcock they influenced modern day horror more than anybody)
    Errol Morris (Single handedly changed the way documentaries were made with The Thin Blue Line. Creator of the docudrama)
    John Cassevettes (Actor turned director that launched the indie movement)
    Luis Bunuel (Along with Dali he influenced surreal filmmakers like Maya Deren, Fellini, Jodorowsky, Lynch, Gilliam)
    Walt Disney anyone?
    Roger Corman.. Didn’t see that coming, did ya. Look at the directors he’s turned out: Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, John Sayles, Curtis Hansen, James Cameron, Peter Bogdanovich. He was probably more of an influence than his actual films were but the lineage is unparalleled in all of film.

    Since Méliès is the father of filmmaking he really influenced every single filmmaker who came after him. He wins! 😛

    1. Oh man, why aren’t YOU the one with a blog? Boy your comment here could be a blog post on its own. I knew someone would mention Kurosawa, I bet he’d appear on the list before you know it.

      Amen on your last sentence. Can’t imagine anyone removing Méliès anytime soon!

    2. Actually, John Carpenter was on my original list. You have Alex Withrow to thank for taking him out.

      Also to be fair, Walt Disney wasn’t really a director. He was certainly influential but he was mainly a producer, which is quite a different job. He was an important figure but his role in the actual production of his films was mainly on the business end while someone else would do the directing.

      1. John the reason I bring up Disney is because he was a director, animator the voice of Mickey early on in his career Although Disney was particularly noted as a film producer he did direct Steamboat Willie in 1928 which is kind of the holy grail of animation being the genesis of Mickey Mouse. No he didn’t direct Cinderella or Snow White so I can see your point on that front. I guess it comes down to how influential he was in vaulting animation into what it is today with that particular cartoon and what he created from there.

  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ruth:

    I’m a bit leery when I see the phrase, “of all time”. A lot like “slippery slope”. Way too vague and over reaching.

    I’m also with Dave on John Sayles. A true Independent in the footsteps of Roger Corman.

    Great inclusion with Mr. Wilder. While Mr. Coppola had some heavy hitter before his Zoetrope Studio went Tango Uniform… After that. Not so much.

    1. Ahah yeah, well it’s a term that’s been used a lot on lists like this. Yep, that’s what I think of Mr. Coppola. He just isn’t as consistent as Mr. Wilder as a whole.

  4. As much as I love Coppola for his work in the 70s and most of his stuff in the 1980s. The films of Billy Wilder that I’ve seen so far is just on another level of brilliance.

  5. Love the addition of Wilder. Such a great choice. Personally I would have added Francois Truffaut or John Huston. Truffaut was an architect of the French New Wave even more than Goddard IMO. Huston was just a cinematic genius.

    As for who I would remove? Get out the pitchforks and torches. Quentin Tarantino. I know people absolutely adore him and to some degree I can see why. But I don’t see him as all that influential. I see him more as a director who takes from all of the classic masters and exhibits their influence in his films. An unpopular choice I know and he probably would’ve been put right back on. 😉

    1. Ted S.

      I agree with you about QT Keith. I love his work but he doesn’t belong on this list, like you said he stole from other filmmakers for his films. Yes he made them into his “own” style but the fact is he stole from other filmmakers.

      1. I wouldn’t take Tarantino off the list. In his defense, love or hate him, he’s been the MOST influential (not necessarily the best) director over the last 30 years IMHO. It’s ironic as someone who wears his influences on his sleeve would be influential himself with his mashup of styles ranging from blaxploitation to westerns to Japanese manga to 70’s heist movies. As someone who writes and directs all his own stuff he certainly can be considered an an auteur like the Coens which is pretty rare in this day and age. The difference is that there are really no directors quite like the Coens out there but there certainly has been a flood of Tarantino influenced imitators over the years… hasn’t there? (Noah Hawley work on TV’s Fargo doesn’t really count in my book)

        Ted to your point of stealing… Did De Palma steal from Hitchcock? Certainly. Did Paul Thomas Anderson take from Altman? Sure. Did Woody borrow from Bergman. Yup. Did Lucas and Leone poach from Kurosawa? Hai. Did Spielberg lift from Capra? You know it. What I’m saying everyone borrowed from everyone else. Would you dismiss the influence that those directors had? Sure Quentin has been more unapologetically blatant than most about his influences (except maybe De Palma) but Georges Méliès has the real complaint… because everyone took from him.

        Keith, maybe you and Ted can appreciate this analogy. Quentin is to filmmaking what grunge was to music. They both changed their mediums forever and spawned hundreds of imitators… thus they were very influential. Whether you care for their work or their track record is a matter of personal preference. I know it pains some people to put Quentin in there with that group but it is what it is. I’d be curious to know if you guys consider any other director that has come along in the past 30 years more influential. Fincher? Soderbergh? Nolan? Cameron? Spike Lee? Peter Jackson? The Wachowskis? Ang Lee? J.J. Abrams? (Just kidding) Then are the ones like Burton, The Coens and Wes Anderson who are so uniquely unique that no one’s really copied them. What do you think? The floor is yours gentlemen.

        1. Ted S.

          Dave, you brought you up some good points about QT and I don’t get wrong, I’m one of his biggest fans, although Django Unchained was a huge disappoint for me. But you’re right, you can’t deny his influences on the hacks that imitated his style since the 90s. I still can’t put him on the list, if it’s my list. 🙂

          Oh I agree about De Palma, he stole a lot of from Hitchcock but I still like his work, well his earlier work anyway, he hasn’t done anything good for a while. Haha.

          Good question about the current crops of A-list directors, I think Fincher and Nolan will be have huge influence on the future young filmmakers. LOL, I sure hope you’re kidding about Abrams, I’m getting tire of that man, which why I don’t care much for the new Star Wars film.

          1. You know I still haven’t seen Django yet. Just not much interest in watching DiCaprio chew the scenery in a western even though I thought he was brilliant in The Wolf of Wall Street. Quentin’s imitators have pretty much faded away as far as I can tell. Oddly enough my favorite movie of his is still Reservoir Dogs. Otherwise I tend to like specific set pieces from his other movies like the basement bar scene from Inglourious Basterds, the trailer fight scene from Kill Bill or the Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction. Would have like to have seen what he’d have with True Romance or Natural Born Killers.

            The thing about Quentin is that when you see one of his movies you can almost instantly recognize it. The parallel universe he’s created in his movies is just fascinating to me. . I’m not sure Fincher (whom I love) has a recognizable style other his slickness (House of Cards, The Social Network) or Nolan (who’s creating just some of the most challenging stuff out there) has a unique style either. Can’t wait to see Interstellar. Even old, recognizable, 40 acres and a mule Spike has changed up lately with pics like Miracle at St. Anna, Inside Job and Oldboy.

            In case you haven’t seen this:

            There sure is a lot of corn in a trailer for a movie titled Interstellar. The trailer looks more like Signs than 2001: A Space Odyssey. LOL..

    2. Hey Keith! I wish I had seen the works of those French New Wave auteurs. I figure Wilder is perhaps more um, accessible to mass audiences, even if you’re not necessarily a cinephile. I would not refute your assessment about Truffaut and Huston though.

      Ahah well I won’t get my pitchforks out for your comment about QT. I do think despite his penchant for *borrowing others’ style or paying homage to great directors, he still has his own vision and his films are still his own, y’know what I mean? So I do think he is brilliant even if his films aren’t for everyone.

    1. As I mentioned, it’s not so much as taking out, just moving him down the list 😀 Hey, I might be able to work something out 🙂

  6. Ted S.

    I don’t much of an opinion with your inclusion of Billy Wilder since I’ve never seen any of his films. But I agree that Coppola shouldn’t be on the list, he seem to have lost his mojo after the 70s, might have something to do with the tough shooting experience he had with Apocalypse Now. After that film came out, he’s just never same director.

    I’m with Dave, very surprise no one have put Akira Kurosawa on the list yet. He influenced pretty much every famous directors working in Hollywood, Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas and so on. Also, I’m with Keith too of the inclusion of QT, I love his work but he stole everything from other filmmakers for his films.

    1. Ted S.

      Oh I totally forgot, how can no one mention one of my favorites Sam “Bloody” Peckinpah is still a mystery. 🙂 He pretty much made the shoot’em up action movies popular to the general audiences, his influences can be seen in films by John Woo, Walter Hill, QT, Richard Donner and every action director wannabes.

    2. I think there are some noirs from Wilder that you might enjoy Ted. I knew you’d mention Peckinpah, if not I’d be disappointed! 😉 Well I’ve only seen one of his films, The Getaway, which I didn’t care for, so I don’t think he’d be my favorite director, ahah.

      I’m sure Kurosawa will pop up at some point, he’s one of those directors whose work I still need to see.

  7. Thanks for picking me Ruth! Very honoured! As mentioned, sorry I won’t be able to get round to this for a week as I’m on my hols. Seriously, if you want to go with someone else no problem. Man, that is a tough list to cut from!

    1. Oh of course! I’m sure w/ your wealth of film knowledge you’d come up w/ an interesting pick. It is getting tougher and tougher as the relay goes on! I do have a request for you, pls check your Twitter DM 🙂

      Btw, hope you enjoy Spain!

  8. I thought this kind o relay blogathon has ceased since I haven’t seen it again lately.
    I don’t pay much attention to directors unless the famous one. I saw that Spielberg is there, totally agree with that one….and I think he should never be bin “who’s Out”

    1. I do think Spielberg should stay on the list as long as possible. Hope that happens Nov but hey, it’s out of my control after this 🙂

  9. I honestly can’t argue this AT ALL! Wilder was HUGELY influential!

    Now if we can just get Chaplin and Allen on here we can call it a wrap!

  10. Brilliant choice! It’s tough seeing Coppola out, but Wilder definitely deserves to be in the top 10. His range was so great, which I think only widens the spread of his influence.

    1. Coppola is not out, just moved out of the top 10, he..he.. Yep I do think Wilder’s range is much wider than Coppola and even other directors here so he definitely deserves a spot!

  11. Agree with your choice. Wilder is a director’s director and some on the list owe a great deal of credit to his work. I would also have to agree with some of the comments that suggest that this is a nearly impossible list to make, and that is simply because there are no clear paradigms that inform the choices. I mean, how can one leave out Charlie Chaplin in favor of Quentin Tarantino? For one, Chaplin was a pioneer of cinema and he paved the way in terms of comedy and even drama, not to mention he came before Tarantino. In a way, time is a big factor in these lists. Every director of today owes gratitude to the ones that came before, and those, in turn, owe their craft to the true pioneers, like Melies. However, if this list is supposed to be a representation of the most impactful and often imitated directors of today, then the choice of Tarantino makes a lot more sense, and less that of Wilder, even if the two are really impossible to separate, or even compare.
    Maybe the list is a bit too reductive, and it needed to be expanded to 20 in order to really capture the breath of talent that has come and gone in Hollywood and elsewhere. Then again, I feel there’s probably more than 20 that could come into the conversation.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Niels! I’d agree that Chaplin deserves to be on the list more than QT. I mean this is not so much a popularity contest amongst contemporary moviegoers (in which QT surely ranks at the top), but Chaplin was indeed a pioneer. In any case, with lists like this it’s really tough to please everyone, but hey, the point is to generate a discussion anyway 🙂

  12. This is an interesting topic. I must agree that Wilder is more influential than Coppola. I’d imagine its hard to separate a director’s whole influence against perhaps just making one really influential film, and I’d have to say that Coppola would be the latter.

  13. Really great to see these relay races happening more often now, always enjoy reading them. This one is tough though…would really need to think who to remove and replace if I was assigned this one.

  14. Pingback: Blogathon Relay: The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time | three rows back

  15. Pingback: Blogathon Relay: The 10 Most Influential Directors of All Time | Committed to Celluloid

  16. It is hard to disagree with this challenging suggestion. I recently wrote on Coppola’s negative contribution to the movie industry and to society. So, yes, he’s off the list.

    Coppola’s manipulation of the production company Zoetrope also springs to mind. Here, in the twenty-first century, perhaps we should consider adding his one-time partner, George Lucas to this illustrious list.

    Perhaps we need to consider Ridley Scott and his Scott Free production company as well? His combination of mature science-fiction and nostalgic history dramas spring to mind. And let us not forget the thought-provoking, but hugely underrated legal series The Good Wife.

    Both directors have made relevant contributions towards society and modern-day art.

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