The 10 Most Popular Movie Directors of All Time, According to IMDB

The IMDB Top 250 is an invaluable source for movie lovers. From it one can find a crowdsourced consensus for the best movies ever made. But did you know that nearly a quarter of the films on the list are directed by just ten people? Some of the most popular directors have an amazing strike rate when it comes to getting on the list, with one even achieving an 80% success rate. Can you already guess who it is?

The key to getting on the list seems to be simple. There are definite auteurs, but no one on this list has a genuinely inaccessible movie on here. These are directors of entertainments; a label that is not meant in a derogatory way, but simply to show the popular appeal of their films.

Of the top ten directors in this list; all ten are men, and only two are non-white (Miyazaki and Kurosawa). This is representative of the lack of diversity in film appreciation and the patriarchal nature of the wider world. There is not actually a single female-directed film on the entire IMDB Top 250. Nevertheless, knowing the top directors on this list is still a smart way of getting a feel for mainstream film culture. So, without further ado, read on to see who has the most films in the IMDB Top 250. We will survey each of the films they have on the list in chronological order.


10. Quentin Tarantino (5 films)

Since breaking on to the scene with Reservoir Dogs (#78), Quentin Tarantino has a remarkable five films in the Top 250. This is quite an achievement considering he has made only nine films. His early movies, such as the revelatory Pulp Fiction (#7), were set in a contemporary world not unlike ours, with gangsters who talked fast and loose with an endless stream of pop culture references.

From his early trilogy of movies, only Jackie Brown fails to make the list — possibly because it is quite long, stars a black woman (Pam Grier) and is based on an Elmore Leonard novel, instead of an original Tarantino screenplay.

The director went silent for six years before returning with the Kill Bill saga — two films starring Uma Thurman as a wronged woman taking her revenge. The first film makes it on to the list (#174) while the second seems to just miss out.

Unsurprisingly the very talky Death Proof, considered to be Tarantino’s most difficult movie, is not on the list; while his extremely fun historical rewrites Inglorious Basterds (#98) and Django Unchained (#60) easily make it into the Top 250. The Hateful Eight, which runs to three hours long and is set in mainly one location, is understandably not so popular and doesn’t make the list. Despite all this, Tarantino still has a remarkable 55% success rate with the IMDB Top 250.


9. Billy Wilder (5 films)

One of the greatest writers of dialogue in the business, Billy Wilder’s movies have a cynical gloss to them that actually mask a deep wellspring of feeling. He could work in almost any genre, moving from noir to melodrama to high comedy with ease. Not a flashy director, his original screenplays anchor his movies, making them some of the greatest entertainments of Hollywood’s original Golden Age. He made over 25 films in a career that spanned well over 40 years, and manages to get five that sneak into the IMDB Top 250.

The films in this list shows his versatility. His first film to get on the list is the 1944 rock-hard noir Double Indemnity (#87) while his second is the great Hollywood meta-drama Sunset Boulevard (#54). He returns to the list seven years later with the courtroom drama Witness for The Prosecution (#68), with one of the last and greatest star turns by Marlene Dietrich. Then rounding off the list are the brilliant comedies Some Like It Hot (#118) and The Apartment (#108). What’s interesting are the great films that do not make it.

Despite winning best picture, his alcoholism drama The Lost Weekend does not appear on the list; neither does the darkly cynical journalism drama Ace In The Hole; or the deeply romantic Sabrina with its all star cast of Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden.


8. Akira Kurosawa (5 films)

Akira Kurosawa is one of Japan’s greatest crossovers to the world of American cinema, thanks to the way that the samurai genre inspired Western movies such as The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars, not to mention his influence on Star Wars. He is put in high respect for the way he has influenced so much that is good in contemporary cinema due to his establishment of characters, multi-camera coverage, and epic dramatic arcs.

His first film in the list, Rashomon (#111) is arguably his most daring, telling the same story from different perspectives, and complicating our notion of truth. Up next is the 1952 drama Ikiru (#128) which would make the hardest heart cry.

His greatest film, and the highest ranking non-English language film on the IMDB Top 250, is Seven Samurai (#19), which provided the template for almost any getting-the-gang-together movie ever made. It made a star of Toshirô Mifune, arguably one of the most magnetic screen presences to ever live. The next film Yojimbo (#114) sees him carry the movie with complete ease.

Kurosawa was also the greatest adapter of Shakespeare plays. Although not adapting the language word-for-word, he kept the spirit of them in perfect tandem. His best Shakespeare adaptation was Ran (#133), which adapted King Lear to medieval Japan. No one has come close to a better Shakespeare adaptation since.


7. Charlie Chaplin (5 films)

The star of silent cinema, Charlie Chaplin created and honed a persona of the Tramp that saw him make the most beloved films of cinema’s earliest era. Chaplin would make tens of films, shorts and comedies, before making a film worthy of the IMDB Top 250 with the beloved The Kid (#100), a film more or less considered to be the first instance of tragedy and comedy mixing. Released in 1921, it is also the oldest film in the IMDB Top 250. He also has the second oldest film with The Gold Rush (#135), released in 1925, a rip-roaringly funny depiction of an everyman who tries to make it big.

His best film, the romantic comedy City Lights, is exceedingly high for a very old film, coming in at number 36. His second highest rating movie Modern Times (#39) arguably demonstrates his best stunt-making in a brilliant satire of modern industrialised life. Even though talkies had been around since The Jazz Singer in 1927, he kept his films silent up till 1936. When he finally made a “talkie” in 1940 with The Great Dictator (#53), it became widely beloved due to a scene where he never stops talking; a great speech against the horrors of fascism.


6. Hayao Miyazaki (5 films)

The greatest animator of all time, perhaps only behind Walt Disney (and that is debatable), Miyazaki’s hand-drawn wonders have been enthralling audiences ever since his debut The Castle of Cagliostro in 1979.

Inexplicably, The Caste of Cagliostro does not make the list, but his next film, the eco-awareness movie, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (#212) does. This would be the first film of many featuring a female lead that is successful, making him quite unique amongst filmmakers on this list. As of right now, Castle In The Sky is also on the list, hanging on at number 250. Much more comfortable is arguably the greatest children’s movie ever for its simplicity and wonder: My Neighbor Totoro at 131.

He reenters the list with Princess Mononoke (#64), which marked the first time he used computer animation in one of his movies. Then his highest rated movie on the list, Spirited Away, comes in at a remarkable number 29, making it the fourth-highest rated non-English speaking movie on the list, and the second highest movie featuring a female lead (after The Silence of The Lambs). Then the final film on the list is yet another one featuring a castle. Howl’s Moving Castle comes in at number 137.