Blogathon Relay: The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time

The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time

One of the more pleasant surprises I’ve had recently was to have received the baton from the lovely Ruth at FlixChatter for the 10 Most Influential Directors of All Time Blogathon relay.

The Blogathon was the brainchild of John at Hichcock’s World. It’s a brilliant idea and John sums it up nicely: “I have compiled a list of 10 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.”

The baton has so far been passed to the following:

Girl Meets Cinema
And So It Begins…
Dell On Movies
Two Dollar Cinema
A Fistful Of Films
The Cinematic Spectacle
FlixChatter (Thanks for the banner logo Ruth!)

The original list had plenty of incredible directors on it, but as the baton has been handed down the list has become pretty damned impressive:

The 10 Most Influential Directors Of All Time

Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Georges Méliès, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick

Ruth’s addition to the list was Billy Wilder and her justification was thus: “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.”

So, Who’s Out?

Jean Luc Goddard

Jean-Luc Godard

Man, this was an almost impossible decision. Godard’s still making movies aged 83 and there’s no denying the influence of his work. Breathless remains a defining work of the French New Wave and his 1964 film Bande à part was stolen by Tarantino for the name of his production company. The more I think about it, the less I’m sure, but compared to the others on this list I feel Godard’s influence has slipped and, as such, he doesn’t quite make it. Sorry Jean-Luc, but I suspect you’d feel that lists like this are way too bourgeois anyway.

Now, Who’s In?

John Ford

John Ford

Reflecting on his masterpiece Citizen Kane, Orson Welles was asked who influenced what is still regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. Welles’ reply was simple: “The old masters, by which I mean John Ford, John Ford and John Ford.” He had reputedly watched Ford’s 1939 classic Stagecoach more than 40 times in preparation for his debut feature and he wasn’t the only one to have been drawn to the work of one of the most influential directors of all time.

An encounter with Ford proved to have a massive impact on a 15-year-old Steven Spielberg, who subsequently said of the great man: “Ford’s in my mind when I make a lot of my pictures.” Watch Saving Private Ryan‘s devastating D-Day landings sequence and War Horse and you’ll see Ford’s stamp front and centre.

Likewise, Martin Scorsese has cited The Searchers as one of his favourite films. Speaking about the film in the Hollywood Reporter, Scorsese said: “In truly great films – the ones that people need to make, the ones that start speaking through them, the ones that keep moving into territory that is more and more unfathomable and uncomfortable – nothing’s ever simple or neatly resolved. You’re left with a mystery. In this case, the mystery of a man who spends 10 years of his life searching for someone, realises his goal, brings her back and then walks away. Only an artist as great as John Ford would dare to end a film on such a note.”

The list goes on. Ingmar Bergman cited Ford as “the best director in the world”, while Alfred Hitchcock declared that a “John Ford film was a visual gratification”.

From the earliest days of film, through to the invention of sound and the introduction of colour, Ford remained a cinematic pioneer. Although best regarded for his westerns, he also made another masterpiece that defined a nation – The Grapes Of Wrath; while his incredible World War Two documentaries The Battle Of Midway and December 7th remain quintessential examples of the craft. For all this alone, John Ford should be regarded as The Great American Director.


Well, that’s me done, so now the torch passes to… Fernando at Committed to Celluloid. Good luck Fernando; you’re gonna need it!


  1. fernandorafael · July 24, 2014

    Gah! Thanks so much man. This’ll be very difficult but I think I can pull it off!

  2. Andrew · July 24, 2014

    Well, John is happy…but this is gross.

    Although, your inclusion is certainly worthy of being mentioned…but not at the expense of someone like Godard. Godard pioneered an entire generation of filmmaking. He basically CREATED IT. Film changed due to his guidance and influence, and that influence is clearly seen in modern filmmaking in general. Love him, hate him, tolerate him…doesn’t matter. He is one of the most influential filmmakers of all time, easily.

    This list is astonishing, I understand, so while I balk I do know that it was a tough choice and taking off anyone at this point would make people unhappy…

    I’m just bitter 😛

    • Three Rows Back · July 24, 2014

      Sorry to disappoint Andrew. If I’m honest I didn’t want to take anyone off the list but it was Sophie’s Choice. I hear what you’re saying – I really do – but that’s how I feel. In the same way you argue Godard is a pioneer, I feel the same way about Ford’s work. I felt others on this list explaining why he was so influential to them kind of spoke for itself, but anyway. Sorry to gross you out. Not sure I’ve ever done that to anyone before, so there’s a first.

      • Andrew · July 24, 2014

        LOL, it’s ok. I was just messing with you. Godard was my inclusion, so I was being a hardass 😛

      • Three Rows Back · July 24, 2014


  3. Stu · July 24, 2014

    Zut alors!

  4. Wendell · July 24, 2014

    Glad I got in early because this is getting really tough. Great reasoning for Ford, but at this point taking anyone out might be a bad choice.

    • Three Rows Back · July 25, 2014

      Absolutely; ’twas a nightmare to select the loser to be honest.

  5. ckckred · July 25, 2014

    I’d disagree with Godard’s removal, but I’m very much in agreement with adding Ford. He certainly changed the way Hollywood operated and presented some of the most beautiful scenery there ever was in cinema.

    • Three Rows Back · July 25, 2014

      It was Sophie’s Choice to be honest. Who would you remove?

      • ckckred · July 27, 2014

        Honestly I think I would have removed Tarantino. I’m a huge fan but I don’t think I’d call him one of cinema’s most influential directors, though he certainly has had a enormous impact on film in the last two decade.

      • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2014

        It was either Godard or Tarantino for me; it ended up being the former.

  6. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · July 25, 2014

    Man that’s a tough one to choose who to leave out! Getting really difficult now! Cool choice on Ford though.

    • Three Rows Back · July 25, 2014

      Mate; it was a nightmare. I was guaranteed to piss someone off!

  7. ruth · July 25, 2014

    Woo hoo!! Glad you got this up Mark. I LOVE your write up for the rationale of picking John Ford! Now I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen any of his work, uh-oh! But hey, the beauty of film is that we can always catch up on ’em, right? I actually just started watching Billy Wilder’s work a few years ago. In any case, can’t argue that Mr Ford is indeed influential!

    • Three Rows Back · July 25, 2014

      You’ve not seen any John Ford?? WTF!! Ha ha, well you have lots to look forward to. Thanks for selecting me Ruth; was a lot of fun.

  8. HOORAY! Godard’s out. A celebration must be in order now that the worst director on this list is finally off. I’ll probably keep getting forced to watch his movies for classes, though. I really don’t get what people see in his work.

    Okay, now that’s out of the way, John Ford is a pretty good choice. He was certainly one of those really big name directors of the Studio Era alongside Howard Hawks and John Huston and I do know his westerns made a pretty big impact.

    • Three Rows Back · July 25, 2014

      Ha ha, well I’m glad I’ve pleased someone! This was a lot of fun; thanks very much 🙂

  9. Pingback: Blogathon Relay: The 10 Most Influential Directors of All Time | Committed to Celluloid
  10. Pingback: Woody Allen: A Documentary [2012] | Committed to Celluloid


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