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The 10 most influential movie directors working today

Directors remain one of the most essential aspects of the film and television industry. Their vision guides and drives the cast and crew in creating some spectacular works of art.

Whether or not the auteur theory is true, directors have an enormous impact on how a film or show is made, and these 10 directors working today have arguably had the greatest influence on the industry.

James Gunn

James Gunn in his video announcement for DC Studios's "Chapter 1: Gods and Monsters."
YouTube / YouTube

In the past decade, James Gunn went from directing schlocky B-movies to helming superhero blockbusters like The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy, both of which proved to audiences that even the most obscure comic book characters could become successful pop culture icons.

And thanks to his surprising success as a filmmaker, Gunn earned himself a seat as the co-head of DC Films, where he now plans to bring a new Superman, along with countless other heroes and villains, to cinemas and TV screens in his own DC Universe.

Jordan Peele

Mark Ralston/Getty Images

The former MadTV cast member revolutionized horror with his debut film, Get Out, which made him the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Peele has since continued to prove himself as a creative auteur with films like Us and Nope.

And with his work on Big Mouth, 2019’s The Twilight Zone, 2021’s Candyman, Hunters, and Lovecraft Country, Peele has shown that he is amongst the most versatile figures in Hollywood today.

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg documentary trailer
praszkiewicz /

As the director of many revolutionary films such as Jaws, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg has long established himself as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, filmmakers of all time. Though his last two films weren’t box-office hits, the amount of acclaim they received proves that this legendary director has not lost his magic.

On top of that, he founded both Amblin Entertainment and DreamWorks, two movie studios responsible for many other classic films over the years. He also founded the nonprofit Shoah Foundation to preserve and share testimonies about the Holocaust and other genocides, which have become only more necessary in this modern age.

Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorcese at the premiere of "Shutter Island."
Wikimedia Commons

As the cinematic mind behind Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and The Departed, Martin Scorsese has repeatedly excelled in exploring issues of crime, masculinity, and religion. But going beyond his string of crime films, Scorsese has also been renowned for underrated masterpieces like Hugo and Silence.

He recently took his talents to streaming with The Irishman and Killers of the Flower Moon, showing that this new age of cinema has not deterred nor depleted his passion for exceptional filmmaking. Additionally, he founded multiple nonprofits to preserve and restore film, such as The Film Foundation, The World Cinema Foundation, and the African Film Heritage Project.

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan with a film camera.
HellaCinema/Wikimedia Commons / HellaCinema/Wikimedia Commons

For two decades, Christopher Nolan has wowed and baffled audiences with his classic but unconventional approach to filmmaking. The scope and ambition of his work, from Memento to Inception to Interstellar to The Dark Knight Trilogy, have blown the minds of just about everyone who experienced them.

Even today, with the release of Oppenheimer, Nolan’s movies continue to be highly-anticipated events that push the boundaries of what is possible in cinema.

Zack Snyder

Wikimedia Commons

Snyder rose up in Hollywood as the director of divisive but popular comic book movies like 300, Watchmen, and Man of Steel. While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice disappointed a lot of audiences, he received an extraordinary (but sometimes toxic) cult following after leaving the production of Justice League.

This allowed him to finish his cut of the film, which, for better or worse, changed the perceived relationship between audiences and studios and briefly made him King of the Internet. Though audiences may never see DC’s Snyderverse go on as originally planned, the director continues to thrive on Netflix with Army of the Dead and his upcoming sci-fi epic, Rebel Moon.

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro at WonderCon 2013.
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

This man knows how to mix the magical with the monstrous. Guillermo del Toro is amongst the most distinctive directors in the business, having helmed many iconic monster movies like Blade II, the Hellboy duology, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, and The Shape of Water.

Likewise, del Toro executive produced many of DreamWorks’s animated classics and created Netflix’s hit series, Trollhunters. He also brought stop-motion animation back to the forefront with his Oscar-winning version of Pinocchio.

Ava DuVernay

Director Ava DuVernay standing in front of a banner for "Selma."
Ovidiu Hrubaru/Shutterstock

DuVernay has been one of the leading voices in sharing Black stories in Hollywood, having directed the Oscar-nominated film Selma, the Netflix documentary 13th, and the shows, When They See Us and Colin in Black & White.

While her first blockbuster, A Wrinkle In Time, wasn’t so beloved by critics and audiences, she still became the first Black woman to direct a 100-million-dollar film. She also now serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho at the Japan premiere of "Okja."
Dick Thomas Johnson/Wikimedia Commons

Bong Joon-ho has long been one of the most unconventional but successful directors to come out of South Korea. With acclaimed hits such as Memories of Murder, The Host, Snowpiercer, and Okja, his creative influence has stretched far across the globe and brought greater attention to the works of his native land.

But it was his groundbreaking film, Parasite, that made him an international sensation, as it won him both the Palme d’Or and the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.

Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig at Berlinale 2018.
Martin Kraft/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Having started out as an actor in several small mumblecore films, Greta Gerwig transitioned into directing with her breakout Oscar-nominated film, Lady Bird, which she followed with her acclaimed adaptation of Little Women.

Having just released her first blockbuster Barbie, which had the biggest debut for a woman director, Gerwig has proven herself capable of competing with a Hollywood heavyweight like Christopher Nolan on the big screen.

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