The Most Famous

FILM DIRECTORS from Canada

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This page contains a list of the greatest Canadian Film Directors. The pantheon dataset contains 1,580 Film Directors, 27 of which were born in Canada. This makes Canada the birth place of the 11th most number of Film Directors behind Spain and Poland.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Canadian Film Directors of all time. This list of famous Canadian Film Directors is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Canadian Film Directors.

Photo of James Cameron

1. James Cameron (1954 - )

With an HPI of 76.55, James Cameron is the most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 93 different languages on wikipedia.

James Francis Cameron (born August 16, 1954) is a Canadian filmmaker. Best known for making science fiction and epic films, he first gained recognition for directing The Terminator (1984). He found further success with Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and the action comedy True Lies (1994). He also directed Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009), with Titanic earning him Academy Awards in Best Picture, Best Director and Best Film Editing. Avatar, filmed in 3D technology, earned him nominations in the same categories. Cameron co-founded the production companies Lightstorm Entertainment, Digital Domain, and Earthship Productions. In addition to filmmaking, he is a National Geographic sea explorer and has produced many documentaries on the subject, including Ghosts of the Abyss (2003) and Aliens of the Deep (2005). Cameron has also contributed to underwater filming and remote vehicle technologies and helped create the digital 3D Fusion Camera System. In 2012, Cameron became the first person to do a solo descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's ocean, in the Deepsea Challenger submersible. Cameron's films have grossed approximately US$2 billion in North America and US$6 billion worldwide. Avatar and Titanic are the highest and third highest-grossing films of all time, earning $2.85 billion and $2.19 billion, respectively. Cameron holds the achievement of having directed the first two of the five films in history to gross over $2 billion worldwide. In 2010, Time magazine named Cameron as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Cameron is also an environmentalist and runs several sustainability businesses.

Photo of David Cronenberg

2. David Cronenberg (1943 - )

With an HPI of 73.65, David Cronenberg is the 2nd most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 49 different languages.

David Paul Cronenberg (born March 15, 1943) is a Canadian film director, screenwriter, and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror genre, with his films exploring visceral bodily transformation, infection, technology, and the intertwining of the psychological with the physical. Cronenberg is best known for exploring these themes through sci-fi horror films such as Shivers (1975), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), and The Fly (1986), though he has also worked in multiple genres throughout his career.Cronenberg's films have polarized critics and audiences alike; he has earned critical acclaim and has sparked controversy for his depictions of gore and violence. The Village Voice called him "the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world". His films have won numerous awards, including, for Crash, the Special Jury Prize at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, a unique award that is distinct from the Jury Prize as it is not given annually, but only at the request of the official jury, who in this case gave the award "for originality, for daring, and for audacity".In the 2000s and 2010s, Cronenberg collaborated on several films with Viggo Mortensen, including A History of Violence (2005), Eastern Promises (2007), and A Dangerous Method (2011). He competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival with Cosmopolis.

Photo of Edward Dmytryk

3. Edward Dmytryk (1908 - 1999)

With an HPI of 66.86, Edward Dmytryk is the 3rd most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Edward Dmytryk (September 4, 1908 – July 1, 1999) was an American film director. He was known for his 1940s noir films and received an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Crossfire (1947). In 1947, he was named as one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of blacklisted film industry professionals who refused to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in their investigations during the McCarthy-era 'Red scare'. They all served time in prison for contempt of Congress. In 1951, however, according to actor Kirk Douglass, Dmytryk did testify to HUAC and named names whose careers were all then destroyed for many years (Lee Grant's husband was one of them) in order to rehabilitate his career. First hired again by independent producer Stanley Kramer in 1952, Dmytryk is likely best known for directing The Caine Mutiny (1954), a critical and commercial success. The second-highest-grossing film of the year, it was nominated for Best Picture and several other awards at the 1955 Oscars. Dmytryk was nominated for a Directors Guild Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures.

Photo of Norman Jewison

4. Norman Jewison (1926 - )

With an HPI of 66.53, Norman Jewison is the 4th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Norman Frederick Jewison (born July 21, 1926) is a Canadian retired film director, producer, screenwriter and founder of the Canadian Film Centre. He has directed numerous feature films and has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director three times in three separate decades for In the Heat of the Night (1967), Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and Moonstruck (1987). Other highlights of his directing career include The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Rollerball (1975), F.I.S.T. (1978), ...And Justice for All (1979), A Soldier's Story (1984), Agnes of God (1985), Other People's Money (1991), The Hurricane (1999), and The Statement (2003). Jewison has addressed social and political issues throughout his filmmaking career, often making controversial or complicated subjects accessible to mainstream audiences. He has won accolades around the world, including numerous Golden Globe nominations, a BAFTA Award, the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Directors Guild of Canada and America, and the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award at the 71st annual Academy Awards.In 2003, Jewison received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement for his multiple contributions to the film industry in Canada.

Photo of Jack L. Warner

5. Jack L. Warner (1892 - 1978)

With an HPI of 66.22, Jack L. Warner is the 5th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Jack Leonard Warner (born Jacob Warner; August 2, 1892 – September 9, 1978) was a Canadian-American film executive, born in Canada, who was the president and driving force behind the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. Warner's career spanned some 45 years, its duration surpassing that of any other of the seminal Hollywood studio moguls.As co-head of production at Warner Bros. Studios, he worked with his brother, Sam Warner, to procure the technology for the film industry's first talking picture, The Jazz Singer (1927). After Sam's death, Jack clashed with his surviving older brothers, Harry and Albert Warner. He assumed exclusive control of the film production company in the 1950s, when he secretly purchased his brothers' shares in the business after convincing them to participate in a joint sale of stocks.Although Warner was feared by many of his employees and inspired ridicule with his uneven attempts at humor, he earned respect for his shrewd instincts and tough-mindedness. He recruited many of Warner Bros.' top stars and promoted the hard-edged social dramas for which the studio became known. Given to decisiveness, Warner once commented, "If I'm right fifty-one percent of the time, I'm ahead of the game."Throughout his career, he was viewed as a contradictory and enigmatic figure. Although he was a staunch Republican, Warner encouraged film projects that promoted the agenda of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. He opposed European fascism and criticized Nazi Germany well before America's involvement in World War II. An opponent of communism, after the war Warner appeared as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, voluntarily naming screenwriters who had been fired as suspected communists or sympathizers. Despite his controversial public image, Warner remained a force in the motion picture industry until his retirement in the early 1970s.

Photo of Denys Arcand

6. Denys Arcand (1941 - )

With an HPI of 65.78, Denys Arcand is the 6th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Georges-Henri Denys Arcand (French: [dəni aʁkɑ̃]; born June 25, 1941) is a French Canadian film director, screenwriter and producer. His film The Barbarian Invasions won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2004. His films have also been nominated three further times, including two nominations in the same category for The Decline of the American Empire in 1986 and Jesus of Montreal in 1989, becoming the only French-Canadian director in history whose films have received this number of nominations and, subsequently, to have a film win the award. Also for The Barbarian Invasions, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, losing to Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation.During his four decades career, he became the most globally recognized director from Quebec, winning many awards from the Cannes Film Festival, including the Best Screenplay Award, the Jury Prize, and many other prestigious awards worldwide. He won three César Awards in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions: Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Film, being the only Canadian director to have accomplished this. Arcand has directed three Canadian films that have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film and three films in the Toronto International Film Festival's 2004 list of the top 10 Canadian films of all time.

Photo of Denis Villeneuve

7. Denis Villeneuve (1967 - )

With an HPI of 65.75, Denis Villeneuve is the 7th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 47 different languages.

Denis Villeneuve (French: [dəni vilnœv]; born October 3, 1967) is a Canadian filmmaker. He is a four-time recipient of the Canadian Screen Award (formerly Genie Award) for Best Direction, winning for Maelström in 2001, Polytechnique in 2009, Incendies in 2010 and Enemy in 2013. The first three of these films also won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Motion Picture, while the latter was awarded the prize for best Canadian film of the year by the Toronto Film Critics Association. Internationally, he is known for directing several critically acclaimed films, including the thrillers Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), as well as the science fiction films Arrival (2016) and Blade Runner 2049 (2017). For his work on Arrival, he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. He was awarded the prize of Director of the Decade by the Hollywood Critics Association in December 2019.His latest film, Dune (2021), based on Frank Herbert's novel of the same name, premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival; the film received critical acclaim, was a commercial success at the box office internationally, is currently his highest grossing film to date, and earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, with the film itself winning a leading six Oscars at the 94th Academy Awards.

Photo of Ted Kotcheff

8. Ted Kotcheff (1931 - )

With an HPI of 65.04, Ted Kotcheff is the 8th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

William Theodore Kotcheff (born April 7, 1931) is a Bulgarian-Canadian film and television director and producer, known primarily for his work on British and American television productions such as Armchair Theatre and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He has also directed numerous successful films including the Australian Wake in Fright (1971), action films such as the original Rambo movie First Blood (1982) and Uncommon Valor (1983), and comedies like Fun with Dick and Jane (1977), North Dallas Forty (1979), and Weekend at Bernie's (1989). He is sometimes credited as William T. Kotcheff, and resides in Beverly Hills, California. Due to his ancestry, Kotcheff has Bulgarian citizenship.

Photo of Arthur Hiller

9. Arthur Hiller (1923 - 2016)

With an HPI of 64.48, Arthur Hiller is the 9th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Arthur Hiller, (November 22, 1923 – August 17, 2016) was a Canadian-American television and film director with over 33 films to his credit during a 50-year career. He began his career directing television in Canada and later in the U.S. By the late 1950s he began directing films, most often comedies. He also directed dramas and romantic subjects, such as Love Story (1970), which was nominated for seven Oscars. Hiller collaborated on films with screenwriters Paddy Chayefsky and Neil Simon. Among his other films were The Americanization of Emily (1964), Tobruk (1967), The Hospital (1971), The Out-of-Towners (1970), Plaza Suite (1971), The Man in the Glass Booth (1975), Silver Streak (1976), The In-Laws (1979) and Outrageous Fortune (1987). Hiller served as president of the Directors Guild of America from 1989 to 1993 and president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1993 to 1997. He was the recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2002. An annual film festival in Hiller's honor was held from 2006 until 2009 at his alma mater, Victoria School of Performing and Visual Arts.

Photo of Mark Robson

10. Mark Robson (1913 - 1978)

With an HPI of 63.56, Mark Robson is the 10th most famous Canadian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Mark Robson (4 December 1913 – 20 June 1978) was a Canadian-American film director, producer, and editor. Robson began his 45-year career in Hollywood as a film editor. He later began working as a director and producer. He directed 34 films during his career, including Champion (1949), Bright Victory (1951), The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1955), Peyton Place (1957), The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958), Von Ryan's Express (1965), Valley of the Dolls (1967), and Earthquake (1974). Robson was twice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director - for Peyton Place and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness - as well as four Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing in Feature Films. Two of his films were nominated for the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or. In 1960, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture industry.

Pantheon has 27 people classified as film directors born between 1885 and 2000. Of these 27, 21 (77.78%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living film directors include James Cameron, David Cronenberg, and Norman Jewison. The most famous deceased film directors include Edward Dmytryk, Jack L. Warner, and Arthur Hiller. As of October 2020, 4 new film directors have been added to Pantheon including Richard Williams, David Furnish, and Mary Harron.

Living Film Directors

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Deceased Film Directors

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Newly Added Film Directors (2020)

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Which Film Directors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 6 most globally memorable Film Directors since 1700.