The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Film Directors. The pantheon dataset contains 1,581 Film Directors, 24 of which were born in Czechia. This makes Czechia the birth place of the 12th most number of Film Directors behind Poland and Canada.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Film Directors of all time. This list of famous 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 Film Directors.

Photo of Miloš Forman

1. Miloš Forman (1932 - 2018)

With an HPI of 73.60, Miloš Forman is the most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 69 different languages on wikipedia.

Jan Tomáš "Miloš" Forman (; Czech: [ˈmɪloʃ ˈforman]; 18 February 1932 – 13 April 2018) was a Czech and American film director, screenwriter, actor, and professor who rose to fame in his native Czechoslovakia before emigrating to the United States in 1968. Forman was an important figure in the Czechoslovak New Wave. Film scholars and Czechoslovak authorities saw his 1967 film The Firemen's Ball as a biting satire on Eastern European Communism. The film was initially shown in theatres in his home country in the more reformist atmosphere of the Prague Spring. However, it was later banned by the Communist government after the invasion by the Warsaw Pact countries in 1968. Forman was subsequently forced to leave Czechoslovakia for the United States, where he continued making films, gaining wider critical and financial success. In 1975, he directed One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) starring Jack Nicholson as a patient in a mental institution. The film received widespread acclaim, and was the second in history to win all five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor in Leading Role, and Actress in Leading Role. In 1978, he directed the anti-war musical Hair which premiered at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. In 1981, he directed the turn of the century drama film, Ragtime, which was known for its large ensemble cast. The film went on to receive eight Academy Award nominations. His next feature was a period biographical film, Amadeus (1984), based on the life of famed classical musician Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart starring Tom Hulce, and F. Murray Abraham. The film was both a critical and financial success earning eleven nominations with eight wins including for Best Picture, and another win for Forman as Best Director. In 1996, Forman received another Academy Award nomination for Best Director for The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996). Throughout Forman's career he won two Academy Awards, three Golden Globe Awards, Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, a British Academy Film Award, a César Award, David di Donatello Award, and the Czech Lion.

Photo of Jiří Menzel

2. Jiří Menzel (1938 - 2020)

With an HPI of 63.42, Jiří Menzel is the 2nd most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 42 different languages.

Jiří Menzel (Czech: [ˈjɪr̝iː ˈmɛntsl̩] (listen)) (23 February 1938 – 5 September 2020) was a Czech film director, theatre director, actor, and screenwriter. His films often combine a humanistic view of the world with sarcasm and provocative cinematography. Some of these films are adapted from works by Czech writers such as Bohumil Hrabal and Vladislav Vančura.

Photo of Jan Švankmajer

3. Jan Švankmajer (1934 - )

With an HPI of 62.07, Jan Švankmajer is the 3rd most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Jan Švankmajer (Czech: [ˈjan ˈʃvaŋkmajɛr]; born 4 September 1934) is a Czech filmmaker and artist whose work spans several media. He is a self-labeled surrealist known for his stop-motion animations and features, which have greatly influenced other artists such as Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and many others.

Photo of G. W. Pabst

4. G. W. Pabst (1885 - 1967)

With an HPI of 61.16, G. W. Pabst is the 4th most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.

Georg Wilhelm Pabst (25 August 1885 – 29 May 1967) was an Austrian film director and screenwriter. He started as an actor and theater director, before becoming one of the most influential German-language filmmakers during the Weimar Republic.

Photo of Věra Chytilová

5. Věra Chytilová (1929 - 2014)

With an HPI of 58.69, Věra Chytilová is the 5th most famous Film Director.  Her biography has been translated into 36 different languages.

Věra Chytilová (2 February 1929 – 12 March 2014) was an avant-garde Czech film director and pioneer of Czech cinema. Banned by the Czechoslovak government in the 1960s, she is best known for her Czech New Wave film, Sedmikrásky (Daisies). Her subsequent films screened at international film festivals, including Vlčí bouda (1987), which screened at the 37th Berlin International Film Festival, A Hoof Here, a Hoof There (1989), which screened at the 16th Moscow International Film Festival, and The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday (1992), which screened at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival. For her work, she received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Medal of Merit and the Czech Lion award.

Photo of Karel Zeman

6. Karel Zeman (1910 - 1989)

With an HPI of 58.57, Karel Zeman is the 6th most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Karel Zeman (3 November 1910 – 5 April 1989) was a Czech film director, artist, production designer and animator, best known for directing fantasy films combining live-action footage with animation. Because of his creative use of special effects and animation in his films, he has often been called the "Czech Méliès".

Photo of Jiří Trnka

7. Jiří Trnka (1912 - 1969)

With an HPI of 56.92, Jiří Trnka is the 7th most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 29 different languages.

Jiří Trnka (Czech: [ˈjɪr̝iː ˈtr̩ŋka]; 24 February 1912 – 30 December 1969) was a Czech puppet-maker, illustrator, motion-picture animator and film director.In addition to his extensive career as an illustrator, especially of children's books, he is best known for his work in animation with puppets, which began in 1946. Most of his films were intended for adults and many were adaptations of literary works. Because of his influence in animation, he was called "the Walt Disney of Eastern Europe", despite the great differences between their works. He received the international Hans Christian Andersen Medal for illustrators in 1968, recognizing his career contribution to children's literature.

Photo of Karel Reisz

8. Karel Reisz (1926 - 2002)

With an HPI of 55.31, Karel Reisz is the 8th most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.

Karel Reisz (21 July 1926 – 25 November 2002) was a Czech-born British filmmaker, one of the pioneers of the new realist strain in British cinema during the 1950s and 1960s. Two of the best-known films he directed are Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), a classic of kitchen sink realism, and the romantic period drama The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981).

Photo of Václav Vorlíček

9. Václav Vorlíček (1930 - 2019)

With an HPI of 53.68, Václav Vorlíček is the 9th most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Václav Vorlíček (3 June 1930 – 5 February 2019) was a Czech film director. He studied filmmaking at FAMU from 1951 to 1956, and began directing feature films since the early 1960s. His filmography includes several comedies made in collaboration with screenwriter Miloš Macourek. He directed several children's and fairytale films, most notably Tři oříšky pro Popelku (1973), a Christmas film classic in many European countries. The director was a widower and father of two daughters. He died in his hometown Prague, aged 88, from cancer.

Photo of František Čáp

10. František Čáp (1913 - 1972)

With an HPI of 52.18, František Čáp is the 10th most famous Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

František Čáp (7 December 1913 – 12 January 1972), also known as Franz Cap in Germany, was a Czech and later a Yugoslav film director and screenwriter. He directed 32 films between 1939 and 1970. Having created Slovene film classics such as Vesna, Ne čakaj na maj and Our Car, he is also one of the most popular directors of early Slovene cinema in 1950s and the 1960s.

Pantheon has 25 people classified as film directors born between 1885 and 1967. Of these 25, 3 (12.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living film directors include Jan Švankmajer, Jan Svěrák, and Jan Hřebejk. The most famous deceased film directors include Miloš Forman, Jiří Menzel, and G. W. Pabst. As of April 2022, 1 new film directors have been added to Pantheon including Jiří Weiss.

Living Film Directors

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Deceased Film Directors

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Newly Added Film Directors (2022)

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Which Film Directors were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 22 most globally memorable Film Directors since 1700.