The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Danish Film Directors. The pantheon dataset contains 1,580 Film Directors, 21 of which were born in Denmark. This makes Denmark the birth place of the 14th most number of Film Directors behind Czechia and Hungary.

Top 10

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

Photo of Lars von Trier

1. Lars von Trier (1956 - )

With an HPI of 75.65, Lars von Trier is the most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 65 different languages on wikipedia.

Lars von Trier (born Lars Trier; 30 April 1956) is a Danish film director and screenwriter with a prolific and controversial career spanning more than four decades. His work is known for its genre and technical innovation, confrontational examination of existential, social, and political issues, and his treatment of subjects such as mercy, sacrifice, and mental health.Among his more than 100 awards and 200 nominations at film festivals worldwide, von Trier has received: the Palme d'Or (for Dancer in the Dark), the Grand Prix (for Breaking the Waves), the Prix du Jury (for Europa), and the Technical Grand Prize (for The Element of Crime and Europa) at the Cannes Film Festival. Von Trier is the founder and shareholder of the Danish film production company Zentropa Films, which has sold more than 350 million tickets and garnered seven Academy Award nominations.

Photo of Carl Theodor Dreyer

2. Carl Theodor Dreyer (1889 - 1968)

With an HPI of 73.54, Carl Theodor Dreyer is the 2nd most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 48 different languages.

Carl Theodor Dreyer (Danish: [ˈkʰɑˀl ˈtsʰe̝ːotɒ ˈtʁɑjˀɐ]; 3 February 1889 – 20 March 1968), commonly known as Carl Th. Dreyer, was a Danish film director. His movies are noted for their emotional austerity and slow, stately pacing. Frequent themes that his films explore are social intolerance, the inescapability of fate and death, and the power of evil in earthly life. Dreyer is regarded by many critics and filmmakers as one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema.His 1928 movie The Passion of Joan of Arc is considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time, renowned for its cinematography and use of close-ups. It frequently appears on Sight & Sound's lists of the greatest films ever made, and in 2012's poll it was voted the 9th best film ever made by film critics and 37th by film directors. His other best known films include Michael (1924) Vampyr (1932), Day of Wrath (1943), Ordet (1955), and Gertrud (1964).

Photo of Bille August

3. Bille August (1948 - )

With an HPI of 69.98, Bille August is the 3rd most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Bille August RD (born 9 November 1948) is a Danish director, screenwriter, and cinematographer of film and television. In a career spanning over four decades, he has been the recipient of numerous accolades, making him one of the most acclaimed contemporary Danish filmmakers. August's 1987 film Pelle the Conqueror won the Palme d'Or, Academy Award and Golden Globe Award. He is one of only eight directors to win the Palme d'Or twice, winning the award again in 1992 for The Best Intentions, based on the autobiographical script by Ingmar Bergman. His filmography includes The House of the Spirits, based on the novel by Isabel Allende; Smilla's Sense of Snow; Les Misérables; Night Train to Lisbon, Silent Heart, The Chinese Widow and A Fortunate Man. He has received five Robert Awards (including Best Film and Best Director) and three Bodil Awards for Best Danish Film. He is also a Knight (Ridder) of the Order of the Dannebrog.

Photo of Gabriel Axel

4. Gabriel Axel (1918 - 2014)

With an HPI of 67.89, Gabriel Axel is the 4th most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 30 different languages.

Axel Gabriel Erik Mørch better known as Gabriel Axel (18 April 1918 – 9 February 2014) was a Danish film director, actor, writer and producer, best known for Babette's Feast (1987), which he wrote and directed.

Photo of Susanne Bier

5. Susanne Bier (1960 - )

With an HPI of 64.99, Susanne Bier is the 5th most famous Danish Film Director.  Her biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Susanne Bier (Danish: [suˈsænə ˈpiɐ̯ˀ]; born 15 April 1960) is a Danish film director, screenwriter, and producer. She is best known for her feature films Brothers (2004), After the Wedding (2006), In a Better World (2010), and Bird Box (2018), and the TV miniseries The Night Manager on AMC and The Undoing on HBO. Bier is the first female director to win a Golden Globe Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and a European Film Award, collectively.

Photo of Thomas Vinterberg

6. Thomas Vinterberg (1969 - )

With an HPI of 63.26, Thomas Vinterberg is the 6th most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.

Thomas Vinterberg (Danish: [ˈtsʰʌmæs ˈve̝nˀtɐˌpɛɐ̯ˀ]; born 19 May 1969) is a Danish film director who, along with Lars von Trier, co-founded the Dogme 95 movement in filmmaking, which established rules for simplifying movie production. He is best known for the films The Celebration (1998), Submarino (2010), The Hunt (2012), Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), and Another Round (2020). For Another Round, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

Photo of Erik Balling

7. Erik Balling (1924 - 2005)

With an HPI of 62.05, Erik Balling is the 7th most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Erik Balling (29 November 1924 – 19 November 2005) was a Danish TV and film director. He created two of Denmark's most popular TV-series, Matador and Huset på Christianshavn. His feature film Qivitoq (1956) was nominated for a Golden Palm at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival, and for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film. His 1962 film Den kære familie was entered into the 3rd Moscow International Film Festival.Together with Henning Bahs, he also created the hugely popular series of Olsen Gang feature films.

Photo of Henning Carlsen

8. Henning Carlsen (1927 - 2014)

With an HPI of 61.81, Henning Carlsen is the 8th most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Henning Carlsen (4 June 1927 – 30 May 2014) was a Danish film director, screenwriter, and producer most noted for his documentaries and his contributions to the style of cinéma vérité. Carlsen's 1966 social-realistic drama Hunger (Sult) was nominated for the Palme D'Or and won the Bodil Award for Best Danish Film. Carlsen also won the Bodil Award the following year for the comedy People Meet and Sweet Music Fills the Heart. Acting as his own producer since 1960, Carlsen has directed more than 25 films, 19 for which he wrote the screenplay. In 2006, he received the Golden Swan Lifetime Achievement Award at the Copenhagen International Film Festival.

Photo of Urban Gad

9. Urban Gad (1879 - 1947)

With an HPI of 61.58, Urban Gad is the 9th most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Peter Urban Bruun Gad (12 February 1879 in Korsør, Denmark – 26 December 1947 in Copenhagen, Denmark) was a Danish film director. He directed 40 films between 1910 and 1927. His wife Asta Nielsen starred in 30 of his films, also in his début the film Afgrunden (The Abyss) from 1910. They moved to Germany in 1911 where Gad worked with Paul Davidson until 1922. His uncle was Paul Gauguin. His mother was the playwright Emma Gad. His films include a German-language adaptation of Gerhart Hauptmann's play The Assumption of Hannele, which Gad directed in 1922.

Photo of Jørgen Leth

10. Jørgen Leth (1937 - )

With an HPI of 60.92, Jørgen Leth is the 10th most famous Danish Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Jørgen Leth (Danish: [ˈjɶɐ̯ˀn̩ ˈlet]; born 14 June 1937) is a Danish poet and film director who is considered a leading figure in experimental documentary film making. Most notable are his documentary A Sunday in Hell (1977) and his surrealistic short film The Perfect Human (1968). He is also a sports commentator for Danish television and is represented by the film production company Sunset Productions.

Pantheon has 21 people classified as film directors born between 1869 and 1977. Of these 21, 13 (61.90%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living film directors include Lars von Trier, Bille August, and Susanne Bier. The most famous deceased film directors include Carl Theodor Dreyer, Gabriel Axel, and Erik Balling. As of October 2020, 2 new film directors have been added to Pantheon including Astrid Henning-Jensen and Tobias Lindholm.

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 8 most globally memorable Film Directors since 1700.