The Most Famous

FILM DIRECTORS from India

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This page contains a list of the greatest Indian Film Directors. The pantheon dataset contains 1,580 Film Directors, 45 of which were born in India. This makes India the birth place of the 7th most number of Film Directors behind Germany and Russia.

Top 10

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

Photo of Satyajit Ray

1. Satyajit Ray (1921 - 1992)

With an HPI of 71.43, Satyajit Ray is the most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 114 different languages on wikipedia.

Satyajit Ray (Bengali pronunciation: [ˈʃɔtːodʒit ˈrai̯] (listen); 2 May 1921 – 23 April 1992) was an Indian film director, scriptwriter, documentary filmmaker, author, essayist, lyricist, magazine editor, illustrator, calligrapher, and music composer. Ray is widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. He is celebrated for works such as The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959), The Music Room (1958), The Big City (1963) and Charulata (1964). Ray was born in Calcutta to renowned writer Sukumar Ray who was prominent in the field of arts and literature. Starting his career as a commercial artist, he was drawn into independent filmmaking after meeting French filmmaker Jean Renoir and viewing Vittorio De Sica's Italian neorealist film Bicycle Thieves (1948) during a visit to London. Ray directed 36 films, including feature films, documentaries and shorts and authored several short stories and novels, primarily for young children and teenagers. Feluda, the sleuth, and Professor Shonku, the scientist in his science fiction stories, Tarini Khuro, the storyteller and Lalmohan Ganguly, the novelist are popular fictional characters created by him. In 1978, he was awarded an honorary degree by Oxford University. Ray's first film, Pather Panchali (1955), won eleven international prizes, including the inaugural Best Human Document award at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. This film, along with Aparajito (1956) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (1959), form The Apu Trilogy. Ray did the scripting, casting, scoring, and editing, and designed his own credit titles and publicity material. Ray received many major awards in his career, including 36 Indian National Film Awards, a Golden Lion, a Golden Bear, 2 Silver Bears, many additional awards at international film festivals and ceremonies, and an Academy Honorary Award in 1992. The Government of India honoured him with the Bharat Ratna, its highest civilian award, in 1992. Ray had received many notable awards during his lifetime.

Photo of Lindsay Anderson

2. Lindsay Anderson (1923 - 1994)

With an HPI of 64.64, Lindsay Anderson is the 2nd most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.

Lindsay Gordon Anderson (17 April 1923 – 30 August 1994) was a British feature-film, theatre and documentary director, film critic, and leading-light of the Free Cinema movement and of the British New Wave. He is most widely remembered for his 1968 film if...., which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival in 1969 and marked Malcolm McDowell's cinematic debut. He is also notable, though not a professional actor, for playing a minor role in the Academy Award-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire. McDowell produced a 2007 documentary about his experiences with Anderson, Never Apologize.

Photo of Michael Radford

3. Michael Radford (1946 - )

With an HPI of 64.41, Michael Radford is the 3rd most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Michael James Radford (born 24 February 1946) is an Anglo-Indian-born English film director and screenwriter. He began his career as a documentary director and television comedy writer before transitioning into features in the early 1980s. His best-known credits include the 1984 film adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four starring John Hurt and Richard Burton (in his final role), the Shakespeare adaptation The Merchant of Venice, the true crime drama White Mischief, and the 1994 Italian-language comedy drama Il Postino: The Postman, for which he won the BAFTA Awards for Best Direction and Best Film Not in the English Language, and earned Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Photo of M. Night Shyamalan

4. M. Night Shyamalan (1970 - )

With an HPI of 63.97, M. Night Shyamalan is the 4th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 54 different languages.

Manoj Nelliyattu "M. Night" Shyamalan ( SHAH-mə-lahn; born August 6, 1970) is an Indian-American filmmaker and actor. He is known for making original films with contemporary supernatural plots and twist endings. He was born in Mahé, India, and raised in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. The cumulative gross of his films exceeds $3.3 billion globally.He made his directorial debut in 1992 with his first movie Praying with Anger. His second movie was the comedy-drama film Wide Awake (1998). His most well-received films include the supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense (1999), the superhero thriller Unbreakable (2000), the science fiction thriller Signs (2002), and the period-piece thriller The Village (2004). For The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan received nominations for the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Afterward, Shyamalan released a series of poorly received but sometimes financially successful movies, including the dark fantasy Lady in the Water (2006), the eco-thriller The Happening (2008), The Last Airbender (2010) (an adaptation based on the first season of the Nickelodeon animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender), and the science fiction film After Earth (2013). Following the financial failure of After Earth, Shyamalan's career was revived with the release of the found footage horror film The Visit (2015), the psychological thriller Split (2016), and the superhero thriller Glass (2019). With a total budget of $34 million between them, these three films earned a combined box office of $625 million. Glass is the third and final chapter of his Unbreakable film series, which commenced in 2000. His latest feature film was Old, which was released in 2021 to mixed reviews. In addition to his directorial work, Shyamalan was story creator and a producer for the horror film Devil (2010). Shyamalan was also called in for an uncredited rewrite for the teen film She's All That (1999) and also served as a writer for the film Stuart Little (1999). He is also one of the executive producers and occasional director of Wayward Pines and the critically acclaimed series Servant. Shyamalan is also known for filming and setting his films in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania along with nearby Reading, Pennsylvania. Most of his commercially successful films were co-produced and released by Walt Disney Studios' Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures and Universal imprints. In 2008, Shyamalan was awarded the Padma Shri by the government of India.

Photo of Dadasaheb Phalke

5. Dadasaheb Phalke (1870 - 1944)

With an HPI of 63.55, Dadasaheb Phalke is the 5th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 32 different languages.

Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, popularly known as Dadasaheb Phalke (pronunciation ) (30 April 1870 – 16 February 1944), was an Indian producer-director-screenwriter, known as "the Father of Indian cinema". His debut film, Raja Harishchandra, was the first Indian movie released in 1913, and is now known as India's first full-length feature film. He made 95 feature-length films and 27 short films in his career, spanning 19 years, until 1937, including his most noted works: Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma (1918) and Kaliya Mardan (1919). The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, awarded for lifetime contribution to cinema by the Government of India, is named in his honour.

Photo of Dara Singh

6. Dara Singh (1928 - 2012)

With an HPI of 61.06, Dara Singh is the 6th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Dara Singh Randhawa (born Deedar Singh Randhawa; 19 November 1928 – 12 July 2012) was an Indian professional wrestler, actor and politician. He started acting in 1952 and was the first sportsman to be nominated to the Rajya Sabha (upper house) of India. He worked as Hindi and Punjabi film producer, director and writer, and he acted in films and television. He is known for his undefeated worldwide streak in wrestling and later being a successful movie star. He got defeated by Brahmdev Mishra of Gorakhpur in culcutta Dharmtalla. His role of Hanuman in the film Bajrangbali (1976) and in Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan made him popular. Singh was inducted into the Legacy Category of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

Photo of Guru Dutt

7. Guru Dutt (1925 - 1964)

With an HPI of 57.84, Guru Dutt is the 7th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.

Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone (9 July 1925 – 10 October 1964), better known as Guru Dutt, was an Indian film director, producer, actor, choreographer, and writer. He was included among CNN's "Top 25 Asian Actors" in 2012.Dutt was lauded for his artistry, notably his usage of close-up shots, lighting, and depictions of melancholia. He directed a total of 8 hindi films, several of which have gained a cult following internationally. This includes Pyaasa (1957), which made its way onto Time magazine's 100 Greatest Movies list, as well as Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960), and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), all of which are frequently listed among the greatest films in Hindi cinema.

Photo of Khwaja Ahmad Abbas

8. Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (1914 - 1987)

With an HPI of 57.61, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas is the 8th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Khwaja Ahmad Abbas (7 June 1914 – 1 June 1987), also known as K. A. Abbas, was an Indian film director, screenwriter, novelist, and a journalist in the Urdu, Hindi and English languages. He won four National Film Awards in India, and internationally his films won the Palme d'Or (Grand Prize) at the Cannes Film Festival (out of three Palme d'Or nominations) and the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. As a director and screenwriter, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas is considered one of the pioneers of Indian parallel or neo-realistic cinema, and as a screenwriter he is also known for writing Raj Kapoor's best films.As a director, he made Hindustani films. Dharti Ke Lal (1946), about the Bengal famine of 1943, was one of Indian cinema's first social-realist films, and opened up the overseas market for Indian films in the Soviet Union. Pardesi (1957) was nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Shehar Aur Sapna (1963) won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film, while Saat Hindustani (1969) and Do Boond Pani (1972) both won the National Film Awards for Best Feature Film on National Integration. As a screenwriter, he wrote a number of neo-realistic films, such as Dharti Ke Lal (which he directed), Neecha Nagar (1946) which won the Palme d'Or at the first Cannes Film Festival, Naya Sansar (1941), Jagte Raho (1956), and Saat Hindustani (which he also directed). He is also known for writing the best of Raj Kapoor's films, including the Palme d'Or nominated Awaara (1951), as well as Shree 420 (1955), Mera Naam Joker (1970), Bobby (1973) and Henna (1991).His column ‘Last Page’ is one of the longest-running columns in the history of Indian journalism. The column began in 1935, in The Bombay Chronicle, and moved to the Blitz after the Chronicle's closure, where it continued until his death in 1987. He was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1969.

Photo of Mahesh Bhatt

9. Mahesh Bhatt (1948 - )

With an HPI of 56.36, Mahesh Bhatt is the 9th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Mahesh Bhatt (born 20 September 1948) is an Indian film director, producer and screenwriter known for his works in Hindi cinema. A stand-out film from his earlier period is Saaransh (1984), screened at the 14th Moscow International Film Festival. It became India's official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for that year. The 1986 film Naam was his first piece of commercial cinema. In 1987, he turned producer with the film Kabzaa under the banner, "Vishesh Films", with his brother Mukesh Bhatt. Bhatt went on to become one of the most recognized director of the Indian film industry in the next decade, giving both art-house works such as Daddy (1989) and Swayam (1991), as well as commercial romantic hits like Awaargi (1990), Aashiqui (1990) and Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (1991), in which he cast Pooja with actor Aamir Khan. He next directed Sadak (1991) which remains his highest grossing either directed or produced under the banner, "Vishesh Films". During the 1990s Bhatt won critical acclaim for Sir (1993), along with other hits such as Gumraah (1993) and Criminal (1994). In 1994 he won the National Film Award – Special Jury Award for directing Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke (1993). In 1999, he directed the autobiographical Zakhm, which has garnered the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration. Bhatt has produced contemporary films such as Jism, Murder and Woh Lamhe. He co-owns film producing company Vishesh Films with his brother Mukesh Bhatt.

Photo of Adoor Gopalakrishnan

10. Adoor Gopalakrishnan (1941 - )

With an HPI of 55.75, Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the 10th most famous Indian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan (born 3 July 1941) is an Indian film director, script writer, and producer and is regarded as one of the most notable and renowned filmmakers in India. With the release of his first feature film Swayamvaram (1972), Gopalakrishnan pioneered the new wave in Malayalam cinema during the 1970s. In a career spanning over five decades, Gopalakrishnan has made only 12 feature films to date. His films are made in the Malayalam language and often depict the society and culture of his native state Kerala. Nearly all of his films premiered at Venice, Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival. Along with Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, Gopalakrishnan is one of the most recognized Indian film directors in world cinema.For his films, Gopalakrishnan has won the National Film Award 16 times, next only to Ray and Sen. He also won the Kerala State Film Awards 17 times. He was awarded the State honours Padma Shri in 1984 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2006. He received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2004 for his valuable contributions to Indian cinema. In 2016, he was awarded the J. C. Daniel Award, Kerala government's highest honour for contributions to Malayalam cinema. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have established an archive and research center, the Adoor Gopalakrishnan Film Archive and Research Center, at their Peck School of Arts where research students will have access to 35 mm prints of the eleven feature films and several documentaries made by Gopalakrishnan.

Pantheon has 45 people classified as film directors born between 1870 and 1974. Of these 45, 31 (68.89%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living film directors include Michael Radford, M. Night Shyamalan, and Mahesh Bhatt. The most famous deceased film directors include Satyajit Ray, Lindsay Anderson, and Dadasaheb Phalke. As of October 2020, 10 new film directors have been added to Pantheon including B. R. Chopra, Basu Chatterjee, and V. Shantaram.

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 14 most globally memorable Film Directors since 1700.