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The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Italian Film Directors. The pantheon dataset contains 1,581 Film Directors, 82 of which were born in Italy. This makes Italy the birth place of the 4th most number of Film Directors behind France and United Kingdom.

Top 10

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

Photo of Federico Fellini

1. Federico Fellini (1920 - 1993)

With an HPI of 79.23, Federico Fellini is the most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 115 different languages on wikipedia.

Federico Fellini (Italian: [fedeˈriːko felˈliːni]; 20 January 1920 – 31 October 1993) was an Italian filmmaker. He is known for his distinctive style, which blends fantasy and baroque images with earthiness. He is recognized as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time. His films have ranked highly in critical polls such as that of Cahiers du Cinéma and Sight & Sound, which lists his 1963 film 8+1⁄2 as the 10th-greatest film. Fellini's best-known films include I vitelloni (1953), La Strada (1954), Nights of Cabiria (1957), La Dolce Vita (1960), 8½ (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Fellini Satyricon (1969), Roma (1972), Amarcord (1973), and Fellini's Casanova (1976). Fellini was nominated for 17 Academy Awards over the course of his career, winning a total of four in the category of Best Foreign Language Film (the most for any director in the history of the award). He received an honorary award for Lifetime Achievement at the 65th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Fellini also won the Palme d'Or for La Dolce Vita in 1960, two times the Moscow International Film Festival in 1963 and 1987, and the Career Golden Lion at the 42nd Venice International Film Festival in 1985. In Sight & Sound's 2002 list of the greatest directors of all time, Fellini was ranked 2nd in the directors' poll and 7th in the critics' poll.

Photo of Pier Paolo Pasolini

2. Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922 - 1975)

With an HPI of 75.12, Pier Paolo Pasolini is the 2nd most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italian pronunciation: [ˈpjɛr ˈpaːolo pazoˈliːni]; 5 March 1922 – 2 November 1975) was an Italian poet, film director, writer, screenwriter, actor and playwright. He is considered one of the defining public intellectuals in 20th-century Italian history, influential both as an artist and a political figure.A controversial personality due to his straightforward style, Pasolini's legacy remains contentious. Openly gay while also a vocal advocate for heritage language revival, cultural conservatism, and Christian values in his youth, Pasolini instead became an avowed Marxist shortly after the end of World War II, he began voicing extremely harsh criticism of Italian petty bourgeoisie and what he saw as the Americanization, cultural degeneration, and greed-driven consumerism taking over Italian culture. As a filmmaker, Pasolini often juxtaposed socio-political polemics with an extremely graphic and critical examination of taboo sexual matters. A prominent protagonist of the Roman intellectual scene during the post-war era, Pasolini became an established and major figure in European literature and cinema. Pasolini's unsolved and extremely brutal abduction, torture, and murder at Ostia in November 1975 prompted an outcry in Italy, where it continues to be a matter of heated debate. Recent leads by Italian cold case investigators suggest a contract killing by the Banda della Magliana, a criminal organisation with close links to far-right terrorism, as the most likely cause.

Photo of Luchino Visconti

3. Luchino Visconti (1906 - 1976)

With an HPI of 75.10, Luchino Visconti is the 3rd most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.

Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo (Italian: [luˈkiːno viˈskonti di moˈdroːne]; 2 November 1906 – 17 March 1976) was an Italian filmmaker, theatre and opera director, and screenwriter. He was one of the fathers of cinematic neorealism, but later moved towards luxurious, sweeping epics dealing with themes of beauty, decadence, death, and European history, especially the decay of the nobility and the bourgeoisie. Critic Jonathan Jones wrote that “no one did as much to shape Italian cinema as Luchino Visconti.”Born into a Milanese noble family with close ties to the artistic world, Visconti began his career in France as an assistant director to Jean Renoir. His 1943 directorial debut, Ossessione, was condemned by the Fascist regime for its unvarnished depictions of working-class characters, but is today renowned as a pioneering work of Italian cinema, generally regarded as the first neorealist film. During World War II, he served in the anti-fascist resistance, and afterward was active in left-wing politics. Visconti’s best-known films include Senso (1954) and The Leopard (1963); historical melodramas adapted from Italian literary classics, the gritty drama Rocco and His Brothers (1960), and his "German Trilogy" – The Damned (1969), Death in Venice (1971) and Ludwig (1973). He was also an accomplished director of operas and stage plays, both in Italy and abroad, and held a close association with La Scala in his hometown of Milan.Visconti received several notable accolades, including both the Palme d'Or (for The Leopard) and the Golden Lion (for 1965’s Sandra), the latter out of five total nominations. He won the David di Donatello for Best Director twice and the Nastro d'Argento for Best Director four times, and was both an Oscar and BAFTA Award nominee. Six of Visconti’s films are on the list of 100 Italian films to be saved. Many of his works are regarded as highly-influential to future generations of filmmakers, including Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.

Photo of Sergio Leone

4. Sergio Leone (1929 - 1989)

With an HPI of 73.85, Sergio Leone is the 4th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.

Sergio Leone (Italian: [ˈsɛrdʒo leˈoːne]; 3 January 1929 – 30 April 1989) was an Italian film director, producer, and screenwriter, credited as the pioneer of the spaghetti Western genre. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential directors in the history of cinema.Leone's film-making style includes juxtaposing extreme close-up shots with lengthy long shots. His films include the Dollars Trilogy of Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966); and the Once Upon a Time films: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Duck, You Sucker! (1971), and Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

Photo of Bernardo Bertolucci

5. Bernardo Bertolucci (1941 - 2018)

With an HPI of 73.21, Bernardo Bertolucci is the 5th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 74 different languages.

Bernardo Bertolucci OMRI (Italian: [berˈnardo bertoˈluttʃi]; 16 March 1941 – 26 November 2018) was an Italian film director and screenwriter with a career that spanned 50 years. Considered one of the greatest directors in Italian cinema, Bertolucci's work achieved international acclaim. He was the first Italian filmmaker to win the Academy Award for Best Director for The Last Emperor (1987), one of many accolades including a BAFTA Award, a César Award, and two Golden Globes. He also received a Golden Lion in 2007, and a Honorary Palme d'Or in 2011.A protégé of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bertolucci made his directorial debut at 22. His second film, Before the Revolution (1964), earned strong international reviews and has since gained classic status, being called a "masterpiece of Italian cinema" by Film4. His 1970 film The Conformist, an adaptation of the Alberto Moravia novel, is considered a classic of international cinema, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and the prestigious Berlin Golden Bear. His 1972 erotic drama Last Tango in Paris was controversial due to its sex scenes. Bertolucci's films such as the historical epic 1900 (1976), the family drama La Luna (1979), and the darkly comedic Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981), were also controversial but acclaimed. His 1987 film The Last Emperor, a biopic of Chinese monarch Puyi, was a critical and commercial success, earning rave reviews and sweeping the 60th Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director). He followed its success with two more films in his "Oriental Trilogy" – The Sheltering Sky, an adaptation of the novel of the same name, and Little Buddha, a Buddhist religious epic. His 1996 film, Stealing Beauty, brought him his second of two Palme d'Or nominations. He continued directing well into the 21st century, releasing his final film, Me and You, in 2012. Bertolucci's films often deal with themes of politics, sexuality, history, class conflict, and social taboos; and his style has influenced several filmmakers. Several of his films have appeared on lists of the greatest films of all time.

Photo of Michelangelo Antonioni

6. Michelangelo Antonioni (1912 - 2007)

With an HPI of 72.96, Michelangelo Antonioni is the 6th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 68 different languages.

Michelangelo Antonioni (, Italian: [mikeˈlandʒelo antoˈnjoːni]; 29 September 1912 – 30 July 2007) was an Italian director and filmmaker. He is best known for his "trilogy on modernity and its discontents"—L'Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), and L'Eclisse (1962)—as well as the English-language film Blowup (1966). His films have been described as "enigmatic and intricate mood pieces" that feature elusive plots, striking visual composition, and a preoccupation with modern landscapes. His work substantially influenced subsequent art cinema. Antonioni received numerous awards and nominations throughout his career, being the only director to have won the Palme d'Or, the Golden Lion, the Golden Bear and the Golden Leopard.

Photo of Roberto Rossellini

7. Roberto Rossellini (1906 - 1977)

With an HPI of 71.22, Roberto Rossellini is the 7th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 62 different languages.

Roberto Gastone Zeffiro Rossellini (8 May 1906 – 3 June 1977) was an Italian film director, screenwriter and producer. He was one of the most prominent directors of the Italian neorealist cinema, contributing to the movement with films such as Rome, Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany, Year Zero (1948). He is also known for his films starring Ingrid Bergman, Stromboli (1950), Europe '51 (1952), Journey to Italy (1954), Fear (1954), and Joan of Arc at the Stake (1954).

Photo of Vittorio De Sica

8. Vittorio De Sica (1901 - 1974)

With an HPI of 69.92, Vittorio De Sica is the 8th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 69 different languages.

Vittorio De Sica ( də SEE-kə, Italian: [vitˈtɔːrjo de ˈsiːka]; 7 July 1901 – 13 November 1974) was an Italian film director and actor, a leading figure in the neorealist movement. Four of the films he directed won Academy Awards: Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves (honorary), while Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Il giardino dei Finzi Contini won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Indeed, the great critical success of Sciuscià (the first foreign film to be so recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) and Bicycle Thieves helped establish the permanent Best Foreign Film Award. These two films are considered part of the canon of classic cinema. Bicycle Thieves was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine's poll of filmmakers and critics in 1958, and was cited by Turner Classic Movies as one of the 15 most influential films in cinema history.De Sica was also nominated for the 1957 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing Major Rinaldi in American director Charles Vidor's 1957 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, a movie that was panned by critics and proved a box office flop. De Sica's acting was considered the highlight of the film.

Photo of Tinto Brass

9. Tinto Brass (1933 - )

With an HPI of 69.49, Tinto Brass is the 9th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 38 different languages.

Giovanni "Tinto" Brass (born 26 March 1933) is an Italian film director and screenwriter. In the 1960s and 1970s, he directed many critically acclaimed avant-garde films of various genres. Today, he is mainly known for his later work in the erotic genre, with films such as Caligula, Così fan tutte (released under the English title All Ladies Do It), Paprika, Monella (Frivolous Lola) and Trasgredire.

Photo of Franco Zeffirelli

10. Franco Zeffirelli (1923 - 2019)

With an HPI of 66.79, Franco Zeffirelli is the 10th most famous Italian Film Director.  His biography has been translated into 52 different languages.

Gian Franco Corsi Zeffirelli (12 February 1923 – 15 June 2019) was an Italian stage and film director, producer, production designer and politician. He was one of the most significant opera and theatre directors of the post–World War II era, gaining both acclaim and notoriety for his lavish stagings of classical works, as well as his film adaptations of the same. A member of the Forza Italia party, he served as the Senator for Catania between 1994 and 2001. Films he directed included the Shakespearean adaptations The Taming of the Shrew (1967), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton; Romeo and Juliet (1968), for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Director; and Hamlet (1990), starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close. His Biblical television miniseries Jesus of Nazareth (1977) won both national and international acclaim and is still frequently shown at Christmas and Easter in many countries. A Grande Ufficiale OMRI of the Italian Republic since 1977, Zeffirelli also received an honorary British knighthood in 2004 when he was created a KBE. He was awarded the Premio Colosseo in 2009 by the city of Rome.

Pantheon has 82 people classified as film directors born between 1883 and 1981. Of these 82, 24 (29.27%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living film directors include Tinto Brass, Dario Argento, and Giuseppe Tornatore. The most famous deceased film directors include Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and Luchino Visconti. As of April 2022, 5 new film directors have been added to Pantheon including Giuseppe Amato, Luciano Emmer, and Marco Tullio Giordana.

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 25 most globally memorable Film Directors since 1700.