Top 10 Best Directors of 21st Century

Take a look at the below list of Top 10 Best Directors of 21st Century. The making of a film is a true team effort. There are numerous people involved in the film from the make up team and costume department to the runners, camera crew, producers, executive producers, actors and of course the director. It is the director who has a critical role in making what can sometimes be a fairly average film good or make a good film great. They add the subtleties and encourage the actors to work at their very best level. This list looks at ten of the best directors of this century. They come from across the world and include a mix of men and women (although on this note, the movie making world could do a lot more still to encourage women to rise through the ranks of the industry and take on senior roles in film making such as directing. Often the system is biased against them). This said, everyone who features in the list is an incredibly strong individual and they shape their films around the themes that they feel are important to get across to the people who watch the movie.

Film making can be incredibly influential as an art form and it remains incredibly popular. Short films are also a popular model and several of the directors featured on this list have made short films in the past or continue to make them. The internet has created a new platform for film makers and directors and it is likely that new names will come through the ranks through independent film making, via the internet, in the future. Here we go. The top ten best directors of the 21st century:

List of Top 10 Best Directors of 21st Century

10. Steven Soderbergh


Steven Soderbergh is an American film producer and director (and editor/cinematographer) and has a very distinctive filmmaking style. His films this century include Erin Brockovich (2000), Traffic (2000), Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Full Frontal (2002), Solaris (2002), Ocean’s Twelve (2004), Bubble (2005), The Good German (2006), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), Che (2008), The Girlfriend Experience (2009), and The Informant! (2009), many of which went on to achieve box office success and a realm of awards.

9. Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky Top Most Popular Directors of 21st Century 2018

Darren Aronofsky is another American director who is known for his cutting edge, often surreal and disturbing films. Emotional turmoil often features as a subject in the films that he directs. His films include Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Fountain (2006), and The Wrestler (2008), all well known around the world as having received critical acclaim.

8. Gus Van Sant

Gus Van Sant Top Famous Directors of 21st Century 2019

Another American director who likes to work on films that highlight the plight of marginalised subcultures, particularly homosexuals. His early career was dedicated to producing tv commercials but he moved to film in the 1990s. His best movies include Finder Forrester (2000), Gerry (2002), Elephant (2003), Last Days (2005), Paranoid Park (2007), and Milk (2008). He is also well known for directing Matt Damon and Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, which won an oscar in 1997.

7. Joachim Trier

Joachim Trier Top 10 Best Directors of 21st Century

Joachim Trier is a Norweigian film director who made his debut in 2006 with the film Reprise. He is also famous for his scriptwriting but it was in Reprise that his talent for making films incredible trhough direction was made apparent. He is a jury member for the short film section at the Cannes Film Festival.

6. Sarah Polley


The first female director to feature on the list, Sarah Polley likes to work on films that show the traditional values of a country. She is Canadian and started her career as an actress, before moving into directing with her first film ‘Away from Her’. Her best films include Away From Her, Take This Waltz, and Stories We Tell. The Toronto Film Critics Association awarded Stories We Tell the $100,000 prize for best Canadian film of the year at the Toronto Film Festival. She is widely regarded as one of the best directors in the world at the moment, hence why she definitely deserves a place on this list of Top 10 Best Directors of 21st Century.

5. Lucrecia Martel


Lucrecia Martel is the first person on this list to come from South America. She is an Argentine film director and producer and is widely regarded as being a member of the ‘New Argentine Cinema’ which is a school of theatre and film that began in around 1998. Her movies include La Ciénaga (The Swamp), The Holy Girl, and The Headless Woman. She is perhaps most well known for martial arts movies or at least movies that include martial arts within them.

4. Cristian Mungiu

Cristian Mungiu Top Popular Directors of 21st Century 2018

Cristian Mungiu is a multi-award winning Romanian director who has only been directing films since 2002, after taking a career move towards film from journalism. Some of his most fanous films include 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and Beyond the Hills. In 2016 he won the best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his role in directing the movie Graduation.

3. Charlie Kaufman

Charlie Kaufman Best Directors of 21st Century 2017

Charlie Kaufman is an American screenwriter, producer and director, perhaps best known for writing Being John Malkovich (1999). He made his directorial debut with Synecdoche, New York (2008), which was particularly well-received. He is an incredibly hard worker and has risen up the ranks of the industry on many levels, including direction. He is sometimes described as a surrealist, although not all of his films go down this line. He does however like to explore themese including identity crisis, mortality and the meaning of life.

2. Asghar Farhadi

Asghar Farhadi Top 10 Best Directors of 21st Century 2017

Asghar Farhadi is an internationally acclaimed Iranian director and screen writer. He has won many awards of the years but these include a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This was for his movie called Separation. His movies include Dancing in the Dust, Beautiful City, Fireworks Wednesday, About Elly, and A Separation. In 2012, Time Magazine named him as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people. His films are often seen as a microcosm of modern Iran and he likes to explore themes such as class and social structure and social relations. His most recent movie, The Salesman, has had good reviews and he is accredited as the director, writer and producer. He likes to have full control over his movies although does not always work in all of these capacities.

1. Apichatpong Weerasethakul


Apichatpong Weerasethakul simply has to feature at the top of this list. He is a Thai director and has made some wonderful films over the years. His movies include Blissfully Yours, Tropical Malady, and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. He often uses ‘other worldly’ sounds and images in his films and the themes he explores are varied. They include nature, western perceptions of Asia and Thailand, sexuality (and homosexuality) and dreams. His movies often do not have conventional structures and can sometimes be quite difficult to follow. Nonetheless, he is a genius movie maker and deserves to be at the top of this list.

So, there we have it. Ten of the best directors of the twenty first century. As you have seen, they come from across the world, showing that film making across the globe is going strong. The brilliant network of film festivals means that all sorts of film makers and directors have the opportunity to show off their work and have the potential to make it big. What is most required however is dedication and hard work. All of the people on this list have only got to where they are through such hard graft.