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THE MASTERS

The 100 best directors of the last 25 years, ranked according to thousands of critics’ reviews

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise.
Sony Pictures Classic
Richard Linklater just might be the greatest modern movie director.
  • Dan Kopf
By Dan Kopf

Data editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Richard Linklater, the man behind the movies BoyhoodBefore Sunrise, Dazed and Confused, and School of Rock is the greatest director of the last 25 years. He is followed in excellence by the British realist Mike Leigh and the Iranian new wave master Jafar Panahi.

That’s according to one way of ranking directors, based on critical reviews.

To rank the greatest modern directors, Quartz analyzed data from the website Metacritic. Metacritic takes movie reviews and converts them into a numerical score, and then combines those scores to give movies a 0-100 overall rating. For example, 2017 Oscar frontrunner La La Land has a Metacritic rating of 93, based on 53 different reviews. Passengers, the panned movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, received a rating of 44.

A few caveats: The vast majority of the reviews come from American critics, so the movies included also skew American—though many foreign films with distribution in the US also receive ratings. To filter out one- or two-hit-wonder directors, we stuck to directors who had made six or more movies. We took each director’s six highest-scoring movies since 1992 and averaged their scores. (As a measure of up-and-coming relative newcomers, the highest-rated director with three feature movies under his belt is La La Land director Damien Chazelle.)

Hate his work or love it, Richard Linklater topped our list. His cause is helped tremendously by the fact that Boyhood is one of the three movies ever to receive a perfect rating of 100—the others are Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Red.

This table shows the top 100 directors, based on our methodology:

RankDirectorAverage rating of top six movies
1Richard Linklater88.5
2Mike Leigh85.7
3Jafar Panahi85.5
4Jean-Pierre Dardenne85.2
5The Coen Brothers84.7
6Hirokazu Koreeda83.2
7Steven Spielberg82.3
8Martin Scorsese81.7
9Pedro Almodavar81.5
10Werner Herzog81.5
11Paul Thomas Anderson80.8
12Michael Haneke80.5
13Clint Eastwood80.3
14Steven Soderbergh80.3
15Olivier Assayas80.0
16Peter Jackson80.0
17David O. Russell79.8
18Spike Lee79.2
19Quentin Tarantino78.8
20Michael Winterbottom78.5
21Alex Gibney78.3
22Stephen Frears78.3
23Yimou Zhang78.2
24Jia Zhangke78.2
25Noah Baumbach77.8
26Ridley Scott77.8
27Christopher Nolan77.7
28Jonathan Demme77.7
29Wes Anderson77.5
30Guillermo del Toro77.0
31Ang Lee76.8
32Danny Boyle76.8
33David Fincher76.5
34David Cronenberg76.2
35Kevin Macdonald76.2
36Errol Morris76.0
37Kar-Wai Wong75.5
38Jim Jarmusch75.3
39Paul Greengrass75.3
40Robert Altman74.7
41Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu74.5
42Ron Howard74.2
43Andre Techine74.0
44Denis Villeneuve74.0
45Francois Ozon73.8
46Ken Loach73.8
47Woody Allen73.3
48Fatih Akin73.2
49Catherine Breillat72.8
50Claire Denis72.5
51Roger Michell72.5
52Bruno Dumont72.3
53Nicolas Winding Refn72.0
54Tim Burton72.0
55Claude Chabrol71.8
56David Gordon Green71.8
57Michel Gondry71.8
58Roman Polanski71.8
59Chan-wook Park71.7
60Ki-duk Kim71.5
61Kirby Dick71.5
62Michael Apted71.0
63Robert Zemeckis70.7
64Michael Mann70.5
65Terrence Malick70.0
66Darren Aronofsky69.8
67David Mamet69.8
68Susanne Bier69.8
69Kiyoshi Kurosawa69.7
70Liz Garbus69.7
71Todd Solondz69.7
72Jon Favreau69.5
73Sam Raimi69.3
74Neil Jordan69.0
75John Madden68.7
76Johnnie To68.7
77Lars von Trier68.7
78Bryan Singer68.5
79David Yates68.5
80James Mangold68.5
81Michael Almereyda68.3
82Shane Meadows68.3
83Jean-Pierre Jeunet68.2
84Raymond De Felitta67.8
85Ben Wheatley67.7
86Doug Liman67.7
87Walter Salles67.7
88Ulrich Seidl67.5
89Carl Franklin67.3
90David Mackenzie67.3
91Alastair Fothergill66.8
92Anne Fontaine66.7
93Lone Scherfig66.5
94Sam Mendes66.3
95Bill Condon66.2
96Jason Reitman66.0
97Mike Newell65.8
98Patrice Leconte65.8
99Curtis Hanson65.7
100Michael Moore65.7

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