Top 100 French Directorsby minalex | created - 18 Nov 2011 | updated - 3 months ago | Public
The list includes 5 Belgian and one French-Swiss director. Also, at least 8 foreigners (one American, one British, one Chilean, one Danish, one Georgian, one German, one Italian and one Spanish) who worked in France and made important french films.
Director | La mise en croix
The Lumiere Brothers began their career filming in locations relatively close to their home. After becoming comfortable with their instrument they began sending cameramen all over the world to direct films which they would produce. Alexandre Promio was one such cameraman. He witnessed Lumiere's ...
Producer | La Mi-Carême, Char et batailles de confettis
Although no one will ever come up with a definitive answer as to who invented the cinema (probably because no one single person was responsible), Louis Lumière has one of the strongest claims to the title - for it was he (with his brother Auguste) who invented the cinematographe : a machine that ...
3. Abel Gance
Writer | La dame aux camélias
Born an illegitimate son of a wealthy physician, Abel Flamant, and a working class mother, Francoise Perethon. He was raised by his mother and her boyfriend, who later became her husband, Adolphe Gance. Pressured by his parents, he began his working career as a lawyer's clerk in hopes of achieving ...
Director | Ordet
The illegitimate son of a Danish farmer and his Swedish housekeeper, Carl Theodor Dreyer was born in Copenhagen on the 3th of February, 1889. He spent his early years in various foster homes before being adopted by the Dreyers at the age of two. Contrary to popular belief (perhaps nourished by the ...
5. René Clair
Writer | Le silence est d'or
René Clair was born on November 11, 1898 in Paris, France as René-Lucien Chomette. He was a writer and director, known for Man About Town (1947), The Grand Maneuver (1955) and Beauties of the Night (1952). He was married to Bronia Clair. He died on March 15, 1981 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, ...
6. Jean Vigo
Jean Vigo had bad health since he was a child. Son of anarchist militant Miguel Almareyda, he also never really recovered from his father's mysterious death in jail when he was 12. Abandoned by his mother, he passed from boarding school to boarding school. Aged 23, through meetings with people ...
Director | La kermesse héroïque
Jacques Feyder was born on July 21, 1885 in Ixelles, Brabant, Belgium as Jacques Léon Louis Frédérix. He was a director and writer, known for Carnival in Flanders (1935), Pension Mimosas (1935) and Le grand jeu (1934). He was married to Françoise Rosay. He died on May 24, 1948 in Rive-de-Prangins, ...
8. Jean Renoir
Writer | La grande illusion
Son of the famous Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste, he had a happy childhood. Pierre Renoir was his brother, and Claude Renoir was his nephew. After the end of World War I, where he won the Croix de Guerre, he moved from scriptwriting to filmmaking. He married Catherine Hessling, for whom he ...
9. Marcel Carné
Director | Le quai des brumes
Marcel Carné, the son of a cabinet maker, entered the movies as the assistant of Jacques Feyder. At the age of 25 he directed his first movie Jenny (1936). Colaborating with the writer Jacques Prévert, the decorator Alexandre Trauner, the musician and composer Maurice Jaubert and the actor Jean ...
10. Jean Cocteau
Writer | La belle et la bête
Jean Cocteau was one of the most multi-talented artists of the 20th century. In addition to being a director, he was a poet, novelist, painter, playwright, set designer, and actor. He began writing at 10 and was a published poet by age 16. He collaborated with the "Russian Ballet" company of Sergei...
11. Jacques Tourneur
Director | Out of the Past
Born in Paris in 1904, Tourneur went to Hollywood with his father, director Maurice Tourneur around 1913. He started out as a script clerk and editor for his father, then graduated to such jobs as directing shorts (often with the pseudonym Jack Turner), both in France and America. He was hired to ...
12. Jacques Becker
Writer | Le trou
His interest in films was stimulated by a meeting with King Vidor, who offered him employment in the US as actor and assistant director. However, he remained in France and became assistant to Jean Renoir, a friend of the family, during that director's peak period (1932-39). In 1934 he ventured ...
13. René Clément
Director | Bataille du rail
René Clément was one of the leading French directors of the post-World War II era. He directed what are regarded as some of the greatest films of the time, such as The Battle of the Rails (1946), Forbidden Games (1952) and The Day and the Hour (1963). He was later almost forgotten as a director. He...
Writer | Le salaire de la peur
Beginning his film career as a screenwriter, Henri-Georges Clouzot switched over to directing and in 1943 had the distinction of having his film Le Corbeau (1943) banned by both the German forces occupying France and the Free French forces fighting them, but for different reasons. He shot to ...
15. Max Ophüls
Director | La ronde
Director Max Ophüls was born Max Oppenheimer in Saarbrücken, Germany. He began his career as a stage actor and director in the golden twenties. He worked in cities such as Stuttgart, Dortmund, Wuppertal, Vienna, Frankfurt, Breslau and Berlin. In 1929 his son Marcel Ophüls was born in Frankfurt, ...
16. Jules Dassin
Director | Pote tin Kyriaki
Jules Dassin was an Academy Award-nominated director, screenwriter and actor best known for his films Rififi (1955), Never on Sunday (1960), and Topkapi (1964).
He was born Julius Samuel Dassin on 18 December 1911, in Middletown, Connecticut, USA. He was one of eight children of Russian-Jewish ...
17. Albert Lamorisse
Director | Le ballon rouge
A former photographer, he turned to directing short subjects in the late 40s, soon acquiring an international reputation for the poetic quality of his short and medium-length films involving the fantasy world of children. Both his White Mane (1953) and The Red Balloon (1956) received a grand prize ...
18. Roger Vadim
Writer | Barbarella
Roger Vadim was born on January 26, 1928 in Paris, France as Roger Vladimir Plemiannikov. He was a writer and director, known for Barbarella (1968), The Game Is Over (1966) and No Sun in Venice (1957). He was married to Marie-Christine Barrault, Catherine Schneider, Jane Fonda, Annette Stroyberg ...
19. Georges Franju
Director | Thomas l'imposteur
Georges Franju is a figure of immense importance in the history of French cinema, not primarily for his films (exceptional though many of these are) but for being the co-founder, with Henri Langlois, of the Cinematheque Française in 1937--France's most famous and important film archive.
He worked ...
20. Jacques Demy
Director | Les parapluies de Cherbourg
Jacques Demy was born on June 5, 1931 in Pontchâteau, Loire-Atlantique, France. He was a director and writer, known for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Une Chambre en Ville (1982) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). He was married to Agnès Varda. He died on October 27, 1990 in Paris, France.
21. Louis Malle
Director | Au revoir les enfants
Louis Malle, the descendant of a French nobleman who made a fortune in beet sugar during the Napoleonic Wars, created films that explored life and its meaning. Malle's family discouraged his early interest in film but, in 1950, allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies ...
22. André Hunebelle
Director | Le capitan
André Hunebelle (b. 1896) was an odd-job man ,always seeing which way the wind would blow when he made his movies;hence his eclecticism ,so to speak:comedies,swashbucklers (genre in which his gave his most pleasant works ),spy thrillers ,spoofs ....
His comedies (his dominant genre in the fifties) ...
23. Robert Bresson
Writer | Au hasard Balthazar
Robert Bresson trained as a painter before moving into films as a screenwriter, making a short film (atypically a comedy), Public Affairs (1934) in 1934. After spending more than a year as a German POW during World War II, he made his debut with Angels of Sin (1943) in 1943. His next film, Les ...
24. Claude Lelouch
Director | Un homme et une femme
Claude Lelouch was born on October 30, 1937 in Paris, France. He is a writer and director, known for A Man and a Woman (1966), Itinéraire d'un enfant gâté (1988) and Hommes, femmes, mode d'emploi (1996). He is married to Valérie Perrin. He was previously married to Alessandra ...
Writer | Paisà
The master filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, as one of the creators of neo-realism, is one of the most influential directors of all time. His neo-realist films influenced France's nouvelle vague movement in the 1950s and '60s that changed the face of international cinema. He also influenced American ...
26. Jean-Luc Godard
Director | Pierrot le fou
Jean-Luc Godard was born in Paris on December 3, 1930, the second of four children in a bourgeois Franco-Swiss family. His father was a doctor who owned a private clinic, and his mother came from a preeminent family of Swiss bankers. During World War II Godard became a naturalized citizen of ...
Actor | À bout de souffle
The name "Melville" is not immediately associated with film. It conjures up images of white whales and crackbrained captains, of naysaying notaries and soup-spilling sailors. It is the countersign to a realm of men and their deeds, both heroic and villainous. It is the American novel, with its ...
28. Jacques Tati
Writer | Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot
The comic genius Jacques Tati was born Taticheff, descended from a noble Russian family. His grandfather, Count Dimitri, had been a general in the Imperial Army and had served as military attaché to the Russian Embassy in Paris. His father, Emmanuel Taticheff, was a well-to-do picture framer who ...
29. Jean Herman
Writer | Garde à vue
Jean Herman was born on May 17, 1933 in Pagny-sur-Moselle, France as Jean Georges Hubert Herman. He was a writer and director, known for Garde à vue (1981), Farewell, Friend (1968) and Under Suspicion (2000). He was married to Anne Doat. He died on June 16, 2015 in Gradignan, Gironde, France.
30. Claude Chabrol
Director | Le beau Serge
Claude Chabrol was born on June 24, 1930 in Paris, France. He was a director and writer, known for Le Beau Serge (1958), Story of Women (1988) and La Cérémonie (1995). He was married to Aurore Chabrol, Stéphane Audran and Agnès Goute. He died on September 12, 2010 in Paris.
31. Jacques Deray
Director | On ne meurt que deux fois
Jacques Deray was born on February 19, 1929 in Lyon, Rhône, France as Jacques Desrayaud. He was a director and writer, known for He Died with His Eyes Open (1985), Borsalino (1970) and The Corrupt (1963). He was married to Agnès Vincent-Deray and Nicole Jones. He died on August 9, 2003 in ...
32. Luis Buñuel
Writer | Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie
The father of cinematic Surrealism and one of the most original directors in the history of the film medium, Luis Buñuel was given a strict Jesuit education (which sowed the seeds of his obsession with both religion and subversive behavior), and subsequently moved to Madrid to study at the ...
33. Jean Eustache
Editor | La maman et la putain
Jean Eustache was born on November 30, 1938 in Pessac, Gironde, France. He was an editor and director, known for The Mother and the Whore (1973), Mes Petites Amoureuses (1974) and Les photos d'Alix (1980). He died on November 3, 1981 in Paris, France.
Writer | Une étrange affaire
Pierre Granier-Deferre was born on July 22, 1927 in Paris, France. He was a writer and director, known for Strange Affair (1981), L'étoile du Nord (1982) and The Cat (1971). He was married to Isabel García de Herreros, Susan Hampshire, Annie Fratellini and Denise Levé. He died on November 16...
35. Roman Polanski
Director | Chinatown
Roman Polanski is a Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few truly international filmmakers. Roman Polanski was born in Paris in 1933.
His parents returned to Poland from France in 1936, three years ...
36. Chantal Akerman
Director | Je, tu, il, elle
Chantal Akerman was born on June 6, 1950 in Brussels, Belgium as Chantal Anne Akerman. She was a director and writer, known for Je Tu Il Elle (1974), The Meetings of Anna (1978) and A Couch in New York (1996). She was married to Sonia Wieder-Atherton. She died on October 5, 2015 in Paris, France.
37. Alain Corneau
Writer | Tous les matins du monde
Alain Corneau was a Cesar Award-winning French writer-director best known for his multiple collaborations with French cinema superstars Yves Montand, Simone Signoret and Gérard Depardieu. Born on August 7, 1943 in Meung-sur-Loire, Loiret, Corneay trained as a musician but switched his interest to ...
38. Alain Resnais
Director | On connaît la chanson
Alain Resnais was born on June 3, 1922 in Vannes, Morbihan, France as Alain Pierre Marie Jean Georges Resnais. He was a director and editor, known for Same Old Song (1997), Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) and My American Uncle (1980). He was married to Sabine Azéma and Florence Malraux. He died on March...
Writer | La nuit américaine
French director François Truffaut began to assiduously go to the movies at age seven. He was also a great reader but not a good pupil. He left school at 14 and started working. In 1947, aged 15, he founded a film club and met André Bazin, a French critic, who became his protector. Bazin helped the ...
Director | 37°2 le matin
A rabid movie fan when he was young, Jean-Jacques Beineix first studied medicine before entering the movie business. During the seventies, he became an established assistant director, working with Claude Berri, René Clément, Claude Zidi and even Jerry Lewis. But, like many assistants, Beineix's ...
43. Maurice Pialat
Director | Sous le soleil de Satan
Maurice Pialat was born on August 31, 1925 in Cunlhat, Puy-de-Dôme, France. He was a director and writer, known for Under the Sun of Satan (1987), À Nos Amours (1983) and Van Gogh (1991). He was married to Sylvie Pialat. He died on January 11, 2003 in Paris, France.
44. Raoul Ruiz
Director | Les trois couronnes du matelot
Chilean director Raúl, or Raoul, Ruiz (1941-2011) was one of the most exciting and innovative filmmakers to emerge from 1960s World Cinema, providing more intellectual fun and artistic experimentation, shot for shot, than any filmmaker since Jean-Luc Godard. A guerrilla who uncompromisingly ...
45. Chris Marker
Writer | Twelve Monkeys
Chris Marker was born on July 29, 1921 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France as Christian François Bouche-Villeneuve. He was a director and writer, known for Twelve Monkeys (1995), Sans Soleil (1983) and Third Side of the Coin (1960). He died on July 29, 2012 in Paris, France.
47. Claude Lanzmann
Director | Shoah
Claude Lanzmann was born on November 27, 1925 in Bois-Colombes, Hauts-de-Seine, France. He was a director and writer, known for Shoah (1985), Shoah: Four Sisters (2018) and Sobibór, October 14, 1943, 4 p.m. (2001). He was married to Dominique Lanzmann-Petithory, Angelika Schrobsdorff and ...
48. Claude Berri
Writer | Jean de Florette
Claude Berri was born on July 1, 1934 in Paris, France as Claude Berel Langmann. He was a producer and actor, known for Jean de Florette (1986), The Two of Us (1967) and Hunting and Gathering (2007). He was married to Anne-Marie Rassam and Sylvie Gautrelet. He died on January 12, 2009 in Paris.
49. Éric Rohmer
Director | Conte d'automne
Admirers have always had difficulty explaining Éric Rohmer's "Je ne sais quoi." Part of the challenge stems from the fact that, despite his place in French Nouvelle Vague (i.e., New Wave), his work is unlike that of his colleagues. While this may be due to the auteur's unwillingness to conform, ...
Director | Der Name der Rose
Jean-Jacques Annaud is a French film director, screenwriter and producer, best known for directing Quest for Fire (1981), The Name of the Rose (1986), The Lover (1992), Seven Years in Tibet (1997) and Wolf Totem (2015). Annaud has received numerous awards for his work, including four César Awards, ...
52. Bruno Nuytten
Director | Camille Claudel
Bruno Nuytten is one of the most successful French cinematographers notable for his many collaborations with outstanding filmmakers. He was twice awarded the César for Best Cinematography: Barocco (1976) and So Long, Stooge (1983). Later he started to direct and is best known for his masterpiece ...
53. Michel Deville
Director | Le dossier 51
Michel Deville, a singular talent in French cinema. For, except during a short period where he made two or three standard commercial films (but that was to repay the debts of his own film company, due to the defection of a business partner), Deville made pictures which, without being too elitist, ...
55. Luc Besson
Writer | The Fifth Element
Luc Besson spent the first years of his life following his parents, scuba diving instructors, around the world. His early life was entirely aquatic. He already showed amazing creativity as a youth, writing early drafts of The Big Blue (1988) and The Fifth Element (1997), as an adolescent bored in ...
57. Barbet Schroeder
Director | La virgen de los sicarios
Barbet Schroeder was born on August 26, 1941 in Tehran, Iran. He is a director and producer, known for Our Lady of the Assassins (2000), Single White Female (1992) and Murder by Numbers (2002). He has been married to Bulle Ogier since April 1991.
59. Leos Carax
Director | Holy Motors
Leos Carax made several short films and also wrote film criticism, then at the age of 24 years made a very strong first feature Boy Meets Girl (1984). The film played at the 1984 Cannes film festival and was a critical triumph. It paved the way for Carax's second feature Mauvais Sang (1986) (Bad ...
60. Jacques Rivette
Director | La belle noiseuse
Although François Truffaut has written that the New Wave began "thanks to Rivette," the films of this masterful French director are not well known. Rivette, like his "Cahiers du Cinéma" colleagues Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Éric Rohmer, did graduate to filmmaking but, like Rohmer...
63. Claude Sautet
Writer | Un coeur en hiver
Claude Sautet was born on February 23, 1924 in Montrouge, Seine [now Hauts-de-Seine], France as Claude Marie Sautet. He was a writer and director, known for Un Coeur en Hiver (1992), Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud (1995) and The Things of Life (1970). He was married to Graziella Sautet. He died on ...
Producer | Deux jours, une nuit
After studying drama in the arts institute, Jean Pierre Dardenne and his brother Luc made some videos about the rough life in blue-collar small towns in the Wallonie. After their meeting with filmmaker Armad Gatti and cinematographer Ned Burgess, they decided to enter in the movie business.
In 1978 ...
70. Peter Watkins
Director | The War Game
Peter Watkins began his career in advertising as an assistant producer and turned to amateur filmmaking in the late 1950s. In the mid-'60s he was commissioned by BBC-TV to make two feature-length docudramas incorporating a quasi-newsreel style and nonprofessional actors. The second of these, The ...
Director | Un long dimanche de fiançailles
Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a self-taught director who was very quickly interested by cinema, with a predilection for a fantastic cinema where form is as important as the subject. Thus he started directing TV commercials and video clips (such as Julien Clerc in 1984). At the same time he met designer/...
74. Jacques Perrin
Actor | Les choristes
He started out as romantic hero full of beauty and talent in Girl with a Suitcase (1961) beside Claudia Cardinale. Director Valerio Zurlini engaged the talented young actor for his Family Portrait (1962) as Marcello Mastroianni's brother. Jacques Perrin's longtime work with Director 'Constantin ...
Director | Vidocq
Pitof started his career in 1976 as photographer, assistant director and editor for films and commercials. He then branched out into musical scoring, software design and graphic design for televisions, music videos and commercials.
A pioneer of digital imaging in France, Pitof made his debut in ...
80. Sylvain Chomet
Director | Les triplettes de Belleville
Sylvain Chomet was born on November 10, 1963 in Maisons-Laffitte, Seine-et-Oise [now Yvelines, Île-de-France], France. He is a director and writer, known for The Triplets of Belleville (2003), The Illusionist (2010) and The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1997).
83. Michel Gondry
Director | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
He grew up in Versailles with a family who was very influenced by pop music. When he was young, Gondry wanted to be a painter or an inventor. In the 80s he entered in an art school in Paris where he could develop his graphic skills and where he also met friends with whom he created a pop-rock band ...
84. Géla Babluani
Writer | 13
Gela Babluani was born in Tblisi in Georgia. He is the son of the prominent director Temur Babluani. At 17 years of age, he and his three siblings were sent to study in France. His first short film, A Fleur de Peau (2002), received critical appraise. His first feature length film is 13 Tzameti, won...
92. Jacques Audiard
Writer | De rouille et d'os
Born in Paris, France, in 1952. Jacques Audiard's family has always been involved in movie business. His father, Michel, was a popular screenwriter and director and his uncle a producer. But in his teens he refused that world and wanted to be a teacher. He studied literature and philosophy at the ...
98. Olivier Assayas
Writer | Personal Shopper
Olivier Assayas is a French film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is best know for his films Demonlover (2002), Something in the Air (2012), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) and Personal Shopper (2016).
Assayas is the son of French director/screenwriter Raymond Assayas, alias Jacques Rémy.