The 10 Most Influential Directors from the 1970s to the 1990s

The 10 Most Influential Directors from the 1970s to the 1990s

Those colorful movies introduced from the 70s to the 90s with advances in technology and the redefined genres that stirred your interest in movies. At least, they had a touch of those three beautiful decades.

It was almost impossible for any genre not to have tasted the touch of brilliance that characterized the movies of the ‘70s to ‘90s. Beyond entertaining their fans, the amazing directors left their footprints on every genre in the movie industry.

Presenting, the most influential directors from the 70s to 90s.

10. Brian De Palma

Brian De Palma

Brian was a physics student at Columbia University when he became attracted to art and movies. He later backed his interest with a degree in art. Aside from his degree, Brian was innovative enough to compete and create a growing Hollywood era in the 1970s. For most of his career, Brian never hid his admiration for Jean-Luc Godard. His admiration eventually earned him the nickname “American Godard.”

Brian’s major innovation was the introduction of “split-screen,” which he introduced in his movie Dionysus in ’69, which he directed in 1970. On the split-screen, Brian said, “I came up with the idea of split-screen to show the actual audience involvement, to trace the life of the audience and that of the play as they merge in and out of each other.”

On the other hand, Brian had a lot of interest in movies with high sexual content and violence. The two would later become a long-standing feature of his movies from the 1970s to 2000s. Dressed to Kill, Scarface, and Mission Impossible were some of the movies that underlined his industry’s significance.

During Brian’s 50-year career, he earned several achievements and recognitions He is also one of the founders of the new Hollywood era.

9. Chris Columbus

Chris Colombus

There is a huge possibility that the public would vote for Chris Columbus as the most influential director from the 1970s-90s. With his unique and unmatched creative mind, he gave everyone a memory to look on in admiration.

Chris introduced himself to the movie industry in the 1980s. Although he was unknown, he was associated with directing teen comedies in the early part of his career. John Hughes soon acknowledged his creativity, who has written the script for Home Alone and needed someone to direct it. Chris took his time, but he did inscribe his name in the heart of teenagers and everyone with the movie. Chris directed two series of Home Alone, which launched him into the forefront of the industry. For instance, Poland televises Home Alone every Christmas day. That underlines the significance of the movie and the brain that ushered it in.

8.  James Cameron

James Cameron

James is the director with the Midas’ Touch in the movie industry. Unlike every other director, James’ first movie, Terminator (1984), achieved huge financial success. As his first, other movies such as Aliens (1986), Abyss (1989), Judgement Day (1991), and most of the movies directed by Cameron became a huge commercial success. 

James Cameron is also the only director to have had two of the five films in history to gross over two billion dollars. One of those movies was Titanic (1997) which was the third highest-grossing movie ever.

The ‘90s were not going to be the end of James’ brilliance. He has managed to extend his influence on the 21st century with Avatar (2009), which was one of the highest-grossing films of all times.

James has also won several awards, including best director, best film editing, and best picture.

7.  Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg

Spielberg unarguably makes any list of most influential directors in the new Hollywood era. He has a special movie for each decade he spends in the industry. Spielberg did not take long to record his name as one of the best directors with his movie Jaws (1975). Spielberg then produced another classic in the 1980s with E.T Extraterrestrial (1983). In 1998, Spielberg narrated the events of the war with his movie Saving Private Ryan. His ‘90s bumper movie earned him recognition from the secretary of defense. Spielberg also recorded huge commercial success with his movies and won two best director awards.

6. George Lucas

George Lucas

Lucas was one of the most famous faces of the movie industry in the 20th century. His first movie, THX 1138, was a high success but not commercially successful. Lucas made another attempt with American Graffiti (1973). His last attempt became a huge commercial success and earned him a lot of nominations.

In 1977, Lucas directed Star Wars, which was the most important of all the movies he directed. The movie earned Lucas six academy awards and made him a household name in the movie industry. But he did not achieve huge financial returns from this movie. In 1987, Lucas experienced a massive financial decline after the finalization of his divorce. Despite his earlier promise not to reintroduce the Star Wars, Lucas reintroduced it in 1997. This time, it proved to be a massive financial success.

5.  David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg

Extensive training at an earlier age extremely developed David’s mind. His early exposure to books was of huge significance to his extraordinarily successful career. Although his father was highly impactful in building his career, Cronenberg was unwilling to adapt to his father’s proposed genre. He chose to develop his interest in aggressive and violent action movies.

David’s first movie was Crimes of the Future (1970). But it was Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), and Brood (1979) that had the true signature of his innovation. His introduction of the Body Horror genre with Shivers earned him a lot of audience for his uniqueness. In 1979, David directed Fast Company (1979). This movie had the stamp of his early interest in gang violence movies with car racing and bikes. Though it was Philip Brophy that coined the term Body Horror in 1983, Cronenberg has been directing movies that fall in that genre since 1975.

The Village Voice recognized David’s creativity by naming him as “the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world.” Cronenberg was undoubtedly one of the best directors of all times.

Strange Horizons recognized Cronenberg as the second greatest director in the science fiction genre. Also, Guardian recognized him as the 9th greatest director in their list of top 40 directors ever. Cronenberg is also a custodian of the Diamond Jubilee Medal, an award presented by the queen. In Canada, the populous celebrates Cronenberg as Canada’s most celebrated film director.

4.  Francis Ford

Francis Ford

Francis Coppola Ford is one of the most decorated movie directors of the 20th century. He has received five academy awards and six Golden Globe recognitions. Fans often consider 1972’s The Godfather as one of the best movies of all time. This movie transformed the gangster movie genre. Like so many other names on the list, Francis Ford gave a fresh look to the movie genre and registered his name into existing genres. Francis Ford is undoubtedly one of the best movie directors from the 70s to the 90s.

Ford was also one of the pioneers of Hollywood’s new era, alongside Spielberg, Brian Parma, Scorsese, and so many others.

3. John Carpenter

John Carpenter

John Carpenter followed up his interest in acting all through his high school days. And his father, who was a music professor, had an amazing impact on his career. Carpenter composed all the songs for his movies, which signified the impact of his father. His trademark short movies were one of the most famous attributes of Carpenter. However, his biggest movie was Halloween, which recorded massive commercial success in the 1970s. Carpenter influenced other directors such as Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, and so on.

2.  Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

Influence is not about the duration of time spent. Others can also measure it with the impact and contributions. Quentin Tarantino entered the industry later than any other person on this list. Nonetheless, his profound impact makes him someone that no one can ignore for this list and many others. His second movie, Pulp Fiction, is one of the greatest movies of all time. It was only his second movie, but the audience could see Tarantino’s brilliance all over this masterpiece. He has been honored with two director’s Guild awards and lots of Saturn awards. Though he joined late in the decades, Tarantino became a significant figure in the 20th century.

1. Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese

Martin’s influence was not just in the movies he has made. He has successfully trained a lot of protégés in the industry. Despite being the inspiration to so many modern directors, Scorsese is also the second most nominated director ever. He was one of the founders of the new era of Hollywood, alongside a lot of names on this list.

Martin Scorsese’s incredible career owed down to his flexibility and ability to move with time and the latest innovations.


The names on this list represented amazing directors who left their relics on the industry in many ways. While some created or transformed a genre, others became the inspiration to modern directors and continued their outstanding legacy.

About the author

Author: Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

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