14 Great Filmmakers Who Never Won “Best Director”

Well, we’ve all had a week to let the Oscar nominations sink in, and if there’s one thing almost everyone seems to agree on, it’s this: Christopher Nolan wuz robbed. As we noted when running down the snubs, it’s a bit surprising that Nolan’s dizzyingly complicated, masterfully-crafted work on Inception somehow didn’t net him a Best Director nomination, particularly after many felt he should have received that recognition for The Dark Knight two years ago. We know, it’s hard to feel too bad for a fabulously successful studio director; he can always take solace in his rave reviews, piles of money, and the knowledge that he gets to spend several months with a cat-suited Anne Hathaway. But it’s gotta sting just a little.

So take heart, Christopher Nolan: you certainly won’t be the first great filmmaker to get the cold shoulder from the folks at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And keep in mind that, while these folks never won, Best Director Oscars sit in the homes of Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, Warren Beatty, Robert Redford (pattern?), Robert Zemeckis, James L. Brooks, and James Cameron. Perspective given? Good. Join us, won’t you, for a look back at some of the fine filmmakers who never won the Best Director honor.

Charles Chaplin

It’s been a long-standing tradition that comedy films and their makers never get the proper respect from the Academy (see next entry), but it seems especially egregious that Chaplin, perhaps our most iconic actor/director, was never honored — or even nominated for — Best Director. He won Honorary Awards in 1929 and 1972, and took home an Oscar for Best Score in 1973 (for the two decades-delayed American release of his 1952 film Limelight), but those had the feel of consolation prizes; he was nominated for writing and acting in The Great Dictator, and penning Monsieur Verdoux, and won none of them. Despite all of this, Chaplin was one of our most innovative, effective, and heartbreaking filmmakers. Anyone who says otherwise should be directed to the above scene, the beautiful and moving conclusion to his 1931 masterpiece City Lights.