Academy Awards

Best Director

Facts & Trivia (1)
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Best Director Sections

Facts & Trivia (1) | Facts & Trivia (2) | Winners Chart

The Best Director Academy Awards
Facts and Trivia (1)

See also this site's designation of the Greatest Directors and Their Best Films.

The Best Director Academy Award should actually be titled the "best achievement in directing." In the first year of the Academy Awards, there were two awards for directorship: one for direction of a dramatic film, another for comedy direction. The latter award was dropped the following year.

The Top Best Director Oscar Winners:

John Ford is the only director with 4 Best Director Oscars, followed by William Wyler and Frank Capra with 3 Best Director Academy Awards. The most nominated and most frequent winners in the Best Director category are the following:

Top Best Director
Oscar Winners

John Ford
5 nominations
4 wins

The Informer (1935)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
How Green Was My Valley (1941)
The Quiet Man (1952)

Also Nominated For:
Stagecoach (1939)

Ford won his four Oscars for his pictures of social comment, rather than for his quintessential westerns. Only How Green Was My Valley (1941) also won Best Picture. Ford was the first director to win Best Director Oscars back-to-back in consecutive years.

William Wyler
12 nominations
3 wins

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Ben-Hur (1959)

Also Nominated For:
Dodsworth (1936)
Wuthering Heights (1939)
The Letter (1940)
The Little Foxes (1941)
The Heiress (1949)
Detective Story (1951)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Friendly Persuasion (1956)
The Collector (1965)

Wyler had twelve nominations over 29 years (from 1936-1965). Each of his three wins also won Best Picture.

Martin Scorsese
10 nominations
1 win

The Departed (2006)

Also Nominated For:

The Aviator (2004)
Gangs of New York (2002)
GoodFellas (1990)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Raging Bull (1980)
Hugo (2011)
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
The Irishman (2019)
Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)

Steven Spielberg
9 nominations
2 wins


Schindler's List (1993)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Also Nominated For:
Munich (2005)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Lincoln (2012)
West Side Story (2021)
The Fabelmans (2022)

Note: Spielberg became the first person to be nominated as Best Director in six different decades.

Frank Capra
6 nominations
3 wins

It Happened One Night (1934)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
You Can't Take It With You (1938)

Also Nominated For:
Lady for a Day (1933)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Capra won three times in five years, each time for a comedy!

Billy Wilder
8 nominations
2 wins


The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Apartment (1960)

Also Nominated For:
Double Indemnity (1944)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Sabrina (1954)
Witness For the Prosecution (1957)
Some Like It Hot (1959)

David Lean
7 nominations
2 wins

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Also Nominated For:
Brief Encounter (1946)
Great Expectations (1946)
Summertime (1955)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
A Passage to India (1984)

Fred Zinnemann
7 nominations
2 wins

From Here to Eternity (1953)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)

Also Nominated For:
The Search (1948)
High Noon (1952)
The Nun's Story (1959)
The Sundowners (1960)
Julia (1977)

The Top Winning Directors (with At Least Two Best Director Oscars) and Top Nominees:

Although John Ford has won more Oscars, he has only five Best Director nominations. By the year 2022, William Wyler held the record for the most nominations as director - twelve, followed by Martin Scorsese (with 10 nominations) and Steven Spielberg (with 9 nominations), and Billy Wilder with 8 nominations. Twenty directors have two or more Best Director Oscar wins, and include the following (with no. of nominations in parentheses):

In addition, Billy Wilder has a total of twenty-one career nominations and six Oscars for various roles:

Best Director-Winning Directors With Consecutive Oscars:

Among them are the only three directors who have received two consecutive Best Director statuette wins:

Best Director Summary of Multiple Nominees and Winners:

It appears that thirty-seven directors have been nominated three or more times (some have never won).

Best Director Oscar Omissions and Non-Winners:

Some of the greatest directors of all time have never won a competitive Academy Award for Best Director (and many were never nominated - see Great Directors Who Have Not Won), including Clarence Brown, Charlie Chaplin, King Vidor, Howard Hawks, D. W. Griffith, Brian De Palma, George Sidney, John Cassavetes, Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, F.W. Murnau, William A. Wellman, Otto Preminger, Sam Wood, Gregory La Cava, Norman Jewison, Sidney Lumet, Ernst Lubitsch, Terrence Malick, Robert Altman, Robert Rossen, Fritz Lang, Spike Lee, Rouben Mamoulian, W.S. Van Dyke, Stanley Kubrick, Herbert Ross, Tim Burton, Blake Edwards, Stanley Kramer, Joshua Logan, James Ivory, Alan J. Pakula, Paul Mazursky, Arthur Penn, Richard Brooks, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Peter Weir, Akira Kurosawa, Barbra Streisand, Ingmar Bergman, and Sam Peckinpah.

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