Entertainment

Steven Spielberg Tops Ranking of Americans’ Favorite Directors

Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard and Martin Scorsese also ranked highly, according to a new Morning Consult survey

Director Steven Spielberg attends "The Fabelmans" U.K. premiere at the Curzon Mayfair on Jan. 18 in London. Spielberg ranked as the top filmmaker among both U.S. adults and avid film fans, according to a new Morning Consult survey, (Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Fresh off earning his ninth Academy Award best director nomination for his semi-autobiographical film, “The Fabelmans,” Steven Spielberg has received another accolade: America’s favorite filmmaker.

The 76-year-old director of “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” garnered the highest net favorability rating among U.S. audiences out of 92 living directors included in a recent Morning Consult survey. (Net favorability rating is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion of each director minus the share with an unfavorable view.)

With a rating of 71, Spielberg finished 9 percentage points ahead of the second-place finisher, Clint Eastwood, whose long career as an actor likely aided his favorability as a director. Ron Howard, Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese rounded out the top five.

Three of the other nominees for this year’s best director Oscar were also included in the survey: “The Banshees of Inisherin” director Martin McDonagh (ranked 59th out of 92), “Everything Everywhere All at Once” duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (77th) and “Tár” helmer Todd Field (85th).

Spielberg has already won two best director Oscars — one for 1993’s “Schindler’s List” and another for 1998’s “Saving Private Ryan.” “The Fabelmans” is his most personal yet, a coming-of-age drama chronicling how the director fell in love with filmmaking.

Whether or not Spielberg wins his third trophy on March 12, he’s already won the hearts of Americans. 

Americans’ Favorite Hollywood Directors, Ranked

Net favorability rating* of the following living film directors:

*Net favorability rating is the share of respondents with a favorable opinion of each director minus the share with an unfavorable view.
Survey conducted Jan. 14-15, 2023, among a full representative sample of 2,204 U.S. adults, including a subset of between 970 and 1,111 respondents who were shown a portion of a complete list of 92 directors, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Steven Spielberg is the king of directors, Americans say

  • Spielberg earned the highest net favorability rating (71) among the general U.S. population. Like most directors included in the survey, his net favorability rating was higher among self-identified “avid” film fans, at 81. Among generations, Spielberg had the highest net favorability rating among baby boomers (80) and Gen Xers (76).
  • Eastwood, Howard, Scorsese and Burton all appeared in the top five among both U.S. adults and avid film fans. James Cameron, whose blockbuster sequel “Avatar: The Way of Water” continues to dominate the box office, also ranked highly among both groups with ratings of 46 and 62, respectively. 
  • Newer acclaimed directors such as the Safdie Brothers, Ari Aster and Jordan Peele, who won an Oscar in 2018 for best original screenplay for his directorial debut “Get Out,” had higher favorability ratings among Gen Zers and millennials than older cohorts.
  • The only director to appear in the top 20 among avid film fans who was not also in the general population’s top 20 was Steven Soderbergh, who won an Oscar in 2001 for “Traffic.” 
  • Woody Allen placed 38th overall among adults, though he received by far the survey’s highest unfavorable marks, with 29% of respondents saying they had a negative view of the controversial filmmaker, who’s been accused of sexual abuse by his adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow.

Where Hollywood’s most popular directors are headed next

It’s not entirely surprising that Spielberg and other veteran filmmakers dominated the list of top directors, especially among older generations and avid film fans. While “The Fabelmans” has underperformed at the box office, it was praised by critics, while the awards-season attention could bring new eyeballs to it. The film moved up to No. 4 on the video-on-demand charts following Spielberg’s win at the Golden Globe Awards earlier this month. 

Christopher Nolan, who placed 18th among adults and 14th among avid film fans, will appear next in July with “Oppenheimer,” a big-budget biopic about the titular theoretical physicist who was instrumental in the creation of the atomic bomb. Scorsese’s crime drama “Killers of the Flower Moon” premieres on Apple TV+ later this year.

Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” who placed in the top 10 among both demographics, is in the midst of filming his first movie in more than a decade: “Megalopolis,” a sci-fi epic that’s reportedly been plagued with production problems. (He’s refuted those claims.) Luckily for Coppola, he’s already well-established as one of America’s favorites.

The Jan. 14-15, 2023, survey was conducted among a full representative sample of 2,204 U.S. adults, including a subset of between 970 and 1,111 respondents who were shown a portion of a complete list of 92 directors, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.