Five directors with lasting legacies
Italian Connection: The only one on this list born in Italy, near Palermo, Sicily. Real name: Francesco Rosario Capra.
Best Known For: It Happened One Night* (1934); Mr. Deeds Goes To Town* (1936); You Can’t Take It With You* (1938); Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939); Meet John Doe (1941); It’s A Wonderful Life (1946).
Oscar Wins: Six, three for Best Director (marked by an * above), two for production and one for Best Documentary (Prelude to War, 1943).
Other Honors: American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award; also earned an honorary Order of the British Empire (OBE) on the recommendation of Winston Churchill.
Praise: “His influence on culture—from Steven Spielberg to David Lynch, and from television soap operas to greeting-card sentiments—is simply too huge to calculate.”
—Film historian Ian Freer.
Italian Connection: Both parents were born in the U.S. Paternal grandfather Vincenzo Minnelli reportedly was a Sicilian revolutionary who went into hiding and was smuggled onto a steamer headed for America. Real name was Lester Anthony Minnelli.
Best Known For: Father of the Bride (1950); Father’s Little Dividend (1951); An American in Paris (1951); The Bad and the Beautiful (1952); Brigadoon (1954); Kismet (1955); Lust for Life (1956); Gigi (1958).
Oscar Wins: One, Best Director, Gigi (1958).
Other Honors: Awarded the Legion of Honor, the highest in France for civilians.
Praise: “The greatest director of motion picture musicals the screen has ever seen.”
—Alan Jay Lerner
Francis Ford Coppola
Italian Connection: Both parents born in the U.S. Grandparents emigrated from Italy, hailing from the region of Basilicata and Naples.
Best Known For: The Godfather (1972); The Conversation (1974); The Godfather Part II (1974); Apocalypse Now (1979); The Outsiders (1983); Rumble Fish (1983); The Cotton Club (1984); Peggy Sue Got Married (1986); Tucker (1988); The Godfather Part III (1990); Bram Stroker’s Dracula (1992); The Rainmaker (1997).
Oscar Wins: Five. Best Original Screenplay (Patton, 1970); Best Adapted Screenplay (The Godfather); Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Picture (as producer, The Godfather II).
Other Honors: Directors Guild of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A Sight and Sound magazine poll ranked him fourth in the list of top directors of all time.
Praise: “Towered over American cinema in the 1970s. One of the last of its visionary creators, Coppola stands at the heart of that efflorescence of American auteur cinema which became known as New Hollywood.”
—Richard Armstrong, The Rough Guide to Film, 2007
Brian De Palma
Italian Connection: Parents were born in the U.S. Both sets of grandparents emigrated from Italy.
Best Known For: Carrie (1976); Dressed to Kill (1980); Blow Out (1981); Scarface (1983); The Untouchables (1987); Casualties of War (1989); The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990); Carlito’s Way (1993); Mission: Impossible (1996); Mission to Mars (2000); Femme Fatale (2002); The Black Dahlia (2006); Redacted (2007).
Oscar Wins: None. Has never been nominated for Best Director, though some of his films and his direction have been nominated at the Venice International Film Festival.
Other Honors: In 2015, at the Venice Film Festival, received the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award. “It is dedicated to personalities who have made a significant contribution to contemporary cinema.”
Praise: “The most controversial director to have emerged from the movie brat generation of film school graduates. A misogynist, a genius, a copycat, a cine-literate aesthete, an emotionless technician, all of these epithets have been thrown his way—and they all have some validity.”
—Lloyd Hughes, The Rough Guide to Film, 2007
Italian Connection: Both sets of grandparents came from near Palermo, Sicily. His parents were born in the U.S.
Best Known For: Mean Streets (1973); Taxi Driver (1976); Raging Bull (1980); The Color of Money (1986); The Last Temptation of Christ (1988); Goodfellas (1990); Cape Fear (1991); The Age of Innocence (1993); Casino (1995); Kundun (1997); Bringing Out the Dead (1999); Gangs of New York (2002); The Aviator (2004); The Departed (2007); Shutter Island (2010); The Wolf of Wall Street (2013).
Oscar Wins: One, Best Director for The Departed. Has been nominated eight times, second most in film history.
Other Honors: American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award; French Legion of Honor; first filmmaker selected for the Jefferson Lecture, the federal government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities.
Praise: “Bold, inventive, versatile, and uncompromising, Scorsese is one of the most intelligent and provocative filmmakers working in cinema today.”
—The MacMillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1994