10 Powerful Film Directors Who Never Went To Film School

Considered the doyens of cinema, can you guess what Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrik , Charles Chaplin, Akira Kurusawa and Satyajit Ray have in common?

They never went to film school.

To add few more, we have Sergio Leone, Billy Wilder, John Ford, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen.. etc..These are incredible filmmakers of yesteryears who left indelible marks on our lives. If you follow their footprints. don’t need to be disappointed if you never studied at a film school or is rejected by one. These filmmakers honed their skills by hustling it out on their shooting locations.

James Cameron, another non-film school director once quoted –

“How do you get to be a filmmaker?’ I say, ‘Go home, pick up your video camera, and make a film.”

Today, the online world has opened up possibilities for aspirants to make films without the hesitation of having a formal education. So cheer up!.

Here we  list 10 powerful filmmakers who made it big without film schooling:

1. Steven Spielberg:

Pic By Gage Skidmore

Almost everyone in the globe must have seen one of his films. Such is the power of his films. He started very early and his career has spanned over five decades. He attended some lectures in film schools but never studied there as he started making films in his teens.

2. James Cameron:

Photograph By Steve Jurvetson

James Cameron is another bigwig. He changed the technology of filmmaking with the films like Alien , Abyss and Avatar. Titanic is his biggest hit till date.  About going to film school, he once quoted –

About going to film school, he once quoted –

“One of the best things that happened to me was that I didn’t go to film school. I used to go down to the USC library and read everything. I’d Xerox stuff. I made my own reference library of doctoral dissertations on optical printing and all that.”


3. Christopher Nolan:

Photograph by Richard Goldschmidt


He is known for his path breaking films which rocked the box office. Nolan started small shooting on the streets with his 16mm. He started with shorts and indies and ended up making the Batman series, Inception, Interstellar, and the latest big hit Dunkirk.

“A very organic approach of understanding all the various bits of craft. From sound recording to editing or music. And absolutely everything I did was simply because I was passionate and wanted to try stuff. You’re never going to learn something as profoundly as when it’s purely out of curiosity.” –

Christopher Nolan.

4. Quentin Tarantino:

Photograph By Gage Skidmore

This crazy head is known for creating immense drama with his terrific writing. He learned filmmaking by ushering in B-Grade Movie theatres.

Tarantino once said –  “When you have tunnel vision, when you have very limited interests, you know, you pick up a lot. I wasn’t interested in school. I wasn’t interested in sports. I was only interested in movies!”

He added – “Trying to make a film yourself with no money is the best film school you can do.”


5. Ridley Scott:

Photograph By NASA/Bill Ingalls

Another prolific filmmaker. Who made his way into films making short films and commercials. He too never studied at a film school. His production “Scott Free” may be an ode to that.


6. David Fincher:

Photograph By Elen Nivrae

He has an envious body of work in a short time. He has a distinct stamp in his work which he says wouldn’t have come from any formal education.

7. Peter Jackson:

Photograph By Gage Skidmore

The Kiwi director, known for his epics like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit, started making films from his garage. He started a small studio called Weta which does most of the Hollywood special effects today.

8. Tim Burton:

Photograph By Gage Skidmore

He started making animation films in his younger days. Today he is famous for creating some great dark fantasies on screen.

9. Wes Anderson:

Photograph By John Rasimus

Wes Anderson has a unique style of filmmaking and has a cult following to his movies. His quirky films are known to be cinematic gems.

10. Steven Soderbergh:

Photograph By Nicolas Genin

I was little surprised to know that he never went to a film school. His gems- Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Erin Brockovich and the Oceans series broke a lot of theories in filmmaking. He seemed to me the film professor kinds who want to break the laws.

The list is endless who never had any formal filmmaking training. There are many directors who I may have missed. Wes Craven, Richard Linklater, Luc Besson, The Matrix creators- The Wachowskis and the Coen brothers to name the few. But, I understand one of the partners did go to film school.

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