Which Director Was Nominated for the Most Oscars and Who Has the Most Wins?

The Best Directors in Hollywood History

William Wyler's 'Ben-Hur'. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Question: Which Director Was Nominated the Most and Which Director Has the Most Wins?

Answer: The Academy Award for Best Director is considered the most prestigious award a director can win in Hollywood. Only one director has won the award four times, and two directors have won three times -- one of whom also holds the record for most Best Director Oscar nominations.

Filmmaker William Wyler holds the record for the most Best Director nominations with 12.

Wyler won three Best Director Oscars for Mrs. Miniver (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Ben-Hur (1959). Wyler was also nominated for his work on Dodsworth (1936), Wuthering Heights (1939), The Letter (1940), The Little Foxes (1941), The Heiress (1949), Detective Story (1951), Roman Holiday (1953), Friendly Persuasion (1956), and The Collector (1965). Currently, the living director with most nominations is Martin Scorsese with eight, winning once for The Departed (2006).

Like William Wyler, Frank Capra won three Best Director Oscars. He won for It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), and You Can't Take It With You (1938). However, Capra was only nominated three other times for Lady for a Day (1933), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and It's a Wonderful Life (1946), meaning that Capra was nominated for Best Director exactly half as many times as Wyler was even though he had an equal amount of wins.

Regardless, even with three Oscars for Directing Wyler and Capra are second to John Ford in wins. Ford won the Academy Award for Best Director four times, more than any other nominee -- and he also had an 80% success rate when it came to nominations. Ford won the Oscar four out of the five times he was nominated, taking home the Academy Award for The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1941), and The Quiet Man (1952).

His work on Stagecoach (1939) earned him a nomination, however he lost out to Victor Fleming for Gone with the Wind.

No living director has three Best Director Oscars. There are a number of directors still working today who have won the Best Director Oscar twice, including Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Oliver Stone, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, but each would have to win two more Oscars for Best Director just to tie Ford's record. With the variety of talent working in the industry today, it's unlikely -- and perhaps impossible -- for any director to ever beat Ford's record.

On the other end of the spectrum, the most nominations for Best Director with no wins is five. Surprisingly, four directors have that dubious distinction: King Vidor, Clarence Brown, Alfred Hitchcock, and Robert Altman.

  • King Vidor was nominated for The Crowd (1928), Hallelujah (1929), The Champ (1931), The Citadel (1938) and War and Peace (1956). He was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 1979.
  • Clarence Brown was nominated for Anna Christie and Romance (1930, when directors could be nominated once for multiple films), A Free Soul (1931), The Human Comedy (1943), National Velvet (1944), and The Yearling (1946).
  • Alfred Hitchcock was nominated for Rebecca (1940), Lifeboat (1944), Spellbound (1945), Rear Window (1954) and Psycho (1960). The Academy awarded Hitchcock the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1968.
  • Robert Altman was nominated for MASH (1970), Nashville (1975), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), and Godsford Park (2001). In 2006, Altman was awarded an Honorary Oscar.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick