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The Oldest Living Directors, from Norman Lear to Elaine May

Born in the 1920s and 1930s, these filmmakers are known not just for their history-making directing, but — as with the 96-year-old Mel Brooks — also their writing, producing, and acting.

The Oldest Living Directors

(Clockwise from bottom left): Frederick Wiseman, Elaine May, Norman Lear, Richard Lester, and Mel Brooks

Courtesy Everett Collection

With another year at the movies coming to a close, cinephiles may find their minds wandering to the legendary films and filmmakers of the past. As audiences ponder what does and doesn’t deserve to be in the running for Best Picture at the 95th Academy Awards, considering how the art of the motion picture has evolved — since its invention in the late 19th century — can be critical to comprehensive critique. Plus, it’s just plain fun.

Of course, there’s no one still alive from back when Eadweard Muybridge, Thomas Edison, Louis Le Prince, and their contemporaries were first tinkering with new-fangled movie technology. In 2022, the oldest verified living person is 118-year-old Lucile Randon, who was born in 1904: roughly 16 years after the first moving image was shot. (Interesting fact: She is also the oldest person to have survived a COVID-19 diagnosis.)

That said, there are living Hollywood icons who have experienced a century of the medium’s evolution: contributing not just by producing their own work, but also offering their participation and perspective within the global film community.

The oldest living directors provide particular points of interest. These filmmakers are responsible for helming projects that ultimately represent hundreds-to-thousands of hours of work and countless careers. Finished titles become artifacts for not just one person’s artistic vision, but of the winding history of humanity and the artists who attempt to explain personhood through film.

So, who are these seasoned titans of industry? The following is a list of every known living director who has (1) helmed at least one feature length narrative or documentary film; and (2) who is over the age of 90. It was compiled from multiple sources and independent research with every effort made to be comprehensive. With names such as Norman Lear and Richard Lester appearing alongside Elaine May and Lee Grant, the list doubles as both an interesting sociological data set and roadmap to classic films worth making the time to watch.

[Editor’s note: In instances where a photograph of the director could not be used, a production still or screenshot from one of their most renowned works appears.]

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