The list of popular entertainers who have been made knights grows every year. Chances are you’ve heard about Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Dame Judy Dench and so forth. But no list of knights would be complete without including movie directors who have been made into knights. After all, these are the entertainers who make the movies that make the stars.
The abbreviations following the names indicate the classes of knights. There are five classes of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the British order of chivalry. Only the two highest classes allow admission into knighthood. The classes from highest to lowest are:
Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross (GBE)
Knight Commander or Dame Commander (KBE)
Steven Spielberg – Received Honorary Knighthood in 2001 (KBE)
Honorary knighthoods are reserved for those born outside the United Kingdom who make outstanding contributions to society. Spielberg received his knighthood at the British Embassy. Present for the award were Spielberg’s wife Kate Capshaw, Senator Hillary Clinton and Holly Hunter. Because it’s an honorary title, Spielberg is not referred to as Sir Steven.
Paul Verhoeven — Knighted by The Netherlands in April, 2007
Not all knighthoods are awarded by the British. Verhoeven, a Dutch native, was awarded his country’s equivalent of knighthood, Knight in de Order of the Nederlandse Leeuw (Order of the Dutch Lion). Verhoeven directed such action films as Starship Troopers, Total Recall and Robocop. Perhaps the Dutch hadn’t seen Showgirls.
Alfred Hitchcock – Knighted in 1980 (KBE)
Director of such classics as North By Northwest, Psycho, Rear Window and Vertigo, Hitchcock began his directing career in the United Kingdom in 1922, but the bulk of his career was spent in the United States. He eventually applied for U.S. citizenship in 1956. Hitchcock passed away the same year he received his knighthood.
David Lean – Knighted in 1984 (KBE)
Named ninth best director of all time in a 2002 BFI poll, Lean directed such classic films as Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai and Doctor Zhivago. Althoug h critical acclaim for Lean’s epics is decidedly mixed; both Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese were huge fans Lean’s epics, helping to revive his reputation as a one of the preeminent filmmakers of his generation.
Richard Attenborough – Knighted in 1967 (CBE)
It’s a shame that when most people think of Richard Attenborough, it’s for his role in Jurassic Park as John Hammond, the park’s creator (the guy with the walking stick with the top made of amber). Attenborough’s feature film directorial debut was Oh! What a Lovely War in 1969. He would go on to direct such films as A Bridge Too Far and Gandhi for which he would receive an Academy Award. Attenborough was made a full knight in 1976, and in 1993 he was made a life peer with the title Baron Attenborough of Richmond.
Ridley Scott – Knighted in 2003 (KBE)
Scott began his career designing sets with the BBC. He left the BBC in 1968 and began directing television commercials. Scott’s first feature, The Duellists, won a jury medal at Cannes but failed to make much of a splash in the U.S. Scott’s next film was to be an adaptation of the opera Tristan und Isolde, but after seeing Star Wars, he was convinced that large scale, effects-driven films were the way to go. He would prove that with his next film – Alien. Scott would go on to direct such films as Bladerunner, Thelma and Louise, and Gladiator.
Alan Parker – Knighted in 2002 (CBE)
Parker’s career began in advertising and blossomed through his association with producer David Puttnam. Parker directed such films as Midnight Express, Pink Floyd The Wall, Mississippi Burning, The Road to Wellville and numerous others.