By Sean Gardner
Directors are (or should be) the main creative force behind a film. They collaborate with writers, producers, and actors to bring a creative idea to life. It is the director’s vision that give a film its flavor. Certain directors have a unique style that is consistent across their filmography. Others like to mix it up and make different films in different genres. Either way, a director is the most integral part of any film.
Here is a countdown of my top ten favorite directors:
10. Ron Howard
Initially I wanted to put Ron Howard higher on this list, but the more I thought about it, the farther he seemed to slip. When his films succeed (A Beautiful Mind) they have the potential to be all time greats. But when he bombs (Angels & Demons), he bombs hard. So ultimately, this inconsistency dropped him all the way down to number ten.
9. Guillermo del Toro
I was glad to see Guillermo del Toro win an Oscar last year for The Shape of Water. He seems like a genuine and humble person who puts his heart and soul into everything he does. One of my favorite quotes of his sums up his entire career: “Monsters are the patron saints of our blissful imperfections.”
8. John Carpenter
Horror and science fiction films of today owe a lot to directors like John Carpenter. Between Halloween, The Thing, and Big Trouble in Little China, Carpenter has made some of the best genre films of all time. He even composes the musical scores for many of his films, making him a truly multitalented director.
7. The Coen Brothers
It’s very rare that you find a directing duo that works well together. Usually two or more directors on a film can create clashing ideas and the dreaded “creative differences.” This does not seem to apply to Joel and Ethan Coen, however.
6. Alfred Hitchcock
The Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock, has helmed some of the most thrilling and engaging films of all time. His psychologically stirring neo-noir, Vertigo, has recently topped some lists as the best film ever made, dethroning the long reining Citizen Kane. Films like Psycho, also show he was a master of the twist ending.
5. Stanley Kubrick
With only 13 feature films to his directing credit, Stanley Kubrick probably gives you more bang for your buck than any other director. Every one of his films explores a different genre. The Shining is a horror film. 2001: A Space Odyssey is science fiction. Dr. Strangelove is satire. Eyes Wide Shut is, well, no one knows. His films are dense and thought provoking; more like philosophical lectures, rather than entertainment. Because of this, his films’ rewatchability is unlimited.
4. Martin Scorsese
Team ups with many legendary actors have made Martin Scorsese one of the most prolific directors ever. Spanning almost half a century, Scorsese’s career is full of all time greats. Taxi Driver, The Departed, and Goodfellas, display his talent for directing deep character studies. Scorcese also happens to be a talented documentarian setting him apart from most other directors who are with one or the other.
3. Christopher Nolan
Combining high quality craftsmanship with mainstream popularity seems to be an issue for many directors. Christopher Nolan is not one of them however. He has struck a balance between plying it safe and being ambitious that has made him a superstar director. Inception, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar were all nominated for multiple Oscars, but also crushed it at the box office. Every time he gets behind the camera, he has potential to produce a box office smash and an awards contender.
2. Denis Villeneuve
While he had been an active director since the mid-90s, Denis Villeneuve has only recently began to gain some notoriety. Films like Arrival and Prisoners, are much deeper and more complex than your average film. They explore the human condition and the limits of our understanding of ourselves. Much like Kubrick, Villeneuve’s films are best appreciated after multiple viewings.
1. Quentin Tarantino
As a writer myself, I have to admire Tarantino’s talent for weaving together storylines in unconventional ways. His dialogue, while often crass, is purely unique. He is a master craftsman, a true wordsmith. His directing and writing are so intertwined and inseparable. Films like Pulp Fiction and Django Unchained have a strange way of drawing you in to their world, but also never letting you forget that you are watching a movie. It’s this nontraditional blend of over-the-top violence and dialogue in believable situations that leads me to put Tarantino on top.
A few honorable mentions include Kevin Smith, who has a talent for creating honest and vulnerable characters, and Steven Spielberg simply for the sheer volume of films he has made. Also just missing the list is Ryan Coogler, director of Creed and Black Panther. He hasn’t made enough films yet for me to add him on the list.
No matter the position on this list, all of these directors have great films under their belts. If you want to watch a movie and don’t know what to watch, any one by these guys and you can’t go wrong.