For those who’ve followed the blog for a bit, you’ll know I love lists. And when the idea came across to name my Top 25 Greatest Directors right now, I knew it would be a challenge.
It truly was. This list will be comprised in five parts with five directors named each post in descending order, from #25 to #1. Of course, this list is totally subjective. I would expect and anticipate disagreement. I would expect my readers to disagree with placement of names and leaving certain directors off. That’s what makes these lists so fun!
Before we get to the Top 25, I’ve deemed it necessary to touch on some names left off the list. I’ll do my best to explain why.
First off, directors with only one or two pictures were unlikely to make the cut. Two perfect examples: Joss Whedon (director of last summer’s terrific The Avengers) and Neill Blomkamp (director of 2009’s innovative sci-fi adventure District 9). This would also apply to Rian Johnson, who made one of my favorites pics of 2012, Looper. He’s directed other indie films such as Brick, which I haven’t seen. Upon viewing them, perhaps he makes the list. I also very reluctantly left off Nicolas Winding Refn, whose 2011 pic Drive is one of my favorites of the last few years. However, it’s the only film of his I’ve seen.
And then there’s the directors who would have unquestionably been on the list 5, 10, or 20 years ago but have been disappointing lately. This a longer list. It includes Michael Mann, who was on fire in the 1990s with The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, and The Insider but whose last couple efforts (Miami Vice and Public Enemies) have been letdowns. Tim Burton has mostly been directing disappointments lately and I reluctantly left him off, but I’m anxious for him to do something good again! Same goes for Oliver Stone. Ten years ago, Bryan Singer was coming off two very well-done X-Men pictures. Since then, we saw the mediocre Superman Returns and Jack the Giant Slayer. Zack Snyder also gets the Superman curse with Man of Steel, which I wasn’t crazy about. After 300 and Watchmen, he would’ve certainly made the cut. Sam Raimi would have been on ten years ago during his first two Spiderman films, but the third one and Oz the Great and Powerful don’t measure up. Gore Verbinski had The Ring and the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Then – those Pirates sequels and The Lone Ranger. The ultimate example: ten years ago, M. Night Shyamalan might have made the top five. Now, after The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth, I didn’t even consider him.
And then there’s the simple fact that the list is twenty-five. Three names that almost made it: Clint Eastwood, Alexander Payne, and Paul Greengrass. However, there can only be 25 so here we go with Part I.
25. James Cameron
Some may say he’s too low, but the man has only directed three pictures in the last 20 years. Of course, his last two (Titanic, Avatar) set worldwide box office records and he’s a visionary genius. His writing leaves a bit to be desired, but he belongs on the list regardless.
24. Wes Anderson
Anderson has carved out an impressive niche of quirky comedies: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Darjeeling Limited, and Moonrise Kingdom.
23. Woody Allen
Woody has always been hit or miss, but he directs a picture a year and when he hits, it’s still great. Two prime examples from the last decade: Match Point and Midnight in Paris. His latest effort, Blue Jasmine, is already receiving positive notices.
22. Ridley Scott
OK, we’re still a bit puzzled over Prometheus, but you can’t ignore Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and American Gangster in recent years. Plus… this dude directed Alien and Blade Runner, for goodness sake!
21. Matthew Vaughn
His Kick-Ass was tremendous fun and then he went on to infuse much needed life in the X-Men franchise with X-Men: First Class. He was rumored to be taking over the Star Wars franchise, but it never happened. Regardless, I can’t wait to see how his career trajectory goes.
And there’s numbers 25-21, folks! I’ll be back soon with 20-16!