The 25 Greatest Directors Working Today: 5-1

Tonight we arrive at the final post for my personal top 25 greatest film directors working today and with my top five auteurs. I invite you to read numbers 25-6 in my four previous posts right here:

And now – the Top 5:

5. Steven Spielberg

You’ve likely heard of him. For 40 years, Spielberg has reshaped the landscape of American cinema from Jaws to Indiana Jones to E.T. and beyond. In this century, Spielberg has continued his impressive resume with Minority Report, Munich, War of the Worlds, and Lincoln. 

4. Christopher Nolan

Nolan made a huge splash in 2001 with Memento. Since then, he’s directed effective twisty thrillers from Insomnia to The Prestige to Inception. Oh… and that other thing! That would be directing the Dark Knight trilogy, which will surely go down in cinema history of the gold standard of superhero flicks.

3. Martin Scorsese

Another director who’s been at it for four decades, “Marty” has two pics in my all-time Top Ten (Taxi Driver and GoodFellas), not to mention 20th century classics Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Cape Fear, and Casino. His 21st century catalog has been amazing as well: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and Hugo. This fall’s Wolf of Wall Street with his frequent collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio is my most anticipated film of the year.

2. David Fincher

After his poorly received first feature Alien 3 (which, by the way, I feel is underrated), Fincher’s second pic Seven is a genre classic and brilliant film making. The brilliance hasn’t stopped since: The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Amazing.

1. Quentin Tarantino

For those who follow my blog, this should be no surprise. I have literally loved everything QT has directed. The love started with his first feature Reservoir Dogs and it’s never let up. Pulp Fiction ranks #3 on my all-time greatest movies. Jackie Brown. The Kill Bill flicks. Grindhouse. Inglorious Basterds. Django Unchained. Tarantino is the most important filmmaker of the last two decades and he has yet to rest of his considerable laurels.

And there you have it, my friends! Hope you enjoyed my list of the 25 directors who I feel represent the best in cinema today!

The 25 Greatest Directors Working Today: 10-6

We have entered the Top Ten of my personal list of the 25 Greatest Directors working today. If you have missed the three previous posts covering #s 25-11, they can be found here:

Let’s get to the Top Ten, shall we?

10. Guillermo del Toro

Mr. del Toro has emerged as perhaps the most exciting sci-fi/fantasy director working today. Among his credits: Blade II, the best of the franchise and the two Hellboy pics, both rock solid genre pieces. In 2006, del Toro directed the visual masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth and he just put out Pacific Rim. He’s the fanboy auteur of the moment…. or at least one of two (see #7).

9. David O. Russell

Russell started out as an indie director in the 90s with Spanking the Monkey and Flirting with Disaster. He’s gone on to direct some high-quality pics including Three Kings, The Fighter, and Silver Linings Playbook. 

8. Paul Thomas Anderson

Other than Pulp Fiction, I would maintain that 1997’s Boogie Nights is the best film of the past twenty years. His level of quality has maintained since with 1999’s Magnolia, 2002’s Punch Drunk Love, and 2007’s There Will Be Blood with an electric performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. Was last year’s The Master a bit of a letdown? I thought so, but PTA is a master regardless.

7. JJ Abrams

He was known mostly for television shows such as “Alias” and “Lost”, but then Abrams branched into film in a huge way with the third Mission: Impossible in 2006. This led to Abrams taking over the Star Trek franchise to great effect. 2011’s Super 8 was a very well-done Spielberg homage. And now… JJ will take over another franchise in 2015. If you don’t know which one… you should.

6. The Coen Brothers

For nearly thirty years, the Coens have been putting out quality picture after quality picture and doing it their way. Blood Simple. Raising Arizona. Miller’s Crossing. Barton Fink. The Hudsucker Proxy. Fargo. The Big Lebowski. O Brother Where Art Thou? The Man Who Wasn’t There. No Country for Old Men. Burn After Reading. True Grit. Their latest, Inside Llewyn Davis (out this fall), is already garnering Oscar buzz.

One more post to go and I’ll reveal my Top 5 best directors very soon!

The 25 Greatest Directors Working Today: 15-11

This evening I bring you part III of the 25 Greatest Directors Working Today. If you missed #s 25-21, you may peruse it here:

For directors I listed 20-16, right here:

Let’s move onto 15-11 before we get to the Top Ten soon enough:

15. Darren Aronofosky

In 2000, he made one of the greatest drug movies of all time, Requiem for a Dream. In 2008, he led Mickey Rourke to a career-best role in The Wrestler. In 2010, he made the trippy and absolutely fantastic Black Swan, which brought Natalie Portman a deserved Best Actress statue.

14. Alfonso Cuaron

In the past few years, Cuaron made the indie favorite Y Tu Mama Tambien before directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the best of the franchise. His 2006 feature Children of Men is one of the most amazingly made pics of the 21st century. This fall comes his space thriller Gravity with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

13. Ang Lee

We’ll forgive that unfortunate Hulk movie in 2003. Lee is a master as he’s displayed in The Ice Storm, Brokeback Mountain, and especially last year’s triumph of directing, Life of Pi.

12. Ben Affleck

He’s only three pictures deep but each one has gotten even better: Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo. Inexplicably, Argo won Best Picture at last year’s Oscars and Ben wasn’t even nominated. He’ll be back, I have a feeling.

11. Steven Soderbergh

Mr. Soderbergh has been churning out an eclectic array of solid pics for 25 years – from sex, lies, and videotape, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, The Informant!, Contagion, Magic Mike, and HBO’s Behind the Candelabra.

Top Ten coming very soon, folks!

The 25 Greatest Directors Working Today: 20-16

And we continue on with my personal list of the 25 Greatest Directors Working Today! For those who missed yesterday’s post covering numbers 25-21, you may find it here:

We move on to part 2 naming 20-16:

20. Brad Bird

Mr. Bird got his start directing three critically acclaimed animated features: The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. Bird made a very promising live-action debut in 2011 with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, possibly the best in the franchise so far.

19. Danny Boyle

An eclectic filmmaker for sure, Boyle has shown a mastery for all kinds of genres. His credits include Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and its sequel 28 Weeks Later, Millions, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and Trance.

18. Peter Jackson

Mr. Jackson has thrilled audiences for over a decade with his visualization of Tolkien works, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit trilogy. This is in addition to King Kong and The Lovely Bones. Is he a visual genius? Absolutely. Does he need an editor from time to time? Yes sir.

17. Kathryn Bigelow

Bigelow made history in 2009 when she became the first female to win Best Director at the Oscars for The Hurt Locker. She also directed last year’s Bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty. Just as impressive: Bigelow made 1991’s surfing flick Point Break, one of the most fun action pictures ever made.

16. Sam Mendes

He won an Oscar for directing 1999’s American Beauty and went on to direct Road to Perdition, Jarhead, and Revolutionary Road. And now Mr. Mendes has taken over the James Bond franchise in glorious fashion with last year’s Skyfall. He just signed to direct the 24th 007 picture, out in 2015.

That’s all for now my friends! I’ll be back with numbers 15-11 very quickly.

The 25 Greatest Directors Working Today: 25-21

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!