Inspired by a recent post over at abbiobiston.com, I thought I’d sit down and list ten movie directors I either seek out without hesitation, or have made some of the most affecting and inspiring movies I’ve ever seen, shaping what kind of movie viewer I am today and creating experiences that have transcended basic entertainment to actually mean something to me as a person.
As a reviewer, occasional-writer and movie fan, Quentin Tarantino ignited a spark inside me that has yet to go out. When first seeing Pulp Fiction, I knew this was the sort of material I wanted to write about, and this continued with his script for Natural Born Killers and also his debut, Reservoir Dogs. He was a rebel, he challenged people’s ideas of what violence was all about on screen, not there for just shock value but to make you feel something. He managed to back this up with amazing dialogue writing skills and a keen eye for pop-culture and cinema history that has continued to this day.
Horror for me was never just about hiding behind my cushion and trembling – horror for me was about the strange and surreal, the gruesome but in a way that made you ponder what it meant. Croneberg has always been a master of this, of using body-horror to make you feel something you’ve never felt before, backed up by intelligent direction that more often than not has a lot of social commentary of the times we live in i.e. sexually transmitted infections with Shivers. He has continued to shape his often controversial style into the modem gangster and crime genres to brilliant effect in movies like Eastern Promises.
Probably the most famous director of all time who seems to barely put a foot wrong and can turn his hand to a wealth of different genres and subjects, from the industry defining Jaws and Jurassic Park to powerful masterpieces like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List. Assured, confident and always entertaining and thought-provoking, this maverick director continues to be a name to bet on even after almost 40 years in the business. As long as we don’t mention the most recent Indiana Jones movie, Spielberg remains one of those names every movie fan will know and surely appreciate to some degree.
Fallen from grace he may be, but during the seventies and eighties, this guy made some of the coolest and most sort after movies I’d ever seen. Who can argue the merits of Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China? Although I can’t say I totally appreciate Escape From New York as much as others, I have a soft spot for lesser known efforts like Prince Of Darkness and In The Mouth Of Madness. This guy knew how to create perfectly entertaining genre movies and although he hasn’t made much of note for years, that’s a hell of a back catalogue of classics.
Although I think he’s become a bit relaxed in recent years, churning out fairly ‘safe’ movies, for the most part Fincher has still created some of the most stylish and intricately directed movies I’ve seen, namely the multi layered classics Fight Club, Seven and even Zodiac. His directing style is crisp and beautiful even when it’s dealing with very dark subject matter, and his camera work and imagery have stayed with me long after the credits have rolled. He’s a technical directing fan’s dream director, as for me I can appreciate every aspect of the setting, the camera work to the music and lighting. Helps he can also pull out great performances from the likes of Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal to name but a few.
With a fairly small catalogue of movies, this director like no other has made some of the masterpieces of my lifetime. The Shining is still the best horror movie I’ve ever seen and probably the most perfectly directed, on a technical level movie I’ve seen also. His strong visual skill at making every shot and every camera movement look so well executed has made movies even of lesser impact like Eyes Wide Shut a work of art. He proved again and again that careful eye for detail, iconic performances can turn even a well worn subject like the Vietnam war into amazing cinema. I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but of the movies I have, he keeps on amazing me, and is possibly the best director on this list.
Perhaps at his best during the seventies and eighties, but this often controversial director has gained a strong cult following over the years and remains one of the most stylish and genre-defining film-makers around. At his best he can make gruesome murder look beautiful, and his frequent collaborations with the band Goblin and musician Claudio Simonetti has helped create a brand of effective Italian cinema that still stands the test of time. Try watching Suspiria or Tenebrae without marvelling at the camera work, atmosphere or use of lighting and music. Argento will always be the maestro when it comes to horror, even if his light has considerably faded over the years.
The Don. How does this guy keep doing it? To this day Scorsese still manages to amaze and impress. He has crafted true classics such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas and still manages to churn out quality movies like Shutter Island and The Wolf Of Wall Street. It’s always exciting when I hear he’s making another movie and even diversions like Hugo retain that Scorsese eye for style and cinematic creativity I’ve grown to love about him. He has a tendency to work with the same actors but also manages to bring out wildly different performances from them, that give each movie their own voice. One of the best film makers of all time in my opinion.
Joel & Ethan Coen
In recent years their brand of southern comedy and thrillers has felt a tad hit and miss, but when these sibling directors are on form, they can make some of the best movies you’ll ever see. Comedies like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona offer up laughs as well as style and assured direction along with iconic performances, and thrillers like Fargo and No Country For Old Men prove they can deliver tight, well executed stories that pack a punch. They continue to be favourites at Oscar season and amongst a huge cult audience, and with a strong visual style and often award winning performances, their movies are hard to dismiss.
Another director who can explore very dark themes but make them beautiful with imaginative camera work, scene setting and particularly artistic shots. His American debut Stoker is a perfect example of strong story, strong performances and beautiful, almost poetic direction. His vengeance trilogy that incudes the cult classic Old Boy is powerful, gut-wrenching but extremely moving and artistic, blending classical music with striking story-telling and stunning cinematography. Park chan-Wook’s the real deal if you can appreciate quality direction with a signature touch.