We started with a list of 45 directors and each post removed ten directors from the list with an explanation as to why we cut them. It wasn’t easy, but we’re finally down to the Ten Greatest Directors. There was a lot of debate behind the scenes, but here they are, in no particular order. We’re simply naming them The Ten Greatest Directors.
He is one of the pioneers of the French New Wave wasn’t just a great director but changed the language of filmmaking forever. Prior to Godard, such things as having a character address the camera, jump cut editing, and non-linear storytelling were considered taboo. Now, without Godard, we wouldn’t have Tarantino, Von Trier, or Coppola.
The ultimate dreamer who made dreams come alive on the screen. His films were a dance with a rhythm, intelligence, and sly wit that no other director in history can match. His legacy is assured and his movies are timeless. Be sure to see La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. They changed the way viewers looked at filmmaking.
The auteur of the top 10 also is underrated when it comes to delivering a film that also enlightens and entertains. His strongest attribute was dealing with the most basic human emotions: love, life, death, and family and making the films convey these feelings without condescending the audience. I have never watched a Bergman film without thinking about it for at least a week afterwards. They stay with you like all great art.
Most people know him as The Tramp — the iconic character with the funny mustach, top hat and cane. And it’s a phenominal character, but he also wrote and directed his best films, like The Kid, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. He had 72 films directed, won a lifetime achievement award from the Academy, best actor, and even one for best original score. He knew how to make great films, and was a notorious perfectionist.
If you don’t know him, the directors you love certainly do. Lang is one of the most influential directors, and is considered the father of film noir. He never won an Academy Award — most likely because he was born in Germany, and even though he moved to America because of his strong distaste for nazis, was still looked at as a “German filmmaker.” His movies, like M, Metropolis, and Fury are classics still shown in film schools around the world to this day. They are iconic, timeless, and resonate with great awe.
He was master storyteller who churned out movies like it was his job… which it was. Over a 50 year career, he cranked out nearly 70 films as a director, plus he wrote and produced his own television series and other films. But he will be remembered most as a director for his uncanny ability to capture suspense, play with our minds with stunning visuals, and create iconic images in films like “Psycho” “The Birds” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and the list goes on. He set the stage for other directors in a genre he brought respect to.
He’s arguably the greatest. He directed more than 100 films, including classics like Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, and also was a four-time Oscar winner for directing. His pace, understanding of timing, respect for actors and iconic imagery all make up his incredible talent. A master, through and through, and a workhorse.
He came out of the NYU film school, and lead a generation of directors that bucked the Hollywood system and its traditional film-making techniques and story lines. He made movies, like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, that challenged the viewer and put them in an uneasy chair. His mafia movies, like Good Fellas and The Departed, are unmatched in the genre. He approaches film humbly, and understands stories and imagery like no other. We love Scorsese, and we hope he never retires.
Kirk Douglas, after the making of Spartacus, said, “Stanley Kurbick is a talented shit.”
He only made 15 films in his career, which was one of his regrets as a director, but he was a perfectionist and his pictures were a reflection of that. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, took five years to make. No other director has been given that freedom, and for good reason. Every Kubrick film is a masterpiece.
There has never been a director who understood a camera better. He was a still photographer before he became a motion picture director and his use of light and how it impacts stories and characters as a storytelling vehicle is extremely thoughtful. His storytelling skills are superb, but he never used narrative stories, or rarely did. His movies made you feel the story. They never handed it to you on a silver plate. He challenged viewers with his stories and portrayed them with stunning beauty. He was the Mozart of film making.
Ironically, Kirosawa was panned in Japan in his early days for being too influenced by western directors, like John Ford, and for bringing too much emotion to his pictures. But that was his strength. He captured both the action of war and its drama. He paid exquisite detail even to the most mundane characters, and brought humanity to war and famine. “The Seven Samurai” “Yojimbo” “Rashômon” and “The Hidden Fortress” continue to influence directors to this day.