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The Ten Greatest Directors

chaplin
Welcome to the final installment of The Ten Greatest Directors.

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.

Jean-Luc Godard
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.

Federico Fellini
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.

Ingmar Bergman
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.

Charlie Chaplin
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.

Fritz Lang
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.

Alfred Hitchcock
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.

John Ford
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.

Martin Scorsese
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.

Stanley Kubrick
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.

Akira Kurosawa
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.

The Ten Greatest Directors Part 4

File photo of director Woody Allen  on the set of "The Bop Decameron" in downtown Rome
Welcome to part 4 of our series on The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each day until our anniversary have remove five directors from with an explanation as to why we cut them. The next post in the last one, with 15 directors left.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix that weren’t.

Brian
Woody Allen
I’m a big fan but Woody Allen is more of a brilliant writer than a director. That doesn’t mean he isn’t great but he’s not one of the ten best ever.

Oliver Stone
Has some amazing work (Platoon, JFK, and Born on the 4th of July) but he’s also made some legendary stinkers, like Alexander, Any Given Sunday, and U-Turn.

Yasujiro Ozu
A legend who’s films get better with age but outside of Late Spring and Tokyo Story, the rest are merely average to good. This one hurt to drop.

Milos Forman
Had three amazing films — One Flew over the Cuckoos’ Nest, Amadeus, and The People vs Larry Flynt — but his work filmography is short and there’s not much outside those three films. I also contend his work didn’t revolutionize films the way the rest of the directors on the list did.

Christopher Nolan
I think in 10-15 years he may end up in the top 10. But, he hasn’t built up enough of a resume yet to be considered one of the 10 best ever.

Matt

Ridley Scott
Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Matchstick Men, and of course, Blade Runner, are all excellent pieces of work. He’s a great director, but when you get right down to it, there are directors left with far greater films.

Sergio Leone
Not a lot of people may realize this, but he only directed 13 films — five of which were uncredited. A Fistful of Dollars is arguably the best western ever made, as is Once Upon a Time in the West. He’s the king of spaghettis westerns, but it’s not enough to be named one of the ten best ever.

Joel and Ethan Coen
Fargo, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn’t There and The Big Lebowski are just a few of their excellent films. They have such a strong case, but I think they’re just on the periphery. Talk to me in a few years.

Paul Thomas Anderson
The Master, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights are all great films, but he has a very small body of work. I think he’ll be considered the best of his generation when he’s done, and maybe one of the best ever. But today, he’s not.

David Lynch
Mulholland Drive is one of the best films of the past 25 years, Eraserhead is an intriguing film with lasting power, and the Elephant Man is a masterpiece. At this point, we’re not cutting directors with ease. This one stings.

Directors Remaining
Quentin Tarantino
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
Fritz Lang
Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
John Huston
Stanley Kubrick
Jean-Luc Godard
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kirosawa
John Ford

The Ten Greatest Directors Part 3

spielberg

Welcome to part 3 of our series on The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each day until our anniversary, we will each remove five directors from the list and give an explanation as to why we cut them.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix that weren’t.

MATT

Francis Ford Coppola
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was probably the last really good film he’s made, and that was in 1992. I know it stings to take Coppola off this list, but he made the Godfather trilogy, and not a lot after or before.

Orson Welles
After Citizen Kane, Welles didn’t do a whole lot. He directed a lot of television projects. It’s strange that someone who directed such a beautiful looking film, with such great influence, never really met his potential.

Pedro Almodovar
I’m a big fan. Volver, if you haven’t seen it, was great. Talk to her, was also quite good. But his collection of work isn’t strong enough to warrant Top 10.

Sam Peckinpah
He only directed 14 films, but made some great ones — like Straw Dogs and The Wild Bunch. But I think his true strength was as a writer.

Steven Spielberg
What?! Yes, Spielberg is getting cut. This is a band-aid that just needs to be ripped off. For Every Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, there’s an Indiana Jones 4 or War Horse. This one is tough to cut, but again, I go back to relevance. He’s making Indiana Jones 5 right now. Lincoln was great, but you have to go back to 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence for his last good movie. This is a pattern for him.

BRIAN 

Mel Brooks
I’m a huge fan of the Producers but a lot of his humor falls flat with me. Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are highly overrated one joke premises.

Wes Anderson
He’s the king of the dry humor. I loved Rushmore and Royal Tenebaums. Wasn’t crazy about Zizou and Darjeeling Limited. Either way, he’s not in the top 10

Tim Burton
I loved Pee Wee and think Ed Wood is one of the most underrated films ever made. But, he made Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes and those weren’t just bad, they were complete disasters.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Delicatessen and City of Lost Children are fantastic. But, he directed Alien: Resurrection, which was horrendous. Also, Amelie is very cute but terribly overrated.

Brian Depalma
He has some great movies on his résumé: Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface. But, he’s still working today and hasn’t even made anything good in 20 years.

Remaining Directors:
Woody Allen
Quentin Tarantino
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
David Lynch
Ridley Scott
Fritz Lang
Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Oliver Stone
Paul Thomas Anderson
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
Joel and Ethan Cohen
John Huston
Stanley Kubrick
Sergio Leone
Milos Forman
Jean-Luc Godard
Yasujiro Ozu
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kirosawa
Christopher Nolan
John Ford

The Ten Great Directors Part 2

lucas
Wecome to part 2 of our series on The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each day until our anniversary, we will each remove five directors from the list and give an explanation as to why we cut them.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix that weren’t.

Brian

George Lucas
He made perhaps the greatest popcorn film ever made, THX 1138 was great, American Graffiti was solid, and then… The prequels..oh, those prequels….

Darren Aronofsky
 Loved Pi and Black Swan, liked requiem, and the rest? Meh. Not enough quality to keep him on the list.

Spike Lee
Lately, he’s more famous for attending New York Knicks games than he is for his films. He hasn’t made anything even remotely relevant in at least 15 years. He did direct Do the Right Thing though. That is one of the best films of the last 25 years.

Robert Zemeckis
He has some great work over his career, particularly Forest Gump, Back to the Future, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But, not really any form of a ground breaking talent.

Cecil B. Demille

An important and historic director whose work dates back to the silent era. The problem is that he’s really only remembered for the Ten Commandments. It’s good, but very dated.

Matt

James Cameron
He’s never made a movie, to me, that is worthy of making the final list. His dialogue is bad – see Titanic. He makes immensely popular movies with formulaic storylines. He’s skilled and makes an entertaining film, but not one of ten greatest.

Clint Eastwood
He’s made some great movies, but didn’t really get going until later in life because of a successful acting career that spanned decades. Mystic River was a wonderful film, but he does suffer from being overly nostalgic at times. Great director, but I have to cut him.

Roman Polanski
He’s got some serious chops, and a long list of great films — Rosemary’s Baby, The Pianist, Tess and Chinatown. It’s tough to cut some of these guys because they’re so talented, but Polanski screwed his career with some horrendous decisions and alleged crimes that have held him back.

Sam Mendes
Awesome director with a great start to his career — American Beauty and Skyfall among them. But he’s only made six movies. There’s guys on this list with way more impressive resumes.

Danny Boyle
Another talented director with a couple great movies — 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire, but he’s only made 10 films. Talk to me in 20 years and he may be higher.

Here are the remaining directors:
Woody Allen

Francis Ford Coppola
Quentin Tarantino
Orson Welles
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
David Lynch
Ridley Scott
Fritz Lang
 Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Oliver Stone
Brian De Palma
Paul Thomas Anderson
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
Joel and Ethan Cohen
John Huston
Tim Burton
Mel Brooks
Sam Peckinpah
Stanley Kubrick
Wes Anderson
 Pedro Almodovar
Steven Spielberg
 Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Sergio Leone
Milos Forman
 Jean-Luc Godard
 Yasujiro Ozu
Alfred Hitchcock
 Akira Kirosawa
Christopher Nolan
John Ford

The Snowtown Murders

snowtown

This grisly thriller is based on the true story of Australia’s worst serial killer, John Bunting, and the people he convinced to help him. One of them is teenager Jamie, whose entire family eventually falls under Bunting’s dark spell.

Brian
Rating: 7 out of 10

This film falls squarely in with others I’ve reviewed like Antichrist in that it’s a well made film that shows a picture of hell on Earth in a realistic way and yet I can’t recommend it.  Why? The images in it are filled with real world and all too real horror.  The main character played by Lucas Pittaway is pure frustration to watch.  His whole existence revolves around being a victim.  He is raped by his own brother, pushed around by every single person in his life, and coerced into assisting with murders that horrify and repulse him.  And yet, because he is so weak, he never says no.  As a viewer, it’s never a comfortable experience.  Obviously, considering the subject matter is about some of the worst crimes in Australian history, this comes as no surprise.  But, because this film plays everything off as deadpan real, it gives an uneasy and claustrophobic feel to all of the plot progressions.  We witness graphic tortures, murders, a main character who is pure evil, and a daily routine in a white trash neighborhood that has no glimmer of hope anywhere within its confines.

So, after all of this, why am I rating it a 7?  The performances are excellent all the way around, particularly by Daniel Henshall who plays the deviously charismatic leader of the serial killers.  He tries to make things make sense from his twisted point of view and is methodical in how he gets all these men to kill and torture for him.  Also, the world that is created by Justin Kurzel feels cold, bleak, and all too real.  This is true life horror that couldn’t be further away from the cliche slasher films that most horror enthusiasts are accustomed to.  However, proceed at your own risk.  This is a harrowing film and not one for the squeamish.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

the-hobbitBeloved hobbit Bilbo Baggins is back in a visually spectacular tale inspired by The Lord of the Rings and likewise directed by Peter Jackson. Joining the effort to free the Kingdom of Erebor, Bilbo also faces a fateful encounter with Gollum.

Matt
Rating: 5 out of 10

This movie should have been called The Hobbit: An Expected Mediocraty.

I am a sucker. At least that’s how I felt in the line at the movies. I just ordered my popcorn and the girl at the counter asked what I was seeing. “Ohhh. You know they turned that into three movies, right?”

I felt like Peter Jackson just pickpocketed me. This is a charming book. It was one of my favorites as a boy. But it’s all of 200 pages. How could they possibly turn this into three movies? Well, by stretching out every possible detail and scene. It was worth seeing in the theater, if it’s worth seein at all, because of it’s gorgeous details, effects and scenery. Peter Jackson makes a beautiful movie to look at. But just like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s tormented by corny dialogue and wooden acting.

I guess if you’re going to make an epic three-part series of this film, this is the proper first installment, but I walked away feeling like it was hollow and over done. I also feel like I am forced to see the other two. Damn you, Peter Jackson.

Goon

GoonWhen he’s seen dispatching a rude opposing hockey player in the stands, Doug Glatt is hired by a rival team … for his fighting skills. It seems the new team’s star is gun-shy after being hit by a puck, and Glatt’s job is to be his on-ice bodyguard.

Matt
Rating: 7 out of 10

Seann William Scott gives a really solid performance. Did I just say that?

Yes, I did. This is a likeable and true tale of a goon — the tough guy on hockey teams who put up way more penalty minutes than points. They are the tough guys of a tough guy sport, and this is an interesting story of a pretty unassuming guy who never played hockey but ended up worked his way through the minors as a goon. Scott plays Doug Glatt, a bouncer at a bar who gets a shot at being a goon after beating up a hockey player in the stands of a game.

It all seems a bit much, but Scott plays him as a simple guy, who is actually a gentle soul and not the smartest guy — but certainly the nicest. There’s also a love story with a not-so-typical gal, and a rivalry with a fellow goon, played very well by Liev Schreiber. This is definitely one of the better sports movies I’ve seen in a while.

Oz The Great and Powerful

OzIn this prequel to The Wizard of Oz, circus magician Oscar Diggs is magically transported to the Land of Oz, where he deals with three witches and uses his illusionist skills and resourcefulness to become the wizard the residents have been expecting through prophecy.

Matt
Rating: 8 out of 10

This movie doesn’t hold the same innocent charm of the original film, but it doesn’t want to be. And that’s what makes it so successful. .

Oz is the story of a sheister, a talented but troubled carnival magician who womanizes, lies, disrespects and hussles his way through life. That is, until that famous hot air balloon sweeps him away to a magical world.

And this is where the story really takes off. Oz goes on a wonderful journey, both internally and externally, as he grows into a reluctant hero and leads a group of unlikely characters – not so different from the original. But the greatest similarity to the original masterpiece is what the lion was granted – heart. I really found myself swept away alongside Oz, played well by James Franco and supported with an outstanding cast – most notably Michelle Williams as Glinda. I was really pleasantly surprised by Oz The Great And Powerful. Sam Raimi drove a film rich in stunning visuals, wonderful comedy, sharp performances and – GASP – no music!

Looper

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce WillisIn the year 2042, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, a hired assassin for the mob who kills people sent from the future. But what will he do when the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination?

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

I expected more from this movie. The concept rocked.

Bad people from the future send people back in the past they need killed through a time machine There is a person waiting for them, called a looper, who shoots them and collects some gold strapped to them. OK, I’m game.

But what happens during this film is a lot of nothing. It’s boring, with unneeded characters who flush out what should have been a short, more action oriented movie. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but yes, it’s true. Looper drags. I expected more from this film, because it got rave reviews. I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis a lot. And while they both are good in the film, it suffers from a slow-movie script and a director that was over thinking it a bit. It’s also way darker than I anticipated — maybe I shouldn’t have, based on the premise — but it was.

Not a terrible film, but it drags at parts and left me wanting something different.

Mama

mama
Two girls left to fend for themselves in the forest for five lonely years after the death of their mother find refuge in the home of their uncle. But it soon becomes clear that the girls have not arrived alone in this woodsy supernatural chiller.

Matt
Rating: 6 out of 10

I really liked the premise of Mama. It sets up extremely well. The opening scenes are the tragic end of a family and how two little girls survive with the help of a paranormal mother figure.

The film is shot very well by director Andres Muschietti. There are a number of chilling scenes. In one, a character is in a dark room, pitch black, with nothing but a camera. He uses it for light, flashing shots to illuminate his surroundings. You’re forced to sit there, waiting for worst of things to happen. I also like that Mama never pulls back. The film takes some dark routes, which left some people I watched the movie with upset. There’s no happy ending.

Mama does, however, drag. But the moments of intense frights, combined with excellent performances by the two children and Academy Award-winning Jessica Chastain, hold the movie together well. Not the best thriller I’ve ever seen, but certainly entertaining and worth a watch.