It’s been another break from Top 10 Tuesdays but yet again I’m back for at least this week. Like my Top 20 Actors and Actresses lists, I do a new list of my 20 favourite directors every year because tastes change over time. These aren’t necessarily the directors I think are the best in cinema history but they’re my personal favourites. So here we go!
20. Robert Zemeckis (Favourite Film: Back To The Future)
Since he first moved to motion capture, his film’s have been a little underwhelming (although I loved The Walk) but the man’s earlier films are something to be truly jealous of. Back To The Future, Forrest Gump, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Cast Away are all classics!
19. Edgar Wright (Favourite Film: Shaun Of The Dead)
Edgar Wright is someone who’s truly transcended the comedy director stigma. His film’s are visually brilliant and he’s able to make films that aren’t just funny, but also technically impressive.
18. Damien Chazelle (Favourite Film: La La Land)
He’s made three films! One of them is a very little known indie, the other two masterpieces. He makes movies about music that are so different but always impactful. He’s got one hell of a career ahead of him.
17. Richard Donner (Favourite Film: Superman)
He’s not often recognised but Richard Donner has created such a wonderfully diverse filmography with the Christmas classic Scrooged, buddy cop masterclass Lethal Weapon, and the first great superhero film Superman! We’ve got a lot to thank him for.
16. Denis Villeneuve (Favourite Film: Arrival)
Rather new on the scene, Denis Villeneuve has made a real name for himself with some of the best, intelligent films of recent years. Incendies is a wounding film while Arrival is the best, most thought-provoking sci-fi film in decades.
15. George Miller (Favourite Film: Mad Max: Fury Road)
Someone else with a diverse list of films. He brought us both Babe and Mad Max. That’s insane. Then he went even more insane when he made the action masterpiece that is Mad Max: Fury Road in his late 60s.
14. Joel & Ethan Coen (Favourite Film: Fargo)
Not all of their films have been greats for everyone, they do have a very specific style and the big ones like Fargo, The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men are simply stunning and very different.
13. Paul Thomas Anderson (Favourite Film: Boogie Nights)
He’s obviously inspired by people like Martin Scorsese, but PTA is someone who’s managed to pave his own path with funnier (yet still impactful) entries like Boogie Nights and Punch-Drunk Love and the darker and more serious There Will Be Blood and Magnolia.
12. Francis Ford Coppola (Favourite Film: Apocalypse Now)
This guy made the first two Godfather movies! Yes, he did the third too but we don’t need to talk about that. He’s made some of the greatest films of all time and Apocalypse Now is an absolutely stunning war movie that will leave you floored.
11. John Carpenter (Favourite Film: The Thing)
One of the best horror directors ever. He formulated the slasher flick blueprint with Halloween, made a gripping thriller in The Thing and made some great B-movies with Escape From New York and Big Trouble In Little China.
10. James Cameron (Favourite Film: Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
Maybe the best action filmmaker, James Cameron has given us epic sci-fi action movies like The Terminator, T2 and Aliens along with romantic box office smash (understatement) Titanic.
9. Sidney Lumet (Favourite Film: Dog Day Afternoon)
When your first feature film is 12 Angry Men, you’ve done pretty well for yourself. When you go into the 70s and make films as good as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Network then you’ve cemented yourself as one of the greats.
8. Blake Edwards (Favourite Film: A Shot In The Dark)
Here’s a super-underrated classic comedy director. Blake Edwards gave us the gut-busting Peter Sellers’ Pink Panther franchise along with plenty of other classics including the near perfect Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
7. Steven Spielberg (Favourite Film: Jurassic Park)
He’s the guy. Spielberg owned the 80s and wasn’t exactly slacking in the 70s and 90s. He even presented plenty of great films in the 2000s in one of the most diverse and successful filmographies of all time, both critically and commercially. He gave us Indiana Jones for Christ’s sake!
6. Quentin Tarantino (Favourite Film: Pulp Fiction)
Maybe the most famous of modern auteur directors, Tarantino has been giving us his brilliant Grindhouse twist to great genres since the 90s. He says he’ll only do a couple more but what we’ve already gotten from him is all we’ll ever need. He’s made plenty of the best films of the past three decades and he certainly seems like he’ll be adding a few more modern classics with his fast-paced dialogue and ultra-violence.
5. Alfred Hitchcock (Favourite Film: Rear Window)
Alfred Hitchcock is a true legend of classic cinema with masterpieces like Psycho, Rear Window and Vertigo that have influenced film for decades. I’m just sorry he’s not higher.
4. Stanley Kubrick (Favourite Film: The Shining)
One of the most illusive and mysterious directors of all time, Stanley Kubrick was a genius filmmaker. His smooth camera work and unsettling direction make his films feel almost surreal. It’s impossible not to call his films works of art but when you’ve got The Shining, Dr Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey as examples, how can you not?
3. David Fincher (Favourite Film: Fight Club)
David Fincher is a director who always manages to make films look fantastic. On top of sleek camera work, Fincher is one of the most efficient directors ever. There’s hardly a single wasted second in any of his films and they’re all full of surprises. Fight Club has the twist to kill all twists and Zodiac is a true story mystery thriller with no answer yet it’s a masterpiece. If he wants to make you feel a certain way, he can do it. Zodiac is a film about obsession and as soon as I watched the film for the first time, I went on a mass googling about the Zodiac Killer because Fincher had gotten me obsessed as well.
2. Martin Scorsese (Favourite Film: Goodfellas)
Marty, if I may call him Marty, is someone who’s somehow able to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece. He’s delivered perfect pieces of art every decade since 1976’s Taxi Driver and his energetic style seen in films like Goodfellas has only gotten more energetic with The Wolf of Wall Street, made when he was about 70. That’s insane. He seems to have a lot more work on the way too, including a reunion with Robert De Niro in a gangster film The Irishman which will also see his first collaboration with the great Al Pacino. He doesn’t make movies, he doesn’t even make films. He makes pictures.
1. David Lynch (Favourite Film: Mulholland Drive)
A recent discovery of mine, David Lynch is a surrealist but can also make brilliant narrative films. With a resume as diverse as his, with films varying from Eraserhead, The Elephant Man and Dune, you really can’t predict what he’ll bring you but it’s always mind-blowing (as long as the studio doesn’t take creative control away from him). He’s even worked in TV and very successfully with Twin Peaks changing the face of television in the 90s, which is also getting a return this year in May. He’s not made many films in his long career but they’re almost all masterpieces that are nothing like anything you’ve ever seen before. This is a man who’s filmography you must explore because it is truly astonishing.
So what do you think? Who are your favourite directors? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!