1. Stanley Kubrick- Kubrick once said, “if it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.” To this man, the term “unfilmable” didn’t exist. Kubrick had an imagination like few others, an imagination that spilled over onto the screen. He had the ability to show the dark side of something good (technology) or the beautiful, even hilarious side of something tragic (war). He could also make long stretches of silence exciting and ridiculous dystopian futures seem frighteningly real. He made the impossible possible, and like great men before him like Einstein, Galileo, and Darwin–he extended the limits of the human imagination.
Well, the Top 10 has disappeared for a while, but now it’s back. This time, we’ll focus on directors. These brave men are the true architects of the cinema; they must be daring. They bring ideas to life any way they can. This list, are the directors who do it best:
2. Quentin Tarantino- This man inspired my obsession with film because he is a man as obsessed with film as I am. Tarantino’s films are not violent, vulgar trash but rather loving odes to the violent, vulgar trash he watched in his youth. His tributes bring to the light the obscure films of his era into our own. Without him, the words Leone, Kurosawa, Scorsese, Ford, and Eastwood would sound like nothing more than foreign objects.
3. Martin Scorsese- The 1970s was perhaps the greatest period of American filmmaking. And Scorsese was the greatest of the period. Like a film out of the French New Wave, it contains loose narrative structure and a large degree of social realism and awareness. Few directors know the art of directing better than him, nor understand the tremendous effect that simply dimming the lights or playing downbeat music can have on an entire film.
4. Sergio Leone- When people think Western they think America. They think of Wayne and Ford. But really what they should think of is Italy and Leone. Like Kubrick, Leone works best under great silences; creating intensity through creepy stares. Like any great western director, he observed the landscape and fully exploited its stunning beauty, from the buttes of Monument Valley to the crowded streets of Brooklyn in his underrated foray into the gangster drama, “Once Upon a Time in America.” No doubt though, he is most famous for the conclusion of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” when the showdown between three outlaws culminates into one of the most thrilling uses of music and suspense ever put into the movies. Thank Leone for that.
5. Joel & Ethan Coen- Many directors work great alone. Not this sibling team, who are sometimes labeled “the two-headed director.” They brilliantly exploit their characters’ flaws, and turn the landscapes they film into their own personal canvas. Upon first viewing, some of their characters might seem one-dimensional, but after multiple viewings, deeper dimensions come out. Perhaps just one piece of evidence proves the Coen Brothers greatness: they created The Dude.
6. Judd Apatow- With only two features (it might seem like more with all of his producing projects), Apatow has already established himself as a leading voice of the comedy world. He directs in a different way than one would expect a great director to. He stays out the way, with simple still shots rather than complex aerial or tracking shots. Meanwhile, he famously chooses his actors before even writing the script, and once shooting starts, he practically lets them do whatever they want, and therefore his films feel more natural. Apatow proves that the director that directs best is one that directs least.
7. John Ford- The father of the Western genre. Despite the racism and political incorrectness of his movies, they still stand the test of time. His “The Searchers” has inspired sci-fi films (“Star Wars), war movies (“Apocalypse Now”), and crime dramas (“Taxi Driver”) amongst others. Just from that one movie alone, Ford proved that the universal language of film is the concept that a simple, human story can fit into any setting, any genre, at any time.
8. Wes Anderson- Many directors fall into the dreadful category of style over substance. Anderson however, defies all odds and is able to achieve both style and substance by bringing out substance through his style.
9. Steven Speilberg- Because, how could I not? He’s one of the few directors that is more famous than his stars. He is also the father of the summer blockbuster. Today, this might seem like a negative thing, but following Speilberg’s model could bring about that seemingly unachievable balance between art and entertainment, a sort of nirvana every great director hopes to achieve. Just remember, behind the dazzling effects of “E.T.” is the story of a young boy’s connection with an alien, and behind the horror of “Jaws” is the story of a man who will do anything to protect his family and community. Speilberg also showed he was capable of more serious work, with “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “Munich” quickly ranking among the finest movies ever made.
10. Clint Eastwood- Everyone knew the man could act, but who knew he could direct? Taking tips from his mentors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, Eastwood went on to make a name for himself directing epic westerns, epic war movies, and smaller, human dramas.
Other Contenders: Roman Polanksi, Francis Ford Coppola, Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, Akira Kurosawa, Francis Truffaut, Hayao Miyazaki, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Milos Foreman