Director Steven Spielberg once said that “Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about”.
This quote epitomizes why I love movies. Films have the power to take you to new worlds, explore new ideas, and learn about the world around you. The director is the one that has the power to put all elements together to turn a film into an experience and to change a person’s outlook on life.
I worry that as our generation takes in media, they are losing what film can truly accomplish as people want entertainment that is easy to digest, as well as having a color character in it that they already love. They have lost sight of the power that a director could bring, and the weight that a _________ picture comes with.
That is I chose to rank my favorite visionary directors to help our generation escape from the escapist entertainment of today, and find directors that through unique styles, ideas, and visions can teach about the world around us.
The qualifications for this list are simple. They must have made more than 3 films (so no Jordan Peele or Greta Gerwig and they cannot primarily work in the field of animation (so no Pete Docter). With that said, on to this list!
Honorable Mentions: Sam Mendes, Milos Forman, Barry Levinson, Billy Wilder, Mike Nichols, Noah Baumbach, Alexander Payne, Robert Zemeckis, Adam McKay, and Stanley Kubrick
10. The Coen Brothers
Favorite Film by The Coen Brothers: Fargo (1996)
While The Coen Brothers may be the most inconsistent directors on this list, when the Coen Brothers hit a home run, it is out of the park. This comes down to a really strong style that overcomes any genre convention whether it is a western like True Grit (2010) or even a folk tale like O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) or a stoner comedy like The Big Lebowski (1998).
That is because these brothers have a darkly comedic style that can be molded into any film. Even when they go against type in films such as No Country for Old Men (2007) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), they are able to infuse the film with such unique pacing and strong characters that no one could make a film the same way The Coens make a film.
9. Christopher Nolan
Favorite Film by Christopher Nolan: The Dark Knight (2008)
This is one director, regardless of how into film you are, that everyone knows and loves. Nolan has been hailed for reinventing the blockbuster genre with high concept, visual experiences that have not yet been matched, tho many have attempted. From Interstellar (2014) to Inception (2010) these films push boundaries in what film could accomplish. Even when on a smaller scale, such as in Insomnia (2002) and The Prestige (2006), Christopher Nolan is able to get the most out of his concepts and his casts.
8. Sidney Lumet
Favorite Film by Sidney Lumet: 12 Angry Men (1957)
While probably the least well known director on this list, at least for mainstream audiences, no one is able to craft a dialogue driven film like Sidney Lumet. He has a talent to keep his audience on the edge of his seats by pulling powerful performances from his actors while somehow making films set in primarily one or two locations feel immense. Look no further to Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and 12 Angry Men (1957), two films mainly taking place in a few locations that are even more gripping than most of the action blockbusters on the big screen today.
7. Steven Spielberg
Favorite Film by Steven Spielberg: Schindler’s List (1993)
Steven Spielberg revolutionized cinema and turned it into what we know today. From creating the first modern-day blockbuster in Jaws (1975) to utilizing computer generated effects in ways that still hold up decades later in Jurassic Park (1993) to creating one of the best family films ever made in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Spielberg always knew how to push the boundaries of filmmaking.
However, Spielberg is at his best when putting his own sentimental spin on true stories with the heart-wrenching Schindler’s List (1993) and the gripping Saving Private Ryan (1998) being the most prominent examples. While he may get too sappy at times with films such as The Terminal (2004) and The BFG (2016) he makes up for it with other Oscar caliber films like Lincoln (2012) and Bridge of Spies (2015). Lastly, who can forget that he is the visionary who brought Indiana Jones alive.
6. Alfred Hitchcock
Favorite Film by Alfred Hitchcock: Rear Window (1954)
This is a man that almost everyone knows as “the master of suspense”, regardless of if they have seen his films or not. Every single Hitchcock film is crafted with so much passion that every scene and frame feels meticulously crafted to the point where the placement of a pen on a desk impacts the meaning of his films. Even when jumping tones and moods from Psycho (1960) to Vertigo (1958) to Rope (1948), he keeps his Hitchcockian sense of tension. Even if you check out his films, and are somehow bored, you can still appreciate the groundwork that this man laid for the future of cinema.
Read Part 2, where I reveal My Top 5 Favorite Directors of All Time!