Greatest Living English Language Directors

20. Peter Weirpeterweir

Peter Weir’s greatest strength is also why he might be the most unrecognized great director working today. He has an uncanny ability to make each film in the style that best suits it. In stark opposition to the Tarantino’s and Wes Anderson’s of the world, Weir prefers to be invisible. His output though is anything but: Witness, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show, and Master and Commander combine popular appeal with a stately professionalism that brought Oscar attention. His early Australian films, Gallipoli and Picnic at Hanging Rock, are staples of international film. With 4 Academy award nominations for Best Director, he trails only Scorsese, Spielberg, Eastwood, and Woody Allen among living directors. Weir is also the consummate actors director. He directed both Harrison Ford and Robin Williams to their first Oscar nominations and he also directed Jim Carrey to his first serious acclaim in The Truman Show.

Peter-Weir“I don’t think I have any sort of master plan. I work intuitively. – Peter Weir

Film Year
The Cars the Ate Paris 1974
Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975
The Last Wave 1977
Gallipoli 1981
The Year of Living Dangerously 1983
Witness 1985
The Mosquito Coast 1986
Dead Poets Society 1989
Green Card 1990
Fearless 1993
The Truman Show 1998
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World 2003
The Way Back 2011

19. Oliver Stone

Stone is the most overtly political great director. Influenced by his time serving in Vietnam, Stone has directed some of the more controversial looks at history and American culture of the modern era. His most “Important” films are the Best Picture winning Platoon and the epic investigative drama JFK. He’s also directed popular classics like Wall Street as well as Oscar contenders Nixon and Born on the 4th of JulyNATURAL BORN KILLERS, director Oliver Stone on-set, 1994, © Warner Brothers /

“I have the right to interpretation as a dramatist. I research. It’s my responsibility to find the research. It’s my responsibility to digest it and do the best that I can with it. But at a certain point that responsibility will become an interpretation.” – Oliver Stone

Film Year
Salvador 1986
Platoon 1986
Wall Street 1987
Talk Radio 1988
Born on the Fourth of July 1989
JFK 1991
Heaven and Earth 1993
Natural Born Killers 1993
Nixon 1995
U-Turn 1997
Any Given Sunday 1999
Alexander 2004
World Trade Center 2006
W. 2008
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps 2010
Savages 2012

18. Wes Andersonwes-anderson-theredlist

Arguably the most colorfully eclectic American director(and one of my personal favorites), Wes Anderson has created a worldbuilding style so immediately identifiable that even casual movie fans recognize it. Unfortunately, Anderson’s delightful mis en scene’s have lent themselves to criticism for being pure style, an argument that rings false for me on several levels. First and foremost being that a sense of individual style is sorely lacking across the majority of modern film. Secondly, having a sense of style does not mean that a director lacks depth, and Anderson in particular has shown a deft handling of narrative and drama that have few modern equals. Anderson was one of the first big directors to emerge out of the burgeoning Independent film scene, arriving a few years after Soderbergh and Tarantino made it cool to have a singular style. His first 2 films, Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, are nearly unrecognizable compared to his recent work but remain critical favorites. His filmography is shorter than most on this list, but he has yet to really make a bad film (I will defend the Life Aquatic with my dying breath) and his last two films have topped their respective years for me. The Grand Budapest Hotel finally brought him major Oscar consideration and it’s fair to say that he’s at the height of his powers right now.Wes-Anderson-qp5jis

“The idea is to make this self-contained world that is the right place for the characters to live in, a place where you can accept their behavior.” – Wes Anderson

Film Year
Bottle Rocket 1996
Rushmore 1998
The Royal Tenenbaums 2001
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou 2004
The Darjeeling Limited 2007
The Fantastic Mr. Fox 2009
Moonrise Kingdom 2012
The Grand Budapest Hotel 2014

17. Peter JacksonPeter-Jackson-collection-gallery-1.jpg.552x402

Like George Lucas, Peter Jackson’s case rests on a relatively small body of work. Although he’s directed well regarded films before and since, Jackson’s legacy ultimately depends on how you feel about his massive adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.  If you’re like me and consider them one of the great accomplishments of modern film, than you’d have to consider Jackson one of the most important of all modern directors, even if his other work outside the trilogy has mostly left me cold.Peter_Jackson_40763

“People always said, ‘How can your imagination compete with the [LOTR] books; how can you put things on the screen that are going to be better than what people have in their minds?’ I understood the rationale behind that. [But] I started to believe it was possible when I saw Alan Lee [conceptual artist] produce sketches for me that were so much better than what was in my mind. I knew then that it was possible to show things on-screen beyond what people imagined.” –Peter Jackson

Film Year
Bad Taste 1987
Meet the Feebles 1989
Braindead 1992
Heavenly Creatures 1994
The Frighteners 1996
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003
King Kong 2005
The Lovely Bones 2009
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 2012
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 2013
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies 2014

16. Terry Gilliam

Terry-Gilliam-imageThe original “weird” director, preceding Guillermo Del Toro and others by over a decade, Gilliam has made many films across a bewildering range of styles, from classic Monty Python comedies to the fever dream sci-fi Brazil. His career has sadly been littered with abandoned projects and films hampered by studio interference and lack of funding, but he’s managed to assemble a resume full of classic films.

Terry-Gilliam-031b2b196304149a6eb7dcc611117481“I think there’s a side of me that’s trying to compete with Lucas and Spielberg — I don’t usually admit this publicly — because I tend to think that they only go so far, and their view of the world is rather simplistic. What I want to do is take whatever cinema is considered normal or successful at a particular time and play around with it — to use it as a way of luring audiences in.” – Terry Gilliam

Film Year
Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975
Jabberwocky 1977
Time Bandits 1981
Brazil 1985
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen 1989
The Fisher King 1991
12 Monkeys 1995
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 1998
The Brothers Grimm 2005
Tideland 2006
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus 2009
The Zero Theorem 2014

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