Another “invisible” director, Forman is the one director on this list who directed a large number of films in another language (he started out making many classics in Czechoslovakia) before making some of the iconic film’s of the 70’s and 80’s. Central to his legacy are two of the most well-regarded American classics of all-time, 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and 1984’s Amadeus, but he also made the 8 time Oscar nominee Ragtime and many, many other acclaimed films.
“Director is little bit of everything, little bit of the writer, little bit of an actor, little bit of an editor, little bit of a costume designer. Good director is the director who chooses for this profession people who are better than he is. Yes, I can write, but I have to have a writer who is a better writer than I am, I have to have actors who are better actors than I am, I have to have sound engineers who are better sound engineer than I am, you know. It’s a strange profession” – Milos Forman
|Film (English Language)||Year|
|One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest||1975|
|New Year’s Day||1989|
|The People Vs. Larry Flynt||1996|
|Man on the Moon||1999|
|Keeping the Faith||2000|
|Chelsea on the Rocks||2008|
Steven Soderbergh is among the most experimental of all modern American directors, as well as the most prolific. Even when his film’s don’t work (which is sadly about half the time), they fail in spectacularly original ways. His use of editing in films like The Limey and Out of Sight is almost unprecedented in major Hollywood films. His use of color filters was equally groundbreaking. He brought a sweeping sense of “cool” to popular films like Ocean’s 11 as well as a gentle sense of calm to tiny films like his underrated Bubble. He made a film about a male stripper into one of the better dramas of that year (Magic Mike) , he made a nearly avant-garde action film starring a real life UFC fighter (Haywire), as well a film almost entirely out of exposition (Contagion). He’s made so many movies, in so many different styles, that he lacks the easy identifier of other great directors. For example, in 2000 he became one of the few directors ever to be nominated twice in the same year for Best Director with two films that hardly bear any resemblance to each other (Traffic and Erin Brockovich); one a gritty ensemble film that took an uncharacteristically sophisticated look at the drug trad, and the other a popular crowd pleaser that featured Hollywood’s most famous actress in nearly every scene. His approach, reminds me a lot of the great German director Werner Herzog in that he has no formula; he simply directs each movie in the most interesting way he can think of at the time.
“I find it hilarious that most of the stuff being written about movies is how conventional they are, and then you have people … they are upset that something’s not conventional.” –Steven Soderbergh
“Cinema, as I define it and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience.” – Steven Soderbergh
|Sex, Lies, and Videtape||1989|
|King of the Hill||1993|
|Out of Sight||1998|
|The Good German||2006|
|The Girlfriend Experience||2009|
In many ways the direct successor to George Lucas, Cameron shares a lot of similarities with the man who’s film directly inspired him to pursue a career as a director. Cameron shares with Lucas a gift for large scale worldbuilding and filmmaking and also his weakness at writing dialogue. While I don’t think he shares the same Mythic sensibilities as Lucas, his imagination gave us films like the first two iconic Terminators and his skill at composing action films resulted in Aliens. Similar to Lucas, Cameron has become less prolific as time goes on, concentrating on developing filmmaking technology and techniques, while periodically developing the most successful movies of their decades in Titanic (1990’s) and Avatar (2000’s), both of which topped the all-time charts upon their release.
“Curiosity – it’s the most powerful thing you own. Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality.” – James Cameron
|Piranha 2: The Spawning||1982|
|Terminator 2: Judgment Day||1991|
Another famously inconsistent director; Polanski’s filmography hits the highest of high’s (Chinatown frequently shows up in the top 10 movies ever made) and the lowest of lows. He’s a hard director to rank in that regard. His peaks are extremely high, but it’s hard to weigh that against his inconsistency, especially since some of his middling efforts are so obscure that I haven’t bothered to see them.
“You have to show violence the way it is. If you don’t show it realistically, then that’s immoral and harmful. If you don’t upset people, then that’s obscenity.” – Roman Polanski
|Death and the Maiden||1994|
|The Ninth Gate||2000|
|The Ghost Writer||2010|
|Venus in Fur||2014|
Easily the Internet’s favorite director, Nolan has somehow become possibly the most overrated and underrated director of our time. The internet fanboys, who worship the ground he walks on, ironically rarely appreciate the subtleties of his thematic work, instead focusing on the flashier narrative tricks and originality. His numerous critics (who I still think are just trying to be cool) also fail to look hard enough at what he does better than almost anyone. Nolan changed the face of the American blockbuster in the past decade more than any other director (including Peter Jackson in my opinion). In the 7 years since The Dark Knight, making something “dark and gritty” is the phrase used by hundreds of films to try to generate excitement. Making inherently cartoon-y films “serious” is now the simplest way to build Nerd Cred, so much that Marvel had to go in the complete opposite direction to stand out.
“I studied English Literature. I wasn’t a very good student, but one thing I did get from it, while I was making films at the same time with the college film society, was that I started thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors had enjoyed for centuries and it seemed to me that filmmakers should enjoy those freedoms as well.” – Christopher Nolan
|The Dark Knight||2008|
|The Dark Knight Rises||2012|