Greatest Living English Language Directors

15. Milos Formanmilos-forman-filming-hair-in-central-park_bw

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.

Milos-Forman-tumblr_mbbjox8W7Y1rovfcgo4_1280            MilosForman09“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
Taking Off 1971
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975
Hair 1979
Ragtime 1981
Amadeus 1984
Heartburn 1986
Valmont 1989
New Year’s Day 1989
The People Vs. Larry Flynt 1996
Man on the Moon 1999
Keeping the Faith 2000
Goya’s Ghosts 2006
Chelsea on the Rocks 2008

14. Steven SoderberghSteven-Soderbergh-Haywire-image

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).Director STEVEN SODERBERGH during the filming of the thriller ÒCONTAGION,Ó a Warner Bros. Pictures release. 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.OCEAN'S ELEVEN, George Clooney, director Steven Soderbergh on the set, 2001, (c) Warner Brothers

“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

Film Year
Sex, Lies, and Videtape 1989
Kafka 1991
King of the Hill 1993
The Underneath 1995
Schizopolis 1997
Out of Sight 1998
The Limey 1999
Erin Brockovich 2000
Traffic 2000
Ocean’s Eleven 2001
Full Frontal 2002
Solaris 2002
Ocean’s Twelve 2004
Bubble 2006
The Good German 2006
Ocean’s Thirteen 2007
Che 2008
The Girlfriend Experience 2009
The Informant 2009
Contagion 2011
Haywire 2012
Magic Mike 2012
Side Effects 2013

13. James CameronJames_Cameron_bfi-00m-oih

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.james-cameron-rolex-submariner-0011

“Curiosity – it’s the most powerful thing you own. Imagination is a force that can actually manifest a reality.”  – James Cameron

Film Year
Piranha 2: The Spawning 1982
The Terminator 1984
Aliens 1986
The Abyss 1989
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991
True Lies 1994
Titanic 1996
Avatar 2009

12. Roman

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.Roman Polanski

“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

Film Year
Rosemary’s Baby 1968
Chinatown 1974
The Tenant 1976
Tess 1980
Pirates 1986
Frantic 1988
Bitter Moon 1994
Death and the Maiden 1994
The Ninth Gate 2000
The Pianist 2002
Oliver Twist 2005
The Ghost Writer 2010
Carnage 2011
Venus in Fur 2014

11. Christopher NolanChristopherNolanpl_inception_nolan5_f

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. ChristopherNolanPointingNolan 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.christopher-nolan-director

“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

Film Year
Following 1999
Memento 2001
Insomnia 2002
Batman Begins 2005
The Prestige 2006
The Dark Knight 2008
Inception 2010
The Dark Knight Rises 2012
Interstellar 2014

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