Friday, March 23, 2012

My 40 Favourite Directors

Here are forty directors (not listed in any order) whose films I have come to admire as my film education has increased, and as a result of my exposure to new and exciting filmmakers. This list stretches from early cinema pioneers like Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin to present-day masters like David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson - and the skilled auteurs like Robert Bresson, Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman who were at their peak in between.

To be considered, I had to have seen and immensely enjoyed at least two of their films. I have listed the films from each filmmaker that I have personally seen and can recommend. Come and share your thoughts on these filmmakers.

Sergei Eisenstein

Essential Viewing: Strike (1924), The Battleship Potemkin (1925), Ivan the Terrible Part 1 (1944)

Charlie Chaplin

The Circus (1928), City Lights (1931), Modern Times (1936), The Great Dictator (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock 

Notorious (1946), Strangers on A Train (1951), Rear Window (1954)Vertigo (1958)North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963)

Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger

Black Narcissus (1946), The Red Shoes (1948), Peeping Tom (1960)

Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), Sunset Boulevard (1950), Some Like It Hot (1959), The Apartment (1960)

Akira Kurosawa

Rashomon (1950), The Seven Samurai (1954), Ran (1985)

Robert Bresson

A Man Escaped (1956), Pickpocket (1958), Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Ingmar Bergman

The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Through A Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972)

Stanley Kubrick

The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1957) Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Jean Luc Godard

Breathless (1959), A Woman is a Woman (1961), Vivre Sa Vie (1962), Contempt (1963), Band A'Part (1964), Pierrot Le Fou (1965), Masculine Feminine (1966), Weekend (1967)

Roman Polanski

Knife in the Water (1962), Repulsion (1965), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974), The Pianist (2002), The Ghost Writer (2010), Carnage (2011)

Andrei Tarkovsky

Andrei Rublev (1969), Solaris (1972), The Mirror (1975), Stalker (1979), The Sacrifice (1986)

Dario Argento

The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970), The Cat o' Nine Tails (1971), Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), Deep Red (1975), Suspiria (1977), Inferno (1980), Tenebre (1982)

Werner Herzog

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Fitzcarraldo (1982), Grizzly Man (2005), Rescue Dawn (2007), Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009), The Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2011)

Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), The Conversation (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979)

Terrence Malick

Badlands (1973), Days of Heaven (1978), The Thin Red Line (1998), The New World (2005), The Tree of Life (2011)

Martin Scorsese

Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Goodfellas (1990), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), Shutter Island (2010)

Terry Gilliam

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Brazil (1985), Twelve Monkeys (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Steven Spielberg

Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Munich (2005)

Woody Allen

Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979), Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Midnight in Paris (2011)

David Lynch

Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), Mulholland Drive (2001)

Ridley Scott

Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Gladiator (2000), Matchstick Men (2003), American Gangster (2007)

David Cronenberg

Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986), Naked Lunch (1991), Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999), A History of Violence (2005), Eastern Promises (2007)

Jim Jarmusch

Night on Earth (1991), Dead Man (1995), Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (1999), Broken Flowers (2005)

Michael Mann

Manhunter (1986), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), Heat (1995), The Insider (1999), Collateral (2004)

Oliver Stone

Platoon (1986), Wall Street (1987), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), The Doors (1991), JFK (1991), Any Given Sunday (1999)

Joel and Ethan Coen

Blood Simple (1984), Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), No Country for Old Men (2007), Burn After Reading (2008),  A Serious Man (2009), True Grit (2010)

Pedro Almodovar

All About My Mother (1999), Talk to Her (2002), Volver (2006), Broken Embraces (2009), The Skin I Live In (2011)

Krzysztof Kieslowski

Camera Buff (1979), Dekalog (1989-90), The Double Life of Veronique (1991), Trois Couleurs: Bleu (1993), Trois Couleurs: Blanc (1994), Trois Couleurs: Rouge (1994)

Steven Soderbergh

Traffic (2000), Ocean's Eleven (2001), The Informant (2009), Contagion (2011)

Quentin Tarantino

Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), Inglourious Basterds (2009)

David Fincher

Se7en (1995), The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), Zodiac (2007), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Danny Boyle

Trainspotting (1996), 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), 127 Hours (2010)

Hayao Miyazaki

Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001)

Paul Thomas Anderson

Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), Punch Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007)

Michael Haneke

The Seventh Continent (1989), Funny Games (1997), Code Unknown (2000), Time of the Wolf (2003), Hidden (2005), The White Ribbon (2009)

Wes Anderson

Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Darren Aronofsky

 Pi (1998), Requiem for a Dream (2000), The Wrestler (2008), Black Swan (2010)

Alfonso Cuaron

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Children of Men (2006)

Christopher Nolan

Memento (2000), Insomnia (2002), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010)

You might have noticed there are no female directors here, and this is a feature I am a little ashamed about. I have watched some fantastic films by some female directors, but not enough of their films to consider their work amongst my favourite. Sofia Coppola, Lynn Ramsay, Debra Granik, Lisa Cholodenko, Susanne Bier, and Claire Denis would head my list of female directors - but mostly due to the strength of a lone film I have seen by them. I will make it a priority in future (perhaps in May) to work through their resumes more. 


  1. Correction... The New World came out in 2005, not 1995...

    BTW, where are the female directors like Sofia Coppola, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold, Kelly Reichardt, Agnes Varda? No love for the ladies?

    1. Oops. Thanks for picking up that error.

      There are a lot of female directors whose films I have enjoyed - actually three female directors have made films that made my Top 10 over the last two years. I just haven't seen enough to include them here. Sophia Coppola (2 films), Lynn Ramsay (1), Debra Granik (1), Lisa Cholodenko (2), Susanne Bier (1), and Claire Denis (1) would be considered, however.

  2. You're missing a couple of great directors, like William Wyler, William Wellman, and Jane Campion, but, hey, pretty decent list otherwise.

    I also think you might want to check out the 80's output of Woody Allen. I have a hunch you're missing a few.

    1. Ah yes Ben Hur. Wyler is excellent, but I haven't see enough of his work to consider him here. I am definitely missing a huge patch of Allen - the same with many directors.

  3. Awesome post. I haven't seen many movies really but Nolan is my favourite by so far. The Prestige is my all time favourite movie, I loved Inception, The Batman Series, Memento. <3

    1. You might be shocked to hear this, but. The Prestige is the only Nolan film I dislike. I like Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight (barely for the latter - i know) - but I love Inception. Amazing film!

  4. Great list, Andy! I'm pretty sure almost all these directors would be on my list if I made one, as well. Oliver Stone's really the only one I'm kind of wishy-washy on, and I haven't seen that many of his films.

    1. As Steven has said below, Stone had a great 80's and 90's - but after Any Given Sunday his films have been pretty terrible. Platoon is my favourite film, and I also like JFK a lot. So I had to include him, but I know a lot of people dislike his films. Thanks for reading, Jandy!

  5. With Oliver Stone, pretty much anything he did from Salvador to Natural Born Killers (Director's Cut) is pretty solid. Nixon, U-Turn, and Any Given Sunday have their moments. Everything else after that is shit.

    1. I should watch Natural Born Killers again. I wasn't a huge fan first time round. I like Harrelson a lot more now.

  6. Several similar favorites here and there. The others I've seen either little of or nothing at all. Good list regardless.

    1. I know you are a big fan of Wilder, and I couldn't overlook his big films. What amazes me about him is the array of genres he can cover - often within the same film. Thanks for reading, Anna.

    2. Honey, in that case, you need to watch some Howard Hawks flicks. That man did pretty much every genre out there.

    3. I really enjoyed The Big Sleep and Red River - but I actually didn't know he directed Scarface, Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, The Thing from Another World and Rio Bravo too. That is impressive. Perhaps I will make him a DOTM focus later in the year. Lots of what I believe to be quality films there, and as you say, a diverse range of genres. Thanks Anna!

  7. Absolutely fucking fantastic list, my friend. I did my top 50 directors some time ago, but that list could use an update, and I didn't put anywhere near as much effort into it as you have.

    Glad to see some of my favourites here, including Kieslowski, Haneke and Bergman. Speaking of Bergman, today is the one-year anniversary of the day I saw my first Bergman film, so today is like a sacred day for me. I'm pulling an all-nighter to do a marathon of my favourite Bergman films in honor of the master.

    1. I remember your list, and it inspired me to check out some of the directors you listed. Kieslowski, Bergman and Haneke would make my Top 20 if I had to halve the list. All are wonderful. I watched most of the Bergman I have ever seen close to two years ago - May 2010. That sounds like a fantastic marathon.

  8. Awesome lsit I'm especially glad to see Aronofsky there, I can't wait to see what he does next although I don't think he will ever top Black Swan.

    1. I actually haven't seen The Fountain, but I have loved everything else Aronofsky has done. The Wrestler topped my list for 2008, and of course, there is Requiem for a Dream.

  9. I came for Nolan, and I got my Nolan, haha. This is a great list. We have quite a few in common.

    And don't worry about having no female directors. In a few decades I'll be your favourite female director, hahahaha ;)

    1. Nolan just made the list actually. I loved Inception, and I still enjoy Memento (though it was one of my first DVDs and I have almost watched it to death) and Batman Begins/The Dark Knight. I don't like The Prestige though. I think that is his weakest. Still, TDKR is one of my most anticipated blockbusters this year - now behind Prometheus - but still anticipated. No doubt Stevee. You are going to be a big deal in the future, I know it.

  10. Great list, I love that all of my favorites are here. Yet again, our movie tastes align. Our thoughts on The Hunger Games... not so much ;)