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50 Greatest Directors


LawrenceA

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Nearly 21 years ago, the magazine Entertainment Weekly had an issue listing, in their estimation, the 50 greatest movie directors of all time. I'll post the list, and then I invite commentary on how the list should change now that we are 20 years further along. Who has risen in estimation, and who has fallen? Who, if any, have come on the scene since then that deserves a spot?

 

1) Alfred Hitchcock

2) Orson Welles

3) John Ford

4) Howard Hawks

5) Martin Scorsese

6) Akira Kurosawa

7) Buster Keaton

8) Ingmar Bergman

9) Frank Capra

10) Federico Fellini

11) Steven Spielberg

12) Jean Renoir

13) John Huston

14) Luis Bunuel

15) D.W. Griffith

16) Ernst Lubitsch

17) Robert Altman

18) George Cukor

19) Woody Allen

20) Vincente Minnelli

21) Francis Ford Coppola

22) Michael Powell

23) Stanley Kubrick

24) Billy Wilder

25) Satyajit Ray

26) Roman Polanski

27) Francois Truffaut

28) Preston Sturges

29) Sergei Eisenstein

30) Fritz Lang

31) Jean-Luc Godard

32) Sam Peckinpah

33) F. W. Murnau

34) David Lean

35) Werner Herzog

36) Nicholas Ray

37) Josef von Sternberg

38) Douglas Sirk

39) Max Ophuls

40) Louis Malle

41) Sergio Leone

42) Sidney Lumet

43) Oliver Stone

44) Bernardo Bertolucci

45) Jonathan Demme

46) Jacques Tati

47) Otto Preminger

48) Spike Lee

49) Tim Burton

50) Jerry Lewis

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In my opinion, a few of the newer directors would no longer be on the list. Oliver Stone, Jonathan Demme and Tim Burton have all faded from prominence. Spike Lee's impact has also diminished a bit, but his import for black filmmakers and NY filmmakers of a certain age may keep him on the list.

 

The notable older omissions I see include Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu, Rene Clair, and Kenji Mizoguchi.

 

There are no Australian or Chinese directors on the list, so I would consider including Peter Weir and Wong Kar-wai. Park Chan-wook from Korea is also a possibility. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu from Mexico is a contender.

 

There are a few of the lesser respected "craftsmen" of old Hollywood, the guys who made solid films but without a personal, auteur touch, that I would include, particularly William Wyler and Michael Curtiz.

 

I think, love him or hate him, Quentin Tarantino would likely appear on the list.

 

My second favorite living filmmakers are the Coen brothers, who I'm sure would appear on the list now. At the time of the original list, EW weren't big fans of the Coens. I recall them begrudgingly conceding that Fargo was okay but they took undue glee when their next film, The Big Lebowski, flopped at the box office. Of course, it's gone on to become a huge cult favorite. EW has gone through various editorial changes, so I don't know if they still knock the Coens as frequently.

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I'm quite surprised that Vittorio De Sica is not on that list.  He has directed some great ones:

The Children Are Watching Us 1944

Shoeshine 1946

Bicycle Thieves 1948

Miracle In Milan 1951

Umberto D. 1952

Terminal Station 1953 - his cut

The Gold of Naples 1954

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow 1963

Marriage italian Style 1964

The Garden of the Finzi-Coninis 1970

A Brief Vacation 1973

 

 

 

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I'm quite surprised that Vittorio De Sica is not on that list.  He has directed some great ones:

 

 

Definitely, and that brings to mind Roberto Rossellini, who is also highly regarded. Luchino Visconti as well.

 

I have personal favorites that would appear on my list, like David Lynch, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Cronenberg, Michael Mann, John Carpenter, David Fincher, Jim Jarmusch and Terrence Malick. They've all had hits and misses, but so have the majority of names on the original list.

 

Also, is it odd that Chaplin isn't on the list?

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Also, is it odd that Chaplin isn't on the list?

 

My goodness, yes.  Though I wonder if Entertainment Weekly is a bit mainstream I have to say that they do have some artsy choices as well.  i.e., von Sternberg, Bunuel.  

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William Wyler is one of those names that is too easily overlooked.  You could make the argument that he was the most complete film director.  He could cut across any genre and was a fabulous actors director.

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William Wyler is one of those names that is too easily overlooked.  You could make the argument that he was the most complete film director.  He could cut across any genre and was a fabulous actors director.

 

Yeah, I think he gets overlooked because he wasn't an auteur. He didn't put a "signature" on his movies. He was the greatest of the studio craftsmen, I think, working successfully in so many different genres. 

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I thought of a few more that I'm surprised weren't on there.

 

Fred Zinnemann

 

Elia Kazan

 

Lewis Milestone

 

George Stevens

 

Carol Reed

 

Michelangelo Antonioni

 

Mike Nichols

 

A few more still working are Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Ang Lee and Ridley Scott.

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Yeah, I think he gets overlooked because he wasn't an auteur. He didn't put a "signature" on his movies. He was the greatest of the studio craftsmen, I think, working successfully in so many different genres. 

 

I agree with both Bogie and you when it comes to Wyler.   That was the first director 'missing' from the list that I noticed.

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Nice! Thanks for adding that, skimpole. I'm surprised by Chris Marker on the list. Also surprised about Coppola being that high, even if he did make 3 of my favorite films. I can't believe I forgot Tarkovsky earlier in the discussion. 

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Yeah, I think he gets overlooked because he wasn't an auteur. He didn't put a "signature" on his movies. He was the greatest of the studio craftsmen, I think, working successfully in so many different genres. 

I don't agree that Wyler didn't put a signature on his films. Films like Jezebel, Dodsworth, and The Best Years of Our Lives, to name only a few, could have been directed by no one else. Building tension by showing actors' backs and shooting important scenes through glass windows (BYOOL) are only two of his trademarks. Some of the auteurist criticism was excellent, some was incredibly foolish, and not regarding Wyler as one of the great directors is foolish. Essentially, all the established critical favorites (like Wyler) were junked by the auteurists because praising them didn't distinguish the auteurists' critical work from their predecessors.

 

Incidentally, when I saw Lawrence's topic "50 Greatest Directors," my first thought was, "In my opinion or in their own minds?"

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