The Student News Site of Claudia Taylor Johnson High School

My Jag News

The Student News Site of Claudia Taylor Johnson High School

My Jag News

The Student News Site of Claudia Taylor Johnson High School

My Jag News

Top 30 Greatest Directors of All Time

Quinton Tarantino is debatably the world’s greatest director of all time.
Martin Scorcese is known to have made some of the most daring films in cinema history.

by Sumner Strickland | staff writer

Since the school year is coming to a close I decided I’d close out the year with an epic list of the 30 greatest directors of all time.

30. Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan was one of the first directors to marry character driven indie films with summer blockbusters and he won’t be the last. The summer blockbuster hadn’t changed in forty years until Nolan put on the gloves and went toe to toe with the conventions of the past. In my humble opinion Nolan has had one of the greatest impacts on modern day cinema and in years to come he’ll be one of the best directors in the world, once he shakes off the dust of the Batman franchise.

Best Movies The Dark Knight, Memento, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins

 29. Sam Peckinpah

What Sam Peckinpah meant to me was, The beginning. Arthur Penn had dabbled in a controversial bloodbath with his 1967 release Bonnie and Clyde. But Sam Peckinpah took that idea a step further and flipped everything upside down and introduced them to a new world of possibilities. Sam Peckinpah defined a generation and generations to come.

Best Movies The Wild Bunch, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and Major Dundee

28. James Cameron

James Cameron is a true 21st century artist. The fact is, when Cameron is given an opportunity to knock one out of the park, he takes it a step further. People can undermine him all they want about Avatar, but it was a supreme achievement beyond what anybody else could imagine. Even the last hour of Titanic is still one of the greatest sequences of all time, because of his supreme direction. Cameron is rare edition and can’t be overlooked.

Best Movies Titanic, Avatar, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator, Aliens

27. George Lucas

Lucas was a man before his time, and revolutionized how we saw film. And the only way that the Star Wars movies were even possible were by laying over strips of film to create an effect like flying, or a lightsaber fight. Which had never been done before, but with the new ingenuity came a new generation.

Best movies The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope, American Graffiti, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of The Sith

26. Mel Brooks

Brooks created the new standard for what a comedy could be and what it should be. The enthusiasm that Brooks had, gave life to a new breed of comedy.

Best Movies Young Frankenstein,Blazing Saddles,The Producers,Silent Movie,History of The World: Part 1

25. Brian De Palma

De Palma’s most famous work is obviously Scarface, But to me the movies that show who he really is, are The Untouchables and Carlito’s Way. De Palma’s style is a neo cross breeding of Martin Scorsese and Sam Peckinpah. And without him a whole generation might have been lost.

Best Movies The Untouchables, Carlitos Way,Scarface,Casualties of War,Blow Out

24. D.W. Griffith

D.W. Griffith was possibly the greatest silent movie director, and the creator of the epic. Most films in the early 1900’s were no longer than an hour or so, until Griffith made The BIrth of a Nation in 1915, at a whopping 3 and a half hours. It was easily the most revolutionary film ever made, despite the blatant racism (just a couple of scenes depicting KKK members as the protagonists) but that’s besides the point. The point is that because of films like The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, we can have great directors like Martin Scorsese and Howard Hawks.

Best Movies Intolerance, The Birth of a Nation,Orphans of the Storm, Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and The GirlHearts of the World

23. Howard Hawks

Speak of the devil, Howard Hawks was the early pioneer of violent filmmaking. Not that his films were violent just because, but they were violent to display a type of ugliness or underbelly no one was used to seeing. Thus making him one of the most influential directors of all time.

Best Movies Rio Bravo,The Big Sleep, Air Force, His Girl Friday, Scarface

22. Robert Rodriguez

When Robert Rodriguez directed El Mariachi in the 90’s, he directed it for $7,000. Which was easily one of the cheapest movies ever made. But how did something that cheap launch him to great director status? Simple, the man understands independent filmmaking like no one else, and started the independent film era.

Best movies Sin City,Grindhouse ( Planet Terror),El Mariachi,Spy Kids,Once upon a time in Mexico 

21.  John Huston

John Huston was a rebel director, unwilling to accept anything less than his vision for a film no matter what anyone else said.

Best Movies The Treasure of The Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, The African Queen, The Man Who Would Be King, The Red Badge of Courage

20. Peter Jackson

Jackson brings something to the table that other blockbuster directors can’t. Grit, there’s an accepted grittiness to a Peter Jackson film that makes him stand out among the others. But if you look at some of his films you can see that big budgeted movies aren’t his thing – good stories are.

Best Movies King Kong,Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,Lord of the Rings: Two Towers,Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,Dead Alive

19. David Fincher

David Fincher is one of the most consistent directors there is. In fact his films get better each year but the quality of the past ones never changes either. He is the grittiest director working today no doubt but he flourishes when he does a story about the descent of others. His films are all just personal statements about himself.

Best Movies Fight Club,The Social Network,Zodiac,Se7en,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

18. David Lynch

David Lynch is easily one of the strangest directors alive or dead. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact in this case it’s a very good thing. What Lynch does can’t really be explained, it must be experienced to be understood. Only then could I tell you about David Lynch. But in short, Lynch put the balls back into art films. When no one was willing to go deep he went deeper than you or I could possibly imagine, and because of his guts we have other greats like The Coen Bros. and Tim Burton.

Best Movies Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Lost Highway

17. Sidney Lumet

Lumet was a very technical director who had a political opinion often expressed in his work. For almost all his movies he shot in New York.

Best Movie Network,Dog Day Afternoon,12 Angry Men,The Verdict,Serpico

16. Woody Allen

Some say Woody Allen created the modern day romantic comedy. I disagree I believe he created the first real romantic comedy with Annie Hall. But he’s not just a romantic comedy guy, he’s great at slapstick but then he’s also great at gritty crime dramas (Match Point) but he cuts the deepest when he does straight drama (Husbands and Wives). He’s the best at being Woody Allen and that’s why he’s great.

Best Movies Manhattan,Annie Hall,Husbands and Wives,Sleeper,Midnight in Paris

15. Tim Burton

Tim Burton brought originality back to cinema because of his uniquely original voice and his passion for the art form.

Best Movies Ed Wood,Edward Scissorhands,Beetlejuice,Batman,Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

14. Steven Spielberg

Spielberg was the man who created the summer blockbuster. But more importantly he was the man who breathed life back into cinema, he wasn’t scared of what could or couldn’t be done, he just went with his gut and became possibly the most influential director of our time.

Best Movies Jaws,E.T.,Raiders of the Lost Ark,Saving Private Ryan,Schindler’s List

13. David Lean

An overlooked director as far as epics go. David Lean lived in a time before CGI, so when the man needed 1,000 men and 1,000 camels in one shot (Lawrence of Arabia) he physically had to get and pay everyone to be in the shot. But he did it the right way, where even on the mass scale the film is on he never loses the emotion and that’s more special.

Best Movies Lawrence of Arabia,The Bridge over a River Kwai,Oliver Twist,A Passage to India,Doctor Zhivago

12. Milos Forman

Milos Forman can do things others can’t which is let you embody the emotional weight of the characters he’s portraying. Amadeus does this, The People vs. Larry Flynt, but more than any other movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The emotional impact at the end of that movie started a revolution towards the insane asylums of America. Which proves my theory that some movies have the emotional power to change lives.

Best Movies Amadeus,The People vs. Larry Flynt,One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,Man on the Moon,Ragtime

11. Sergio Leone

You can’t watch a western made in the last twenty years without seeing some trace of Sergio Leone in the work. The thing about Leone that makes him so memorable is that in his films almost all of the main characters are bad guys including the hero, but you never go away from any of his films saying that the characters are all soulless but how beautiful the film is and how poetic the film is.

Best Movies The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,Once upon a time in the West,A Fistful of Dollars,For a Few Dollars More,Once upon a time in America

10. Francis Ford Coppola

Coppola to me was the last of the classically made films. There was never going to be another movie like the godfather and that was his goodbye to classic cinema. Or at least that’s my take on it.

Best Movies The Godfather,The Godfather Part II,Apocalypse Now,The Conversation,Bram Stoker’s: Dracula

9. Alfred Hitchcock

The original master of suspense is definitely deserving of a spot on the list. As far being influential he was for a great many directors but his movies were the start for modern horror movies and will always be where the building blocks of great horror premises come from.

Best Movies Psycho,Rear Window,Vertigo,North by Northwest,Strangers on a Train

8. Robert Altman

Robert Altman didn’t really change much as far as filmmaking went but his voice was the most original in a time where all movies were supposed to be carbon copies of each other.

Best Movies The Player,Short Cuts,MASH,Nashville,Gosford Park

7. Stanley Kubrick

No list is complete without Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was so influential, that every other director on this list was influenced by him. What’s interesting about Kubrick though is that he went against everything a normal film was supposed to be and made films into what he saw. Thus creating the Kubrick generation.

Best Movies Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb,2001 A Space Odyssey,The Shining,A Clockwork Orange,Full Metal Jacket

6. The Coen Bros.

The Coens are great period. Because they’re just the Coen Brothers being themselves. And that’s why they are so great, because it’s never an act, its never for our benefit, this is just there world and there world is always interesting to visit.

Best Movies Fargo,No Country for Old Men,O Brother Where Art Thou,Barton Fink,The Big Lebowski

5. Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson is a unique director because his characters never do what you expect them to do. Some people get angered by that but I believe that’s what makes his films so thrillingly alive. By far one of the most underrated directors in Hollywood.

Best Movies Fantastic Mr. Fox,Moonrise Kingdom,Rushmore,The Royal Tenenbaums,The Darjeeling Limited

4. Paul Thomas Anderson

When you watch a PTA movie, you’re not watching it, you’re experiencing it. His movies are a journey unlike anything else. Whose work continues to get better with age and I will never cease to be impressed.

Best Movies There Will Be Blood,Magnolia,The Master,Boogie Nights,Punch Drunk Love

3. Richard Linklater

When you sit down to watch a Richard Linklater film, it’s almost like being plopped down right in the middle of what these characters are doing and feeling. In Dazed and Confused there is one kid who’s fourteen years old, that got the gig because he saw a flyer in a coffee shop that they were looking for actors. Somehow he became compelling in a very real way, and what Linklater does is simple. Tells them not to act, just talk. And somehow it works, almost to the point where you feel that this movie isn’t a narrative, it’s a documentary. Once Linklater wins the Oscar he deserves I can sleep peacefully again.

Best Movies Dazed and Confused,Waking Life,Before Sunrise,Before Sunset,Slacker

2. Martin Scorsese

Scorsese was the most essential director of the twentieth century no doubt because of two reasons. He loves films more than anything and his work displays that true passion. But his greatest quality as a director is that he is honest in everything that he does. Every film is a piece of Martin Scorsese and you can feel the soul of every one of his pictures fly off the screen and hit you like a shot to the heart.

Best Movies Goodfellas,Taxi Driver,Raging Bull,The Departed,Casino

1. Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino is the rarest director their is because there’s never been a director like him. He flipped filmmaking upside down and showed us what films could be not what they’re supposed to be. He was the start of something new, and still as influential today as he was in the nineties.

Best Movies Pulp Fiction,Inglourious Basterds,Django Unchained,Kill Bill,Reservoir Dogs

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Top 30 Greatest Directors of All Time