1. Alfred Hitchcock 2. Stanley Kubrick 3. Ingmar Bergman 4. Yasujirô Ozu 5. Federico Fellini 6. Martin Scorsese 7. Francis Ford Coppola 8. Andrei Tarkovsky 9. Orson Welles 10. John Ford 11. Michelangelo Antonioni 12. Akira Kurosawa 13. François Truffaut 14. Jean Renoir 15. Paul Thomas Anderson 16. Jean-Luc Godard 17. Max Ophüls 18. David Lynch 19. Carl Theodor Dreyer 20. Sergio Leone 21. Fritz Lang 22. Kar-Wai Wong 23. Sergei Eisenstein 24. Terrence Malick 25. F.W. Murnau 26. Joseph von Sternberg 27. Woody Allen 28. Steven Spielberg 29. Howard Hawks 30. The Coen Brothers 31. Luis Bunuel
Lonergan. Kenneth Lonergan is a New Yorker who came up as a screenwriter and playwright. He’s made three films from 2000-2020, all three very solidly in the archives. The films are known for their supreme writing and acting. His films are flawless, but not overflowing with cinematic style or ambition. Like Bennett Miller just a few slots before him here- it seems very unlikely Lonergan ever makes a bad film or a masterpiece. He seems dead set on taking his time to make sure he gets it done his way— Kenneth Lonergan films—and the lengthy Orson Welles-like battle he
Nichols. Jeff Nichols is now five for five in the archives. His 2007 debut, Shotgun Stories, is one of the better debuts of the 2000’s decade, and his next film, his sophomore effort Take Shelter, one of the better films of 2011 (and Nichols’ finest to date). He looked poised for a huge 2010’s decade. Though Mud (2012) is strong– the rest of the decade didn’t quite live up to that early promise. 2016 was supposed to be his big year. He released two films (like Spielberg does often) with different purposes. Loving was supposed to be his true
Miller. Bennett Miller walks the line between supreme, gifted craftsman—and artist. He makes adult dramas—often deemed “important”- but that is a description- neither a compliment nor insult. They are certainly never moralizing or patronizing. The performances and scripts (which he doesn’t write) are almost always up for best actor or best writing and deservedly so—however, it is no coincidence it is Miller at the helm behind the camera and now, after fifteen years and three films, there is a consistency in his work—at least the patience in rendering the works and the specific subject choices. His strength is his
Hooper. Tom Hooper is a British director who came up in television like so many directors and auteurs before him since the 1950’s. Depending on how you count his television work (I have one TV miniseries and TV movie below in the archives) he has made eight or nine films—and all but his most recent- Cats in 2019- land in the archives. It is a difficult time to mount a defense for Hooper with Cats as a supposed dumpster-fire disaster in 2019 (I have not seen it yet, but do plan to see it). Given his track-record though, if
Cianfrance. I always think of Blue Valentine as his debut but he actually had a 1998 film called Brother Tied that I have not yet been able to catch. Regardless, Blue Valentine landed a dozen years later as one of the absolute best films of 2010. He quickly followed that up with The Place Beyond the Pines and looked destined for great things for the remainder of the decade and beyond. We’re still waiting at this point. The Light Between Oceans wasn’t a throwaway but wasn’t on the level of his 2010 and 2012 entries. He works in drama
Eggers. Robert Eggers has made two films: The Witch, a strong debut, in 2015 and his 2019 follow-up, The Lighthouse. He’s two for two in the archives—and both landed very close to the top 10 of their respective years (a murders’ row of films in 2019 kept The Lighthouse out) and the top 100 of their respective decade. He’s a style-plus auteur as well with a very distinct voice. His films are bathed in production design authenticity and painstaking detail. They also, absolutely, have a strong audio component as the dialogue used is utterly specific and distinct as well.
Gerwig. Greta Gerwig is a great comic actress—I often lament actors (especially great ones like her) going behind the camera because they’re usually not great as directors—and because it is a double blow as that usually means we don’t get to see them act for a year or two. I wasn’t fully convinced I was wrong with Gerwig even with Lady Bird in 2017—clearly a strong debut for any director. However, with 2019’s Little Women, I have to admit there very few directors whose next film I look forward to more than Greta Gerwig’s (yes, the director!). She has
Shults. Trey Edward Shults debuted with Krisha in 2015. The film isn’t on that level but it introduces a talent like was shown in Who’s That Knocking at My Door from Scorsese or 1998’s Pi from Darren Aronofsky (two other films essentially made for zero budget). Shults now has three features under his belt—but he’s largely here on the top 250 because of 2019’s Waves. It is one of those films destined to be rediscovered years from now (let’s hope it doesn’t take decades). Waves’ cinematic accomplishment is undeniable—and it isn’t one of the best films of 2019 because
Olivier. Laurence Olivier is, of course, a brilliant actor. However, he also directed five films and four of them are in the archives. The first three are his best and they’re Shakespeare adaptations (though it is fascinating to see him and Marilyn Monroe act together in his fourth film- The Prince and the Showgirl). You’d think that since he’s an actor, and this is the sacred work of the Bard, he’d simply film the stage and they’d be woefully uncinematic. That isn’t the case though. I won’t call Olivier a style-plus director, he isn’t, but there’s no way Henry
Rob Reiner. Reiner has directed 22 films overall but it is his six films (including his big screen debut after a few tv movies) from This is Spinal Tap in 1984 to A Few Good in 1992 that he will be remembered for. It is all about the filmography here—these are commercial hits, good comedies, and some of the best Hollywood films made during this stretch. There’s no discernible style, and he could shape-shift and do any genre (they were all funny—but he could do a Stephen King thriller to broad comedy to an Aaron Sorkin-penned legal drama).
Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow has released ten films to date (2020) since her debut in 1981. Four of these have landed in the archives with The Hurt Locker, in 2008, as her single greatest work. It found a spot at the very end of my top 500 of all-time and there are very few directors left as I count down from #1 to #250 on my top directors list with a top 500 all-time film. Somewhere since 1981 (I believe it was before Hurt Locker) Bigelow is quoted to have said “action cinema is pure cinema”- and she makes a