Okay, so I was talking to one of my students about our favorite directors. By the way, you’ll need to watch out for this kid. I’d say in 10 years, he’ll be well on his way to being on this list. Look for the name Jonny Santana in about 2020.
Anyway, we have a dinky media program at our school run by the eminent Lee Sison. I say dinky because it’s never been much until Jonny came along. He James Cameron’ed it by pushing the boundaries to the point that our computer can’t cope (we’re upgrading). His effects are up to Robot Chicken level.
So I got to thinking who would make my list of best directors. They have to be based on the directorial style, not just the actors and the screenplay. I noticed I hewed close to those directors that also write. I also noticed that my list includes mostly creepy directors (not personally, but in the subject matter they film). Nearly all have done at least one horror movie.
1. Casting (how well does this director choose and use talent?)
2. Pacing (do the shots flow well from once scene to another, and does it have a brisk pace?)
3. Vision (Do I remember a film a few days or years after seeing it? Does it linger? Also, how creative is this director? Are the films good because of his choices or just because of a good script and actors?)
I list my favorite movies from most favorite to least.
10. Quentin Tarantino
Favorite Films: Kill Bill 1 and 2, Inglorious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Death Proof/Grindhouse
Extra: Also writes his own screenplays. The only reason he’s not higher is that he’s better at writing than shooting. He’s only recently learning to use the camera effectively.
9. Alfred Hitchcock
Favorite Films: The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, Rebecca
Extra: Never looked through a camera lens. Always trusted his cinematographer
8. Peter Jackson
Favorite Films: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Frighteners, Heavenly Creatures, King Kong, Dead Alive, Bad Taste (a horrible bad movie that’s fun to watch).
Extra: Writes or Co-writes nearly all his screenplays. Looks like a Hobbit.
7. Guillermo Del Toro
Favorite Films: Cronos, Devil’s Backbone, Hellboy 1 and 2, , Blade II, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic
Extra: Writes or Co-writes nearly all his screenplays. Really twisted and weird guy.
6. Robert Rodriguez
Favorite Films: Sin City, El Mariachi/Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty, Planet Terror
Extra: Scores most of his films. Defied the Hollywood union system by filming in Mexico. Writes or Co-writes nearly all his screenplays
5. Tim Burton
Favorite Films: Beetlejuice, Mars Attacks, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hallow, Edward Scissorhands, Batman and Batman Returns, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Ed Wood, Sweeny Todd, Corpse Bride, Alice in Wonderland (I feel his worst films are the remake of Planet of the Apes, and Big Fish)
Extra: Has crazy ideas that actually work on screen. You always know you’re watching a Burton film.
4. Terry Gilliam
Favorite Films: Time Bandits, Twelve Monkeys, Brazil, The Crimson Permanent Assurance (Part of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life), The Fisher King, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Extra: Also has super crazy ideas. Was the animator for Monty Python. Often writes his own screenplays.
3. Timur Bekmambetov
Favorite Films: Wanted, Day Watch, Night Watch
Extra: Super crazy visual effects. Makes Matrix look amateurish. Hasn’t directed a lot in the U.S. yet, but look for him. His Moby Dick will rival Snyder’s 300. Also the subtitles for Day Watch are wicked (the best ever).
2. Stanley Kubrick
Favorite Films: The Shining (Best Stephen King Adaptation ever), 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, Spartacus (Okay, so this was really Kirk Douglas’s film, but it’s still an awesome flick).
Extra: So Eyes Wide Shut sucked, and Kubrick’s a real jerk to work for. But hey, his films are iconic and they stick with you. I can still picture some of the shots in my head. He also writes the screenplay for all his movies.
1. James Cameron
Favorite Films: Aliens, Terminator 1 and 2, True Lies, Titanic, Avatar, The Abyss
Extras: I’ve never seen a film by Cameron that I didn’t like. He’s never really had a flop (The Abyss didn’t do as well as expected, but still pulled in the dough). There’s not another director out there that can say that.
· Sam Rami (almost made the top 10 because Spiderman 1 and 2 are the best films ever—seriously—but Spiderman 3 was terrible and Darkman is hard to watch).
· Christopher Nolan (also almost made the top 10, but he needs a larger body of work. Still Memento and Insomnia are pure genius. Also, there’s the Batman thing.)
· Edgar Wright (I want him on my top 10, but 2 good films does not a career make. But Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are fantastic. Two of my top films.)
· Kenneth Branagh (a great director, but sometimes I don’t feel like Shakespeare. Let’s see how Thor turns out).
· Ridley Scott (in the same league as Kubrick, read hard to work with, but his films are amazing. Particularly Bladerunner).
· Zack Snyder (So Dawn of the Dead and 300 were unbelievably good. But Watchman wasn’t. Not by far. Let’s wait and see).
· Danny Boyle (Two of my most favorite flicks are Shallow Grave and 28 Days. But I’m just not crazy to see Slumdog Millionaire).
· Michael Bay (Hollywood hates him, but he sure can put together an action flick. You can always trust that his movies will deliver. But I feel he lacks in the vision department.)
· Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean rocks. So does The Ring. Let’s see where he goes.)