With theaters unfortunately shut down, and me sadly being laid off because Oregon has a shelter in place order it’s given me a lot of time to play video games as well as think about the best films of each decade, and the who I believe are the current directors of all time. I am going to start with who are believe are the current 15 best directors of all time.
15. Bong Joon Ho: I have not seen all of Bong Joon Ho films only seen Snowpiercer, The Host, Memories of Murder, and Parasite with Snowpiercer being his best film.
14. David Lynch: David Lynch is probably the most visionary and unique director on this list. It has not paid off for Lynch all the time, but all his films and series are certainly memorable. I have seen Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Dune, Twin Peaks, Dune, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive with Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive being is best films. Even though Lynch has not directed a full-length feature film since I think 2006’s Inland Empire Lynch is still one of the best directors of all time.
13. Clint Eastwood: Although this biographical themed obsession Eastwood had been on this past decade with good, but flawed films in Richard Jewell, The 1517 to Paris, American Sniper, and J. Edgar among others it does not take away from Clint Eastwood’s nearly fifty years of directing with some of his classics being Unforgiven, Mystic River, The Outlaw Josey Wales, A Perfect World, and Letters from Iwo Jima to name a few.
12. David Fincher: I could say David Fincher is the best suspense thriller director, but that would be disrespecting the one and only Alfred Hitchcock, so I will that Fincher is the Hitchcock of our time with his most known film being Fight Club, but not his best film. That would go to Gone Girl, The Game, and Se7en. Then here is the elephant in the room by the name of Alien 3. Alien 3 had its problems in production and especially with studio interference by FOX in not having faith in the young up and coming director, which hurt the film, but by no means does that make Alien 3 a bad film. Alien 3 had good acting by Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Sigourney Weaver, and the rest of the pretty unknown cast. The score by Elliot Goldenthal is riveting, and one of the best scores in the Alien franchise if not the best. William Gibson original screenplay would have been the best route to go with the film, and there were a lot of hands on the script for Alien 3 with ultimately the writing brainstormed, poorly put together, and written by producers Walter Hill and David Giler. The screenplay was definitely flawed, but not bad with a decent story and good ending to Ripley’s journey that was ruined by the truly terrible Alien Resurrection. Overall, I say Alien 3 is the third best Alien film not as good as Alien or Aliens, but not as bad as the rest of the Alien films or the Alien vs Predator films.
11. Zhang Yimou: Sadly, I have not had a chance to see some of Zhang’s older films like Not One Less, Raise the Red Lantern, and especially To Live, which some have said is one of Zhang’s best films. I have seen all Zhang’s films since the new millennium with films that include Hero, Shadow, Under the Hawthorn Tree, House of the Flying Daggers, Coming Home, Curse of the Golden Flower, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, Happy Times, The Flowers of War, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, and The Great Wall. Zhang is a master of using aesthetics whether it be the story, lighting, or choreography of his action sequences. The Great War is easily Zhang’s worst film, and it is not a terrible film, and not for the reasons you might be thinking. I know when The Great Wall was coming out and came out a certain group of so called up set people were outrage that a fantasy film had a some white characters in the film and Zhang and the writers were using the white savior trope in the film, but if you actually watch the film that was not what happen or why The Great Wall was a mediocre film. It was because of the at best average CGI, poor writing, and uninspired action sequences. As for Zhang’s best films they are Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower, Happy Times, and The House of the Flying Daggers. Yes, Zhang Yimou is best known for his historical films with simply masterfully choreographed action sequences I definitely recommend you give some of his smaller films like Happy Times and Coming Home a chance.
10. Ridley Scott: Although some of Scott’s latest films like Robin Hood, Prometheus, All the Money in the World, and Exodus: Gods and Kings have not lived up to the directors reputation Ridley Scott will still go down as one of the best directors of all time by directing some of the best films of all time. I would also recommend Kingdom of Heaven. It is one of Scott’s best film that was underrated by critics and the general population.
9. Michael Mann: Like Scott above Michael Mann’s most recent films in Blackhat, Public Enemies, and Miami Vice have not lived up to the reputation Mann has earned as a director or his vision and style as a writer and director. Mann as not directed a lot of films and it is debatable what his best film is between The Insider, Heat, Thief, and The Last of the Mohicans. For me it is Heat.
8. Denis Villeneuve: Denis Villeneuve has only been directing since 1998, but has already made it into the top 10 of this list, and it is for a reason. Villeneuve is helped to craft some of the most riveting and compelling stories in films this past decade that was also greatly impacted by Villeneuve’s masterful use of cinematography creating an atmosphere in his films with Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and Sicaro being masterpieces and three of the best films this past decade. I am really looking forward to his vision of Dune.
7. Hayao Miyazaki: Miyazaki is by far the most mainstream and acclaimed director of anime films from Japan, and for good reason. Hayao Miyazaki is a masterful writer and director who stands by his belief of caring for the environment, being anti-war, and love. Speaking out on his beliefs regulating not caring if it offends some of his fans or his own government. His beliefs play a heavy influence in his films, which I think make is unique visions all the better for that. In my view Miyazaki’s best film is Princess Mononoke. 1999 was a terrible year for me on many levels and Princess Mononoke just blew my mind and help to lift my spirits and my will to go on. No other Hayao Miyazaki film has come close to affecting me that way.
6. Terrance Malick: Terrance Malick has been directing films for directing films for 47 years, but has only directed ten films in that time with 1973’s Badlands. I think the reason is while other directors like Uwe Boll, Michael Bay, and Paul W.S. Anderson will just make films no matter the quality of the film Terrance Malick is determined that his artistry be perfect, and it shows in his film. Malick’s determination to perfection shows in his true mastery of cinematography and his use of nature and the environment to enhance the story and isolate they characters. His perfectionism shows in all his films, and while Malick’s films may not always land on perfection, but his films always leave a mark on the viewer. I consider Terrance Malick’s best film to be 1998’s The Thin Red Line, and a far better film than Saving Private Ryan that came out earlier that year.
5. Christopher Nolan: We have finally reached the top 5 of what I consider to be the current best directors of all time with number five being Christopher Nolan. Nolan is number five on this list, and is the best director alive today. There are better directors on this list, but they all have passed away. Christopher Nolan is known for his love of the theatrical experience, and the technical side of filmmaking. Christopher Nolan along with his brother Jonathan Nolan and other writers to craft unique and captivation stories and their use of memories, time, space, dreams, perspective, and war in each of film of films. Nolan has also directed has put his stamp on Batman and the comic book film genre by directing the Dark Knight Trilogy that is the best superhero/comic book trilogy. As for what is Christopher Nolan’s best film, it is too hard for me to choose between Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Dunkirk.
4. Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock is and as far I am concerned will go down as the best suspense thriller director of all time. Hell, the term Hitchcockian was named after the type of films he wrote and directed. It wasn’t just the huge impact Hitchcock had on the suspense, thriller, and horror genre’s, it was Hitchcocks technical and writing imfluence that has had a lasting impact on in film and popular culture. Alfred Hitchcock’s basically created a new filmmaking style using camera’s for perspective many times putting making the viewer the voyeur in his films to brilliantly adding to the suspense to his films. Hitchcock along his early writers created for better or worse the plot device called the MacGuffin that has a tremendous influence today in filmmaking that is used too much in not correctly. In my view Alfred Hitchcocks best films are North by Northwest, Rear Window, and Strangers on a Train.
3. Sergio Leone: The legendary director Akira Kurosawa who had a huge influence on Sergio Leone’s filmmaking, and in doing so Sergio Leone created his own impact on filmmaking creating the “spaghetti western” with his script writing long sprawling epics, and the use of long sweeping shots and extreme close ups. While Leone did not direct a lot of films, he did direct perhaps the two best unofficial trilogies of all time in No Name trilogy and the Once Upon A Time trilogy. All six films could easily fit into the top 50 films of all time and two of them in the top 20 films of all time. While both Clint Eastwood and composer Ennio Morricone were in the business of filmmaking Sergio Leone should get credit for lunching both to super stardom of the film industry in the 1960’s.
2. Stanley Kubrick: Whether it be Crime drama, Science Fiction, Epics, War, or Comedy Kubrick has had a lasting influence on virtually every genre. Like Terrance Malick, Stanley Kubrick had a different style with his filmmaking process saying his scripts were never really finished before his film started filming so he could be willing to adapt during filming, his relentless and sometimes endless scene takes sometimes making his actors shoot scenes dozens of times trying to get what he view as the perfect shot. Some film historians would call Stanley Kubrick the most influential filmmaker in history with in my view Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
1. Akira Kurosawa: It was a little hard to choose between Stanley Kubrick, Sergio Leone, and Kurosawa, and in my view the most influential, and all-around best director of all time is Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa has had so much influence on cinema in story, style and technique throughout the years influencing directors like George Lucas, Sergio Leone, Quinton Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick, and countless others. Akira Kurosawa introduced the world two different story styles/tropes in with the “Team building” trope, and the perspective or Rashomon style that can be seen in the Dirty Dozen films, Star Wars films, Ocean 11 films, Hero, Knives out, and countless other films as well as just about every part of popular culture. Akira Kurosawa as faced some criticism over his career with one that I can understand was his filmmaking during WWII. Like many filmmakers throughout the world in the late 1930’s and through the 1940’s they were pushed, paid, and sometimes forced to make propaganda films for the citizens of their countries. Akira Kurosawa was one of those directors, and I can understand the criticism of Kurosawa’s first films as a director in the early 1940’s. Another criticism that is completely unfounded and is laughable was by the French new wave movement in the 1950’s with many of the film makers saying Kurosawa was elitist and his films were not Japanese enough. Really men Frenchman from a former colonial power telling a Japanese filmmaker that his films were Japanese enough. That would be me as a white man like telling Spike Lee that his films aren’t black enough or Zhang Yimou that his films aren’t Chinese enough. Simple that is unfounded and just wrong. Even with some small legitimate criticism of Akira Kurosawa’s life and work it does not take away from his brilliance as a filmmaker crafting some of the best films made influencing countless others. As for Kurosawa’s best film that is hard, but even though I love his sprawling historical masterpieces in Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Ran, Rashomon in my view it is one of Kurosawa’s smaller films that is the director’s best film. That would be 1952’s moving and poignant drama Ikiru.
Honorable mentions that I briefly considered for this list: David Lean, Steven Spielberg, John Ford, Charlie Chaplin, Sergey Eisenstein, Ingmar Bergman, and Billy Wilder to name a few. I have seen very few films from the silent film era.