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My Top Fifteen Favorite Directors of All Time

The best of the best.

Recently, I've been watching a bunch of movies from directors whose filmographies I want to explore more. I have discovered some interesting new filmmakers while also exploring more of the movies made my directors I already loved. Because I've been watching so many new directors, I had to expand this list to my fifteen favorites. So here they are.

15. Tony Scott

Best Film: Crimson Tide

Ridley Scott's lesser known brother is just one of the most underrated directors of all time. Obviously Top Gun is incredibly popular, but I actually think it's his worst movie. Other thriller/action movies like Enemy of the State are really well done. Crimson Tide is, in my opinion, the most underrated movie of all time. It is one of my favorite movies ever, but it's never recognized for how great it is. Scott's direction is one of the best parts. I think he is just a criminally overlooked talent, and his tragic passing makes me sad that we will never see another film from him.

14. Jordan Peele

Best Film: Get Out

The reason Jordan Peele is this low is because he's only made three films. All of them, however, have something interesting and new to offer. Peele's stories deal with race in a completely unique way. He combines horror and comedy into these incredible messages about the black experience, making for profound and memorable movies. Get Out is my third favorite film of all time, and I don't think either Us or Nope have reached those heights, but all three of his movies have something interesting to say.

13. Alfred Hitchcock

Best Film: Rear Window

The "Master of Suspense" still manages to make an impact on audience members today. I've seen the Big Four classic Hitchcock films as well as a few others, and, while I don't really love any of them besides Rear Window, I do think Hitchcock's direction is beyond impressive in all of them. He is the prototype for what all great directors after him have followed. I want to be a filmmaker when I graduate, and in every film class I've taken, Alfred Hitchcock is mentioned as the model director. That earns him a spot on this list.

12. Stanley Kubrick

Best Film: The Shining

I debated putting Kubrick on this list for a long time, because I find him to be very pretentious, but I think his movies are some of the most interesting ever made. Again, I don't really love most of his filmography besides The Shining, but I always find myself thinking about his movies long after I've turned my TV off. There are not many films that truly make me think about what they mean way after I've watched them, but every Kubrick movie I've watched has that effect on me.

11. John Carpenter

Best Film: The Thing

John Carpenter is one of the classic 70s, 80s, and 90s directors. The one-two punch of Halloween and The Thing altered the horror genre forever, but he has also had huge influence on the sci-fi action genre of the 80s with movies like They Live and Escape from New York. No director makes as movies that are just pure fun like John Carpenter. He doesn't really do dramas or "serious" movies, because he just loves making exciting, entertaining thrill rides and excels in doing that.

10. Francis Ford Coppola

Best Film: The Godfather

I've only seen Apocalypse Now and The Godfather, but Francis Ford Coppola has catapulted onto my list through just those two films. This guy has made so many movies that are in the conversation (no pun intended) for the greatest movie ever made. He packs so many interesting ideas and themes into his stories alongside thrilling narratives and complex characters. I cannot wait to dig deeper into his filmography.

9. Quentin Tarantino

Best Film: Pulp Fiction

Like Coppola, I have only seen Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds. That does not deter me from loving Tarantino. His movies are in their own special corner of Hollywood. Out of all the directors on this list, Tarantino's films are the most unique and convey the most of his personality. Both films that I've seen are highly stylized but also wildly entertaining. He breaks all the normal rules of filmmaking and just creates this bizarre masterpieces that are truly, truly captivating. I think he's fantastic.

8. Ridley Scott

Best Film: The Martian

Like Kubrick, I find Ridley Scott to be very pretentious, but there's no denying the craft that comes along with his films. I absolutely love science fiction, and Scott is one of the best sci-fi filmmakers out there. I don't love Blade Runner, but many people would consider it to be the best sci-fi movie of all time. Alien took the horror genre into space. And I think The Martian is possibly the best sci-fi film of the 21st century. Beyond just sci-fi, Scott can dip his hand into these epic, sweeping dramas like the Best-Picture winning Gladiator or something like Thelma & Louise. I think, while he may not necessarily be an awesome person, he is an awesome director.

7. Mike Flanagan

Best Film: Doctor Sleep

Mike Flanagan is my personal favorite horror filmmaker. I've actually only seen one of his films (and it's one of my favorites), but he has excelled when it comes to Netflix horror miniseries'. The Haunting of Hill House is my favorite horror TV show. Bly Manor and The Fall of the House of Usher are both really good. Flanagan just has this specific style that feels like the Stephen King of the screen. One of my hottest takes is that Doctor Sleep is better than The Shining, and I stand by that, because I think Mike Flanagan is a masterful horror storyteller.

6. Rob Reiner

Best Film: The Princess Bride

Rob Reiner feels like the closest thing to Steven Spielberg besides Steven Spielberg. Sure, he hasn't made a great movie in, like, thirty years, but before the 2000s, Reiner was incredible. He has made the quintessential mockumentary, the quintessential courtroom drama, the quintessential fairy tale, the quintessential rom-com...and he never gets any recognition. His run from Spinal Tap to A Few Good Men is extraordinary. I don't think any director has two films that I love as much as I love The Princess Bride and Misery. I think Reiner of old is fantastic. And, despite his lately bad stretch and lack of Oscars, he deserves more recognition.

5. James Cameron

Best Film: Avatar

I think James Cameron should be deemed the father of the blockbuster, because he just makes these awesome, crowd-pleasing epics that break box office records. When Avatar is considered by many to be your weakest film, you've got a pretty good resume. I actually think Avatar is his best film, but I also think the Terminator movies are great. I haven't seen Titanic or Aliens, but I will likely watch one or both of them in the coming weeks. I don't think anyone knows how to make blockbusters precisely like Cameron, and that is why I love him.

4. Martin Scorsese

Best Film: Goodfellas

These next four are on a different level. I avoided Scorsese movies for a while because I never really thought I would enjoy them. And then I watched Goodfellas, and I was transfixed. Scorsese makes challenging movies, but that's what I love about him. The Wolf of Wall Street and The Departed are not feel-good films with clear heroes and happy endings. He tells stories about flawed, even sometimes bad people that the audience is rooting for. And that makes him entirely unique. He is the master of crime films, and, although most of his movies are dark and twisted, they have important lessons and a true cinematic feel to them.

3. David Fincher

Best Film: The Game

Speaking of dark...David Fincher! I absolutely love thrillers. A movie that can put me on the edge of my seat and make my heart pound is something special, and there are so many Fincher films that do that. From Se7en to The Game to Fight Club to Zodiac, Fincher is just so good at crafting intense, dark thrillers that keep the audience engaged throughout. He also randomly dips into drama, but keeps it just as intense and compelling. The Social Network is one of the best movies of the 21st century because it does have that Fincher intensity. I absolutely adore Fincher's work. I think he is fantastic.

2. Christopher Nolan

Best Film: The Dark Knight

I think I said this in my last ranking of directors, but Christopher Nolan has the best overall filmography of the directors on this list. From his Batman movies to Inception and Interstellar and Memento, this guy is at the top of his game. Nolan just hit the highest peak of his career with Oppenheimer, winning Best Director and Best Picture. He is the most popular director of this modern age, and for good reason. Every movie he makes is just this complex, thematically rich story that demands a lot from the audience but rewards them with incredible sequences and moving narratives. The Dark Knight is my favorite movie of all time, so Nolan was bound to be on this list. I absolutely adore him and every single movie that he makes (besides Tenet).

1. Steven Spielberg

Best Film: Jaws

I've said this before, but I want to be a filmmaker when I graduate. Steven Spielberg is my biggest inspiration. He is my idol. Not only do I love all of the films that he makes, but he has this magic touch that is unlike any other filmmaker ever. He is able to take any story, whether it's an exciting adventure with Indiana Jones, an alien trying to go back home, or even a horrific true account of the Holocaust, and add this sentimental touch of humanity that makes all of his films truly, truly special. Out of all of the massive stars and personalities within Hollywood, Spielberg has always had a special place in my heart. So, of course, he is number one.


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