Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Best of the Best

Who is the greatest filmmaker of all-time? As film geeks we'd love to truly know the answer to this question, but seeing as how no two people think alike, it is impossible for there to be a unanimous winner in this debate. What we can have is the subjective opinions of the individuals, and that it is what I'm here to deliver.

Earlier this week I highlighted my list of who I think are the ten greatest film composers of all-time, and I've decided to do the same here with film directors.

This was a tough list to compile. There are too many great filmmakers and only ten slots, and there were many of the greats that got the bump, and some that aren't very well known slipped in past them to make the list. My hope is that those reading this will look further into these directors and go and watch some of their films, because every filmmaker on this list has made some truly spellbinding pieces of cinema. Of course I wont waste your time any longer. Let's begin:

10. Alfonso Cuaron - An out-of-left-field choice, but one that I feel has every right to be included in such company. His films have deep emotional depths to them, they are richly detailed, and the visuals are simply stunning. From films like A Little Princess and Great Expectations to Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men, he has a stellar filmography, but he was never better than he was than with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (still the best directed film in the franchise).

9. George Lucas - More well known for his producing credits rather than his skills behind the camera, his regrettably small, but extremely potent list of films with him in the director's chair are all a delight. From the opaque future of THX 1138 to Rock-and-Roll America in American Graffitti, and to a galaxy, far, far away in his finest achievement, the original Star Wars. Lucas is one of the more creative filmmakers of all-time.

8. Francois Truffaut - One of the fathers of the French New Wave, his filmography is more heartfelt and overall stronger than that of his fellows from the New Wave. His films ooze with brutal realism, this was never more apparent in his masterpiece, The 400 Blows. While Godard would usually be the choice for a classic French filmmaker, I pick Truffaut because his catalog of films I enjoy much more.

7. Danny Boyle - The most inventive director of the past two decades. Danny Boyle's kinetic style cannot be replicated, even though many have tried. He has a deep breadth of range, each and every film he's ever done is completely different than the last. His masterworks range everywhere from Trainspotting to Sunshine to last year's Slumdog Millionaire.

6. Akira Kurosawa - Kurosawa is one of those names that I think should pop up on every list like this. A master Japanese filmmaker, most well known for his samurai films, but he has also made some truly touching dramas over the years. His works are simple, but always visually intriguing, and his samurai films inspired many American Westerns, most notably his film Seven Samurai.

5. Frank Capra - When it comes to the Golden Age of Hollywood, there aren't many filmmakers with the same clout as Frank Capra. His films were always funny, straight forward, and emotional. Capra tended to favor the good of humanity within his films, utilizing clear good guys and clear guys we're just not supposed to like (I'm looking at you Mr. Potter). While he was a sentimental filmmaker, that was his greatest strength, and he was never finer than with It's a Wonderful Life.

4. Hayao Miyazaki - The only animator on this list, Miyazaki is considered the Japanese Walt Disney, and rightfully so. Miyazaki has a vast imagination, the images he concocts within his films are simply magical. Not only do his films sport terrific concepts, but he also infuses them with beautiful and deeply heartfelt stories. From the epic Princess Mononoke to the lovely My Neighbor Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle, he is one of the finer filmmakers of all-time, whether it be live-action or animated.

3. Martin Scorsese - Commonly considered one of the best of all-time, Scorsese has a unique visual style, one that has inspired countless generations of filmmakers. Scorsese's films tend to be dark, brutally violent, and mature, but yet you can't help but be enamored by the mastery he shows behind the camera. While his films tend to be a little cold when it comes to emotional connection, his film Age of Innocence is a highly moving affair that is possibly his greatest work.

2. Alfred Hitchcock - The Master of Suspense clocks in. Hitchcock is one of those filmmakers that was larger than life. He was a perfectionist, working the screenwriters to the bone to create the perfect script. The visuals within his films were always crisp, original, and years ahead of their time. While Hitchcock was never known for being a warm and fuzzy actor's director, good actors always seemed to love him because they recognized true talent. Just look at Rear Window or Vertigo and see what I mean.

1. Steven Spielberg - Mr. Blockbuster. The Adult Peter Pan. Mr. Spielberg. To me there is no greater filmmaker. Spielberg's filmography has the highest number of great films I think of any director that I know of. His works are at times fun and exciting, at others beautiful and emotional. He has a terrific visual sense, and he always manages to magically coax out an actor's inner potential. Spielberg's classics are too numerous to mention, but I think he was never better than he was with the original E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

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