25 Best Active Directors

Entertainment Weekly has ranked all working directors to give us the greatest 25 directors still working. Like many things EW does, this is pretty embarassing.

1. Steven Spielberg
2. Peter Jackson
3. Martin Scorsese
4. Christopher Nolan
5. Steven Soderbergh
6. Ridley Scott
7. Quentin Tarantino
8. Michael Mann
9. James Cameron
10. Joel and Ethan Coen
11. Guillermo del Toro
12. David Fincher
13. Tim Burton
14. Judd Apatow
15. Sam Raimi
16. Zack Snyder
17. Darren Aronofsky
18. Danny Boyle
19. Clint Eastwood
20. Ron Howard
21. Ang Lee
22. Paul Thomas Anderson
23. Paul Greengrass
24. Pedro Almodóvar
25. Jon Favreau

  • I could niggle with Spielberg, but since it’s one of the few respectable rankings I’ll let it pass.
  • That Peter Jackson is on the list is bad enough, that he is number two on the list is downright shameful. He’s on the list because of the four big movies that he’s done, three of them were Lord of the Rings. If that’s the height of cinema then hotdogs are highculture.
  • I’ve never been wowed by Martin Scorsese, it might be different if the man wasn’t such a mysogynist.
  • Nolan: five major movies, all of them supremely watchable and a couple of them are good enough to watch twice.
  • Soderbergh: the original overrated filmmaker.
  • I believe they’re referring to SIR Ridley Scott, director of G.I. Jane.
  • Tarantino has made four movies, a half a movie, and a quarter of a movie (granted Kill Bill is one really long movie). I dispise him, but I grant that he does have a manic energy about him that’s entertaining.
  • Mann is a solid choice, six major films under his belt. Two costume dramas (The Last of the Mohicans, Miami Vice), two dramas (The Insider, Collateral), an action movie (Heat) and a biopic (Ali).
  • James Cameron is like a rich man’s Michael Bay. Out of all action movies I count Aliens and T2 as two of the best. Interesting tidbit that I noticed, all his movies begin with the letter T or A (Terminator, True Lies, Titanic, (The) Abyss), and his next film is called Avatar.
  • I like it more when Coen brothers do silly stuff.
  • del Toro’s on here b/c he’s directing The Hobbit. I presume. Because he isn’t on here for Hellboy I,II, Blade II, Pan’s Labrynth, Mimic, or The Devil’s Backbone.
  • David Fincher is a legitimately talented director but he’s in the same category as Nolan in that I don’t really feel the need to watch his movies a second time. Outside of Fight Club I could happily never see anything of his again.
  • When I was a child I played video games as a child, I rode bikes as a child, I watched Burton movies, but when I became a man I put away all Burton films (except Big Fish, which is still brilliant).
  • Apatow has directed two movies: The 40 Yr. Old Virgin and Knocked Up. Let me remind you that EW’s adjective was “Greatest” and it modified “Directors”.
  • Sam Raimi directed three Spiderman films, some B-movies, and a few others. Most wellknown for incorporating nonactors into his blockbusters such as Stan Lee and Kirsten Dunst.
  • Zach Snyder has also directed two films: Dawn of the Dead or as the French say L’Armee des Morts, and 300. But he’s working on The Watchmen (aka Comic Book Movie).
  • Of course they have Aronofsky on here, it’s not like EW watches only action movies.
  • I like it more when Danny Boyle does the darker stuff.
  • Clint is presumably this low on the list because despite having directed over 30 films and winning the Oscar for best director twice he hasn’t done films as weighty as Apatow and Snyder.
  • I’m not a fan of Ron Howard myself but I suppose they had to include him because he’s also won a few Oscars.
  • Ang Lee is here because they saw all those white people. I’d include him on the strength of The Ice Storm alone, but Eat Drink Man Woman is worth it too. They probably have him here for The Hulk.
  • After 21 other directors they finally get to the most talented and innovative director today. If only he could adapt Aquaman for the big screen, maybe then he’d get more respect from EW.
  • Neverheard of him.
  • Once again, they had to darken the genepool.
  • Favreau directed Iron Man, Zathura, Elf, and Made. And Iron Man 2 is coming out, that means he’ll be ranked at least 15th next time.

Notable omissions: Woody Allen. Andrew Niccol. Terrence Malick. Wes Anderson.

Considering EW’s taste, notable ommisions: M. Night Shamalan. Michael Bay. Gore Verbinski. Bryan Singer. Robert Rodriguez.

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8 thoughts on “25 Best Active Directors

  1. The ordering is scary bad, but I’d include many of those on my list. Specifically: 1,3,4,7,8,10,12,17,19,20,22. On second thought, that isn’t a whole lot, less than half in fact. But man, do you sound pretentious on your comments. What, a great (working) director means he has to have directed like a billion movies and can’t make fun stuff? Shoot, man, I take issue with so many of your comments, I can’t even list them all here. But here’s a couple of the most important:
    – being able to watch a movie over and over ISN’T the consummate qualifier of a great film/director, and you seem to hype that WAY too much.
    – Scorcese is a master, that is pretty much not even debatable
    – Everything Nolan has done has been amazing, with the exception of Insomnia (which I still liked). Even his first, Following, was a great flick. It’s quality, not quantity.
    – Same argument for Fincher – brilliant.
    – No way you can quibble with Clint.
    – I have more, but it’s getting late. I don’t know if I like Cameron for the list, but I take issue with your argument there, Tarantino belongs if only for Pulp Fiction, and I wouldn’t categorize Lebowski and Fargo as only silly. The Coens belong, holmes.

  2. You know, I was just re-reading this and I noticed that you DO put some stock in quality vs. quantity, or else you wouldn’t have P.T. Anderson (5 movies) and Aronofsky (4 movies) on your list so high, which I’m sure you do. But it sounds pretty hypcritical when you harp so much on Nolan, Apatow, Snyder, Tarantino, etc. for not making enough movies, and then esteem your boys so highly.

  3. It is true that PT Anderson has made 5 films and out of those two have been brilliant world changing and all have been very good. Tarantino has made four films and one has been great. I wasn’t necessarily saying that he doesn’t deserve to be on the list, he directs live action cartoons and they’re fun, and I just don’t like him. Same with Scoresese, sure talented, but the man treats women like meat, I can’t really respect him for that. Nolan and Fincher make very very fine movies and I’ll watch anything they do. They deserve to be on the list, they just need to be under PT. I wasn’t quibbling with Clint, he needs to be higher on the list. Cameron needs to be on the list, along with the Coen Bros. I don’t deny that, they just need to be under PT.

    I think you’ll see that aside from a few ridiculous choices (Apatow and Snyder) I’m not necessarily saying that these are the wrong choices, but that PT should be no lower than 3 with Scorsese and Woody above him and Spielberg below. That’s not to say that Scorsese or Woody are better, but I’m trying to be objective here.

    As for my hyping of movie re-watch-ability (to coin a horrendous phrase) in terms of a “Great Film” I think that has to be the biggest aspect. Great Directors should make Great Films and Great Films means that the will be watch 10, 25, 50 years after they were made.

    Now if EW called it 25 Working Directors That Entertain the Socks Off Us, I would be fine with Apatow and Snyder and would even push for Shamalamadingdong, Bay, Singer, and those sorts. Heck, Brett Ratner too. But they said “Great” and if you say Great you better hit Great or really really good and certainly not leave out Woody Allen.

  4. Rems, let me apologize, I must have misread you. I think if we were having this conversation face to face, we would have agreed a whole hell of a lot. It must be the medium. I can definitely agree with your ordering, such that P.T. is essentially the top of the heap (but with some objectivity). I must have mistook your criticisms for you saying that many of those directors shouldn’t be on the list. So, I apologize.

    I agree with you 100% about Woody, I watched Vicky Christina Barcelona (eh) last weekend, and I’m watching Cassandra’s Dream tonight.

    As far as rewatchability (you’re right, just a horrible phrase), I don’t think I misread you. I think you’re confusing rewatchability with endurance/durability/timelessness, and you’re mixing your terms. Your initial criticisms were of a movie’s ability to be watched over and over, but then your comment above references the ability to stand the test of time. Many of the movies you criticize, I think, will be watched 50 or 100 years from now, but don’t necessarily need to be watched over and over again.

  5. Standing the Test of Time is quite different from Loitering in the Halls of Time. I think a great movie is a movie that withstands multiple critical viewings. This is not some personal standard this is pretty much the regular definition for what a great movie should be. Neither is it a stretch to argue that great directors should make great movies.

  6. Ok, and ok.

    But I think we would disagree about what movies can withstand these critical viewings, that’s the point I’m getting at. They can withstand them, I just might not want to watch them as many times as I’ve seen the Karate Kid. For instance, Seven can withstand as many critical viewings as you want to throw at it, but it’s disturbing enough that I’d rather just pop in Back to the Future most times.

    And yes, great directors should make great movies, but are you seriously adamant that it be every single time? Are they not allowed to make popcorn flicks and maybe even strike out on the rare occasion? Would that live up to the Remy Litmus Test?

  7. BTW, a couple things I forgot:

    1.Do yourself a favor and rent Cassandra’s Dream.

    2.Paul Greengrass directed 2 Bourne flicks and United 93. Eh.

    3.Almodovar is an odd choice, but it seems like if they were going to darken the gene pool, they’d have added Spike. Or for that matter, Meirelles (City of God), Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams), or Cuaron. I’d have the latter on my list, if only for Children of Men.

    4.Seriously? You didn’t like Pan’s Labyrinth? I would have thought you, of all people, would love it (I certainly did).

  8. 1. Will do.

    2. Yeah, I looked him up. He was more impressive before I knew who he was.

    3. I would take all three of those before Almodovar (Inarritu lastly). It is true that Spike is another notable exception, considering EW’s taste.

    4. It was fine. A fine film.

    +. Aw, come on. What about the crack on SIR Ridley for G.I. Jane? Or when I mentioned that Raimi incorporates nonactors like Stan Lee and Kirsten Dunst? Sheesh, cut me some slack. It’s funny, right?

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