I’ve been watching movies for a while now. I’ve gone and seen them myself, my parents have shared some of their beloved classics with me, and I’m still seeing them. It wasn’t until high school when I really understood that people make movies. I saw film as an art form, where the filmmakers were the artists and all of us are the viewer. I started thinking about what went into making a movie, how you got one financed, marketed it, created a story, and put it all together into a two hour motion picture. I noticed things like craft and style, characteristics that a director would put into their movies. Realizing all of this, I learned about famous directors, went to see different movies because of the director, and now I have a list of favorites. I’ve had this post as a draft since I started my film blog because I was having trouble deciding how I wanted to write it. There’s no way I could talk about every director I like and their films in a reasonable sized post. So in a few sentences, I am in no order going to explain why I love these directors.
Sophomore year of high school in my history class, we watched the movie Platoon. We had to write a paper about its portrayal of the Vietnam War and historical accuracy, stuff like that. Our teacher told us that the director, Oliver Stone, was in Vietnam during the war, so I started there. I looked up his biography and experience, eventually finding my way towards his filmography. I also am a huge fan of The Doors. Seeing he made a movie about them, I had to watch it. I liked it a lot despite some accuracy issues, however, I noticed that this was a “Stone” movie and wanted to see more of his stuff. I don’t know what I watched from there, but I’ve seen every one of his films now, even the obscure ones. I don’t know if he’s my favorite currently, but he will always hold that place of being my first favorite.
One of my favorites movies of all time, The Dark Knight, was directed by this man: Christopher Nolan. After seeing that movie in 2008, I was a full Nolan fan boy, as they say. Nolan is one of the greatest mainstream directors working today that also makes really deep, powerful, and ambitious films like Inception, Memento and last year’s Interstellar, which I thought was underrated thanks to all the hype there was before its release. Whether huge blockbusters or his earlier indies, Nolan is a great storyteller with a dynamic talent that reaches a large range of audiences. I still think he has not come close to making a film that is less than good. After Interstellar I think everyone will have more realistic expectations for the next Nolan film and it will hit big.
There’s no way I could be writing this list without having Steven Spielberg’s name in it. If one director had more mainstream and critical success than Nolan, it would be Spielberg. He can make the blockbuster like Jurassic Park or E.T., but he also makes very personal, serious films that are considered masterpieces like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Even people like me before, not knowing directors, know who Steven Spielberg is. What is so accessible and enjoyable about his films is that he puts emotion and humor that connects to all ages. I enjoy watching E.T. just as much as when I was a kid and Schindler’s List can be so depressing, yet powerful. He also works with the best. Nearly every one of his films has music by John Williams, which shoots them to a level unmatched by any other film.
In terms of style, there is none other that I love more than Quentin Tarantino’s. He is a genius when it comes to film. He probably has seen all of them. He takes parts from them, and introduces us to them with his own personal style. This is great because we can preview a little bit of foreign cinema, especially Japanese. His recurring actors are fantastic and many iconic, making them classics. The dialogue is so sharp, funny and quotable, and he makes every scene, even one with just talking, lots of fun. The music he samples always fits so well. Like Nolan, he doesn’t have a bad film. After I watch any one of his films, I think that one is his best. I even Jackie Brown deserves some love too. I cannot wait for The Hateful Eight either!
The most recent director I’ve became involved in is Wes Anderson. After seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Moonrise Kingdom a few months before, I was hooked. His films truly are an experience that I couldn’t wait to see. I worked hard and have now seen all of his films. They all have their moments of brilliance and whimsy that just make you feel good inside. He also has a great group of returning actors, making me actually like Owen Wilson. Like Tarantino, he also writes the script for every movie he directs. This makes these films very personal with great, well developed characters that you can easily connect with. Even a large scale movie like The Grand Budapest Hotel has tons of heart and lovable characters. One thing I always forget about until I see it is the brief moments of violence or language. You don’t expect cursing, but most of his movies are rated R. And there’s always a scene that you didn’t expect to be so dark as well.
Going older here, another one of my favorite directors is Alfred Hitchcock. I haven’t seen too many of his films but I nevertheless love every one I’ve seen. He deserves his title as the master of suspense. Psycho may not hold up as a straight on horror movie but it is still a brilliant thriller that is nearly perfect in my book, and one of my favorite looking black and white films. The set up of characters and setting are often so simple that they seem all too realistic. What if you had to stay the night at a creepy motel, suspected a neighbor of murder, or were attacked by birds? These are scenarios that we are all scared of, Hitchcock knows this, and exploits them through film. From hearing stories about him not letting people in late to see Psycho and the movie Hitchcock, he sounds like he really cared for the experience of the cinema, which is the sign of an awesome filmmaker.
The last director I’ll mention is David Fincher. I recently wrote about how much I liked his Gone Girl from last year, which just adds to the list of great movies he’s done. Not having seen Alien 3, the only movie I don’t like of his is The Game. If you do that’s great, it just didn’t work for me. Like Hitchcock, Fincher takes modern day horrors that scare us and puts that on screen. And unlike Hitchcock, they are often more disturbing and gruesome. Another thing I like about Fincher is that he knows how to set up a camera to get a perfect shot, and how to pace a movie. I think Zodiac is a great example of a film that is made perfectly. The characters are set up well, pacing is excellent, acting is solid, and every shot in every scene is important and contributes to a suspenseful, flawless film.
Because I want to stop it here, I’m just going to list some of the other filmmakers I love and think make amazing films:
Francis Ford Coppola
Paul Thomas Anderson
The Coen Brothers