My 50 Favorite Directors, in order

Taking a page from my buddy Kyle‘s blog, I have decided to rank my favorite film directors (see Kyle’s list here.)  However, while Kyle blessedly knows the virtue of restraint, I know only overkill.  So I have ranked my top 50 directors, in order.  After #25, I also rank my top 3 favorite of each of their films, and for the top 10 directors, I rank my five favorite of their films.

Notes on the rankings

To rank the directors, I considered the whole of their filmography that I have seen.  I did not consider the reputations of films I have not seen.  It is also important to note that all rankings—both the director rankings and the films within those rankings–are rankings of my favorites; these are not “best” rankings.  In essence, this is a subjective, not objective, excercise.  Additionally, for directors who also write many or all of their films, I weighted their screenwriting skills the least in my decision-making process, as screenwriting and directing are two different arts, but it is impossible to fully seperate a writer-director’s scripts from their finished products.  I also did not rank any directors who may have made one of my favorite films, but have only made one film.  Directors had to have two or more directing credits to make the list (sorry, Zach Braff). Directors who make fictional films as well as documentaries: I did not consider their documentaries; documentarians would be a seperate list.  The truth is, the ranking is mainly in answer to the very unscientific question, “Who do I get most excited by hearing they have a new film coming out?” (and if they’re dead…how excited would I be to hear that a long-lost film of theirs had been unearthed?)  Also, following Kyle’s lead, I did not rank Steven Speilberg.  He is a fantastic director, but his body of work is so varied and vast that it is impossible to figure out where he lands on this list.  And now, the list:

50.  Michael Haneke
49.  Guilermo del Toro
48.  Tom Tykwer
47.  Bob Rafelson
46.  Philip Kaufman
45.  Tobe Hooper
44.  John Hillcoat
43.  Joe Swanberg
42.  Spike Jonze
41.  Cameron Crowe
40.  Alexander Payne
39.  Michael Mann
38.  Milos Foreman
37.  Ridley Scott
36.  Richard Linklater
35.  John Huston
34.  M. Night Shyamalan
33.  Frank Darabont
32.  Todd Haynes
31.  Terry Gilliam
30.  Sofia Coppola
29.  Rob Reiner
28.  Orson Welles
27.  Elia Kazan
26.  Todd Field

25.  Joel and Ethan Coen
          3.  The Big Lebowski
          2.  Barton Fink
          1.  No Country For Old Men

24.  Sam Peckinpah
          3.  Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
          2.  The Wild Bunch
          1.  Straw Dogs

23.  Ang Lee
          3.  Lust, Caution
          2.  Brokeback Mountain
          1.  The Ice Storm

22.  Billy Wilder
          3.  The Seven Year Itch
          2.  Sabrina
          1.  Sunset Blvd.

21.  Woody Allen
          3.  What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?
          2.  Annie Hall
          1.  Husbands and Wives

20.  Robert Altman
          3.  A Praire Home Companion
          2.  Brewster McCloud
          1.  The Long Goodbye

19.  Robert Redford
          3.  The Milagro Beanfield War
          2.  Ordinary People
          1.  A River Runs Through It

18.  Sam Mendes
          3.  Away We Go
          2.  Revolutionary Road
          1.  American Beauty

17.  Quentin Tarantino
          3.  Death Proof
          2.  Reservoir Dogs
          1.  Pulp Fiction

16.  Kevin Smith
          3.  Mallrats
          2.  Chasing Amy
          1.  Clerks 2

15.  Roman Polanski
          3.  Chinatown
          2.  Knife in the Water
          1.  Repulsion

14.  David O. Russell
          3.  Three Kings
          2.  The Fighter
          1.  I Heart Huckabees

13.  Terrence Malick
          3.  The New World
          2.  Days of Heaven
          1.  Badlands

12.  Noah Baumbach
          3.  Kicking and Screaming
          2.  Greenberg
          1.  The Squid and the Whale

11.  Lars von Trier
          3.  Antichrist
          2.  Breaking the Waves
          1.  Dogville

10.  Todd Solondz
          5.  Life During Wartime
          4.  Palindromes
          3.  Storytelling
          2.  Welcome to the Dollhouse
           1.  Happiness

9.  Sidney Lumet
          5.  Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
          4.  Dog Day Afternoon
          3.  Network
          2.  Equus
          1.  12 Angry Men

8.  David Fincher
          5.  The Game
          4.  Zodiac
          3.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
          2.  Seven
          1.  Fight Club

7.  Christopher Nolan
          5.  Insomnia
          4.  The Prestige
          3.  The Dark Knight
          2.  Memento
          1.  Inception

6.  Darren Aronofsky
          5.  Pi
          4.  Requiem for a Dream
          3.  The Wrestler
          2.  Black Swan
          1.  The Fountain

5.  Danny Boyle
          5.  Trainspotting
          4.  Slumdog Millionaire
          3.  127 Hours
          2.  28 Days Later…
          1.  Millions

4.  Stanley Kubrick
          5.  Barry Lyndon
          4.  The Shining
          3.  A Clockwork Orange
          2.  Eyes Wide Shut
          1.  2001: A Space Odyssey

3.  Alfred Hitchcock
          5.  The 39 Steps
          4.  Psycho
          3.  The Lady Vanishes
          2.  I Confess
          1.  Rope

2.  Werner Herzog
          5.  Cobra Verde
          4.  Stroszek
          3.  The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser
          2.  Aguirre: The Wrath of God
           1.  Fitzcarraldo

1.  Paul Thomas Anderson
          5.  Boogie Nights
          4.  Hard Eight
          3.  Punch-Drunk Love
          2.  There Will Be Blood
          1.  Magnolia

9 Responses to “My 50 Favorite Directors, in order”

  1. sethdellinger Says:

    Moments after posting this, I saw the news that Sidney Lumet had died. So incredibly sad. I just completed watching his filmography about 3 weeks ago with “The Wiz”. He was a varied and subtle filmmaker and I often thought the world was lucky he was still alive and making incredible films.

  2. Franklin Says:

    I’m surprised no “Rosemary’s Baby” on the Polanski list.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I enjoy me some Rosemary’s Baby. Just ebcause a movie’s not on the top 3 doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I mean c’mon….have you SEEN Repulsion?

      • sethdellinger Says:

        In addition, just because a movie made one of the lists doesn’t even mean I like it. I hate Todd Solondz’s “Life During Wartime”, but I love Todd Solondz…and he’s only made 5 movies.

  3. Can’t argue with the top seven as most of my favorites fall there.

    Does kicking and screaming have Will Ferrel in it?

    • sethdellinger Says:

      haha no, although that confusion is often made. The two “Kicking and Screaming”s could not be more different. Baumbach’s is a morose meditation from 1995 starring Eric Stoltz.

  4. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    Alright. First, it’s true. I do drink cereal. I’m comfortable declaring that publicly now. I’m working on it.

    ‘What’s Up, Tiger Lilly?’ making your top 3! That’s one of the few Woody movies I couldn’t get through! I wouldn’t imagine in a million years in appears on anyone’s top 3, and I include people that have only seen 3 Woody Allen movies! That blows my mind.

    Also, I know we’ve been over this, but I can’t see how ‘Boogie Nights’ can be your least favorite PTA movie! All that brilliant camera work and acting ranks higher than ‘Hard Eight’!? Baffling!

    ‘The Social Network’ doesn’t even make your top 5 Fincher’s too! You’re coo coo! Btw coo coo should be spelled this way.

    Upon reading yours I realize I forgot the Coen Bros. and Sofia Coppola. Rob Reiner should have been on my list too. This world is cursed for not knowing my complete thoughts on film directors.

    We should have a TV show where we debate movies for an hour two times a week while we eat chips and salsa. It will do Idol-like rating numbers. We’ll call it ‘Hot Talk (cuz of the salsa)’ or HTCOTS.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      I have ALWAYS loved Tiger Lilly…like, way before I even started seriously watching films. My friends and I used to watch it ALL THE TIME. Lines from it were our catchphrases. I don’t often think of it when I think of Woody Allen films, but I was looking at his filmography on IMDb to make my list, and I could not ignore it. (Along with Husbands and Wives, it is the only Woody movie I own). I watched it once last year…I still laughed my ass off.

      Just ebcause ‘Boogie Nights’ is my least fave PTA movie, does not mean I do not love it. I do. I just find it kinda…obvious, I guess. Sure, it’s shot and acted beautifully and all that, but the arc…the plot…it’s just too much like a standard old movie, when compared with his other films. If somebody said to me, before I ever saw ‘Boogie Nights’ or heard of PTA…”A serious filmmaker is going to make a movie about the rise and fall of a fictional male porn actor”, I would have imagined something quite like “Boogie Nights”. That is the simplest way I can put it. And remember, this is a list of favorites, not bests. I haven’t watched ‘Boogie Nights’ in quite some time. I even watch “Hard Eight” probably twice a year.

      I seriously do not get the big deal with “The Social Network”. Once again, it’s a fairly obvious film. Sure, it’s fun to watch Eisenberg play that character, but that character (“Mark”) is played too one-note for me to invest in him, and his deadpan sarcasm is full of great moments but, like the much ballyhooed dialogue in the turd of a film “Juno”, add up to a less-than-beievable greatest hits that’s more of a showpiece for the screenwriter than an emotional piece of art. Again, it’s obvious and un-challenging; from it’s editing to it award-winning soundtrack, nothing about it takes chances or breaks free of the made-for-television box. Look at those films on my Fincher list! How could “The Social Network” possibly be in front of any of them???

      You just need to make your lists way too long, like mine. The chance of missing something when you make lists of 50 or 100 gets very slim! I was actually left feeling I anted to see more after you posted your list. I may go overboard, but I do believe your list was underboard!

      • sethdellinger Says:

        Your idea for the TV show is genius!!! Well, I’m not a big salsa fan, but I do love the title!

        Our movie tatses are so weird because they’re almost identical, but then the slight differences in what we like are quite thorny…like, we both like this guy but you don’t like THAT movie of his???? It’s weird.

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