One of the categories that was always suggested on my Twitter & Facebook pages for future ‘The 4’ topics was Best Directors. Truthfully, I always shrugged the suggestion off thinking it was too easy of a topic… I was wrong. When the decision was made to move forward with ‘The 4: Best Directors’, the picks starting flying in. I realized cutting this list down to four was going to be tough and my selections would bring about much debate. Personally, I love a good debate and hopefully this will bring my fellow movie nerds out to defend or ridicule my picks. I can tell you that no one from the so-called “Golden Age” of Hollywood made my list, so that group of film lovers can begin to blow their tops right now. Enough about who’s not going to make the list. Let’s take a look at the four people behind the camera that bring the stories we love to life and get the most out of the actors and actresses we adore.
James Cameron is arrogant, a tyrant, difficult to work with and one of the most innovative and brilliant minds in Hollywood. No one makes Sci-Fi and action films with such depth as James Cameron. Cameron started out small directing Piranha Part Two: The Spawning and the now famous The Terminator. After seeing what he did on a minimal budget with The Terminator, Cameron was given the Aliens job and the rest is history. Cameron’s futuristic, industrial Sci-Fi look has been duplicated again and again by countless young directors. Cameron also directed two of the greatest sequels of all time in the form of Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Cameron changed the way films were made with his break through special effects in T2 that helped pave the way for Jurassic Park, The Lord of the Rings and Cameron’s most recent film Avatar. Cameron’s innovative film making isn’t his only strength. The guy knows how to get the most out of his actors. Only Cameron can take the muscle-bound Governor of California and make him break my 13-year-old heart as he was lowered into a vat of hot molten steel. Cameron is also known for his obscure casting choices like comics Paul Reiser (Aliens) and Tom Arnold (True Lies) who ended up stealing the show in their roles. Oh, and did I also mention that Cameron’s Titanic won 11 Oscars including Best Director and Best Picture while setting box office records? Cameron even took a 12 year sabbatical from directing and didn’t miss a beat when he unveiled the groundbreaking 3-D space opus Avatar in 2010. Think what you want about the man personally, but there’s no denying his ingenious talent as a filmmaker.
James Cameron Essentials: Titanic, Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day & Avatar.
This is without a doubt my “personal” pick. Quentin Tarantino is one of my heroes and a hero to many aspiring filmmakers. The reason: he is one of us. After working in a video store and loving all things cinema his whole life, Tarantino got off his butt and decided to make films that were inspired by the cult B-movie cinema he loved so much. He started out small with Reservoir Dogs, but everyone took notice of the novice filmmaker’s potential. Tarantino then changed cinema with his breakthrough film Pulp Fiction. Tarantino showed off his non-linear storytelling and helped put John Travolta back on the map. Tarantino took on Elmore Leonard the next time around in the underrated Jackie Brown and started one of his trends of strong female characters in his movies. Tarantino then took female empowerment to the next level in Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 with his muse Uma Thurman in the western/kung fu tale. Tarantino has also shown considerable growth as a filmmaker over the years with both Inglorious Basterds & Django Unchained cleaning up with major Award nominations. In my opinion, Quentin Tarantino has yet to make a bad film. Tarantino’s work as a director has changed the way we talk, broke down verbal boundaries with his filthy scripts and managed to dust off something old (Travolta, Westerns, Steelers Wheels) and make it cool again. Quentin Tarantino is the Anti-Director that defined a generation of young filmmakers and lovers of cinema like myself. Plus, he gave us Christoph Waltz.
Quentin Tarantino Essentials: Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained, & Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2
In my mind, Ron Howard is the most successful former child actor of all time. After playing Opie Taylor and Richie Cunningham, Howard walked away from acting and became one of the most successful directors in Hollywood with the critics and the box office. After starting small with Night Shift and Splash, Howard hit it big with the old fogey Sci-Fi romp Cocoon which became an instant classic. After that, Howard went on to direct a slew of great films including Parenthood, Backdraft, The Paper, Ransom and Cinderella Man. Howard earned critical praise with Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon and took home the Oscar for Best Director and Best Picture with A Beautiful Mind. Ron Howard is also the best at managing a huge ensemble, which probably goes back to his days as an actor and understanding what works and what doesn’t. Howard proved more recently why he’s one of the best in the business directing the greatest racing film ever in Rush. Ron Howard is severely underrated which will be proven when critics cry over his inclusion to this list when others were left off.
Ron Howard Essentials: Cocoon, A Beautiful Mind, Parenthood & Backdraft.
All hail to the king! Some people may complain and argue about Steven Spielberg’s place as king, but that’s what happens when you’re the best at what you do. Spielberg created the summer blockbuster with Jaws and influenced a whole generation of film students in the process. Bryan Singer, J.J. Abrams & Robert Zemeckis have all pointed to Spielberg as a point of inspiration. Spielberg creates summer blockbuster that will wow fans like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park and Minority Report. Spielberg was able to win over the critics in the form of Munich, The Color Purple and Lincoln. Even though Spielberg was snubbed for years by the Oscars, he has been nominated 15 times and won three Oscars (Schindler’s List & Saving Private Ryan) over his career. Plus, there was no way I wasn’t putting the man who created E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on this list. Spielberg is the man when it comes to directing and he still continues to amaze audiences to this day.
Steven Spielberg Essentials: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws & Schindler’s List.
The omissions & the one sentence defense.
Until Marty finds a way to properly cut down and edit a movie, he’s off this list.
In five years, check back in with me and Nolan’s resume may have bumped someone off the list.
The Coens Brothers
I love the Coens, but they can be too weird for their own good at times.
HA! I’m just messing with you guys at this point.