Welcome to a discussion about great directors! I'll get us started!
First off, the word "great" is very objective. Even in terms of art, one person's work can be seen as perfect, but when viewed by another it's deemed flawed. There are a few directors that most will agree are great. But we can also talk about who is great to you!
I am very biased on this subject. My husband is a film scholar--he teaches film studies at Arizona State University, has a Masters in Film Studies, writes numerous essays on film analysis and critique..... So my views tend to mirror his (since I read his works, and watch which movies he suggests most of the time). It also helps to have someone who knows what they're talking about explain what makes a director "great." I have a much deeper appreciation for the craft since I've been able to see it through his eyes.
So, great directors:
Part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential filmmakers in cinematic history. In 1990, he founded The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to film preservation, and in 2007 he founded the World Cinema Foundation. He is a recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award for his contributions to the cinema, and has won an Academy Award, a Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival Best Director Award, Silver Lion, Grammy Award, Emmys, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and DGA Awards.
He has directed works such as the crime film Mean Streets (1973), the vigilante-thriller Taxi Driver (1976), the biographical sports drama Raging Bull (1980), the black comedy The King of Comedy (1983), the religious epic drama The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), the crime film Goodfellas (1990), the psychological thriller Cape Fear (1991) and the crime film Casino (1995), some of which he collaborated on with actor and close friend Robert De Niro. Scorsese has also been noted for his successful collaborations with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, having directed him in five films, beginning with Gangs of New York (2002) and most recently The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Their third film together, The Departed, won Scorsese the Academy Award for Best Director in addition to the film winning the award for Best Picture. Their collaborations have resulted in numerous Academy Award nominations for both as well as them winning several other prestigious awards.
Scorsese's other notable films include the concert film The Last Waltz (1978), the black comedy After Hours (1985), the biographical drama The Aviator (2004), the psychological thriller Shutter Island (2010), the historical adventure drama Hugo (2011) and the religious epic Silence (2016). His work in television includes the pilot episode of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire and Vinyl, the latter of which he also co-created. He won the Academy Award for Best Director for the crime drama The Departed (2006). With eight Best Director nominations, he is the most nominated living director and is tied with Billy Wilder for the second most nominations overall.
He is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era, as well as being viewed as one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. He is also one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Studios.
In a career spanning more than four decades, Spielberg's films have spanned many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films, such as Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), were seen as archetypes of modern Hollywood escapist filmmaking. In later years, his films began addressing humanistic issues such as the Holocaust, the transatlantic slave trade, civil rights, war, and terrorism in such films as The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler's List (1993), Amistad (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Munich (2005), War Horse (2011), Lincoln (2012), and Bridge of Spies (2015). His other films include Jurassic Park (1993), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), and War of the Worlds (2005).
Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, as well as receiving five other nominations. Three of Spielberg's films—Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park—achieved box office records, originated and came to epitomize the blockbuster film. The unadjusted gross of all Spielberg-directed films exceeds $9 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing director in history. His personal net worth is estimated to be more than $3 billion. He is also known for his long-standing associations with several actors, producers, and technicians, most notably composer John Williams, who has composed music for all but two of Spielberg's movies which are The Color Purple and Bridge of Spies.
American film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, editor, and photographer. He is frequently cited as one of the greatest and most influential directors in cinematic history. His films, which are mostly adaptations of novels or short stories, cover a wide range of genres, and are noted for their realism, dark humor, unique cinematography, extensive set designs, and evocative use of music.
Kubrick was born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, and attended William Howard Taft High School from 1941 to 1945. Although he only received average grades, Kubrick displayed a keen interest in literature, photography, and film from a young age, and taught himself all aspects of film production and directing after graduating from high school. After working as a photographer for Look magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he began making short films on a shoestring budget, and made his first major Hollywood film, The Killing, for United Artists in 1956. This was followed by two collaborations with Kirk Douglas, the war picture Paths of Glory (1957) and the historical epic Spartacus (1960). His reputation as a filmmaker in Hollywood grew, and he was approached by Marlon Brando to film what would become One-Eyed Jacks (1961), though Brando eventually decided to direct it himself.
Creative differences arising from his work with Douglas and the film studios, a dislike of Hollywood, and a growing concern about crime in America prompted Kubrick to move to the United Kingdom in 1961, where he spent most of the remainder of his life and career. His home at Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire, which he shared with his wife Christiane, became his workplace, where he did his writing, research, editing, and management of production details. This allowed him to have almost complete artistic control over his films, but with the rare advantage of having financial support from major Hollywood studios. His first British productions were two films with Peter Sellers, Lolita (1962) and Dr. Strangelove (1964).
A demanding perfectionist, Kubrick assumed control over most aspects of the filmmaking process, from direction and writing to editing, and took painstaking care with researching his films and staging scenes, working in close coordination with his actors and other collaborators. He often asked for several dozen retakes of the same scene in a movie, which resulted in many conflicts with his casts. Despite the resulting notoriety among actors, many of Kubrick's films broke new ground in cinematography. The scientific realism and innovative special effects of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) were without precedent in the history of cinema, and the film earned him his only personal Oscar, for Best Visual Effects. Steven Spielberg has referred to the film as his generation's "big bang", and it is regarded as one of the greatest films ever made. For the 18th-century period film Barry Lyndon (1975), Kubrick obtained lenses developed by Zeiss for NASA, to film scenes under natural candlelight. With The Shining (1980), he became one of the first directors to make use of a Steadicam for stabilized and fluid tracking shots. While many of Kubrick's films were controversial and initially received mixed reviews upon release—particularly A Clockwork Orange (1971), which Kubrick pulled from circulation in the UK following a mass media frenzy—most were nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, or BAFTA Awards, and underwent critical reevaluations. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, was completed shortly before his death in 1999.
His first film was Citizen Kane (1941), which he co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in as Charles Foster Kane. Welles was an outsider to the studio system and directed only 13 full-length films in his career. He struggled for creative control on his projects early on with the major film studios and later in life with a variety of independent financiers, and his films were either heavily edited or remained unreleased. His distinctive directorial style featured layered and nonlinear narrative forms, uses of lighting such as chiaroscuro, unusual camera angles, sound techniques borrowed from radio, deep focus shots, and long takes. He has been praised as "the ultimate auteur".:6
Welles followed up Citizen Kane with critically acclaimed films including The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942 and Touch of Evil in 1958. Although these three are his most acclaimed films, critics have argued other works of his, such as The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and Chimes at Midnight (1966), are underappreciated.
In 2002, Welles was voted the greatest film director of all time in two British Film Institute polls among directors and critics, and a survey of critical consensus, best-of lists, and historical retrospectives calls him the second most acclaimed director of all time (behind Alfred Hitchcock). Known for his baritone voice, Welles was an actor in radio and film, a Shakespearean stage actor, and a magician noted for presenting troop variety shows in the war years.
English film director and producer, at times referred to as "The Master of Suspense". He pioneered many elements of the suspense and psychological thriller genres. He had a successful career in British cinema with both silent films and early talkies and became renowned as England's best director. Hitchcock moved to Hollywood in 1939, and became a US citizen in 1955.
Hitchcock became a highly visible public figure through interviews, movie trailers, cameo appearances in his own films, and the ten years in which he hosted the television programme Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965). He also fashioned for himself a recognisable directorial style. Hitchcock's stylistic trademarks include the use of camera movement that mimics a person's gaze, forcing viewers to engage in a form of voyeurism. In addition, he framed shots to maximise anxiety, fear, or empathy, and used innovative forms of film editing. His work often features fugitives on the run alongside "icy blonde" female characters. In 1978, film critic John Russell Taylor described Hitchcock as "the most universally recognizable person in the world", and "a straightforward middle-class Englishman who just happened to be an artistic genius".
Prior to 1980, there had long been talk of Hitchcock being knighted for his contribution to film. Critic Roger Ebert wrote: "Other British directors like Sir Carol Reed and Sir Charlie Chaplin were knighted years ago, while Hitchcock, universally considered by film students to be one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, was passed over". Hitchcock later received his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in the 1980 New Year Honours.
Hitchcock directed more than fifty feature films in a career spanning six decades and is often regarded as one of the most influential directors in cinematic history. Following a 2007 critics' poll by Britain's Daily Telegraph in which he was ranked Britain's greatest filmmaker, one scholar wrote: "Hitchcock did more than any director to shape modern cinema, which would be utterly different without him. His flair was for narrative, cruelly withholding crucial information (from his characters and from the audience) and engaging the emotions of the audience like no one else." Hitchcock's first thriller, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1926), helped shape the thriller genre in film. His 1929 film, Blackmail, is often cited as the first British sound feature film, while Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960) are regularly ranked among the greatest films of all time.
Swedish director, writer, and producer who worked in film, television, theatre and radio. He is recognized as one of the most accomplished and influential auteurs of all time, and is most famous for films such as The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), Persona (1966), Cries and Whispers (1972) and Fanny and Alexander (1982).
He directed over sixty films and documentaries for cinematic release and for television, most of which he also wrote. He also directed over 170 plays. From 1953 he forged a powerful creative partnership with his full-time cinematographer Sven Nykvist. Among his company of actors were Harriet and Bibi Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Gunnar Björnstrand, Erland Josephson, Ingrid Thulin and Max von Sydow. Most of his films were set in Sweden, and numerous films from Through a Glass Darkly (1961) onward were filmed on the island of Fårö. His work often dealt with death, illness, faith, betrayal, bleakness and insanity.
This list just barely scratches the surface of great directors. Do you agree that these mentioned are exceptional? Do you have others you want to add?