Monday, 23 June 2014

The Ten Most Influential Directors of All Time

So I've seen at least two of these "blogging relays" going on, and the truth is I've envied the people who have been picked to participate in them and really wanted in on this action; so I naturally decided to create a relay of my own. They're straight forward enough in theory and are also a good way to connect with other bloggers so seeing as I have a lot of free time it seemed like something that would be fun to try.

The big relay that's going around right now is based on the most iconic movie characters, and Wendell Ottley at Dell On Movies has just started his own based around iconic female characters (he has a pretty good selection, too), so I thought I'd try and find something new to bring up with this one instead of just bringing out another list of characters. 

The subject of looking at directors seemed an interesting new angle to take, especially since the theme I'm looking at is one so subjective that there's bound to be a fair bit of swapping and re-swapping places. That said, while the subject matter is different, the basic structure is still modeled on the character-based relays.

As for how it works, it's pretty straight forward. I have compiled a list of ten directors I consider to be extremely influential. I will name another blogger to take over. That blogger, in their own article, will go through my list and choose one they feel doesn't belong, make a case for why that director doesn't fit, and then bring out a replacement. After making a case for why that director is a better choice, they will pass the baton onto another blogger. That third blogger will repeat the process before choosing another one to take over, and so on. Once you've written your entry, I would like to ask that you post a link in the comments or send it to me through twitter or otherwise send it to me so that I can keep track of where this is going.

For the sake of simplicity I'll sort them alphabetically by last name (how any of the bloggers to take over opt to sort the list is their choice). I'm also drawing largely from my own pool of directors I admire. At the moment a large portion of the list includes white American men, but I have tried to diversify it as much as I can, including a woman along with two European directors.

One of the curious aspects of this field is how varied different people's pools are. I imagine by the time this is done I won't even recognize it anymore, and I'll probably see other directors I love, directors I hate, and others I'd never heard of as this gets passed around.

So here is the list I have assembled:

Kathryn Bigelow

Bigelow may be a very recent director, but she has already left a huge impact. We are talking about the first woman to win Best Picture... in 2008, for a medium that has been around for over a century. This is a huge deal, even if her influence isn't immediately visible in any subsequent filmmakers. It is likely she will inspire many of the future, however.

John Carpenter

One of my favorite directors, and also the only person on this list I have had the honor of meeting. This was a man who often worked with a low budget and almost always managed to come out with something interesting. His films often had a distinct look and he is often called the "Master of Horror" but in truth he was extremely versatile, having across his career made horror, action, comedy, romance, science fiction, and fantasy films. Then of course we get into the influence of his specific movies. Halloween alone popularized an entire genre, and with Escape From New York he managed to launch then-unknown Disney star Kurt Russell to stardom as an action hero.

Francis Ford Coppola

There's no denying this guy has talent. This is man who directed several critically acclaimed movies, was nominated for Oscars several times, and even managed to win the Best Picture Oscar for two films in the same series (I'm not a huge fan of The Godfather but that is still quite the accomplishment). On the other hand, how many films have in some way tried to imitate the cinematography of Apocalypse Now or Marlon Brando's performance in The Godfather. Quite a few.

D.W. Griffith

Like going to the movies? Like writing about movies? Well then, you ought to thank this guy. True, he did unwittingly make an extremely racist movie even by the standards of his time but he also pioneered nearly every major filmmaking technique that is used today. Among other things Griffith's film was basically the first feature. He was also one of the first people to experiment with more sophisticated editing techniques, such as realizing the camera could move to show the same action from multiple angles.

Howard Hawks

Among the many directors, male and female, working in Hollywood during the time of the studio era (just after the conclusion of the silent era in the late 1920's, and continuing on to the late 1950's), one name often seems to stand out, and that is Howard Hawks. This man made some of the most iconic films of the period: Bringing Up BabyHis Girl FridaySergeant YorkRed River. The Big Sleep, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes just to name a few. He also may have made an impact on how women were treated in the movies, having been known to frequently have surprisingly progressive images in his leads, quite possibly helping to clear the way for other great female characters of the period such as those of Katherine Hepburn.

Alfred Hitchcock

There are not enough words to clearly describe how much of an influence Hitchcock has had on cinema, but this was a man who has inspired millions even today. Among other things he was also a man who dared to challenge established norms and experiment in finding new ways to tell his stories and create suspense in his audiences. Oh, and Hitchcock's trademark of making cameos in his films is one that has been picked up by countless modern directors.

Stanley Kubrick

Ah, Kubrick, one of my all-time favorite directors and the director of one of my all-time favorite films. This is a guy who always had a very distinct vision of what he wanted, a notorious perfectionist who worked with all kinds of actors from James Mason to Tom Cruise. This man has made several films often ranked among the greatest ever made (among them Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey), and nearly all of them continue to inspire even today. Even 46 years later the visuals of 2001 are among some of the best ever put on film and continue to inspire filmmakers with access to far more sophisticated equipment.

Sergio Leone

Look at any classic western released before 1964's A Fistful of Dollars. Now look at any western released after 1968's Once Upon a Time in the West. You'll quickly see a lot of changes, and many of them are owed to this man. Leone was an Italian director who was able to take an icon of Hollywood and stamp his name onto it. Additionally he also launched several careers including that of Clint Eastwood and finally giving Lee Van Cleef a career outside of occasionally playing a background henchman.

David Lynch

How many shows have drawn in some way or another from Twin Peaks? How many continue to be inspired by Eraserhead. This was a man who managed to break into mainstream cinema but never let it control him. If he has an idea for a movie or gets a script he likes he just goes for it, and he never does the same project twice. Before Lynch came along, subjective art was very much a thing only found in specific circles, such as experimental films or the art film movements of Fellini and Bergman. Though he clearly drew influence from those artists, Lynch took it, did his own thing, and brought it into the usually conformist environment of Hollywood.

Georges Méliès

No discussion of the history of film would be complete without referencing this genius, and with good reason. After all, cinema as we know it today might never happened if not for Méliès. Before he came along, film was just a cool new way to see the world the same way you might with a photo camera, the only difference being that now the pictures were able to move for a few seconds. Méliès was the first to person to recognize the potential film had as an art form, and the first to really experiment with any kind of editing techniques (specifically the "stop trick", and the practice of shooting multiple scenes and stringing them together to create a sense of coherence) in order to tell a fantastic story.

Now to set things off I'm obliged to begin by selecting who will go first. I had two possible candidates and I apologize to the one who I won't be passing this on to (I won't give his name). The first person in line for this relay is Katy Rochelle of Girl Meets Cinema. Who she passes this on to afterwards will be her choice. The results should be interesting to see.

Current Participants:


  1. Cool. Hard to argue against any of your ten. Can't wait to see how it develops. Hope I'll get to play.

    1. I hope so, but once Katy starts on hers this will be out of my control. Who she picks to take over will ultimately be her choice. Hopefully someone will give you a turn but ultimately I can't tell them what to do and I can't promise anything.

  2. Great a varied list here. I'm also really eager to see how this one develops. Good for you for starting it!

    1. Well, lucky for you. Katy's handed you the baton so you've got yourself a turn.