Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Top 10 Directors of All Time

I’ve wanted to assemble this list for a good long while, and after much deliberation and moving and switching and other various head puzzles, it’s time to finally share my 10 favorite directors of all time.

These are the directors I love and value the most. Whether their work has inspired me humanly or creatively (or both), the films of these men have influenced me in ways that I will never fully, coherently, be able to communicate in written form. They are responsible for so many cherished memories and bouts of fluid, manic motivation.

Please keep in mind that these are my personal choices. This list is not to act as a grand statement on who are the very best filmmakers of all time, these are just the ones I personally love. The first three directors are listed in order of significance – their work resonates above all others, so they deserve to carry specific weight. The remaining seven are listed alphabetically.

Enjoy, and please feel free to share your favorite directors in the comments!

Ingmar Bergman
The man, the myth, the master. I’ve written much about the impact Bergman and his films have had over my life and creative career, and that’s for good reason. There is simply no other person who has influenced my imagination more than Ingmar Bergman.

I was first introduced to Bergman through countless parodies of the most famous scene of his career: a knight playing chess with Death in The Seventh Seal. Not-so-coincidentally, that film was my first Bergman, and from there, the artistic floodgates were opened. Don’t get me wrong, I loved and knew movies well before I discovered Bergman, but after The Seventh Seal, I loved and knew movies.

I’ve seen every film Bergman directed, and although his filmography isn’t flawless (some of his early films were misguided and rough), his work remains indelible. Sure, I could list his most profound work here – the films that have and will always stand the test of time – but I’m afraid I’d end up listing the majority of his filmography. Just know this: my life and the general wonderment of the cinematic medium will be forever linked. And the films of Ingmar Bergman are large in part to thank for that.

My Top Three Favorites: Persona, Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander

Werner Herzog
Werner Herzog, mad crazy genius or batshit crazy pioneer? To me, both. I feel safe stating that there is no living filmmaker who doesn’t give less of a shit about pushing the boundaries than Werner Herzog does. To be clear, Herzog doesn’t care that he makes films. He finds it an insignificant profession that he only partakes in as means to provide himself with an income.

Now, in understanding a master’s complete apathy to his own work, we may begin to understand why much of that man’s work is quite flawless.

Herzog stops at nothing to tell the story, evoking realism by any means necessary. If this means actually dragging a massive ship across a mountain landscape, then so be it. Threaten to kill (and threated to be killed by) your leading star? Fine. Travel to an island that has been evacuated due to an impending volcanic eruption? It’s all part of the game for Herzog. The man stops at nothing to document unique lives in unique ways. It is simply impossible for me to not be in awe of the dedication this man puts into his craft. Even if he thinks that craft is a futile one.

My Top Three Favorites: Woyzeck, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Grizzly Man

Martin Scorsese
In my mind, Martin Scorsese is responsible for the best film of the ‘70s, the ‘80s and nearly the ‘90s, and because of that (and much more) I am proud to call him one of my all time favorite directors.

“Craft” is a word you’re going to hear quite a lot in this post, and that’s because all of the men listed here have an impeccable command of it. Scorsese chief among them. There’s a great moment on the commentary track for Taxi Driver in which film historian Robert Kolker comments on the film’s frequent use of slightly-tilted camera angles. At one point, Kolker admits that he doesn’t know if the angles were intentional and then laments that whether they are intentional or not, they are a perfect means to subtly understanding the characters better.

So, essentially, what Kolker is saying here is that Martin Scorsese’s films often bleed perfection, even if it’s on accident. Scorsese’s latest film, Hugo, divided people sharply, which surprised me a great deal. Detractors found it overly long, unevenly paced, and too self-congratulatory. Not me. Hugo, like many of the man’s other films, reminded me why I love movies. That’s damn near the highest praise I can give any one film.

My Top Three Favorites: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas

Woody Allen
The awkward, bumbling prodigy that is Woody Allen, a director who, not unlike Herzog, considers his films a means of getting by. He films one movie a year, edits it, then moves on long before it’s distributed in theaters. The man simply does not care what people think of his work; he makes movies because he finds that it is the occupation that suits him best. Thank God for us.

Woody Allen’s most famous films represent some of the most polarizing features of American cinema. For every person who loves Annie Hall and Manhattan, there is an equal amount who find them garish, nimble and boring. I personally love what Allen does with the art form: the blending of narrative devices to tell the story, his lush use of black and white, the bleakness of his dramas, the reliability of his comedies, and so on. Like him love him or hate him, there’s no arguing that there’s only one him.

While I’ll forever be taken with his unique brand of comedy, it’s Allen’s dramas that I am drawn to most. Whether it’s Mia Farrow’s melancholic face in The Purple Rose of Cario, the impossible bleakness of Interiors, the perfection that is Another Woman, or even the misunderstand density of September, Woody Allen always manages to draw me in for the duration. When his best work is on display, he’s got me.

My Top Three Favorites: Another Woman, Match Point, Husbands and Wives

Charlie Chaplin
The best way I can encapsulate my love for Charlie Chaplin is with a story. A few years ago, not having seen any of his films, I purchased a massive Chaplin DVD box set, and went about cranking them out over the course of one weekend. About five movies in, I simply didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the hype, the magic, the wonder and fulfillment. I just couldn’t see it.

That is, until I could.

My moment of clarity came in the final scene of Chaplin’s masterpiece, City Lights. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly the moment I’m speaking of. If you haven’t seen it, then, go about benefiting yourself by doing so. That final scene was so delicate and tender and simple that I sat jaw-dropped and teary-eyed. Everything clicked.

Younger generations watching Chaplin today may fail to appreciate the weight his films had over the medium. At least that’s what I can accuse myself of. I only hope that, when people who don’t “get” his work, finally watch (or rewatch) his films, it clicks for them as it did for me.

My Top Three Favorites: City Lights, Modern Times, The Gold Rush

Alfred Hitchcock
The master of suspense, the mad manipulator. Alfred Hitchcock is and will forever remain synonymous with the horror suspense genre of films. It’s virtually impossible to have an intelligible discussion about suspense cinema without uttering his name. And the credit couldn’t be more justly deserved.

The man is responsible for so many iconic film moments – to list them all here would be a fruitless attempt to conjure up the life’s work of a master. It didn’t matter who he was given or what he had to work with, Hitchcock continually managed to deliver something worthy.

Vertigo was recently named the best film of all time by Sight & Sound, a publication that conducts a once-every-decade poll in which nearly 900 critics rank cinema’s greatest films. I love everything about Vertigo. I love its forgery, its against type Jimmy Stewart, its revelatory cinematography – everything. So to say that I wouldn’t consider it Hitchcock’s fifth (or sixth) best film is, well, saying something rather significant.

My Top Three Favorites: Psycho, Notorious, Rear Window

Stanley Kubrick
The word craft, as it relates to cinema, is never better used than in discussing the films of Stanley Kubrick. Everything about the man’s films bleeds tireless excellence. The epic, impossibly smooth tracking shots, the efficient handheld camera work, the dynamic storytelling, the lavish landscapes, the curious casting – Kubrick was a man who knew what he wanted and stopped at nothing to get it.

His process of perfection brought with it many things, including remorseless privacy and a scarce number of finished films. No matter, because whether he hauled himself away for years to complete his magnum opus, 2001: A Space Odyssey in private, or rebuild the streets of downtown Manhattan for Eyes Wide Shut, all of Kubrick’s films have an impeccable authenticity. That, coupled with his never-to-be-mirrored vision, represents some of the finest films we’ll ever know.

My Top Three Favorites: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut, A Clockwork Orange

Akira Kurosawa
Now, I haven’t seen every Kurosawa film, but of the many I have seen, I have yet to view one that I wouldn’t hail as excellent. I was first introduced to this Japanese genius in the form of Rashomon, his nonlinear masterwork that tells the same story from multiple sides, leaving the viewer to decide what’s real, what’s false, who’s right, and who’s wrong.

Since then, I haven’t seen a Kurosawa I didn’t adore. One could talk for pages about the emotional complexities of High and Low and Ikiru, or the grandiose achievements of Seven Samurai and Ran. Even looking at his restrained, magical Dreams, it’s clear that Kurosawa will always have a unique, enduring presence over cinema. There’s simply nothing I don’t love about his films.

My Top Three Favorites: Rashomon, High and Low, Ikiru

Steven Soderbergh
I’ve written about the man and his films determinedly on this blog (most recently in my essay in appreciation for his constant ploy for naturalism), and that’s because I like to believe that I get what Soderbergh is going for.

I understand how his obsession with films of the ‘60s and ‘70s impact not only the work he produces, but the philosophy in which he produces them. He puts up with the studio system, simply because in order to make it that’s something you have to. But his acceptance for the hindrance that Hollywood can often bestow only goes so far. He keeps them at a distance, releasing micro budget gems like The Girlfriend Experience and Bubble alongside star vehicles like the Ocean’s films and Out of Sight.

My point is, no matter what he does, he does it his own specific way. And, granted, if you don’t like the way he does things, then you are certain to not enjoy his films. Me? I’m completely enamored with his digital, filtered cinematography, his purposeful angles and deliberate sound, his shifting narratives and precise font choices. You name it.

In the past 12 years, he’s released 15 narrative films, created a TV show and won and Oscar for directing. He’s been open with the press in saying that after next year’s The Bitter Pill and the HBO Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, he plans to retire. Most of me hopes he’ll reconsider, but if he does bow out prematurely, at least I’ll have his impeccable body of work to fall back on.

My Top Three Favorites: Traffic, Out of Sight, Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino has gotten to the point where he is so revered that it’s almost become cool to dislike him. I’m not saying people don’t have the right to hate his films, but a 10 second Google search on Tarantino will spawn hundreds of feverish words of contempt for a man who I feel singlehandedly rejuvenated independent film.

Pulp Fiction was a phenomenon. It showed audiences that talking can indeed be fun and entertaining, and even if your movie contains sex, drugs and violence, the words can act as the punch line. It showed young, aspiring filmmakers that, as long as the story is there, the stars will follow, and for cheap. It is, to me, the most significant film of my lifetime – it started a revolution of newfound hope. It gave independent filmmakers the voice they were looking for.

And that’s just one of the flicks in this guy’s oeuvre. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to scare away the (many) QT detractors. Let me close by saying that, yeah, I’m a fan. I love the way he manipulates language and let’s his feverish, encyclopedic knowledge of films bleed through every frame of his movies. A contemporary master if there ever was one.

My Top Three Favorites: Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown

Honorable Mention: Edward Burns
Crazy right? There are so many other names that seem more fitting to go here. There’s Fellini and Godard and Truffaut and Antonioni and Wilder and Ozu. But I can’t help myself. I simply cannot conduct a list of my favorite filmmakers without including Edward Burns, who, along with Soderbergh, has influenced my work as a filmmaker more than any other director.

Burns doesn’t make movies for money. He doesn’t make them for notoriety or lasting fame. He makes them because it’s what he loves to do. The funny thing is, he makes movies that, given my tastes, I really shouldn’t enjoy. Take his weakest film, Nice Guy Johnny, as an example. The movie is about a young kid who is tempted to step out on his crushing bitch of a fiancé with an innocent girl next door. It’s a cheesy, annoyingly optimistic romantic comedy, and I absolutely love it. Why? I have no goddamn clue. Maybe it’s because Burns made it just to make it. He got his friends together, drove them to the Hamptons for a few weeks and shot the damn thing. Done. I find honor in that. In terms of scope, his films certainly don’t compare to the work of the other directors on this list, but I love them despite.

In February of this year, I sat dumbfounded as I watched Burns’ latest (and best) film Newlyweds via iTunes. The movie was shot over a few days for $9,000 using the consumer grade Canon 5D Mark II camera. It stars Burns and a few of his friends and is a perfect dramedy that details how miscommunication can crumble a relationship. When it was finished, I sat and reflected in silence about the short I would be shooting in a few months. And right there, I set aside any doubts I had at the time and convinced myself that making a movie was what I needed to do. I wasn’t doing it for money or fame. I was doing it because I had to. That’s something Edward Burns taught me.

My Top Three Favorites: Newlyweds, She’s the One, Purple Violets

94 comments:

  1. That's a fucking solid list. (I've yet to see a film by Herzog or Burns though.)

    Oh, my own list. (There are 50 names, just FYI.)

    http://movienut14.tumblr.com/tagged/favorite_directors

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    1. Thanks! No Herzog yet? Ahh, ya gotta do it. He's the man.

      Enjoyed your list. Fine, talented group right there.

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  2. Great list. We have a lot in common I guess- Woody, Tarantino, Kubrick. Other directors that I really love too like Scorsese and Soderberg.
    Love what you wrote about the Woody dramas. Though I am more drawn to comedy, I love his dramas all the same. Have to watch Another Woman now.

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    1. Another Woman is definitely Woody's most Bergmanesque film, which is probably why I love it so much. It's bleak, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Love it.

      Glad to see we enjoy so many of the same directors!

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  3. Great list. Surprisingly I haven't done a list like this of my own for a long time, so I may post one soon. Nice work Alex!

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    1. Thanks man! Can't wait to see whatever list you cook up next. They're my favorites.

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  4. Great list indeed. I like all of these guys.

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    1. Thanks man! I'd love to see a list like this from you.

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  5. That's a great list. Really great to see Chaplin on there. Modern Times is a favorite of mine. And everyone loves Woody Allen! Huzzah!

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    1. Modern Times is just amazing, isn't it? I still watch it and am like, But wait... how?

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  6. Haven't heard Edward Burns' name for a while. I remember quite some fuss about The Brothers McMullen back in the 90s, but not much since then.

    I had a similar experience with Chaplin, though that was because when I first encountered him in the early 90s it was in REALLY shit prints on VHS. Like the Mutual 12; I saw them in their late 30s reissue form, transferred at the wrong speed and with really awful music and effects, and evidently a few generations removed from the negative. Saw them years later in properly restored prints and it was revelatory. (For what it's worth, I never had any comparable issues with Buster Keaton.)

    But sometimes it does just take a while for some things to sink in, or maybe you started in the wrong place, or you tried to watch something at the wrong point in your own life. I know I've certainly done that with other filmmakers I once couldn't stand and who I now admire, so maybe that was the case with me and Chaplin too.

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    1. I think you're absolutely right about where I was personally when I came on to Chaplin. Granted, it only took me a few days to see the light, but in the beginning, I just simply did not get it.

      The Brothers McMullen definitely caused a splash when it was released, and I'm not sure Burns has made a film of such notoriety since. Either way, I love his flicks.

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  7. I love this list. Bergman, Scorsese, Allen, Hitchcock, and Kubrick would definitely make my list, possibly Chaplin as well. And Edward Burns is so underappreciated. He makes charming films for next to nothing. I've been wanting to see Newlyweds since last year, so I really should do that soon.

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    1. Also, are you still doing your "Why You Need to Follow Following" piece from the Week of Nolan?

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    2. Thanks Josh! Man, Newlyweds changed my life. It just made things make sense to me. And I'm talking strictly as it relates to the film's look, not the story itself. Love that movie.

      Honestly, by the time my Nolan week came to a close, I was completely burnt out. I do want to go back and do that post at some point though!

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  8. Great list! I like that its personal to you. I have never heard of Edward Burns so I will have to look at his films. Any recommendations on where to start?

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    1. I always think it's best to start at the beginning of a director's career and trace his work in order. WIth that in mind, his first two, The Brothers McMullen and She's the One are two of his best. He hasn't made that many flicks, but I'll order them here from my favorite on down:

      Newlyweds
      She's the One
      Purple Violets
      The Brothers McMullen
      Sidewalks of New York
      No Looking Back
      Ash Wednesday
      The Groomsmen
      Looking for Kitty
      Nice Guy Johnny

      Let me know if you check out some of his work!

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  9. I still need to see a Herzog, Kurosawa, Soderbergh and Burns film. Burns is indeed a pretty odd choice as I didn't even know the man directed films. Herzog and Kurosawa have several films of theirs on my watch list. I'm not yet sure whether I will like Soderbergh so I've been avoiding him. I,too, am now aboard the Bergman train after having only watched Persona and Wild Strawberries, both of which I loved to pieces.

    It's hard to narrow down one's favorite directors to just 10 especially if you're a fan of cinema; but like you three do stand out above the rest for me: 1)David Lynch 2)Federico Fellini 3) Billy Wilder.
    The rest would go:
    4)Darren Aronofsky
    5)Quentin Tarantino
    6) Sofia Coppola
    7) Orson Welles
    8) Ingmar Bergman
    9) Krzysztof Kieslowski
    10) Alfred Hitchcock
    11) The Coen Brothers
    12) Guy Maddin
    13) John Cassavetes
    14) Howard Hawks
    15) Lars Von Trier

    Yes, I had to make it 15! (Woody, Chaplin and Stanley are in my top 25). I'll check out Burns' and Soderbergh's work though. Fantastic list, Alex.

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    1. Nice man, sounds like you have some seriously great flicks ahead of you. Glad your recent Bergman discovery was a good one.

      As for Soderbergh, I consider his Traffic to be the best film of the 2000s. That movie is just... something. A sure masterpiece.

      Loved all of your directors, many were close to making my list as well.

      Glad you liked the list, Teddy!

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  10. I'm still yet to see either of your top 2 and i've never really cared as much for Kubrick and Hitchcock as much as others do. I can't really argue with the rest of the list. Between lists like this from you and Tylers incredibly detailed breakdowns in his massive lists I really think I should take some time over making my own. The consideration you must have gone through to just choose 11 must have been immense.

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    1. It was definitely a lot of back and forth on my part, but it gets to the point where I say, "Okay, just post the damn thing."

      Wait, so you've never seen a Bergman or Herzog? You gotta do it man!

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    2. I know. I got close to watching a Herzog movie back in film school but I was tired and fell asleep instead. That's my Aguirre Wrath of God story.

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    3. hahahha fair enough. But definitely check that one (and many others) out when you get a chance.

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  11. Awesome, I never have guts to make a list like this, but there are a few names in yours that would definitely appear in mine (Scorsese, Allen, Kubrick, Hitchcock, Tarantino).

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    1. Nice! Ahh you should definitely try and make one. It was challenging, but a lot of fun.

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  12. Great list. Nice to see some love for Eyes Wide Shut, it's one of my favourite Kubrick's yet seems unfairly maligned for whatever reason, maybe it's the casting of Cruise, the ambiguity of the film or people finding the scene in the mansion silly. But for me it's one of Kubrick's most interesting films and is the perfect film for him to bow out on. Kidman is phenomenal as well.

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    1. Man, I think the mansion scene is one of the best sequences of Kubrick's career. He was great at showing us the dark sides of human nature that we've always suspected. Eyes Wide Shut definitely gets a bad rap, maybe for the reasons you've mentioned, but I love the hell out of it. Definitely a great film to leave with.

      Glad you liked the list!

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  13. Wow, really great list. I'd have to say I'd probably have a very similar list except I'd have Wes Anderson as my favorite.

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    1. Thanks Brian! Wes Anderson is fantastic, no question. I'd honestly be really curious to hear your top 10. Kevin Smith still number one?

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    2. Kevin Smith is on the list but he wouldn't be number 1, I loved Red State but the first three Jay and Bob movies are still some of my favorites. Here's what my top ten would be, many similar to yours, no order, except Wes Anderson who is my favorite.

      1) Wes Anderson
      2) Quentin Tarantino
      3) Robert Rodriguez
      4) Martin Scorsese
      5) Stanley Kubrick
      6) Woody Allen
      7) Cameron Crowe (pre-2005)
      8) Kevin Smith
      9) Ingmar Bergman
      10) Christopher Nolan

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    3. I LOVE the "pre-2005" aspect of your Crowe selection. So so true.

      I feel like there are two facets to Rodriquez: the action thrillers and the kids comedies. Do you enjoy the kids stuff? I haven't seen all of it, but aside from the first Spy Kids, it doesn't do anything for me.

      Had no idea you were a Bergman fan. That's awesome!

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    4. I would agree with you, I've only seen Spy Kids and while I enjoyed it, it feels like a different Rodriguez altogether, but El Mariachi, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn are my absolute favorites of his. As for Cameron Crowe, I love Vanilla Sky and Jerry Maguire, but Say Anything is one of my favorite movies and Almost Famous, which I'd like to hear your opinion on, is without question my favorite movie. I got really lucky when I was living in Seattle last summer and it was playing at this old theater that plays only movies that have been out theaters for years.

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    5. Oh man, seeing your favorite movie in theater for the first time is such an awesome experience. I bet that was epic. I honestly had no idea Almost Famous was your favorite movie. I'll be sure to write about it really soon.

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  14. Excellent list. Is it okay if I can add Paul Thomas Anderson on there? :)

    Actually, I composed a list of the best quotes from 10 great directors - some of the directors on here are actually on the list too.

    http://randomfilmbuff.com/2012/07/03/d-3/

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    1. Thanks! I was this close to including PTA. Love everything that man has ever done. I'll scope out your quotes in a bit. Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Great list. Four of these (Bergman, Kubrick, Scorsese, and Tarantino) would appear on my list as well. This also reminded me of the fact that I've never seen a film by Herzog or Kurosawa and I've only seen one by Hitchcock. I know, it's bad. I love what you said about Bergman. He's the greatest director of all time (In my opinion, at least)

    Also, after your recommendations I went and listened to Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" album. That is some fantastic music right there.

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    1. Bergman reigns supreme! I love it.

      I cannot recommend the collective works of Herzog, Kurosawa and Hitchcock alike. The films I listed are my favorite three of theirs, but they all have so much more to feast on.

      The fact that I a.) turned you on to Marvin Gaye and that, b.) you like it, is one of the best things you could ever say to me. So glad you're digging his vibe. His music is timeless.

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  16. I think its obvious that all of us think about things like this a lot. I do too but more often than not, I end up scratching that out for a simple reason that I don't think I have seen enough movies to make such a list. But still, at the risk of being an amateur that I am, I think I have my top 5 in my head - Billy Wilder, Sidney Lumet, Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock and Christopher Nolan. After that it's anybody's game. Tarantino, Scorsese and Coen Brothers can certainly be there and there is an Indian director Hrishikesh Mukharjee that I like a lot.

    As for Bergman, even after watching more than dozen of his films, I don't think I have understood him in a profound way you have. So, that still a work in progress.

    So, the Bottomline is, this is a great list and I need to watch more movies(as if I didn't know that !!).

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    1. I completely get what you're saying here, but I don't think a person has to be a "movie expert" to create a list of favorite directors. In fact, it would be awesome if you made your list now (like... today), and then didn't touch it for a year. A year later (or 2, or 5) go back and see who you would keep and who you would replace. That's the beauty of these movies: some stay, some go, others evolve.

      Bergman's work is a chief example of films that get better as time passes between your viewings of them. They're so intricate and layered. I'm honestly not one to read too much into the subtext of a film, so even at face value, I think his films are utter masterpieces. But, many people may certainly disagree with me. He didn't make films for everyone, you know?

      You really should make your list!

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  17. man here goes:

    1. paul thomas anderson
    2. wes anderson
    3. terrance malick
    4. wong kar wai
    5. hayao miyzaki
    7. jean luc godard

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    1. All solid picks. I figured those would be your top 2 choices... definitely no argument from me. Nice addition of Park - his flicks are bitchin'.

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    2. miyazaki deserves all the love in the world.

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  18. Excellent list! I would have made a very different list, but I love your choices. Though I must admit that I'm unfamiliar with a few of these directors' work, and I haven't seen a lot of the movies you included. One of my favorite films, among the ones you've listed, is Ikiru. I was thinking a lot about existentialism, and what gives meaning to an "ordinary life," when I watched it, and it really clicked with me.

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    1. Thanks! I love Ikiru for many reasons, and its exploration of existentialism is definitely chief among them. I'd be curious to hear what your favorite directors are. No need to list them, I just like having an idea of people's tastes!

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  19. I'm shocked to see NO ONE has said Steven Spielberg! Is he too low-brow? I probably wouldn't call any of his movies my absolute favorite, but by the numbers he's made the most that I enjoy watching again and again. I really admire his ability to balance fun blockbuster movies (Jurassic Park, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark) with dramatic and emotionally jarring historical pieces (Saving Private Ryan, Amistad, Schindler's List). He really understands what makes a movie watchable.

    Also gotta give some love to Clint Eastwood (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino)!

    - Tippi

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    1. Funny think about Spielberg, to me, is that when I wrote my directors profile on him, I realized I actually don't like a great many of his films. He's made some of the best, most revered movies American has ever seen, no question, but when I looked at his entire body of work, I was confident in saying that he wasn't one of my all time favorite directors. E.T., however, will certainly always be in my Top 15 of all time. Love it.

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  20. Love a good list. Solid as ever.

    1. Woody Allen
    (Hannah & Her Sisters, Annie Hall, Deconstructing Harry)
    2. The Coen Brothers
    (The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country For Old Men)
    3. Wes Anderson
    (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Ltd., Rushmore)
    4. Jim Jarmusch
    (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Dead Man, Coffee & Cigarettes)
    5. Martin Scorsese
    (Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The King of Comedy)
    6. Paul Thomas Anderson
    (Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia)
    7. Quentin Tarantino
    (Pulp Fiction, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds
    If he'd directed True Romance it'd be #1)
    8. David Lynch
    (Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire, Wild At Heart)
    9. Terry Gilliam
    (Brazil, 12 Monkeys, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnaussus
    Also add Monty Python his cred)
    10. Sergio Leone
    (Dollars + Once Upon A Time In America)

    I've never seen any Kurosawa, nor Bergman, nor Burns, and precious little Herzog or Chaplin (although I think Bad Lieutenant is some awesome shit, obviously). In fact, I haven't seen much Soderbergh, come to think of it. Damn, man. Cool picks.

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    1. Bitchin list here man. Thanks for including your choices and their tops three films. PTA... I just love discussing his films with people. I wouldn't give any movie he's made less than an A-, but I think There Will Be Blood is his incontestable masterpiece. Whereas it looks like you'd rank that forth. Either way, the man really cannot miss. So pumped for The Master.

      Seriously great picks.

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    2. Believe me, I love There Will Be Blood. The last four of his films are so great (Hard Eight also being pretty good), it seems a shame to leave any of them out, but my reasoning was; Boogie Nights is definitely my favourite of his stuff, but I love the comedy of Punch-Drunk Love so I'd have to have that for some light relief, and then Magnolia is such a huge and powerful film...There Will Be Blood is as good as any of those, of course. Hopefully the Master will be just as much of an addition to a perfect filmography. And I totally reckon it will be.

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    3. Punch-Drunk Love gets better everytime I watch it. I love the scene when Barry calls his sister from Hawaii and just goes off on her. He's half whispering, half yelling.

      One of the funniest things I've ever seen in a movie.

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  21. Nice post, man. Some really interesting choices. I'm not familiar with Edward Burns but will keep an eye out for some of his work.

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    1. Thanks man! Burns makes tiny American indies that I just adore. Newlyweds in particular is fantastic.

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  22. One can't stop talking about his top 10 auteurs,ca he? Wonderful list,Alex.

    I'm ashamed to say I have never seen a single Werner Herzog film,his mad reputation exceeds his films to me.

    Martin Scorsese is very solid and I really appreciate his work of restoring classics and sharing his film knowledge in so many dvds.

    Recently I was asked about my top 10 film directors,here's the list:
    Kubrick
    Hitchcock
    Bunuel
    Fellini
    Mizoguchi
    Murnau
    Kiarostami
    Yang
    Leone
    Renoir

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    1. Excellent picks. Many of those fellas were very close to making my list.

      Definitely start schooling yourself with some Herzog!

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  23. Fantastic list :)

    While I don't currently have the time to do a long, well explained one of my own, my top five would have to be...

    1) David Lynch
    2) Ingmar Bergman
    3) Woody Allen
    4) Martin Scorsese
    5) David Fincher

    And an honourable mention for Chan Wook Park :)

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    1. Awesome dude, I had no idea our tastes were that aligned. Cool to hear.

      What's your favorite Lynch? I think I've asked you that but...

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  24. Great list! How about John Sturges! How's this for a small portion of a resume: Bad Day at Black Rock, The Old Man and the Sea, Never So Few, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Hour of the Gun (sinfully underrated)!

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    1. Thanks! Oooh John Sturges was the man. Love his films. The Great Escape might have to be my favorite of his, that I've seen.

      Good call!

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  25. Very surprised at the lack of PTA in this list, given that you hold his entire catalogue in such high esteem.

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    1. Love PTA. Love. Him. But 10 is 10, you know? If I made this list today, it would definitely be slightly different, but I still don't think he'd make the cut.

      How would you rank his films?

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  26. Great post. Very thought provoking list.

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    1. Thanks! Really appreciate your comment here.

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  27. A list of worst (or least favorite) films of your top favorite directors.

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    1. Not really into "Worst" lists. Used to write them, but they lack purpose to me now.

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  28. Who are your top 15 directors who are working TODAY?

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    1. Wow, that's a tough one. Give me a few days to think about that. Great question though.

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    2. The first five (in your opinion) would be:
      Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino and Edward Burns

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    3. You know, I actually don't think Woody Allen would make my top 10 now (living or dead). I was on a HUGE Allen kick when I wrote this post, but I don't believe he'd make the cut anymore.

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    4. So, you had 4 day. Tell me, Who are your top 15 directors who are working TODAY?

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    5. So who would replace Woody Allen, now?

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    6. "a few days" for you means 12 days?

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    7. Herzog, Scorsese, QT, PTA, S. Coppola, Iñárritu, Linklater, Malick, Haneke, Nolan,
      Mann, Fincher, Coens, A. Arnold, von Trier.

      Honorable Mention: Edward Burns

      (Soderbergh would, of course, be listed. If he was still making films.)

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    8. Forgot Steve McQueen. Must include him.

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    9. Affleck, Polanski, Scott, B. Miller, Jonze, Bigelow, Russell, W. Anderson, Aronofsky, E. Wright, Almodovar? Where are them?
      Denis Villeneuve?

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    10. I like them all. Though I haven't liked Russell, W. Anderson, and Scott's last few films as much as their earlier work. Denis Villeneuve is one of the most promising new directors of the past decade.

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    11. I think Nolan and Fincher should be above Coppola. Why? Her best film is Somewhere, right? But Inception and The Social Network aren't their (Nolan and Fincher) best films, no? But you put in you top 10 best of 2010 Inception and The Social Network above Somewhere. So why is she so high?
      )Note: I LOVE Lost in Translation.)

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    12. Well they're all very good. But Nolan and Fincher would be above S. Coppola for me as well.

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  29. Charlie Chaplin is one of my favorite as well. I love all the films I've seen from him. When I was a kid I begged my father to buy my all the Chaplin films. Back then I lived at my grandma and she liked Chaplin as well. My uncle as well was a Chaplin fan and I watched with them all the films I've bought. I own Shoulder Arms, A Dog's Life, The Pilgrim, The Kid, The Gold Rush, The Circus, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator and Monsieur Verdoux. Now I can get why is City Lights your favorite, it's a film full of heart and I was impressed by that moment even today (I cry thinking about it), but my favorite is The Great Dictator. His monologue in that film was so fantastic wrote and direct, was an experience for me, that film really clicked for me. The fact that he played so well the role of Hynkel and The Jewish Barber shakes me even today. My second favorite is, of course, City Lights. My third favorite is Monsieur Verdoux. This I've seen the last but it was fantastic. I love how Chaplin plays against type in this film. It was like watching a new character growing on screen. Was such a different approach for Chaplin that was just magnificent. I guess I need to be honest here but I'll give A+ to all the Chaplin films that I own.
    Others that I should check out?

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    1. Nice man, I love to hear this. You know, he only directed 11 features, and it seems like you have a really good handle on them already. I myself still need to dive into more of his short films, but you've seen all of the features I would recommend. Nice work!

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    2. So you wouldn't recommend Limelight or A King in New York or A Countess from Hong Kong?

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    3. I would, for sure. That way you will have seen them all.

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  30. Wasn't sure where to put this, since you don't have a page dedicated just to him (I'm assuming a post on him is in the works and you just want it to be perfect). I'm ready to take the plunge into Bergman, and I mean it. So instead of buying a couple of his films, I bought:
    The Seventh Seal
    Wild Strawberries
    Through the Glass Darkly
    Winter Light
    The Silence
    Persona
    Hour of the Wolf
    Shame
    The Passion of Anna
    Cries and Whispers
    The Serpent's Egg
    Fanny and Alexander (any recommendation on which version to watch first? I got the criterion box)

    So, I guess I'm asking the expert is there is any specifically good way to start? Just pick any one? Any bad ones to start with? Any that I should definitely have right away on top of those? Or you could just do a "The Directors" post on him and that would be fine too :)

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    1. You're so spot on! I'm set to finally (finally, finally) post my Directors post on Bergman in December. You're right, I want it to be perfect, but I think I've been focusing a little too hard on that. I just adore his work so much.

      So, first off, fucking GREAT haul in your Bergman purchase. Like... wow. My advice for tackling any filmmaker's body of work is to always start at the beginning. When you start with the masterpieces and essentials, then it doesn't make for a good arc. You slowly progress down, which is a bummer. But if you can start in the order that you listed the films above (which is not only chronological, but a also a fantastic organic arc), then you're going to be exposed to his work in the best possible way.

      Everything pre-Seventh Seal is a deeper cut. Summer with Monika and Smiles of a Summer Night are fantastic, but I think beginning with The Seventh Seal is the way to go. Hell, that's what I did. So, basically, go in the order of the ones you listed. The best part is that all of them (but one) are masterful.

      As for Fanny, start with the theatrical version (the shorter one), let that stew and process, then, when you're ready, open yourself up to the 5 hour version. Oh god, soooo good.

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    2. Awesome, hopefully I'll make it through a solid chunk by then so I can have some of my own opinions before reading yours. Can't wait to see what you have to say.

      Okay, that makes sense. He does have a decent amount of stuff before 1957 but I guess I can always go back. I'll probably end up getting all the stuff Criterion has of him so I'll get at least four pre-Seventh Seal films. Hmm, I'm not gonna ask which one is not masterful in case it would taint my view of it before even seeing it.

      Gah, I'm just so excited to jump in.

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    3. Yeah I didn't wanna tell you which one was the non-masterful ;-)

      So excited for you to jump into his world.

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    4. I made a new google account, and had a nice long post written out, but then it hung me up because I was missing account details and the whole thing was lost. So here's another try.

      I'm guessing that neither the Seventh Seal nor Wild Strawberries are the non-masterpiece haha. Honestly, I was expecting to have to put in a little more effort to get into his films. A lot of times I struggle with highly regarded material; maybe I just expect too much. Especially with older films, I feel like in a lot of instances, I just end up "appreciating it for what it is" and just thinking hmm, it must have been great to see this when it came out, but it's 2015 now and there are better things. But these were everything that they were said to be. They brought me joy, they made me think, they made me feel, they kept me engaged, they made me want to see them again (I didn't rewatch either yet, I'll probably give them a little time to digest).

      What really sold me was the acting, I think. Yeah, the cinematography was good, the mise en scene was good, but those are things that I don't necessarily single out the first time through. The acting just seemed so natural, almost as if the actors had a rough outline of what needed to transpire and were just told to go, but on top of that the actors already had years of a relationship built between them with those characters. I don't actually know anything about that but it just came across as incredibly natural to me. Except the depictions of rape, I thought they seemed a little off. But overall, I was incredibly impressed. I'm excited for more knowing that he features a lot of the actors in his subsequent films. I'm going to have a tough time with Bibi Andersson being a character other than Sara though. She was probably my favorite between the two films.

      I'm almost tentative to see Persona and Cries and Whispers knowing they're in your top ten and the two I've seen are not. They will have to wait until after The Silence of God Trilogy though. Bergman probably would have gotten put on the wait list if I didn't start reading this blog, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    5. I made a new google account, and had a nice long post written out, but then it hung me up because I was missing account details and the whole thing was lost. So here's another try.

      I'm guessing that neither the Seventh Seal nor Wild Strawberries are the non-masterpiece haha. Honestly, I was expecting to have to put in a little more effort to get into his films. A lot of times I struggle with highly regarded material; maybe I just expect too much. Especially with older films, I feel like in a lot of instances, I just end up "appreciating it for what it is" and just thinking hmm, it must have been great to see this when it came out, but it's 2015 now and there are better things. But these were everything that they were said to be. They brought me joy, they made me think, they made me feel, they kept me engaged, they made me want to see them again (I didn't rewatch either yet, I'll probably give them a little time to digest).

      What really sold me was the acting, I think. Yeah, the cinematography was good, the mise en scene was good, but those are things that I don't necessarily single out the first time through. The acting just seemed so natural, almost as if the actors had a rough outline of what needed to transpire and were just told to go, but on top of that the actors already had years of a relationship built between them with those characters. I don't actually know anything about that but it just came across as incredibly natural to me. Except the depictions of rape, I thought they seemed a little off. But overall, I was incredibly impressed. I'm excited for more knowing that he features a lot of the actors in his subsequent films. I'm going to have a tough time with Bibi Andersson being a character other than Sara though. She was probably my favorite between the two films.

      I'm almost tentative to see Persona and Cries and Whispers knowing they're in your top ten and the two I've seen are not. They will have to wait until after The Silence of God Trilogy though. Bergman probably would have gotten put on the wait list if I didn't start reading this blog, so thank you, thank you, thank you.

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    6. Oh man, this comment makes me so happy. Sounds like you connected to the material as quickly and irreversibly as I did. Persona and Cries and Whispers are just so different but now I can't wait to hear what you think of them.

      You'll find completely natural performances in all of Bergman's best films. I think that's because he was very relaxed with his actors. And because they all worked together for so many years. The chemistry between Liv Ullmann and Bibi Andersson in Persona is astounding.

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    7. One year later... I have not finished, but I haven't stopped yet. I actually added a few more to the queue as well. I have found that I need to space them out at least a few weeks apart, but I went a few months when school was tough where I mostly watched easy films, which these certainly aren't. So far, there haven't been any that didn't absolutely connect.

      I also totally disregarded your earlier advice of watching them in order, because I ordered Autumn Sonata and the day I got it for some reason I was compelled to watch it and dang... that one is powerful. Such well realized characters. Just gut wrenching story and the acting seemed so. freaking. real.

      Still saving some of the ones you favor for some grand moment, I don't really know when. Probably should just watch them and stop building them up in my head.

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    8. The watching them in order then was just a suggestion, you know? As long as you're watching them, that's certainly better than nothing! Autumn is such a doozy.

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  31. Wow. I just saw High & Low and it comfortably ranks among his finest work. That last scene...

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    1. Right?! Man, I need to watch that one again ASAP.

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