It always fascinates me to learn that a director with dozens of films under their belt never actually wrote (or co-wrote) a produced screenplay. But such is the case for the 10 brilliant filmmakers below, who, with minor exceptions, have never been credited for penning a feature-length script. Hope you enjoy my picks, feel free to share yours as well.
10. F.W. Murnau
Notable films: Nosferatu (1922), Faust (1926), Sunrise (1927)
Murnau received a “Told by” credit for his final film, Tabu, but aside from that, the man responsible for some of the earliest cinematic masterpieces never drafted a screenplay.
9. Michael Curtiz (post-1922)
Notable films: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1943)
Curtiz does have one credited screenplay to his name, for Sodom und Gomorrha (1922), which he co-wrote with Ladislaus Vajda. But five Oscar nominations (with one win) and 119 (!) directing credits later, and not a single Curtiz-penned script to be found.
8. Ridley Scott
Notable films: Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Thelma and Louise (1991)
Ridley Scott, a man with one of the most vast and varied contemporary filmographies around, has never written a produced feature film. Same goes for his brother Tony, in fact. May he rest in peace.
7. Clint Eastwood
Notable films: The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Unforgiven (1992), Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Clint Eastwood has helmed 33 films in 43 years, and has never taken a screenwriting credit on any of them. Even more interesting: seldom has he worked with the same screenwriter more than once. You gotta give it to old Clint, always making room for fresh talent.
6. Howard Hawks (post-1930)
Notable films: Scarface (1932), The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959)
Howard Hawks often pitched his own story ideas to studio execs, in hopes of turning them into films, which explains why he has so many story credits and uncredited screenplay gigs. But after 1930, the man who made classics in so many different genres never took credit for writing a film.
5. Otto Preminger
Notable films: Laura (1944), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Master of noir, Otto Preminger, has 42 directing credits on IMDb, but not a single writing credit. That’s a man who knew a damn fine script when he saw one.
4. William Wyler
Notable films: Wuthering Heights (1939), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Ben-Hur (1959)
William Wyler directed some of the most iconic films in cinema history. He was nominated for Best Director 12 times (netting three wins), and is not credited with writing a single word of his films. Quite astonishing, really.
3. Mike Nichols
Notable films: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), The Graduate (1967), Closer (2004)
Mike Nichols has a co-teleplay credit for the HBO film, Wit (shared with film’s star, Emma Thompson), but other than that, he apparently didn’t have a hand in drafting the scripts for his films, a few of which are some of the finest screenplays ever written.
2. David Fincher
Notable films: Se7en (1995), Fight Club (1999), Zodiac (2007)
I’m placing David Fincher so high on this list for one reason: When you turn on a David Fincher film, you know within six seconds that you’re watching a David Fincher film. They have a look and style to them that is unquestionably Fincherian. And I’m stunned that he hasn’t been responsible for a single word for any of them.
1. Alfred Hitchcock (post-1931)
Notable films: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock was the master of many things, great ideas being one. He would famously cook up an idea for a film, pitch it to a studio, and then hire a screenwriter to crank out a script. And although he wasn’t credited as a screenwriter for any of the films he made after 1931, every Hitchcock film has the signature stamp of the master of suspense.
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