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The most Influential movie directors of all time.

most influential directors of all time
Written by Solomon Unoke

Films have for centuries been good entertainment objects for people. But the art is made more intriguing by the movie directors, who have largely been behind the cameras.

Art was probably the very first sign of a major intelligence in us humans, the ability to simply create something out of nothingness or the very little that has been made available. Starting with cave paintings, art evolved into many forms: music, sculptures, paintings, carvings, and statues. These early forms of art expressions have included other forms as society develops and innovates with other things.

As soon as man could write and print on paper, a new medium was born: writing. At this point, one man’s dreams and fantasy could reach another lonely man across the country, and the other kind of find solace in the work of another man/woman.

With more developments, celluloid was created and the motion picture with its different arts emerged.

With it, is an artist, who must master all the skills of the many different artists on the film set. He is the film director. 

The movie director is one major man whom we should all know, and appreciate, but might be one of the least known and least respected artists out there. Unlike Actors, and musicians who gain wild fame, the director, the brain behind almost every good movie, is usually not in the limelight. A film director is expected to master fields such as music, pictures, and story-telling.

The beautiful creative minds of many different film directors have created delights in the hearts of many while also influencing the life and career decisions of so many around the world.

Here is a list of the 10 most influential film directors of our time, and their works;

Steven Spielberg

1. Steven Spielberg: Probably the most popular name in recent times. the master filmmaker is well noted for his versatility.   Spielberg is credited with big hit movies in all the major genres, from Sci-Fi (War of the worlds, E.T, Minority Report) to thriller(Jaws), and down to romance and drama (West side story). His works have proven that he is a master of the craft. He is the most commercially successful movie director of all time, and one of the most decorated. He has won 3 Academy Awards, and 8 nominations for best directors.

The unique thing about Spielberg is his ability to adapt to different styles of directing. This chameleon style has made it possible for him to make the movie in vastly different genres, with style suitable to that genre, this is the bane of so many directors, but not him.

One would hardly believe that the same director who made the cinema blockbuster, “Ready Player One”, also made the thriller, “Jaws”, but Spielberg’s ability to switch styles makes it look easy. With a career spanning over 40years, Steven Spielberg has cemented his place in history and has inspired many with his amazing work of art.

Martin Scorsese

2. Martin Scorsese: There is one main theme that radiated around Scorsese’s movies. This was the crime, bloody violence, and macho posturing. He has also taken this a bit further by exploiting the catholic guilt in his films, highlighting the role that the Catholic Church truly plays in organized crime in Italy and the US.

Goodfellas, arguably one of his most famous, and probably most revered movies, was a showcase of the organized crime scene in the 50s, it is like a bare–it–on organized crimes.

Scorsese’s work has inspired many directors after him, and at the same time brought him fame, fortune, and lots of awards. Martin Scorcese has directed over 42 movies. In his works, he elevated the Freudian need for violence and sex, showing brutal scenes like the boxing scene in Raging Bull, and the ending scene of Taxi Driver. Scorsese will beautify violence, to paint a memory picture that shows the very spirit of his movie. His influence spans beyond the gangster movies he was most noted for, he is a master of cinema.

Akira Kurosawa

3. Akira Kurosawa, who died in 1998, was one of those influential film directors whose influences are still greatly felt. A Japanese movie director, Akira didn’t find the success and respect he craved in his home country Japan, rather he was accused of ignoring issues in Japan, as he was known to take on worldviews in his movies. His work found a home in the west and influenced many notable film franchises, like George Lucas’s Star Wars, which was inspired by Hidden Fortress.

While some directors have replicated his work, others have chosen to replicate his style.  Quentin Terrantino is one of the currently famous directors who have attributed their style to the lessons they learned from Akira Kurosawa. Terrantino stated that his 2003 hit, Kill Bill was a tribute to his love for Japanese culture and the inspiration that Akira was to him. Several scenes were recreated from the Japanese movie Battle Royal.

Alfred Hitchcock

4. Alfred Hitchcock (1899 – 1980): he was popularly regarded as the king of thrillers and suspense. He was a master in both style and storytelling and is one of the film directors that has been most copied in style by the ‘modern’ film directors.

Hitchcock’s most notable movie, Psycho took audiences to the bottoms of a disturbed mind. His use of fast-paced shots was designed to induce some anxiety in the viewer, which mimics the experience of the character.

Hitchcock liked to dissolve the idea that movie viewers were detached observers, he uses POV shots to draw viewers into scenes of dilemma, creating the illusion of participation through decision-making.

Today, directors have replicated his methods and style of both writing and directing. Sadly, even though he was considered a legend in his time, he never won an award for directing any of his 65 films. The only award he got was an honorary one.

Stanley Kubrick

5. Stanley Kubrick: Stanley grew up in New York, where he showed great interest in photography and movie-making in high school. Kubrick was considered by many he worked with as a difficult person. This perception arose from his obsession to control almost every aspect of production, from writing to lighting. This caused a lot of creative differences between him and the people he worked with.

He finally moved to England where he took advantage of a government program for filmmakers, which allowed him to make use of the government workforce, it was then Kubrick began to make strides in 1962, with his first successful film, Lolita, which exploited a hot topic: forbidden love. The movie which was about a professor’s obsession with a 13 years old girl completely polarized the viewers, some hailing it for its philosophical angles, while others called it vulgar and male-gaze. So many of Stanley Kubrick’s movies are now considered to be cultural landmarks. 2001, the space Odyssey is today one of the most referenced, and controversial sci-fi movies, and his very last movie, Eyes wide, shot and released in 1999, explored the secret life of the elite and the occult. Kubrick received so many awards in his lifetime, and to this day, his influence is real in the works of newer directors.

Rod Serlin

6. Rod Serlin: Rod Serlin’s inclusion on this list was the fact that was a master of the Meta subgenre, a psychological form of writing that observes itself.  Serlin, as a master of Metawriting,  had a way of turning the story inwards on itself.

His most notable contribution to Metawriting was his famous anthology series; The Twilight Zone. The Twilight Zone addressed so many pressing issues in society back in the ’50s, at a time when most of the world was still tense from the aftermath of the Second World War, artists were stifled, and people worked 9-5 in the factories in the US, and other western countries. There were episodes where the characters were two-dimensional, and even then, the story would touch on something deep and emotional. The work of Rod Serlin created a whole new sub-genre of TV, and influenced many notable writers and directors today, including Jordan Peele, who recreated the famous anthology in 2019.

Quentin Terrantino

7. Quentin Terrantino: He is already regarded as the most influential director of our time, and he still has a lot of miles to go. Terrantino is one of those paradigm-shifting artists who have refused to be boxed up by popular opinion. Terrantino is known for defying social conventions and following truly through the art creative process. His first clash came with his very first movie Reservoir. 

Terrantino described how he had to stand his ground against the studio, which required that some of the dialogues in the movie be changed to remove profanities, to make it a movie for all audiences. He refused, “this is the movie I’m making,” he said.

But profanity is the least concern when it comes to Terrantino, he has been heavily criticized for his heavy use of racial slurs in these movies, but that hasn’t stopped him. Some of his most famous movies like “The Hateful Eight”, and “Django Unchained” contain probably the highest use of the N-word by a white writer in recent years; still, those movies are regarded as some of the best movies made in recent years, and despite the use of foul languages.

His famous style of breaking his movies into chapters, making them looks like a novel has been greatly lauded in the industry. He has won several awards and recognitions: two academy awards, for Django Unchained and Pulp fiction, which 3 more nomination, 2 BAFTA awards, and many more.

James Cameron

8. James Cameron: Very few people know James Cameron despite his versatility and the Numerous skills he possesses. Aside from being a film-maker, writer, and producer, Cameron is a National Geographic deep sea explorer and produced several documentaries on the subject, including Aliens of the Deep, and Ghosts of the Abyss. As a deep sea diver, Cameron is the first person to do a solo dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.

James Cameron is also an environmentalist and held the record for making the highest grossing movie ever (Titanic 1997), which made $2.19 billion, for over 10 years, until he broke his record with Avatar in 2009, topping it with a whopping $2.89 billion. James Cameron is a workaholic and a perfectionist, who explained that he had the idea for Avatar many years before deciding to make it because the available technology at the time won’t do justice to the project.

When the time finally came to make the movie, Cameron created a technology that blends 3D with CGI, this allows him to mix the real-life performance of the actors, with the computer-generated image in real-time, with the help of sensors placed on the actors’ body.

James Cameron is also a master of grand entrances, using different tricks to draw attention to his film before release. He puts as much work into selling the movie, as he does making it.

Avatar 2 (The Way of Water) which has been filming for years, is finally scheduled to be released in December of 2022, the actors have been through so much, including a six-month deep diving training, where they learned to hold their breath for up to 6 minutes. James Cameron is a legend with a legendary work portfolio, some of his other highly acclaimed films are; Terminator (1984), and Alien (1986). He has won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.

David Fincher

9. David Fincher: David Fincher is another lesser-known, but highly impactful Hollywood director.  Fincher is one film director that has an inverse relationship with colors when making films: he de-saturates the colors as much as possible. He makes sure that every spill of color represents something very important to the story. In “The Red Dress”, the color red was exclusively reserved for Daisy, which blurred everyone else next to her, and showcases how significant she was in Benjamin’s life.

David Fincher does not only use colors to set scenes or design a character, he uses them to tell the psychological state of a character. In “The Se7en”, the color pallet in detective Somerset’s apartment and wardrobe was used to inform his pessimistic point of view and lack of hope to deal with the problems in his life. In Fight Club, Fincher uses color to show the difference between the temperament and life views of the two main characters.

David Fincher might not be as well known, but he has left a legacy worth remembering. He has won an Emmy Award for Best Director in 2013, won the BAFTA, and many more, and he continues to inspire many more directors out there.

Francis Ford Coppola

10. Francis Ford Coppola: Son of an editor and composer, he was born with art in his blood. He is one of only 8 filmmakers to win 2 Pandora Awards and one of the most decorated directors in history with 5 Oscar Wins and 14 nominations in total. Coppola made his hit classics like “Apocalypse Now”, and “The Godfather” trilogy, which are considered to be one of the best descriptions of the internal activities of the Mafia.

Coppola said he likes to approach every film like it is a learning experience, which leaves him open to the thing he could have missed because art is about the details.

He believes every filmmaker needs some measure of courage, a filmmaker should not be afraid to change things or stand their ground on their art because one moment of doubt could be the difference between a memorable film, and an ordinary one.

Artists are probably born, but nothing worthwhile was achieved without real hard work. Many made films over the years, but exceptional people help shape the future by daring to venture beyond where most stopped. The movie directors on this list were men who ignored criticisms and possible losses to pursue their dreams and change the world.

About the author

Solomon Unoke

Solomon is a writer science fiction, romance and website contents who's passion revolves around works of creativity and vivid imaginations.

"Walls, trees, the sands and the seas, all of nature is a witness to the stories of our lives and of thousands of lives that came before us. Whispers heard in the winds, and the chirping of the birds on the trees, are stories begging to be heard and experiences that wants to be relived. Our stories keep the planet alive."

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