The Greatest Directors Of Our Generation

Let me read off some names to you of the last three directors who have won the Oscar for best director: Tom Hooper, Kathryn Bigelow, and Danny Boyle. Here are some other guys who have been nominated recently for best director: David O. Russel, Darren Aronofsky, Jason Reitman, and Gus Van Sant.


"Who" indeed. Unless you are an avid movie watcher and/or frequent seeker like I am, chances are you have never heard of half, or even any, of the directors I just mentioned. Chances are you have heard of some of their great movies, but not really the director. Van Sant directed Good Will Hunting. Aronofsky directed Requiem For A Dream. Reitman directed Juno.

I think in the past decade or so that a new class of directors has taken shape and prominence. The big names that your parents have heard of seem to be fading out and a new batch of great directors have started coming in.

Certainly big name directors are still making movies and get nominated for Oscars. Ron Howard was nominated in 2009 for Frost/Nixon. Martin Scorsese won Best Director in 2007 for The Departed (his second greatest movie ever made). Steven Spielberg got nominated for Munich in 2006. However, these big name directors and directors of yesteryear seem to be vanishing for no name guys with enormous talent.

It is these "no name" guys that I would like to give a face to and recognition for their great work. Guys who are becoming the next Scorsese, the next Spielberg, the next Howard. With the exception of the first name mentioned, this list is in no particular order of how awesome or talented they are.

Christopher Nolan

Great Movies: Inception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Begins, Memento.

If Christopher Nolan were a baseball player he'd be having the best season ever. Why? Because he's batting .833 right now with two home runs (OK so maybe not a perfect analogy because a 2 HR season is terrible, but just go with it. Technically he "only" has five hits). It's extremely hard to make the best movie of the year once and Nolan has managed to do it with his past two movies (Inception in 2010 and The Dark Knight in 2008). The only bad movie he's made is Insomnia and when you make the great work that he's made, that can be forgiven. Hell, Scorsese made Shutter Island and Casino. Spielberg made War Of The Worlds and A.I and the 4th Indiana Jones movie. All directors are allowed mulligans and kudos to Nolan for having probably the least amount of them out of any director mentioned in this post.

Nolan first emerged onto the scene with Memento. Call it a novelty movie or call it what you will, it's still brilliant. Sure, it has the hook of telling a story as the last scene first and the first scene last, but to create a complicated film noir-esque movie that's both compelling and entertaining while still being cohesive is damn impressive.

He unfortunately followed up Memento with Insomnia but then brought back the Batman franchise with a darker edge with Batman Begins. People forget how good Batman Begins is because of how amazing The Dark Knight was (in my book The Dark Knight is in the top two greatest action movies ever made along with Terminator: 2) but go back and watch Batman Begins again. It's great.

Nolan seems to be this guy who does one for the studio then one for him. He gave the studio Batman Begins so he got to do The Prestige. He gave the studio The Dark Knight so he got to do Inception- with each movie seemingly better than the next.

Sure I'll go see movies directed by a certain guy based upon what they've made in the past (I saw Jarhead which also had the same director as American Beauty- Sam Mendes) but I don't get excited for anyone else as I do for Nolan. All you have to tell me is that Nolan wrote and directed the movie and I'll go see it. You could tell me that the entire movie was one dude taking a shit on his toilet for two hours and I would still be super excited to see it because it was a Christopher Nolan movie. He has earned that kind of respect (even though for some reason the Academy hates him with a Richard Gere like passion. The Dark Knight neither got nominated for Best Picture nor Best Director in 2009 and Nolan failed to garner a Best Director nomination in 2011 for Inception. In fact, Nolan only has three Oscar nominations: Best Screenplay for Memento and Inception and Best Movie for Inception as a producer. He never has gotten a Best Director nod nor has taken home any golden statute).

One last note about Christopher Nolan and my love for him before we move on. Can everyone please stop complaining about any part of The Dark Knight Rises! I hear people complaining about Bane being the main bad guy and that Catwoman's suit sucks and that she also should not have been a villain. What!? You have not seen the movie yet or even read the script. You have no idea how Nolan plans to use the bad guys or how they interact with the overarching theme of the movie. Plus, has anything in Nolan's past four movies shown to you that he's not capable of making these "crappy" evildoers awesome or make a bad movie with these characters? Nolan, more than any other director in Hollywood right now, deserves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his creativity.

David Fincher

Great Movies: Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Fincher has absolutely made some stinkers- most notably Zodiac (Fincher has many more mulligans than Nolan has), but I think he's made some of the best movies of our generation.

While I personally do not like Fight Club (I think if you watch the movie again knowing the twist then it's just silly and stupid how everyone reacts to Tyler Durden [Brad Pitt] and Edward Norton's character. But I digress), it's probably in my generation's collective top five favorite movies of all time. Very few movies have had the kind of effect that Fincher movies have had on kids who grew up in the 90's.

Se7en is just a great thriller all around. It's got a great cast (Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Gwyneth Paltrow), a great twist ending and line (What's in the box!? What's the the boooooox!?), a great and engaging plot in general, amazing dark visual motifs that Fincher is known for, and the cherry on top is that we all know the seven deadly sins because of that movie.

However, I think The Social Network was the movie that really cemented Fincher's name as one of the greatest directors of our generation. Se7en came out in 1995 and Fight Club was in 1999. Both movies had a great influence on this generation but it's hard to be great yet not come out with an influential movie in over a decade. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was good and extremely well made, but not really influential and kind of boring at times. But then to give us a movie about facebook, well then David Fincher, welcome back to the club! Here, let me send you a facebook event invite.

I personally don't care that The Social Network isn't true at many points, the story Fincher tells about Mark Zuckerberg is just great. I knew Inception was going to get screwed at the 2011 Oscar's but I did not expect The Social Network would have as well. I believe in 50 years when we look back on the 2011 Oscar's we will be asking ourselves why didn't The Social Network win more and what is the plot of The King's Speech again?

Adam McKay

Great Movies: Step Brothers, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys.

Before we begin, I just want to say that for some reason it is really hard to get a good picture of Adam McKay. I didn't want to use the picture I did but it's also his photo so I guess it's OK but god forbid a comedy director is smiling in at least ONE photo.

As it turns out all of McKay's "great" movies are the only four movies he's directed. You can quibble with me that Talladega Nights was not a great movie but our generation still enjoys it and if you watch it again (go turn on your TV, it's playing on FX right now) it's still pretty funny and Will Ferrell's best sports movie. Also, history may not be kind to The Other Guys but it was still the funniest movie of 2010.

However, you can not fight with me that Anchorman and Step Brothers are not great movies. They absolutely are. Step Brothers seems to be pretty polarizing. Unlike Talladega Nights, nobody just kinda-sorta likes Step Brothers. They either can't stand the humor/Ferrell's and Reilly's characters or are like me and think it's the funniest movie ever made. I have found that most people are like me and love Step Brothers. Sure, it really doesn't make that much sense but it's just freaking hysterical.

I believe McKay is the best comedic director of our generation. I really wanted to put Judd Apatow instead but he's only made three movies (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Funny People) and Funny People blew. All of McKay's movies have been good. Plus, I feel like Apatow is better behind the scenes. He had a hand in Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Walk Hard, Pineapple Express, and Bridesmaids, but directed neither of them.

Lastly, don't give me that "The reason these movies are great is because of Will Ferrell, not McKay" bullshit. Ferrell has made some pretty terrible movies without McKay (Kicking and Screaming, Land of the Lost, Semi Pro, and Bewitched to name a few) and part of the reason Ferrell is so funny is because of McKay. McKay will create scenarios for Ferrell to be in to be funny and will often shout hilarious lines for his actors to say. The reason guys like McKay and Apatow are great comedic directors is because they are funny guys themselves. Apatow is a former stand up comedian and McKay was Ferrell's writing partner on Saturday Night Live.

McKay's influence on comedy extends beyond movies. Along with Ferrell, he started the website and directed some of the sites best videos like "The Landlord"

Comedies define a generation just as much as dramas and action movies have and Adam McKay is the poster child of comedies for this generation.

Paul Thomas Anderson

Great Movies: There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, Magnolia

Some people will put Punch Drunk Love on P.T. Anderson's list of great movies but I will not for two reasons. First, holy crap was that a long and boring movie. Second, I don't think this generation really knows nor cares about that movie.

Anderson's a fantastic director and has made some really great movies but I feel like his movies has not had an effect on this generation say like even David Fincher's has. I loved There Will Be Blood and still contend to this day that it was the best movie of 2007, better than either There Will Be Blood or Juno. Nevertheless, because of the great quality and awesomeness of Anderson's four movies in the past fifteen, I think he deserves his props.

Nobody creates better three dimensional characters than Anderson. It doesn't matter if he focuses around one character like Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in There Will Be Blood or like seven characters in Boogie Nights, all of his characters are more than cardboard cut outs and all multi-character driven movies (i.e. Crash, Adaptation) will be judged compared to Boogie Nights and Magnolia.

Zach Snyder

Great Movies: 300, Watchmen

To really cement Snyder's legacy he needs at least one more movie to add to his "great movies" list (and he will probably do that when the Christopher Nolan produced Man Of Steel comes out in 2013) but his style and vision has already earned him a spot on this list.

He burst onto the scene with 300 and had everybody in the world screaming "THIS IS SPARTA!" and he earns a little bit of props for having a movie catchphrase become one of the great movie lines ever (Also, Paul Thomas Anderson did the same with "I drink your milkshake!" in There Will Be Blood) but more than that, 300 became a phenomenon. While I personally think the movie's a bit overrated, it still did (and still does) capture the minds of this generation.

He followed 300 up with Watchmen which I think is a great superhero movie. The concept is such an inventive idea (how would America react if we had won the Vietnam War) with its own Superhero twist. The style for both Watchmen and 300 (and probably Sucker Punch as well but I haven't seen it and it saddens me that it was critically and commercially panned) to me is just great. I can see where people think it's too novelty but I think it falls more in the line of Sin City's effect. When I watch a comic book movie I enjoy the feeling of actually watching a comic book as opposed to watching a movie that is based upon a comic book.

Snyder seems like the perfect Josh Wheedon-esque nerd to create awesome superhero and comic book movies for this generation.

Kevin Smith

Great Movies: Dogma, Clerks, Mallrats, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Zach and Miri Make A Porno

I don't believe Smith has ever made a "great" movie and one that will define a generation or be long lasting within a generation's mind like any other director in this post has, but I think he earns a spot on this list for his longevity in the the sense that he's made a lot of really good movies- essentially all starring Jay and Silent Bob.

I remember in middle school and high school watching Clerks and Mallrats and just being fascinated by them. I actually went back and watched Mallrats again and it was pretty terrible and the "witty" banter just got annoying for me, but still, the movies were a part of my childhood and I'm sure played some role in yours whether it was laughing to the religious hypocrisies in Dogma or to Seth Rogen in Zach and Miri.

Other notable mentions
- Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School)
- Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking, Up In The Air)
- Darren Aronofsky (Requiem For A Dream, Black Swan)
- Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile)
- The Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix, V For Vendetta)
- Ben Stiller (Zoolander, Tropic Thunder)
- Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Trainspotting, 127 Hours)

Influential "Big Name" Directors on this Generation
- The Coen Brothers (The Big Lebowski, Fargo)
- Quentin Tarintino (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Basterds, Kill Bill)
- Martin Scorsese (The Departed, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York)
- Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future trilogy, Cast Away)
- Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings trilogy)
- James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar)
- Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, American Gangster)
- Steven Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Minority Report)
- Michael Moore (Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11)
- Peter Farrelly (There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber)
- Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous, Vanilla Sky)

One Movie Directors
- M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense)
- Greg Mottola (Superbad)
- Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me)
- Brad Bird (The Incredibles)
- Guillero del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth)
- Nick Cassavetes (The Notebook)