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Entertainment Weekly Pick The 25 Greatest Working Directors; Confirms The Fallacy Of Listmaking

by Oliver Lyttelton
February 25, 2011 1:58 AM
19 Comments
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Lists are subjective. That's the joy of them, to some degree -- you get to see the tastes of others, and hopefully pick up a few tips for things you may have overlooked. And you're never going to find a list that you agree with 100%, particularly when the stakes are bigger -- lists of 'greatest films' or 'greatest directors' are a veritable minefield of disputes and feuds. But that doesn't change the fact that some lists are just dumb.

Entertainment Weekly, hot off the success of recent lists like "The 25 Greatest Episodes Of "Glee," "The 25 Best Characters In "Glee," and, of course, "The 25 Best Songs From "Glee," published earlier in the week a list of the 25 Greatest Working Directors, and it's fair to say that we have one or two, or indeed 25, issues with it. It's topped by "The Social Network" helmer David Fincher, closely followed by Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Darren Aronofsky.

It's not that the directors they've picked are bad -- every one of them has shown their chops on at least one project, but it seems somewhat perverse to say the least to include, say J.J. Abrams, who's directed two movies, one of which terrifically, and one of which tepidly. But there's an enormous short-sightedness on display. There's no way that Fincher would have been placed so highly before "The Social Network" or that David O. Russell or Kathryn Bigelow would have been placed at all before "The Fighter" or "The Hurt Locker." We're just thankful that Tom Hooper somehow didn't find his way on there; but hey, there's always next year!

Also, where the fuck is Steven Soderbergh?

But the biggest problem here, as we're sure you've guessed by now, is the extremely narrow world-view on display. Stunningly, only Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh and Roman Polanski, who work exclusively outside Hollywood (the latter not exactly by choice...) feature on the list and only Almodovar is the only helmer who hasn't worked in the English language. We're aware that Entertainment Weekly need to gear their list towards their audience, who need something to read between "American Idol" recaps, and it's not exactly any different from what we were expecting, but it's still kind of infuriating.

We're going to spend the rest of the day trying to lower our blood pressure, and introducing the staff of the magazine to David Cronenberg, Wong Kar-Wai, Claire Denis, the Dardenne Brothers, Bong Joon-Ho, Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard, Hayao Miyazaki, Abbas Kiarostami, Lars Von Trier and three dozen others, but you can check the full list out below. Which omission makes you the angriest?

25. Wes Anderson
24. Mike Leigh
23. Brad Bird
22. J.J. Abrams
21. Spike Lee
20. Edgar Wright
19. Peter Jackson
18. James Cameron
17. David Lynch
16. David O. Russell
15. Kathryn Bigelow
14. Danny Boyle
13. Roman Polanski
12. Guillermo Del Toro
11. Paul Thomas Anderson
10. Pedro Almodovar
9. Clint Eastwood
8. Terrence Malick
7. Quentin Tarantino
6. Coen Brothers
5. Darren Aronofsky
4. Martin Scorsese
3. Steven Spielberg
2. Christopher Nolan
1. David Fincher

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19 Comments

  • Rufus Wilson | February 27, 2011 12:27 AMReply

    Not a great list but better than what I would expect out of those guys.

  • Tim | February 26, 2011 12:17 AMReply

    Am I the only one who thinks Nolan is incredibly overrated. I find his movies good in the Hollywood action genre but altogether he can't touch Scorsese, PTA, Polanski, Malick, etc.

  • Shark | February 26, 2011 12:05 AMReply

    Love Bigelow, but she's top 50, not 25. Hayao Miyazaki at least should be on here. But EW is TERRIBLE at listmaking, so yeah. ugh.

  • dfdsfadddddd | February 25, 2011 10:10 AMReply

    @circusfolk Bigelow has made a few great movies: Near Dark, Blue Steel, Strange Days, The Hurt Locker. Even if she hadn't, you can't deny she's extremely skilled. I was a big fan before The Hurt Locker and find it really unfortunate that when someone wins an Oscar every know-nothing comes out of the woodwork to complain about how overrated they are.

  • Mary | February 25, 2011 9:37 AMReply

    Jane Campion should be on that list.

  • cirkusfolk | February 25, 2011 8:34 AMReply

    Um, my logic is simply, here's a director who has made one good movie (Hurt Locker) over the course of her whole career (one that adds up to only 5 movies in the past 20 years), but simply because she won Best Director for that single good movie, she gets on the list. If they HAD to put a woman on it, I would've gladly accepted Sofia Coppola.

    Also, despite the fact that I don't really like the films of Steven Soderburgh or Gus Van Sant, their work ethic alone prolly deserves them spots.

  • Smash Tit-house | February 25, 2011 8:09 AMReply

    Abrams an uncinematic tv director? wow. all right. that's a bit ridiculous, but sure.

  • Daniel | February 25, 2011 5:45 AMReply

    That's a whole lot of white dudes.
    Also Asia I think makes movies occasionally. Someone look into that.

  • Oliver Lyttelton | February 25, 2011 5:32 AMReply

    So Kathryn Bigelow shouldn't be on there because she made K-19, but Doug Liman, director of Jumper, Fair Game and Mr and Mrs Smith, and Cameron Crowe, director of Elizabethtown, should be?

    Not sure I follow your logic, cirkusfolk.

  • cirkusfolk | February 25, 2011 5:28 AMReply

    First off, where's Alejandro González Iñárritu? Next, I totally agree Brad Bird and JJ Abrams should not be on here. Apparently directing a Mission Impossible sequel automatically gets you a spot on the list. And yes, Kathryn Bigelow should be nowhere near this list as well. Before she directed The Hurt Locker she did K19: The Widowmaker, come on. Other omissions: Sam Mendes, Judd Apatow, Doug Limon, Cameron Crowe, Michael Mann, Alexander Payne...the list goes on and on. But I do agree with Fincher and Nolan being top two although you can argue their order. Only gripe in actual placement is Danny Boyle should be top five, period.

  • Corbett | February 25, 2011 4:37 AMReply

    Although I liked Hurt Locker, these are strange days if K. Bigelow is considered the 15th greatest working director.

    I would recommending adding Michael Haneke, Arnaud Desplechin and Olivier Assayas to the list of glaring omissions.

  • Gabe Toro | February 25, 2011 4:16 AMReply

    Clare Denis is the world's greatest filmmaker.

  • JustSayMaybe | February 25, 2011 3:55 AMReply

    Peter Weir please?? Every week I rage over the latest issue. EW has become such a waste of paper and resources, it truly is a shame. Even Stephen King jumped ship a few weeks ago. His columns were the only thing left worth a damn.

  • Bo | February 25, 2011 3:13 AMReply

    EDIT: And Brad Bird. Love the fact that he made this list. He's a visionary, and I doubt we've seen his best work yet.

  • Bo | February 25, 2011 3:11 AMReply

    PTA should be number one. Homeboy hasn't made a mediocre film in his entire career, which can't be said for anyone else on this list (aside from maybe Malick).

  • ken | February 25, 2011 2:52 AMReply

    As far as populist lists go, it's really not that bad. I agree however that the absence of Steven Soderbergh is an egregious oversight.

  • JacqueDeMolay | February 25, 2011 2:18 AMReply

    Hey, calm down - at least they put Terrance Malick on there. How many of their readers do you think know that name? Probably not many.

  • yan | February 25, 2011 2:17 AMReply

    I think Nolan should be number #1, the guy is just consistently good. Then PTA is pretty close but he needs to release more films. Fincher would be in the top ten but not that high, i'm still trying to erase Forest Gump 2.

  • Mark | February 25, 2011 2:12 AMReply

    JJ Abrams? He's a TV director, completely uncinematic.

    Where's Ridley Scott?

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