Taking off the post of the greatest filmmaker this decade, I decided to open it up to all decades. My Picks:
1900-1909 – Georges Melies
Just based off of A Voyage to the Moon, it is easy to see how influential Melies was in creating something that is still of some value over a hundred years later.
1910-1919 – D.W. Griffith
Easy choice here. Griffith invented much of the filmic language that is still used today, most notably, the close up and the cut-away/alternating narrative.
1920-1929 – F.W. Murnau
Apologies to Eisenstein, Lang and Chaplin, but Murnau gets the nod here, for two main reasons. 1) Murnau’s versatility was remarkable, going from German gothic horror in Nosferatu to American melodrama in Sunrise without missing a step (Eisenstein was relegated to political films tho not necessarily by his choice, as Chaplin stayed within the realms of slapstick/social commentary for most of his career) quite a feat considering both films were produced and shot in different countries/in different cultures- and that many foreign filmmakers who migrated to the US during this time failed to recapture their form. 2) Murnau’s films still hold up very well (as do Chaplin’s), something that I feel isn’t the case with Eisenstein’s silents, nor with Meteropolis- just the visuals alone in Sunrise make it great viewing.
1930-1939 – Frank Capra
Nothing groundbreaking, but Capra made a string of great films during this decade, including It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town- while also making each of their respective leads (Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Gary Cooper) huge stars. The films still hold up well, and really define early talky Hollywood- dialogue heavy, escapist affair. (Upon expanded viewing of Renoir, I suspect he’d make this list. The Rules of the Game is a masterwork.)
1949-1941 – Orson Welles
If Griffith, Lang and others invented the cinematic language, Welles perfected it, encompassing it all together in Citizen Kane – a film alone puts him as the best director of this decade.
1950-1959 – TIE: Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa
The 50’s might just be the best decade cinema has offered us- Hitchcock and Kurosawa certainly give credencetoward that. Hitchcock’s quality of output during this decade is unmatched in cinematic history, giving us seminal films such as Stranger on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo and North by Northwest. Sadly, because of these films, his other works in this decade often get over looked, as Stage Fright, I Confess, and The Wrong Man are great films in and of themselves (with I Confess being among his best shot works). Even The Trouble with Harry is a worthy little film, especially notable due to it being a Black Comedy – something Hitch had never done up to that point or after (To Catch a Thief is the only film of his I haven’t seen from that decade, so I can’t comment on that). With all that being said, however, Akira Kurosawa has to be put up there with him as the best director of the decade. With highly influential works such as Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress, Kurosawa established himself as the East’s greatest film artist, delving in several different genres with great success.
1960-1969 – Jean-Luc Godard
Though not my favorite director, JLG has to be ranked as the best director of the 60’s. He nearly matches Hitch’s glorious 50’s output with a 7 year stretch (‘60-’66) of pure creative genius. Godard beat Hollywood over the head with its own weapons, using familiar tropes, such as the hard-boiled narrative and protagonist from noir films in Breathless and Alphaville, or the typical love story in Masculin-Feminin and re-inventing them into something fresh.
1970-1979 – TIE: Andrei Tarkovsky and Francis Ford Coppola
These two combined to produce some of the Greatest Films ever made during this decade (Solyaris, Mirror, Stalker, The Godfather and Apocalypse Now are all in my Top 15). Tarkovsky used music and visuals to weave together dreamlike narratives that hypnotized its viewers, creating a world of not just surreal beauty, but profound depth. Coppola, on the other hand, mastered the balance between art and entertainment, creating auteuristic films for the masses in making the first two Godfathers, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now – a sort of meshing that I have not seen since.
1980-1989 – Woody Allen
To me, the 80’s are easily the worst decade of cinema (counting out pre-1920 decades. The 30’s would be next). One bright spot, however, was Wood Allen, who continued on his late 70’s roll through much of the decade, culminating, imo, with his greatest film- Crimes and Misdemeanors. His output and quality of such is what separates him this decade from others (apologies to Martin Scorsese, who also ranks up there), as such films as Zelig and Stardust Memories cement his reputation as a creative genius.
1990-1999 – Kryzsztof Kieslowski
Although Quentin Tarantino might have been more influential, nothing touches Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy (OK, maybe The Thin Red Line does). Kieslowski’s philosophizings ar e so well crafted, so rich, so deep, that one can imagine he retired because there was nothing left to say. To paraphrase Kubrick, Kieslowki was a master at dramaticizing ideas, and this trilogy combined with The Double Life of Veronique certainly shows that.
2000-2009 – Clint Eastwood
Nothing revolutionary, but no one who is honest with themselves can say any other director has had as much as output with such quality as Eastwoood has this decade. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima, Changeling, and Gran Torino are all fine films (and from I’ve heard, Invictus is too), with MDB and Letters being being near masterpieces, imo.
Interesting stuff, and if I don’t agree with some of the choices it’s never for lack of reasoning on your part. I’d definitely have to break away from you in terms of the Zeros, as Eastwood hasn’t matched the work of someone like Haneke or Herzog to me. At least not in this decade.
My problems with your list: Kubrick, I think, should definitely be the best of the 70s, maybe a tie with Tarkovsky. I think Kurosawa beats out Hitchcock. Also, no Bergman? Cmon. For 2000-2009, I can think of a ton of directors that are much better than Eastwood, no offense to Eastwood. I think Tarantino should be the pick for the 90s.
1900s: Georges Melies: for the reasons listed above
1910s: DW Griffith: for Birth of a Nation and Intolerance
1920s:Sergei Eisenstein: For making films that will be taught shot by shot in schools for as long as films are studied: The Battleship Potemkin (1925) and Its famous massacre on the Odessa Steps. And Parts of Strike are just as amazing.
1930s: Todd Browning: Freaks, Dracula and Mark of the Vampire, seminal horror films that are just as scary today.
1940s: Orson Welles: Citizen Kane, Ambersons, Lady from Shanghi
1950s: Joshua Logan: Picnic and Bus Stop, interestingly sexy films; he also did Mister Roberts, South Pacific and Sayonora, very versatile, very soild filmmaker.
1960s: Stanley Kubrick: Could be Godard too but from the for hire Spartacus to the underrated Lolita to the groundbreaking 2001, I would have to go with Kubrick.
1970s: Woody Allen: from hit or miss jokester Bananas to serious filmmaker Manhattan; this was Woody’s decade.
1980s: Eric Rohmer: Started his seasonal tales in this decade; and also Pauline at the beach
1990s: Bob Rafelson: No one is more underrated in this decade then Rafelson, and sure he had to do some erotic shorts that were beneath him but well no one noticed he also made Poodle Springs, Mountains of the Moon and continued exploring the Nicholson persona with Man Trouble and Blood and Wine.
2000s: Manoel de Oliveria: He made personal documentaries, Porto of My Childhood, strange historical dramas, Christopher Columbus, The Enigma, deeply felt modern drama, I am going Home and even a sequel to Belle de Jour, all well nearing 100 years old.
Definitely disagree with the idea that Tarantino could be considered a ‘great’ director. I like him well enough, but let’s not give him more credit than his due. He’s just an okay director, there’s very little below the surface. Kieslowski is much more formidable, although I’d give the 90s to Cronenberg. Crash, eXistenZ, Naked Lunch blow anything QT ever did out of the water, and I find them more personally moving than Kieslowski, though I appreciate the Kieslowski argument for sure.
Lumiere, not Melies.
is a thousand times the cinema that this is:
1900s – Melies
1910s – Griffith
1920s – Murnau
1930s – Browning
1940s – Welles
1950s – Kurosawa
1960s – Kubrick/Bergman
1970s – Tarkovsky
1980s – Allen
1990s – Tarantino
2000s – Very difficult for me to choose, but Apichatpong Weerasethakul
I prefer Pulp Fiction to any Cronenberg.
Den, do you seriously consider Poodle Springs a good movie? I mean, Caan is one of my favorite actors and Chandler one of my favorite writers, but that was a terrible terrible terrible movie. There’s very little redeeming about it, from the pisspoor production design to the awful direction and the worse script.
And Robley, I think there’s a better argument to be made for Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown than Pulp Fiction. But while I like those two movies well enough (and despise the third), nothing compares to Crash. Boy oh boy.
Joshua – I almost chose Herzog for the 00’s, but I haven’t seen enough of his early decade work (ie – Invincible, Wheel of Time, The White Diamond). Thought Bad Lieutenant was a great B-movie.
I disagree. I think that Pulp Fiction is his best film, and one of the best films of the 90s.
Poopbutt, as long as he was considered I’m happy. And out of those three I’d check out The White Diamond. That one is pretty astounding.
Robley, I don’t know. There’s something so dishonest and even disingenuous about Pulp Fiction that always unsettles me, prevents me from really enjoying it even though I like the films he’s ripping off quite a bit. I guess that kind of pastiche mentality works better for me on straight up genre flicks like Reservoir Dogs, or when it’s a bit more grounded in… not reality, but consistency, I suppose, as in Jackie Brown. Plus Max Cherry is easily the most well-written of all his characters. The only lead in any QT movie that doesn’t take every chance he gets to talk about the pop culture bullshit he likes.
The 1890’s people, what about the 1890’s?
well josh I think poodle springs is about as good a Marlowe as the long goodbye
Interesting perspective, Den. I see The Long Goodbye as genius, I mean, even aesthetically the two films are miles apart. Consider the carefully washed out visuals of The Long Goodbye, the mild color palate that works to give the film that ‘man out of time’ feel that’s so integral to the plot. Whereas Poodle Springs looks like an ugly, loud version of the fifties garnered from no real experience or research into the era. One is a carefully designed masterpiece, the other is a half-assed attempt to make a buck.
Gotta go with the Lumiere Bros. for the 1890s. The original ‘two-headed director’. ;)
1890´s: Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière
1900´s: Georges Méliès and Edwin Porter
1910´s: Louis Feuillade and David Wark Griffith
1920´s: Abel Gance and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
1930´s: Jean Renoir and Yasujiro Ozu
1940´s: Orson Welles and Vittorio De Sica
1950´s: Ingmar Bergman and Kenji Mizoguchi
1960´s: Alain Resnais and Ritwik Ghatak
1970´s: Satyajit Ray and Andrei Tarkovsky
1980´s: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Krzysztof Kieslowski
1990´s: Abbas Kiarostami and Manoel de Oliveira
2000´s: Hong Sang-soo and Apichatpong Weerasethakul
I have to go with Lubitsch for the 1930s. He almost singlehandedly opened up sound cinema with Love Parade in 1929, and the whole world spent the next 3 years trying to catch up with him.
Apursansar, very accurate list. I would probably have added Fellini to the 60’s, and Angelopolous to the 90’s.
1890´s: Lumière brothers
1900´s: Georges Méliès
1910´s: D. W. Griffith
1920´s: F. W. Murnau and Sergei Eisenstein
1930´s: Jean Renoir and Fritz Lang
1940´s: Orson Welles and Howard Hawks
1950´s: Tough one – Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Billy Wilder, Elia Kazan and Alfred Hitchcock
1960´s: Stanley Kubrick, Frederico Fellini, and Sergio Leone – possibly Godard
1970´s: Andrei Tarkovsky, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese
1980´s: David Lynch and maybe either John Woo or Milos Forman – The 80’s were possibly one of the worst times in cinema
1990´s: Quentin Tarantino, Coen brothers, and possibly Steven Spielberg
2000´s: Paul Thomas Anderson and Todd Field
Thanks, in fact I was considering both Fellini and Antonioni (who was a mayor influence on Angelopoulos) as possible additions for the 60’s, but finally limited it to two directors. Unfortunately I also had to leave out important directors like Bresson and Rivette.
heh, artsy fartsy tips from decade to decade, and all of you missed chaplin and bunuel…
I really wish I could have Chaplin on here, as well as John Ford, but I’m afraid I can’t…
1900’s: Georges Melies
1910’s: Victor Sjostrom
1920’s: Erich Von Stroheim
1930’s: Jean Renoir
1940’s: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
1950’s: Nicholas Ray
1960’s: Jean-Luc Godard (although his 80’s and 00’s work are far superior!)
1970’s: Bernardo Bertolucci (with a very honorable mention to Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
1980’s: Woody Allen
1990’s: Abel Ferrara
2000’s: Edward Yang (the basis of this being that Yi Yi was the greatest film made this decade)
but more fairly..
2000’s: Manoel de Oliveria
excellent list jack I agree about Godard and I forgot about Ferrara
>>1930-1939 – Frank Capra<<
There has to be somneone (anyone) better.
How about von Sternberg or Renoir or Eisenstein?
(I’d like to say Whale, but let’s face it, his work existed in almost total isolation – no one would be influenced by his work for decades.)
After reading further:
Browning is a very interesting choice.
thank u harry
shocked there is no love for rafelson in the 1979s he made Stay Hungry, 5 easy pieces and King on Marvin Gardens. I dont think Nicholson had a better director.
Granted, I think Browning’s best work was done in the silents, but THE DEVIL DOLL and MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (and even MIRACLES FOR SALE to an extent) are under-rated films.
I also considered Fritz Lang who made M and Lilom in the 30s and Jean Cocteau whose only film then was Blood of a Poet but what a film
Upon seeing Paris, Texas last night, I think Wenders is the best of the 80s.