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Entertainment Weekly's 25 Greatest Active Film Directors

by
February 19, 2009
Source: Entertainment Weekly

Entertainment Weekly's 25 Greatest Active Film Directors

Entertainment Weekly has unveiled their list of the 25 Greatest Active Film Directors. This is one of those lists that gives you shivers it's so damn good. I could live in a world where only these 25 directors made every last movie and I'd still be happy. This really is the definitive list and Entertainment Weekly nailed it this time (well, except for Michael Mann). This is a fitting list for Oscar weekend, too, even more so this year because four of the nominees are on this, except for Stephen Daldry, who stole Christopher Nolan's spot and doesn't deserve to even be nominated at all. Read on for the full list and some discussion.

I've put together the full list for your viewing pleasure below, but as always, head over to Entertainment Weekly to read their short write ups on (and see photos for) all of the 25 directors in this list. And don't forget to let us know what your thoughts are on this, even if it's just a positive reaction like my own!

1. Steven Spielberg
2. Peter Jackson
3. Martin Scorsese
4. Christopher Nolan
5. Steven Soderbergh
6. Ridley Scott
7. Quentin Tarantino
8. Michael Mann
9. James Cameron
10. Joel and Ethan Coen
11. Guillermo del Toro
12. David Fincher
13. Tim Burton
14. Judd Apatow
15. Sam Raimi
16. Zack Snyder
17. Darren Aronofsky
18. Danny Boyle
19. Clint Eastwood
20. Ron Howard
21. Ang Lee
22. Paul Thomas Anderson
23. Paul Greengrass
24. Pedro Almodóvar
25. Jon Favreau

Really, this list is basically the reason I do what I do. Before I saw who was on here, I was expecting to be a bit upset at their choices, but instead, they've reminded me why I love movies and why I love doing what I do. There is not one director that I don't think should be on here. Yep, even directors like Ang Lee, Zack Snyder, and Jon Favreau deserve to be on here, without question. The only one that really bothers me is Michael Mann. How did he get above James Cameron?! He deserves to be down in the 20's, not up there at number 9! Either way, this is still a list that I must compliment Entertainment Weekly on creating.

I came very close to writing an article yesterday about Ridley Scott. I was going to ask how an amazing and talented director like him could so easily be lumped into the same group as How to Lose Friends & Alienate People and High School Musical 3. What I'm talking about is that the DVD for his newest film, Body of Lies, came out this week, yet Adam Quigley on SlashFilm lumped it into the "Skip It" category. And I'm just baffled that someone, who on this list is sitting at number 6, has gotten to the point where his movies are forgotten so quickly and laughed at so easily. Oh well, because Ridley got his respect back with this list.

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  • Dino
    P.T. Anderson is way too low on this list.
  • Johnny
    Michael Mann: The Insider Heat Last of the Mohicans Miami Vice Ali Collateral & the upcoming Public Enemies Cameron hasn't made a movie since Titanic. Although Avatar is right around the corner... Answer your question?
  • Ya, I'm sorry Johnny, but I don't count The Insider, Last of the Mohicans, Miami Vice, or Ali as better films than Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2, True Lies, or Titanic. Try again!
  • Johnny
    Also the fact that Peter Jackson and Spielberg are above Scorsese it a joke. Speilberg hasn't made anything worthwhile since Saving Private Ryan (although Munich was pretty good but this comment is mostly out of hate for the new Indiana Jones). I like Jackson's movies, he just isn't anywhere near as accomplished as Scorsese.
  • Voice of Reason
    FUCK TIM BURTON AND SAM RAIMI.....they may as well have Michael Fucking Bay up there. Awful list. awful awful.
  • Johnny
    Fair enough, Heat is still better than all of them though. I'd say Last of the Mohicans and the Insider are on the same level as Aliens & T2 as well. Plus, look at the diversity in Mann's work opposed to the sci fi theme (outside of Titanic) in Cameron's. Nothing against Cameron, but I just prefer Mann's films.
  • Gale
    Hey Alex, you fanboy, Michael Mann's heat inspired your little 'Dark Knight' movie that you fanboys goo yourselves over so readily. He deserves to be on that list. Hell, he should certainly be higher than Nolan, who hasn't even made that many films! He's still a young director to be so high!
  • Dino
    Michael Mann is an amazing Director, Christopher Nolan took a lot of influence from Heat when making the dark knight. I think the insider is excellent, his style of cinematography is an achievement on it's own. Aliens and T2 are great movies and still hold up to this day, but you it's pointless to compare the acting or direction of Heat or Insider compared to Aliens and T2, they are two completely different types of movie. Might as well compare Michael Clayton to Batman Begins.
  • "You fanboy"?! Was that some sort of threat! Although, I never said I wasn't a fanboy! :) Don't even get me started on Nolan... He's made less than Michael Mann, sure, but his 6 movies have been BETTER than a majority of Michael Mann's! Need I point you to this crap as a reminder: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/miami_vice/ One really big mistake is inexcusable... Nolan is a brilliant director, hands down.
  • Dino
    Miami Vice was a very good movie, I don't care what Rotten Tomatoes says about it. I think too many people were expecting the glam from the days of Don Johnson's Miami Vice and it would have been stupid if it was like that. Michael Mann made a realistic, gritty crime drama in modern times. I thought it was great. But I agree, Christopher Nolan is a great director, I still think the Prestige is his best movie and should get a lot more credit than it does.
  • Dino
    Titanic was awful by the way. It is probably one of the most overrated movies ever made. It's a movie for teen girls to woe over Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, two actors who are so much better than that.
  • No Robert Rodriguez or Zemeckis? Fart on this list.
  • Johnny
    yeah, Mann has Miami Vice..(I actually kind of liked it.) But Nolan has Insomnia which is equally bad. There isn't a great director out there who doesn't have an "inexcusable mistake" and that's just a dumb argument. I'm not bashing Nolan by any means, and I'd actually keep him where he is at on the list above Mann, but I just don't understand how you can say you have a problem with him being on there. The guy made fucking Heat!
  • Richard
    Some of these guys have yet to prove themselves. I mean, you can make one or two movies that are great, but it doesn't make you great (Michael Cimino...?). you have to prove yourself with many films covering a variety of subjects. So I'm not questioning their talent, but don't assume their greatness with just one or two films. I just ask you put them at the bottom of the list and let them move up. They got the right people, just in the wrong order. PS. Peter Jackson over Scorsese? Are you serious? when you watch LOTR with criticism, you don't see the same type of vision and talent you find in 'Taxi Driver' and 'Last Temptation'.
  • that guy
    Peter Jackson hasn't done anything worth while since Bad Taste.
  • Dino
    I agree with Richard, the order is a bit off. I mean Peter Jackson shouldn't be number 2. I mean if did anyone see King Kong? Lord of the rings were an amazing set of movies, but I want to see more from him. And again, I don't understand why P.T. Anderson is so low, he should be in the top 10 for sure. Steven Soderbergh should not be in the top 10.
  • that guy
    @7 Peter Jackson hasn't done that many either and he's #2! I don't see why there is such a damn hype over him.
  • that guy
    What the hell has P.T. Anderson done that was so good? Boogie Nights?! Come one people, Ridley Scott should be higher than 6. He should be above Soderbergh who only brought one good Ocean's movie, and that was almost ten years ago.
  • Alfredo
    Are you kidding me? No Paul W.S. Anderson? This list is officially invalidated. ... ...No, but seriously this list is pretty good, although some of these directors don't have a long enough resume to show that they're not one/two hit wonders.
  • I second the motion to invalidate this list
  • ?????
    I have to agree with you, Ridley Scott is great and lately I haven't been feeling like evryone loves him. I didn't get a chance to see Body of Lies but I am definitely picking up the DVD because he is my favorite director at the moment.
  • Johnbo
    I agree with the people on the top 50 but not necessarily the order they are in. Andrew Stanton, Brad Bird, Alfonso Cuaron and others should be higher while people like Soderbergh and Anderson are far higher than their filmographies merit. I think thy should be judged on not just their best work but the consistency of that work and in that case Soderbergh should be lower.
  • Jordan
    "This is one of those lists that gives you shivers it's so damn good."--Really Alex? Really? The list is ok at best. I wasn't going to sit here and bitch about any of my complaints with the list until I read comment #18. Paul Thomas Anderson should with out a doubt be in the top 5. Boogie Nights is Great. Magnolia is incredible. Punch-Drunk Love is greatly under appreciated and has become one of my favorites. And There Will Be Blood should have one the oscar--It's a masterpiece. Come on buddy. Even if you don't like the content of his movies, you can't deny the skill that P.T. Anderson has. He is incredible at what he does. Glad to see Aronofsky and Boyle on there. And what in the hell is Jon Favreau doing in a list like this.
  • joe
    Lower Peter Jackson, Coen bros higher, get rid of Judd Apatow and Soderbergh. Other than that, give or take a few changes in order, and I'm good.
  • #23 - Okay at best?! You've got to be kidding me... Can you name me more than 5 other active directors who SHOULD be on this list that aren't? Seriously, there aren't any more! Secondly, what makes me so excited by this list is also the "active" part of it, because as I said, I love seeing movies from any of these 25, because they're still out there making them!
  • jimmey
    Uhhhh, You forgot- Lars Von Trier Harmony Korine
  • Chris
    Where's Spike Lee?
  • Michael Mann deserves to be high on this list. Ahead of Cameron...I dunno. His inactivity hurts him. Judd Apatow is way too high up the chart; in fact, I don't think he should even be on here. Soderbergh's not in the top five, realistically. Fincher and Eastwood are too low. As for five directors who should be included, here are some suggestions: Zhang Yimou Werner Herzog Brad Bird Michel Gondry Woody Allen Alejandro González Iñárritu Miyazaki
  • Dino
    OK, why I am just realizing this now is beyond me...but why the hell is Stanley Kubrick not in this list. And why has anyone not mentioned him until now?
  • Jordan
    Kubrick is dead buddy
  • Dino
    lol ugh, Ok i retract that. In all the arguing I totally forgot it was about living. I suck.
  • Jordan
    Alex, what gets me is the order, the problems of which are nicely bitched about by everyone on this board. As for 5 or more that should be on the list: Wes Anderson Alfonso Cuaron Terry Gilliam Guy Ritchie Michael Gondry Wong Kar Wai
  • shirley
    great list but i would put peter jackson lower in the list!
  • "I was going to ask how an amazing and talented director like him could so easily be lumped into the same group as How to Lose Friends & Alienate People and High School Musical 3. And I'm just baffled that someone, who on this list is sitting at number 6, has gotten to the point where his movies are forgotten so quickly and laughed at so easily. Oh well, because Ridley got his respect back with this list." Even the best filmmakers make a clunker every now and then. Point in case: Steven Spielberg, the number one choice on the list, just came out with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull last summer. And BTW - I don't think Ridley Scott needed EW's list to get his respect back. 😉
  • Mathieu
    I'm stunned anyone could begrudge Michael Mann's placing on this list. He's hugely influential. Whether he should be higher than Cameron or not is debatable, but he certainly should rank above Christopher Nolan (whose style is heavily indebted to Mann), as much as I like Nolan's output.
  • jh
    zack snyder should not be on list at all, certainly not as high as 16, hes done a remake zombie movie, an overrated comic book movie, and a another comic book movie that no one has seen yet, how does this put him higher than eastwood, greengrass, howard, etc
  • Nick
    If we ignore director's movies that are gigantic mistakes then I can see Ang Lee on this list. His version of Hulk was so bad, however, that to me I can never place him on a "greatest" list. And to discount Wes Anderson's work is simply naive he is a ridiculous talent. And Michael Mann has made a ridiculous amount of good movies and is extremely creative and original. While I too loathe watching Miami Vice, it was still a beautiful film, the script was just trash. And Peter Jackson is oustanding, I don't think inactivity should demote you on the list...
  • Nick
    also I laughed out loud reading Sam Raimi on the list...I don't even think he's made one good movie let alone top 25 greatest directors. And no love for Woody Allen? He's been consistently churning out great movies for years
  • LINKFX
    Michael Mann is great, Christopher Nolan doesn't have the same body of work yet, although he has yet to be disproven as a genius. That being said, Michael Mann is a genius. Collateral was superb entertainment, as was Heat. Ridley Scott has really fallen into a slump and needs to really knock the next one out of the park in my eyes. There are a bunch of great directors that aren't on this list that need to be. Unfortunately this list is fairly mainstream, so most of the directors have been mentioned by the other commenters already but maybe they deserve their own list, like 25 best arthouse directors or something. They just aren't really in the same competition with these guys. James Cameron hasn't done anything in forever and the hype around Avatar in justifying, personally I don't think it will be the megahit everyone is hoping for, it has the same plot as Battle for Terra and Planet 51, plus I think the idea of the main characters being Aliens for the majority of the film with dissuade the common moviegoer from being interested. It'll be big, but it'll be like a successful, "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", it won't be the next "Titanic" and definitely won't be quality like "Aliens" or "Terminator 2"
  • schizznic
    Zack Snyder should not be on this list. 300 was cool and Watchmen looks like it has the potential to be cool, but his overall body of work does not warrant being on this list. From the looks of it the whores at EW based this mostly on Box Office reciepts. Directors I think should be on there instead: Jonathan Demme Spike Lee Wes Anderson Michel Gondry Roman Polanski (does he get a pedophile exemption?)
  • Ariel
    @37 - Inactivity should demote you on the list seeing as how it is a list for the top 25 ACTIVE Directors.
  • Michael
    Peter Jackson is way too high. Also Spielberg should be lower. Sorry, he's an amazing director but this is a list of active directors meaning movies he has made recently. Martin Scorsese has been great this past decade while Spielberg has floundered around a bit. And yes, Michael Mann deserves the recognition. I'm not a huge fan of Last of the Mohicans, but everything else is great, ESPECIALLY The Insider and Heat.
  • Sean Penn hate club
    What the hell is wrong with Michael Mann being at 8. Because some of his story in movies might be slow for you. He's only trying to build characters and storys;. He doesn;t make add action scenes for the sake of action to appease to the meat heads of the world who only like movies with action to get their atention. I guess this writer has AD, which is not wrong, but stil to call out Michael Mann i don;t think so
  • Sean Penn hate club
    I watched Manhunter the other night. The movie was sick for being released in the mid 80's. I actually had a nightmare about the toothfairy killer
  • Sean Penn hate club
    Everyone needs to stop kissing Spielbergs Ass. He tailors his movies for the family audience which is gay. I mean look what happened to Indiana Jones.
  • movieboy1
    how Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson be on top that dont make sense
  • Taylor
    Alfonso Cuaron?
  • A few things I noticed: -Paul Thomas Anderson should be in the top 15 -Sidney Lumet should be in the top 10 -Ron Howard should be 25...maybe 30. -Nolan and Apatow should be a few places lower. Doesn't it bother anyone else that Sidney Lumet was excluded? He gave us the brilliantly snubbed Before the Devil Knows You're Dead in 2007, and has created some of the greatest films/performances of all time with Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, Network, 12 Angry Men, A Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Hill, Murder on the Orient Express and The Verdict. He's even releasing a new film this year called Getting Out. Such a shame...
  • Sean Penn hate club
    Robert Zemeckis should be in the top 15, some of this lists in based on current or not long ago blockbuster movies that were popular in the mainstream. Like the director for 300. That movie was for meat heads to go out and fell hard about themselves. This list needs to be redrafted before sending it out to the public who know nothing about movies
  • PDIDDY
    Where's Uwe Boll? LOL
  • Sean Penn hate club
    I really think Mel Gibson should be on this list too, especially if they pput directors like for 300, Soderbergb
  • Choox Kema
    Straight to the point: What's the idea omitting some fantastic "active" directors, just to make space for Ew in-house favourites. Whatever happened to consensus, have the fellas at EW been paying attention to what the true movie buffs reputedly select? over here in Nigerian film school we feel the list rocks in a way and then soon after starts to suck. I fely Marty should be in the number one spot, since this is for "active". Spielberg is O.K. for 1st runner-up- he's justified up there-he's got a "minority report" that "sees" so. But where the fuck is Mr Joe Demme in particular. Is Ebert going to comment on this list or what, some high ranking movie official needs to say something quick before this list spreads compltetely and then becomes the unofficial official list for '09.
  • Seth
    Kevin Smith, anyone? He's a hell of a lot better at character development than Apatow! And I agree that Woody Allen should be on this list. On a side note: Where is Tyler Perry on this list? I personally don't like his movies and I can't stand his TV shows but it is a list on "Active" directors and this guy puts out like 10 movies a year. You can't get more active then that!
  • zetsu
    the best fucking directors are martin scorsese,peter jackson (only for lotr trilogy),quentin tarantino,michael mann,christopher nolan,ridley scott,guillermo del toro,david fincher,james cameron(terminator,terminator 2 & true lies release something fucking else.). & zack snyder(if watchmen is a hit).two of my favorite directors bryan singer & john carpentor where the fuck are they.
  • Said
    Im not making any calls on who should be where, im just going to say that Guillermo del Toro should be in the Top 10, and im sad that Danny Boyle is number 18
  • RandyG
    #10 I agree The Prestige is Nolan's best film by far. These lists are sort of meaningless (I haven't really enjoyed a Spielberg movie since Indy 1 and if unforgivable mistakes deserve a huge cut in rank then Always definitely skewers Spielberg, as King Kong does Jackson.) For me, based on innovation, lasting relevance and influence of his work, and sheer consistency, James Cameron deserves the top ten spots. Steven Soderbergh is a lightweight and we will never see another great film from Quentin Tarantino (and Sam Raimi? c'mon). And Woody Allen definitely deserves a slot here.
  • Matt
    P.T Anderson should be higher, for sure. Second, what the hell is Zack Snyder doing on this list? Watchmen hasn't even come out yet, 300 is an abortion.
  • Yo
    This list is missing too many people. There's also not one foreign director on it save for maybe Almoldovar and Ang Lee. I'm going to compile a little list of people that should have been in it or at least considered.... Woody Allen Werner Herzog Terrence Malick Roman Polanski David Lynch Wong Kar Wai Terry Gilliam Jim Jarmusch David Cronenberg Wes Anderson Spike Jonze Lars Von Trier Alfonso Cuaron Hayao Miyizaki Gus Van Sant Just more proof that EW never has a clue as to what they're talking about. Also, I'm sure I missed a few that should be in consideration. Richard Linklater Chan-wook Park
  • Shige
    Please quit wining. Thats E Weekly list. Those idiots made a list based on popularity not really the greatest living right now. Nolan Jackson Del Toro etc would never made it to this list unless they werent extremely popular atm. BTW Judd Apathow ? That name alone should disqualify any list.
  • Cody
    I cant believe judd apatow is above clint eastwood I mean are u fucking joking? Besides being dirty harry himself I would choose gran torino over any comedy anyday
  • Wottock Hunt
    Del Toro?! *cough* *splutter* He's done nothing but average pap in Hollywood. OK, sure, he's done better films in Europe, but rest assured EW did not take those films into account.
  • Tomi
    Id add Wes Andersson and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to this list :) IMO
  • Angelo
    What a terrible list, and ever worse order. Look at Zack Snyders place and then look down... those guys really are slightly worse than him, sure.
  • Niko
    Wow, once again Alex proves he has no idea what he's talking about. "Can you name me more than 5 other active directors who SHOULD be on this list that aren't?" David Cronenberg Wes Anderson Woody Allen Richard Linklater Spike Jonze Brad Bird Alfonso Cuaron Michel Gondry
  • Rosy
    I agree with 58! There are tonnes of people missing from that list... especially Gilliam. Having said that, however, I may've just air-punched at Tarantino and Boyle making the list, even if they should've both been number one. Oh, and Apatow. Right on. Where's Rodriguez??
  • Oh, EW, what have You done? :p I won't even comment those guys who are actually on the list (only few should stay there). But what about Francis Ford Coppola, Woody Allen, Brian De Palma, Mike Leigh, Oliver Stone, Milos Forman or even great Sam Mendes (if boy Snyder is in)... and so on, and on, and on... Where now talking about greatest or most popular directors?
  • SlashBeast
    Glad to see Nolan on there, it's about time that he was recognized for his outstanding body of work. I'm surprised that you'd demote Michael Mann. I seriously think he's one of the most underrated directors working today. He's excellent at brilliantly crafting crime thrillers, possibly consistently better than anyone else. But, seriously, what's Zack Snyder doing on that list? What significant contributions has he made to cinema? Remaking a zombie film and copying and pasting a comic book onto a screen (poorly). Clint Eastwood should be a lot higher-up.
  • bltzie
    Robert Zemeckis is the only one missing in my opinion!
  • bltzie
    back to the future? Forrest Gump? anyone?
  • Cinemassiv
    Del Toro, Raimi, Apatow and Zach Snyder don't belong on this list. Wes Anderson, Woody Allen, Gilliam, Polanski, Cronenberg and Jarmusch should be ahead of these clowns. Why does everyone always list Soderbergh so high? Guy is overinflated, his films are mediocre. And Favreau? Come on. You're trying to tell me that Favreau makes it but Wes Anderson and Terry Gilliam don't? This is garbage.
  • I think everyone is missing the point I mean, obviously this was bound to happen... but it's no longer a question of the 25 people who ARE in, but it's a matter of who ISN'T on here, which is just frickin pointless. Does it really matter that #26 was cut off? If that's the case, they should've just done the top 100 directors! And additionally, all of the names people have mentioned are good, but they're being thrown out for the "sake of" not being ON here, not for ACTUALLY being the greatest directors... I mean, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, Sidney Lumet, really? Better than the 25 above?? This is just getting out of hand...
  • sumonesumtime
    Firstly P.T. Anderson has never made a film that wasn't great if not a fucking masterpiece. If that's criteria he should be #1 and certainly higher then 22. Secondly as soon as i saw the list I thought of several directors who were ot even on it. Thankfully they were all listed in the comments above and some that didn't even come to mind. So it's good to know some people are watching good film. Maybe some of them should start a website. Alex, if you were only watching the directors on the list you would be missing out in a severe way.
  • Mathieu
    It's really not worth getting worked up over this. They're entitled to their opinion. Whoever they put on the list was bound to upset someone - these lists always do. These are the filmmakers that whoever compiled the list is most excited about at the moment; it would have been dishonest of them to select directors who are more obscure or credible if they didn't genuinely have much interest in them. I would have wanted Gilliam on there, but they probably don't consider him 'active' enough (I expect they never saw Tideland). Once the one-two punch of Parnassus (Ledger's last movie) and Zero Theorem come out, Gilliam will get some buzz, I'm sure.
  • Alex, EW is missing the point, they could frankly named it "25 Active Film Directors We Are Most Excited About Now"... 😀 Creating a list of 25 directors - named the greatest (?!) really with no sensible justification - and You cutting off the discussion about those not included: that is pointless!
  • Leo
    What about Terry Gilliam? Lars von Trier? Gus van Sant? Terrence Malick? Wong Kar Wai? Woody Allen? David Lynch? Could they at least have included a single female director? What about Sally Potter? Jane Campion? Jon Favreau should not be here, neither should Judd Apattow.
  • Darunia
    I saw soderberg, peter jackson, Quentin Tarantino, etc in front of James Cameron and i face palmed myself.
  • PJ
    WHERE THE FUCKS WES ANDERSO
  • Angelo
    Sidney Lumet just for the "sake of it"? Really Alex? I mean, Zack Snyder belongs on that list but Sidney Lumet doesn't? You must be confusing him with someone else, really. I mean, Network, 12 angry men, dog day afternoon. But no, 300 was the masterpiece.
  • Colca
    I have a few objections, but they're just my personal opinion. I won't consider James Cameron active until Avatar comes out, so in my books he's still been inactive since 97. If it was up to me both Cronenberg and Andrew Niccol would be up there. As for any criticism over Ridley Scott and Spielberg you have to keep one thing in mind. Those guys work WAY more frequently than most of these directors, so even though they've had their fair share of disappointments, they've still delivered more than enough great films over the last 10 years to be on a list like this.
  • moviefan
    This List is bullshit. Jon Favreau is really good but how we can put it here after doing only one beautiful movie (Iron man)? He must be out as Judd Apatow, Paul Greengrass, Ron Howard and Sam Raimi (excellent directors but don't deserve to be here) Michael Mann is really great (please see again Heat, Last of the Mohicans, Collateral ) , the best in Cinematic, and you will notice that James Cameron is really less good than him, I hope so... Missing persons: Terrence Malick Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse now) Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons...) Bernardo Bertolucci (1900, Last Tango in Paris, Last Emperor) AtomEgoyan Neil Jordan Woody Allen Paul Verhoeven (Black book, Soldier of Orange...) Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito's way...) Zhang Yimou Roman Polanski David Lynch Wong Kar Wai Terry Gilliam Jim Jarmusch David Cronenberg Hayao Miyizaki James Gray Takeshi Kitano Jia Zhangke Peter Greenaway Sam Mendes Alex Proyas
  • Honestly... I wont bitch too much. This list is far from some of the worst I've seen but it seems like its based more off commercial success than talent. Peter Jackson and #2 is just crazy first of all. Also, Speilberg is a fine director but to say hes the greatest active director is crazy to me. Beyond those two being too high, I am fine with this list. Ps. 10 years ago George Lucas would have been in the top 10 on this list.
  • movieboy1
    wheres Spike Lee in this fucking list the guy is still active he got more movies coming out and the guy been directing since 1983 till now this is bullshit. they only named directors who just released a major movie and directors whos going to release a movie. This is called Greatest Active Film Directors meaning they still been doing directing none stop in a certian time period. you cant have Jon Favreau and Zack Snyder on this list without having Spike Lee on there too. Jon Favreau is only on there cause of Iron Man and Zack Snyder cause of 300 and .Watchmen. plus why the fuck is Peter Jackson is in second place for he should be lower then that. ok he did LOTR and King Kong but check his Filmography and time period compare to some other directors he should not be at 2nd place at all.
  • Niko
    Wow, Alex. I guess Zack Snyder is a better director than David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, and Sidney Lumet. How do you run a movie site? I'm starting to agree with the majority of movie websites - you're a hack. Your word has become meaningless.
  • I don't know why everyone is attacking ME?! This is a place for discussion about the list, about directors, about filmmaking, come on, focus on THAT, not about me being wrong or right, goodness! I wrote my initial feelings based on who was IN the list, not who was OUT of it. If you want to argue, make your claim, but keep your personal attacks against me out of it. It's not like I wrote this list, I just voiced my opinions and feelings on who was on it and why I liked all of them. Stop attacking me for having my own opinion, just like you do, too!
  • I call major shenanigans on this list. This is just a list for the sake of making a list. This is a list to say to these filmmakers "See? We were wrong when we gave your earlier movies a bad review! Please hang out with us!" The fact that Zach Snyder has made two films based on comic books and Woody Allen has made over 40 films, most of which he's written himself. Woody Allen's films are not just solid, but important, actually bringing something new to the table. He is an auteur. Zach Snyder's 300 is misogynistic, racist and sexist while being showy for the sake of being showy. That film is art for dumb people. I think this list is just better to be forgotten.
  • max
    Gus Van Sant and Jonathan Demme should be oon that list. That list is like "Top 25 directors who make box office hits which are good." Nothing wrong with that, but I think half of those directors are there JUST BECAUSE they did a "good" movie recently, like Nolan.. My opinion. I respect other peoples opinions, but its so stupid making lists like this!
  • Movieraider321
    Alex I may have attacked you in the past, but I have to say this list is very good. sure there are some directors I wouldn't mind seeing on there, however when I look back they haven't done much in the past couple of years. I agree with this list, just minor tweaks should be made, but to you my firstshowing masses CALM DOWN, MAKE YOUR OWN LIST AND HANG IT UP ON YOUR WALL IF YOU ARE SO SET ON WHO IS THE BEST EVERYONE HAS A DIFFERENT OPINION SO DEAL!
  • Tom
    Hmmm I know some may not agree but where the heck is John Carpenter? I mean the guy made Halloween probably one of the greatest horor films of all time as weel as The Thing widely regarded as one of the best remakes ever. And Escape From New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, and more. He has a great visual style and while some may consider him B movie guy you can't argue he has made some of the most purely fun, entertaining horror/action stuff ever. But I guess that don't mean a thing. Awe well.
  • Angelo
    I wasn't deliberately attacking you Alex. I just really can't see how you could call one of the great directors (lumet) just a pick "for the sake of it". I am not trying to ridicule your opinion, maybe you really think he doesn't deserve to make that list, but I'd also really would like to know why.
  • Rob
    umm..Alex, all the movies you listed in defence of Cameron are from the 80s other than Titanic. That's your losing answer right there. Next year, AFTER Avatar finally comes out it'll be different
  • Ben Franklin
    Uhhhhh, a little American heavy, don't you think?? Does Entertainment Weekly ever watch films outside the U.S?? Where's Japanese, Hong Kong, South Korea, Spanish, Argentinan, (should I go on) directors? Schpill-burg is really over-rated. Most of his stuff is crap, unless you call Tom Cruise chasing his eyball around brilliant directing.
  • Angger
    This is a reasonable list. All of the director that goes into the list can make a beautiful movie without having to be trapped into some nonsense experiment movie.
  • Agree with 91. Why didn't they call the list "25 Greatest Active Film Directors in Universe", because this is what the mean, no? The ranking is clearly has more to do with fanboy popularity and money making, and less with actual directing skills. I mean, Sam Reimi? Jud Appatow? Paul Greengrass? John Favreau!!!! What? Why? Please... Where is Chan-wook Park, or Tom Tykwer, Kitano or Miike? WES FUCKING ANDERSON! All of them are better that most of the "directors" in that list. It's reeking from Hollywood self promotion, no modesty at all.
  • wm
    David Lynch needs to be at #1. HE IS A FUCKING TWISTED GENIUS. He makes the scariest fucking movies of all time. Is guillermo del toro on this list for movies he says he going to make?
  • Kevin
    Don't know if someone already mentioned this, but the EW list was actually a 2-parter. Yesterday, #s 26-50 were announced with the above list being posted today. A bunch of the directors people are mentioning were on yesterday's list. And yes, ABSOLUTELY Michael Mann should be above James Cameron. You say "Terminator", I say "Last of the Mohicans". You say "Aliens", I say "Heat". You say "Titanic", I laugh at you. Say "True Lies" and I kick you in your nuts.
  • Isn't it ironic that almost EVERY director mentioned by #80 showed up on EW's remaining half of this list - #26 through #50? And here everyone was yelling at ME when they should be yelling at EW for screwing up the order in which they're in! Let's stay on topic and talk about directors people, not about me!
  • BahHumbug
    Some of you people are retarded. As Alex just pointed out, EW had their #26-50 list YESTERDAY. Why Firstshowing didn't report on it beats me but you people need to learn to look at your sources. There are still making some major exceptions which makes EW also very retarded.
  • Just so I am clear Alex, you think that True Lies is a better movie than Heat? I am just trying to wrap my finger around you putting that James Cameron film above Michael Mann's work. I think the reason people are attacking you because you offered commentary on a list, on your website, which is a place where people come to talk about movies. You kind of brought it on yourself when you said that Titanic and True Lies were better movies than Collateral and Heat. Other than Mann being under Cameron, a decent list. I think Peter Jackson is a little high
  • movieboy1
    Alex Billington how anyone can be yelling at you they must be stupid or they cant read on this page it clearly says "Entertainment Weekly's 25 Greatest Active Film Directors" it does not say "Alex Billington 25 Greatest Active Film Directors"
  • Alex, let me first say that I very much enjoy your website. And I've gotten used to your style of writing, which I believe riles up a certain portion of the visitors quite often. You're very excited about movies, and that's really the best attribute anyone can ask for from the proprietor of a movie news site. All this being said, I'm a little annoyed by your comparison of Cameron to Mann, but let's leave that for our particular tastes. What frankly shocked me is your comment #71: "I mean, David Cronenberg, Roman Polanski, Sidney Lumet, really? Better than the 25 above?? This is just getting out of hand…" I find that such an out-and-out insane comment that I simply had to write about it. True that the list may very well be accurate (e.g., Zack Snyder, whether prolific or critically-acclaimed or not, is taking on projects that are appreciated by a large portion of mainstream population, thus making him absolutely relevant). But you, as a lover of movies, made such a quick judgment on those unlisted directors not being better than the 25 above, that I find simply shocking. I really would have expected you to have given it a little room for discussion instead of being so defensive. Anyway, this is not a personal attack, rather simply an opinion of a devoted reader who found such a comment terribly tough to digest.
  • Mathieu
    Alex, I hope you've learned a valuable lesson through this experience! In short, don't bother reprinting a magazine, TV or website 'Best Ever/Favourite/Greatest/Whatever' list about anything movie related. It always stirs up vitriolic responses. It's just supposed to be somebody's opinion. They aren't presenting it as fact, are they? All art is subjective; just because we may disagree with their conclusions doesn't make us right and them wrong.
  • somwerbtwnblungrn
    Alex, your website has become a haven for movie fanboys & all other kinds of movie fanatics know to the worldwide web, its is just acceptable if there are a lot of comment & in some cases hatred thrown at you for posting the said news of EW. Even I would say that some of the directors listed are questionable (Jude Apatow - come on, popcorn movies). What makes posters here mad is your blatant agreement (on which lets be honest, is that we - the readers enjoy & at the same time respect your opinion) on the content of the whole list. Seeing that the list is from EW, it can honestly be deduced to be taken with a grain of salt. I wont anymore mention who should be in the top 25 as most comments have already listed it. So anyway just keep the news rollin.
  • maurelio
    These rankings lists are always a bit odd. What exactly are the time parameters for "Active Directors"? A friend of mine once told me in terms of artistry, "Your only as good as your last piece," which I don't entirely agree with because obviously that disregards a lot of layers that come into play when assessing someone's level of "good." But, it comes to mind when I look at this list. Spielberg as numero uno. I can buy that, but then I think back to his last directorial effort (Indy 4) which in my opinion was straight to dvd quality and could have starred Brendan Fraiser, no offense Brendan. Peter Jackson at #2. This one I reject completely. He's got a trilogy and that's it. Who make's to #2 in an upstanding list such as this with a trilogy? King Kong was his last effort and in my mind was easily forgotten. Sure, he's got a lot in production, but seriously, #2? With Christopher Nolan hot off of Dark Knight? Dark Knight owns LOTR's. Subjectively speaking of course…
  • moif
    Steven Spielberg at first place I can accept, since he is very popular, but Peter Jackson???? The same guy who turned LOTR into a horror lite popcorn adventure? The same guy who took a giant dump all over King Kong? Ridley Scott and James Cameron are two the three pillars of the modern cinema zeitgeist. They should be up there with Spielberg. Their films defined the iconography of modern movie making. Peter Jackson is nothing by comparison. A aesthete standing in the presence of genius.
  • Greedo the Rodian
    This list looks like it's 5 years old. I like Spielberg and Scorsese, but they are no longer in their prime. Even Peter Jackson hasn't done anything for me lately. King Kong. Bleh. The list just feels like it's not too current.
  • Itri
    Haha you get a little bit too upset with your responses Alex, not that they are unreasonable. Anyways...why did you have to diss Sidney Lumet? The man's a legend. Much better than Jon Favoreau.
  • wm
    guy maddin #100 baby
  • Jordan
    Here is a much more appropriate description of EW and this damn list: http://filmdrunk.uproxx.com/2009/02/top-25-directors-spielberg Film Drunk knows whats up.
  • darrin
    dude i find ang lee should be higher, although hulk didn't do justice to the fan boys and the cgi wasnt there at the time, he pretty much does really good movies. James Cameron should be no.1 and David Fincher should be at least no. 3. or no. 2. Christopher nolan should be atleast no.5. he did great films but none of them really made a superb impact like fincher's fight club( which i would say my favorite film of all time) and camerons Titanic and Terminator 2 with the extrodinary cgi they used at such an early time and the mega sequences in terminator 2 and titanic.
  • Roberto Dinamite
    TAKESHI KITANO!! Dude is a genius!
  • Christ
    I'd go with #58's. #80 also threw a few good names in there... but, in the end, I really don't care about EW's or anyone else's lists. I just like to watch good and interesting movies. Everyone who loves cinema got their own favorites. It's kinda lame tho, to make those "greatest whatever" lists.
  • Ajax
    I like all the directors up there on the list. I am just a bit upset on the ordering of them. By the way, I actually don't think Polanski is that great. I saw his Macbeth film and it was so bad it was funny!
  • Eugene
    Clint Eastwood deserves to be higher than 19. He's top ten if you ask me.
  • jman571
    Everyone who criticized Alex on this thread is a major douchebag imo. Keep up the good work Alex, and ignore this bunch of whiny fanboys (whaaa...my favorite director wasn't on this list.wahhh) Any way you slice it, by coming on here and complaining about some random meaningless list that ONE PERSON happens to like, you show you have the maturity of a 2-year old, congradufuckinglations.
  • guru
    Malick?? Coppola?? Wow. Where are they?
  • # 105: Are you really passing judgment on Polanski when you only saw his Macbeth? Are you for real?
  • Justin
    Has anybody ever heard of the term “And in no particular order…”?
  • DCompose
    I wish David Lynch was on there.
  • viral
    what about sam mendes american beauty and revoltionary road are two of the best human dramas ever made. also i believe blood diamond and defiance should earn endward zwick a spot if snyder is in based on one movie ( 300 only watchman isnt out yet) cohens are way too overrated... i didnt find burn after reading least bit funny... just plain annoying. cameron eastwood howard and arronofsky should be a little higher and i agree with Scorsese deserving the top spot. that man has been cheated out of oscars so many times... i remember someone commenting " Three 6 mafia won an oscar ( 2005 for its hard out there for a pimp before scorsese) Speilberg has lost his touch and i will rate jackson higer than speilberg any day. yes becuase i a LOTR fanboy and speilberg would have been better served being "inactive" than making indiana jones... what an ugly mess that was... Sam Raimi should be banned from this list. for the atrocity that was "spiderman 3" YUCK!!! still makes me sick
  • viral
    also Fincher he deserves top 10 top 5 in my opnion! Se7en fight club zodiac and button... these are incredible movies... move over speilberg
  • L
    I think that this list has a couple "What have you done for me latelys" and not enough directors with a great body of work. As much as I like Lord of the Rings, their is very little Peter Jackson has done to be as high on the list, if at all. There are some great suggestions above such as Coppola and De Palma. Steven Spielberg on top is just. His body of work is amazing. Personally, I am really glad to see Favreau on here.
  • that guy
    Everyone needs to just go ahead and jerk it in the dark lonely room they live in. Alex, I kind of feel sorry for you right now. Here you are commenting on someone else's list and all these hormonal losers bitch and whine and turn it into a "Bash Alex-fest." Screw them. All they are is a bunch of no-talent screw ups who more than likely don't have a job, much less a life. Sure, now the rest of you can come on here and bash me but you know what? I could give two fucks less about you and your opinion. Alex is right and you know it and for those that bitch about this list probably didn't even look at the whole list. You are all probably a bunch of tards who don't research anything before you open your weiner munching mouths. Click the damn link to the rest of the list and bitch to Entertainment Weekly.
  • mcmojo
    Where in the world is Peter Weir? He is not even in the 50??? Master and Commander The Truman Show Fearless The Mosquito Coast Dead Poet's Society Witness The Year of Living Dangerously Gallipoli How in the world are Zach Snyder, Sam Raimi, and Jon Favreau on this list over him?
  • Jordan
    "Don't listen to them Alex. It's ok buddy. I have your back. These guys are whiny douche bags. Why would they even thinking about saying what they think? Blah blah blah." 114, 122 shuuuut uuuuuppppp. We are all voicing our opinions you tools. That's what you do on message boards. And we wouldn't be at this site and this particular message board if we didn't respect Alex and his own opinion.
  • The Don
    Yeah, Snyder's more or less an abomination on this list. Guys I'd personally have over him, and a few others (and bear in mind this is just my opinion): Spike Jonze Woody Allen Sam Mendes David Lynch Those guys never make anything not worth watching, except maybe Allen by sheer numbers.
  • Cinemassiv
    What, no love for McG? Really? That guy has done so much for movies. He's like a blond Jon Favreau. Now only if JJ Abrams directed Franklyn, he'd be in the top fifteen, no doubt about it. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!!!!!!
  • KBode
    Wow, a bunch of dudes. Great list, EW. Next time maybe you should consider the possibility that white men are not the only people making quality cinema. Why are there no women on this list? Julie Taymor? Jane Campion? Amy Heckerling?
  • jack of spades
    only person this list is missing is wes anderson... he has never made a bad film
  • RandyG
    #128: wes anderson… he has never made a bad film Neither have I.
  • ani
    stupid list.
  • JaneaneTheAcerbicGoblin
    If I made a list, Soderbergh would be off. He's a hack posing as an "artistic" filmmaker. Many of his films are remakes, Solaris being the worst (the original by Tarkovsky is a masterpiece). Traffic was also a remake of a far superior British miniseries. Tarantino hasn't made a good film since Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction is highly overrated. Zack Snyder? He's made only a few films. Wes Anderson? Best film, Rushmore. After that, piss garbage. Judd Apatow should be made to starve slowly for making Knocked Up, the most overrated film in movie history (94 percent approval on Rotten Tomatoes!). Go to hell, critics. Lists like this please no one.
  • THE CRITIC
    im sorry i know alot of ppl hate george lucas. but ocme on. the man is a god. not only in star wars but other works he 's done. he is a pioner!
  • Jim
    Solid list with only two exceptions. How the hell is George Lucas (Indiana Jones and Star Wars) and also more of a personal choice but i think that Guy Ritchie should be on here definitely over paul greengrass (nothing but Bourne movies) and jon favreau (iron man and elf which i thought was funny). Ritchies has a movie thats in my top 5 favorite movies of all time with Snatch and also Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and soon to be Sherlock Holmes.
  • Non novi
    Get rid of Nolan for sure the dark night was the most overrated movie I have ever seen. Alex proyas woody Allen peter zemeckis and Paul verhoven should be there. Its a shame that the two best of all time are dead, Stanley Kubrick and sergio leone
  • I am glad that Tim Burton is in this excellent list. However, why don’t you list David Lynch?

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