Entertainment Weekly's List of 'The 25 Greatest Working Directors'

February 23, 2011

EW's 25 Greatest Working Directors - Nolan / Fincher

Time to stir the pot. Entertainment Weekly has unveiled a new list that is/has caused quite a stir. Not that it's controversial, per se, just that everyone has their opinion about it and who they left off and so on. It's a list of the 25 Greatest Working Directors, arriving a mere four days before this year's Oscars. "As the Oscars approach to honor excellence from the past year, we're counting down the most talented, in-demand filmmakers behind the camera today -- from Wes Anderson to Kathryn Bigelow." So who topped their list? You can find out below, unless you've already guessed from the photo. Let us know your thoughts on these!

Here's their full list below (so you don't have to click through that damn gallery), but you can obviously read more about each director and why they were chosen to be included over on From bottom to top:

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 Almodóvar
9. Clint Eastwood
8. Terrence Malick
7. Quentin Tarantino
6. Joel & Ethan Coen
5. Darren Aronofsky
4. Martin Scorsese
3. Steven Spielberg
2. Christopher Nolan
1. David Fincher

And if all goes well, Fincher will be taking home the Oscar on Sunday night. I'm actually quite satisfied with this list, at least the Top 10. Sure, they left off a few good names like Alfonso Cuarón, Jacques Audiard, Bong Joon-ho, Sam Mendes, Jason Reitman, Ridley Scott (arguably), Steven Soderbergh, even the likes of David Gordon Green or Gus Van Sant. In fact, that's what this all come down to, a discussion on who isn't on here that should be. If you want some more examples, RopeofSilicon has an article about Who's Missing?, and Awards Daily names 50 directors they forgot. While they may be missing a few, I think they really picked many of the best of the best, from Nolan to Fincher to Tarantino to the Coens to Malick, even Edgar Wright.

What do you guys think? This is the second time they've done this - back in '09, EW also put out a list of the 25 Greatest Active Film Directors. Spielberg and Jackson were on top then, but now it's Fincher and Nolan's moment to shine. EW on Fincher: "His taut, meticulous thrillers reflect his own irrepressible obsessiveness, but his last two films are the work of a supremely confident maestro of visual storytelling." Go Fincher!

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  • Tomerzadaka
    Where is Michael Mann???
  • Tom
    Fincher at Number 1 is a joke. Aronofsky above Tarantino and the Coens is a joke.
  • Tanto06
    Im glad Chris Nolan is in the top 5 hes a genius and is against 3D
  • I don't really agree with the order, but when I look at a list like this I personally don't see one being that much better than the other. Of course, Aronofsky, Nolan, Fincher are getting a lot of attention right now, but anyone else on that list can release a great film at any time and suddenly be the one great for the moment.
  • DC
  • skag_boy
    Tarantino, really? The man hasn't made a good movie since 1997.
    • Awtan90
      • Bryan
        It's not Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Inglourious Basterds are rated very highly by critics and audience, oh wait....
        • Awtan90
          My opinions don't have to reflect mob mentality
  • Have Hope
    Is this list in order?
  • Jfc3po
    Where the hell is Michael Mann?
  • Awtan90
    The only person that I feel is really missing is Ridley Scott, but in my opinion he hasn't made a great film since Gladiator. I'm just glad they included Spielburg without feeling like they had to put Lucas as well.
  • Leinergroove
    I didn't like the order. I have been a David Fincher fan through the years (Zodiac being the lowest point), but putting him in the # 1 spot... not sure. I'm glad to see Del Toro and Wes Anderson included, and of course Christopher Nolan, but, again, I would have changed some places...
  • MajesticXIII
    Michael Mann? Paul Greengrass? Ridley Scott?
  • Loser
    David Cronenberg
  • Sparky
    Why the hell is Spike Lee on this list? Where's Sam Mendes?
  • Zac917
    where's the Mann?
  • quityosleanin
    david fincher is first? this has to be a joke. a confusing, unfunny joke, but a joke none the less.
  • I would have put zach synder on this list
    • Rorris
      I agree
    • John Doe
      Yep, right next to Uwe Boll.
  • Plo
    the lack of: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Bela Tarr, Wong Kar-Wai, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, Jia Zhangke, Pedro Costa, Tsai Ming-liang, Werner Herzog, Aleksandr Sokurov, Jean Luc-Godard, etc etc etc makes me very sad. but then again this is a list with Fincher at the top... and people like Cameron, Russel, Boyle, etc make the list over the former.
    • Anonymous
      You like alternative cinema, we get it 😛 You even managed to put in there a director from my country I never heard about (Pedro Costa). It's ok for you to miss those names, but you have to realize this is a list concerning the top hollywood directors, with the biggest movies, highest ratings and profits.
      • Plo
        Mike Leigh and Almodovar and lynch are top hollywood directors? since when. They aren't really breaking profits.
        • Plo
          also wouldn't say i like alternative cinema. I just like cinema, there is no separation for me. There are 6 or 10 directors I really enjoy on that list
      • Alexrobino
        You use "alternative cinema" like it's a dirty word lol. And besides, that's a bit of an odd generalization, isn't it?
        • Anonymous
          Alternative cinema is not at all a dirty word. Or words,lol. Actually, in my opinion Lynch and Almodovar are some of the most recognizable "alternative" filmmakers. Mike Leigh not that much. I can see Spain from my window, so Almodovar is not that "alternative" 😛 It wasn't my itention to pick on you, not at all, i was just curious by your choice of directors. What about Pedro Costa, why is he on your list? (I honestly want to know, never seen any of his work. Is it in portuguese? Did you like it?)
          • Plo
            Pedro Costa is one of my all time favorite filmmakers at the moment. His recent work (luckily now feature on the criterion collection, nearly all his early work you must order overseas) is a bridge into something unexplored. The line between narrative and documentary are blurred. Ossos, In Vanda's Room and Colossal Youth span years in the same city with mostly the same characters who are also real people. He moved from shooting the first film on 35mm with a big crew to shooting the latter 2 on DV Tape (a panasonic DVX100) with little crew.. making reflectors out of mirrors and other things he could find and living with the people, with the cast. His work is reminiscent of a mixture of Ozu (my fav filmmaker), Bresson, Warhol, etc ... but with these fundamentals he joins a new breed of style that has been taking hold since the late 90s (along with Diaz, Jia, Denis, etc) To me... Costa is one of those directors working today (one of a handful I have found) who speak directly to the human soul. I hope none of that came off overbearing or anything. His work is Portuguese and I love it. (clearly, lol) I own 4 of his feature films and 3 short films ... aiming to pick up the other feature you can still find on DVD soon, but the other is no longer on DVD sadly... and he did a new feature in 2009 that has yet to get distribution. If you have any questions (honestly) I'd love to answer them, I love spreading awareness to great works of directors like this. Some find his work slow (long scenes with no cuts or camera movement are common) But, he does find a way into your soul if you let him.
    • Alexrobino
      Seconded on everything.
  • Aaron
    Sorry, but Michael Mann deserves to be on that list.
  • Scottjamesnorth
    i would have tony scott in my list. True Romance should be enough really!
  • Videojame
    What about Andrew Stanton?
    • John
      Yeah, he made the two best animated films ever made. Also, Fincher #1 = win
  • Rorris
    what about M. Night Shyamalan?? HAHAHAHAHAHA ...NOT! but, really, Zach Snyder is becoming a pioneer in visuals..he could be #26 I guess
  • Adrik
    mann deserves to be there. fincher maybe top 10, no way number 1. I'm not a cameron fan, but seriously, 18? author you suck.
  • Where is Michael Bay?! I want Michael Bay! 😉
    • Coastermaniac
      I think you stand alone buddy :)
    • John
      He was too busy sucking robo-testicles.
  • crumb
  • Anonymous
    In my opinion the best directors from that list are Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Joel & Ethan Coen, Roman Polanski, Quentin Tarantino and maybe Peter Jackson. But this is a list with "in-demand filmmakers" so Christopher Nolan (who is arguably one of the best directors alongside the above mentioned) and David Fincher deserve to be on the top of the list. Oh, I would've put Alfonso Cuaron and Park Chan-wook there... maybe others as well.
  • Josh
    Ridley Scott, he doesn't make a bad movie
  • Anonymous
    No Oliver Stone? No Ridley Scott? Fincher # 1 lol?? Cameron, Peter Jackson and del Toro are too low imo.
    • John Doe
      "No Oliver Stone? No Ridley Scott?" Neither of witch have made a good film sense the 20th century.
  • Anonymous
    My top 5: 1 - David Fincher 2 - Steven Spielberg (although I don't remember is last good movie) 3 - Darren Aronofsky 4 - Christopher Nolan 5 - Sam Mendes Kathryn Bigelow appearing on a list like this gives me headaches. Am I the only one who thinks she doesn't deserve it?
    • Awtan90
      I don't think Bigelow deserves to be on the list either. I feel like the only reason she's on this list is because she won best director for The Hurt Locker last year, which I also think was unwarranted. Feels like they just gave it to her because the academy is full liberals, not saying that being a liberal is good or bad, but since they are more liberal they were probably more inclined to A) want to make history by giving the award to a woman for the first time, and B) praise her for making yet another movie that shows how awful warfare can be.
      • Anonymous
        My thoughts exactly
    • John
      My top 5: 1. David Fincher 2. Christopher Nolan 3. James Cameron 4. Steven Spielberg 5. Andrew Stanton
      • Anonymous
        Nice to see someone agrees with me on the #1 😉
    • Guest
      yeh she's only on this list because otherwise the list would contain just men...
  • Voice of Reason
    I feel like I'm taking crazy pills. Ridley Scott makes crappy movies, especially as of late. Zack Snyder should never be considered a good director, he just appeals to a target audience and his "vision" isn't as universal compared to many of the directors listed. Michael Mann had his day, this is a list of quality directors as of now. Mendes is too mediocre with what he's put out since Road To Perdition. If anything, this just shows you that cinema is lacking female directors, or maybe its doomed to be a male-dominated industry as far as as Hollywood is concerned.
  • Risk
    awwwww. No M Night Shyamalan? wah wah waaaaaaaah
    • Anonymous
      The Happening alone should grant him a spot on this list, imo
  • Anonymous
    Hold the phone! Where's Michael Bay??????????? lol
  • Dukephoenix
    Needs more Americans.... *rolls eyes*
    • John Doe
      Don't hate the players... hate the game.
  • Coastermaniac
    Spielbergh should be #1
    • John Doe
      Yeah... over 12 years ago.
  • Werner Herzog :/
  • Duane
    THERE'S NO SCORSESE. Seriously?
  • David Lynch only 17th? And instead of some highly overrated "English speaking" directors a little more respect for Asian and European auteurs would me much appreciated.
  • Zim
    Werner Herzog?? WHERE IS HE?? Fincher, Wright, Nolan and P.T. Anderson.. <3
  • Lololo
    13. Roman Polanski ..... xD
  • Where is John Woo?!?!?!?!
  • Harv
    Remove: Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow, Spike Lee, Brad Bird, J.J. Abrams, Pedro Almodóvar Add: Andrew Dominik, Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Peter Weir, Joe Wright, Sam Mendes
  • Last Son
    David Fincher is a great director but not nearly as great as Christopher Nolan. My top 5 (2000-2010) 1. Christopher Nolan (Memento/Insomnia/Batman Begins/The Prestige/The Dark Knight/Inception) 2. Peter Jackson (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy) 3. Steven Spielberg (A.I./Minority Report/Catch Me If You Can/War Of The Worlds/Munich) 4. Martin Scorsese (The Aviator/The Departed/Shutter Island) 5. David Fincher (Zodiac/The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button/The Social Network) Nolan is the master of all. How the F**k did James Cameron end up on that list. He did one film and the only good thing about it was the special effects. The story was predictable and the overall direction of the film was not that great.
    • Cody W.
      One film? Terminator 1 and 2, True lies, The Abyss and Titanic. You lost all credibility saying James Cameron has only done 1 film sorry.
      • Cody W.
        Though I agree Avatar was hollow.
  • Julian
    David O. Russell? Really? And Spike Lee? I would've liked to have seen Alfonso Cuaron and Ridley Scott on there. I would've especially liked to see Rian Johnson on there.
  • Funkychri
    What about Tim Burton!?? He should be in the top 20 :)!!
  • Cody W.
    Not even gonna mention the names, so many that dont deserve to be there and so many that do that arent there.
  • GABO2D2
  • Nickgligor
    Clearly, they forgot Tommy Wiseau.
  • Tantalus17
    Wow - all 25 suck - Ridley Scott is God!
    • John Doe
      Yeah and I'm the Lord Jesus Christ!
  • John Doe
    This list is just about right for the most the part.
  • Boilerbro Joe
    Yoji Yamada! The dude's a legend!
  • Presencezoso
    Edgar Wright? Seriously? HAHAHA!!!!
  • Ozzycierra
    PTA should be higher. Also Miyazaki and Zhang deserve a mention. Sydney Lumet always seems overlooked. Jarmusch - Jonez - Payne - Van Sant and Gilliam all also come to mind.




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