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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Where is Michael Mann???

Tomerzadaka on Feb 23, 2011


Fincher at Number 1 is a joke. Aronofsky above Tarantino and the Coens is a joke.

Tom on Feb 23, 2011


Your a Joke.

Rv on Feb 23, 2011


So is your grammar.

Phillip Gockel on Feb 23, 2011



Sparky on Feb 23, 2011


Im glad Chris Nolan is in the top 5 hes a genius and is against 3D

Tanto06 on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Modern American Man on Feb 23, 2011



DC on Feb 23, 2011


Tarantino, really? The man hasn't made a good movie since 1997.

skag_boy on Feb 23, 2011



Awtan90 on Feb 23, 2011


It's not Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Inglourious Basterds are rated very highly by critics and audience, oh wait....

Bryan on Feb 23, 2011


My opinions don't have to reflect mob mentality

Awtan90 on Feb 24, 2011


Is this list in order?

Have Hope on Feb 23, 2011


Where the hell is Michael Mann?

Jfc3po on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Awtan90 on Feb 23, 2011


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...

Leinergroove on Feb 23, 2011


Michael Mann? Paul Greengrass? Ridley Scott?

MajesticXIII on Feb 23, 2011


David Cronenberg

Loser on Feb 23, 2011


Why the hell is Spike Lee on this list? Where's Sam Mendes?

Sparky on Feb 23, 2011


where's the Mann?

Zac917 on Feb 23, 2011


david fincher is first? this has to be a joke. a confusing, unfunny joke, but a joke none the less.

quityosleanin on Feb 23, 2011


I would have put zach synder on this list

Jonathon Thompson on Feb 23, 2011


I agree

Rorris on Feb 23, 2011


Yep, right next to Uwe Boll.

John Doe on Feb 25, 2011


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.

Plo on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


Mike Leigh and Almodovar and lynch are top hollywood directors? since when. They aren't really breaking profits.

Plo on Feb 23, 2011


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

Plo on Feb 23, 2011


You use "alternative cinema" like it's a dirty word lol. And besides, that's a bit of an odd generalization, isn't it?

Alexrobino on Feb 23, 2011


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?)

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Plo on Feb 24, 2011


Seconded on everything.

Alexrobino on Feb 23, 2011


Sorry, but Michael Mann deserves to be on that list.

Aaron on Feb 23, 2011


i would have tony scott in my list. True Romance should be enough really!

Scottjamesnorth on Feb 23, 2011


What about Andrew Stanton?

Videojame on Feb 23, 2011


Yeah, he made the two best animated films ever made. Also, Fincher #1 = win

John on Feb 23, 2011


what about M. Night Shyamalan?? HAHAHAHAHAHA ...NOT! but, really, Zach Snyder is becoming a pioneer in visuals..he could be #26 I guess

Rorris on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Adrik on Feb 23, 2011


Where is Michael Bay?! I want Michael Bay! 😉

Rick on Feb 23, 2011


I think you stand alone buddy 🙂

Coastermaniac on Feb 23, 2011


He was too busy sucking robo-testicles.

John on Feb 23, 2011



crumb on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


Ridley Scott, he doesn't make a bad movie

Josh on Feb 23, 2011


No Oliver Stone? No Ridley Scott? Fincher # 1 lol?? Cameron, Peter Jackson and del Toro are too low imo.

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


"No Oliver Stone? No Ridley Scott?" Neither of witch have made a good film sense the 20th century.

John Doe on Feb 25, 2011


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?

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


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.

Awtan90 on Feb 23, 2011


My thoughts exactly

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


My top 5: 1. David Fincher 2. Christopher Nolan 3. James Cameron 4. Steven Spielberg 5. Andrew Stanton

John on Feb 23, 2011


Nice to see someone agrees with me on the #1 😉

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


yeh she's only on this list because otherwise the list would contain just men...

Guest on Mar 10, 2011


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.

Voice of Reason on Feb 23, 2011


awwwww. No M Night Shyamalan? wah wah waaaaaaaah

Risk on Feb 23, 2011


The Happening alone should grant him a spot on this list, imo

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


Hold the phone! Where's Michael Bay??????????? lol

Anonymous on Feb 23, 2011


Needs more Americans.... *rolls eyes*

Dukephoenix on Feb 23, 2011


Don't hate the players... hate the game.

John Doe on Feb 25, 2011


Spielbergh should be #1

Coastermaniac on Feb 23, 2011


Yeah... over 12 years ago.

John Doe on Feb 25, 2011



Geoffrey Shauger on Feb 23, 2011


Werner Herzog :/

dee8 on Feb 23, 2011



Duane on Feb 23, 2011


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.

David Perretta on Feb 23, 2011


Werner Herzog?? WHERE IS HE?? Fincher, Wright, Nolan and P.T. Anderson.. <3

Zim on Feb 23, 2011


13. Roman Polanski ..... xD

Lololo on Feb 24, 2011


Where is John Woo?!?!?!?!

Alan Geiss on Feb 24, 2011


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

Harv on Feb 24, 2011


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.

Last Son on Feb 24, 2011


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. on Feb 24, 2011


Though I agree Avatar was hollow.

Cody W. on Feb 24, 2011


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.

Julian on Feb 24, 2011


What about Tim Burton!?? He should be in the top 20 :)!!

Funkychri on Feb 24, 2011


Not even gonna mention the names, so many that dont deserve to be there and so many that do that arent there.

Cody W. on Feb 24, 2011



GABO2D2 on Feb 24, 2011


Clearly, they forgot Tommy Wiseau.

Nickgligor on Feb 24, 2011


Wow - all 25 suck - Ridley Scott is God!

Tantalus17 on Feb 25, 2011


Yeah and I'm the Lord Jesus Christ!

John Doe on Feb 25, 2011


This list is just about right for the most the part.

John Doe on Feb 25, 2011


Yoji Yamada! The dude's a legend!

Boilerbro Joe on Feb 28, 2011


Edgar Wright? Seriously? HAHAHA!!!!

Presencezoso on Mar 5, 2011


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.

Ozzycierra on Mar 9, 2011

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