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The 100 Essential Directors

The aim with this series is to celebrate directors of distinct vision, who have honed their respective crafts, who have brought something new and exciting to the medium, and who continue to push the boundaries of the form. This isn’t necessarily a Hollywood-friendly list, and that is very much on purpose.

Edited by Matt Mazur and Produced by Sarah Zupko

At PopMatters, we love lists. We love lists about music, about culture, about, well almost anything. But when it comes to the movies, we could make lists all day long and often have.


Recently, we have focused our collective writerly energies towards trying to really examine what makes for a great film performance with the 100 Essential Female Film Performances, 100 Essential Male Film Performances, and then an epic update last year in 2010 that took away the gender barriers and got an incredible first hand scoop from such amazing performers as Margaret Cho, Melissa Leo and Pam Grier.


Feeling as though we had the acting side of things somewhat down pat, the PopMatters editorial staff decided that after several Director Spotlight series, it was high time for us try and uncover who belonged on the list of 100 Essential Film Directors. The selection process was rigorous, deciding who would stay and who would go. There of course are many non-negotiables—what kind of director list would not have Alfred Hitchock or Federico Fellini on it?—but when it came to contemporary filmmakers, even we were surprised at who ended up, as they say, on the cutting room floor.


The aim with this series is to celebrate directors of distinct vision, who have honed their respective crafts, who have brought something new and exciting to the medium, and who continue to push the boundaries of the form. This isn’t necessarily a Hollywood-friendly list, and that is very much on purpose. We’re not celebrating who has made the most money, or who can direct the best action sequence, this is more about art and artisans, and sometimes these two things coexist in the most wonderful, surprising places, from Brooklyn to Faro, from the Silent Era to the maverick 1970s, we’ve tried to cover all of our bases on this list. Any seeming ommissions are purposeful, and while we’ve tried to pay proper homage to those who are considered to be the giants of the profession, we’ve also tried, as is the custom with all PopMatters lists, to shed a little light on those that time has forgotten or that deserve a little more credit than they are typically given in the overall scheme of things.


Most of all, this list was created for and written by true cinephiles. What good is a film if there isn’t a film lover obessessing over it, after all?

Monday, August 1 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 1: Chantal Akerman - Bernardo Bertolucci

Neurotic New Yorkers, Queer Mavericks, Swedish close-ups and the art of putting a microphone on every person on set are but a few of the themes explored in PopMatters' first group of ten essential directors, Chantal Akerman through Bernardo Bertolucci. Please note that any perceived omissions were likely on purpose...


Thursday, August 4 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 2: Robert Bresson to David Cronenberg

Our second day of "100 Essential Directors" could loosely be described as one that defines "influential." Each of the auteurs sandwiched in between Robert Bresson and David Cronenberg has left a lasting mark on cinema, each employing a signature style that is unmistakable.


Sunday, August 7 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 3: George Cukor - John Ford

Spiritual possession, screwball comedy, German kinks, and the quintessential American Western genre are among the disparate characters we shine a light on today as PopMatters counts down the 100 Essential Film Directors. Today we look at George Cukor through John Ford. Who falls in the middle might surprise you...


Thursday, August 11 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 4: Samuel Fuller - John Huston

On our fourth day, this journey through the 100 Essential Film Directors continues to twist and turn in unexpected ways. From bold, opinionated Hollywood voices to those who essentially created the language of cinema, today will shed light on kings of genre like Samuel Fuller, through lions like the legendary John Huston.


Sunday, August 14 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 5: Derek Jarman to Mike Leigh

Mid-way through our series, Day 5 is a glorious mishmash of international auteurist cinema. Today we go from saints and sinners, from Brookyln to Britain, from the beginning of time to the Dystopian future, and around the world and beyond.


Thursday, August 18 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 6: Ernst Lubitsch to Vincente Minnelli

Today runs the gamut. Hollywood to indie art house, female perspective to male, screwball comedy to chamber drama. The odyssey from Ernst Lubitsch to Vincente Minnelli will provide illumination on how film's first special effects were used, how two brothers presciently preceded reality TV in the Hamptons, and why some directors prefer to work about once a decade on average...


Sunday, August 21 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 7: Kenji Mizoguchi to Satyajit Ray

Pushing boundaries seems to be the thread that ties the directors of our seventh day together. From Japanese innovators to Italian iconclasts and Polish provocateurs, the directors that fall between Kenji Mizoguchi and the man who was perhaps India's greatest visual storyteller, Satyajit Ray, all push the form in incredible, surprising ways.


Thursday, August 25 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 8: Jean Renoir to Douglas Sirk

From Jean Renior through Douglas Sirk, there may be some choices that raise an eyebrow. While each of the directors we look at today might not be on every cinephile's list of great directors, they absolutely merit inclusion for their distinct visions and dedication to their craft, some despite their questionable personal lives and politics.


Sunday, August 28 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 9: Victor Sjöström to Luchino Visconti

Today we present a glorious spate of international auteurs that range from cinematic innovators from the silent era to those who continue to push the limits of film in their contemporary work.


Monday, September 5 2011

The 100 Essential Directors Part 10: Josef Von Sternberg to Zhang Yimou

The final day of directors is here, Josef Von Sternberg through Zhang Yimou. German Expressionism, Dogme 95, contemporary views of Asian life, post-WWII malaise in Eastern Europe, and the alternately heartwarming and queer takes on everyday life in Baltimore all hold a space on today's list. Did we forget your favorite director on this list?


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