The 100 Essential Directors

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?


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