A limited number of filmmakers have garnered world-wide acclaim through a definitive style and understanding of the medium. These range from the American Giants (such as John Ford, Stanley Kubrick & Martin Scorsese) and Independents (Paul Thomas Anderson, Terence Malick & Spike Jonze) to International Visionaries (Francois Truffaut, Ingmar Bergman, Michelangelo Antonioni & Andrei Tarkovsky).
The following is a list of directors whose work has been equally vital and vivid and yet often overlooked. In other words, these are the filmmakers who you might not know but should:
Agnes Varda, France
Style: French New Wave, personal, human and direct
Quote: If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes.
Key Films: La Pointe Courte (1955) Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962), The Gleaners and I (2001)
John Boorman, UK/USA
Style: New American, raw and intuitive
Quote: I think they’re all bold films, for better or worse.
Key Films: Deliverance (1972), Excalibur (1981) & Hope and Glory (1987)
Jim Jarmusch, USA
Style: Eclectic, character based & banal dialogue
Quote: I talk kind of slowly. I think slowly. I like slow music. I like slow films.
Key Films: Down by Law (1986), Night on Earth (1991), Dead Man (1995) & Paterson (2016)
Michael Haneke, Austria
Style: Spare and metaphoric
Quote: How much can I not spell out when constructing a film and still not frustrate the audience?
Key Films: The Seventh Continent (1989), White Ribbon (2009) & Amour (2012)
Jafar Panahi, Iran
Style: Quietly defiant, personal and spare
Quote: I have a tendency to make “film time” the same as “real time”.
Key Films: The Mirror (1997), This is not a Film (2011) & Taxi (2015)
Bruce Sweeney, Canada
Style: Lost, uncertain and unresolved
Quote: I have a lot of anxieties and insecurities.
Key Films: Dirty (1998) & Last Wedding (2001)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium
Style: Working class, responsible and realistic
Quote: Film helps you think and reflect. It’s a quiet kind of conversation.
Key Films: The Son (2002), The Child (2005), Two Days, One Night (2015)
Susanne Bier, Denmark
Style: Influenced by Dogme 95, unblinking focus on relationships
Quote: You can’t be ashamed of big emotions if you make movies.
Key Films: Open Hearts (2002), After the Wedding (2007) & In a Better World (2010)
Lynn Ramsay, Scotland
Style: Brooding, personal and challenging
Quote: You’ve got to stick up for what you believe in. If you don’t do that, you’re doing a disservice to the audience.
Key Films: Morvern Caller (2002), We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) & You Were Never Really Here (2017)
Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan
Style: Meditative focus on family dynamics
Quote: You can no longer interpret the true value or purpose of family based on the antiquated traditional tropes of society.
Key Films: Like Father, Like Son (2013), After the Storm (2016) & Shoplifters (2018)
I love this list, and all these directors. However, I think you should include more women, and I suggest the amazing Lina Wertmuller – maybe instead of John Boorman The Seduction of Mimi, Swept Away, and Love and Anarchy are unforgettable. Or how not to include Liliana Cavani (another Italian female director), whose The Night Porter is iconic, seminal, and chilling.
You make an excellent point. Wertmuller would make an excellent addition. “Seven Beauties” is a great film of hers as well. I am not as familiar with Cavani. Time to do the research!