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16 Famous Filmmakers Who Succeeded In Widely Diverse Genres

14 September 2014 | Features, People Lists | by J.E. González

stanley-kubrick-crop

The relationship between a filmmaker and his or her style is a complex one. Many of them, as it can be seen on art in general, tend to have certain specific interests, techniques and genres they learn to feel comfortable with and adopt as their own. On one hand, this can be beneficial since it helps to refine certain ideas through time and experience, on the other hand, it can be dangerous since the filmmaker is always at risk of duplicating his earlier work.

But there are the risk-takers. Those who have ventured into new genres, narratives and forms and succeeded at maintaining their work impeccable. Never mind all the reasons these directors may have had to get out of their comfort zone: contractual obligations, circumstances that make them to branch out or just for the experience to try something new.

What is important is that helps to show a medium that offers so much variety and so many different possibilities as cinema can offer. Here are 16 of the most versatile filmmakers in the history of cinema.

 

16. Luc Besson

Luc Besson

Though his Cinéma du Look has been criticized for relying too heavily on style over substance, nobody can deny that regardless of the quality of some of his productions, Luc Besson has learnt how to leave his mark on cinema worldwide. Producer of over 50 movies, despite being generally grounded on action films, Besson knows how to portray engaging stories in wildly diverse backgrounds.

His earlier breakout movie was The Big Blue, a film about the rivalry between two Mediterranean divers. Besson, who was a diver himself before an accident made him unable to practice it anymore, would also made a documentary about oceans titled Atlantis.

Around the same time, he directed two thrillers set in the criminal underworld that would set his career as an action director, Nikita and León: The Professional, with the science fiction adventure film The Fifth Element and the historical epic The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc making him a household name in the American mainstream cinema. As of late Besson mostly produces films, but his most recent input have been a curious mix between colorful family films and his usual fare of action movies.

 

15. Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike

One of Japan’s most controversial filmmakers in the modern era, Takashi Miike has directed over 90 audiovisual productions in less than 25 years of career. Always verging between the mainstream and the underground, Miike is mostly known for his use of highly-graphic violence and twisted sexuality, using direct-to-video releases to avoid censorship and have more creative freedom. Films like Audition, Dead or Alive and Ichi the Killer has earned him a cult status among western audiences.

Yet, despite his reputation as the bad boy of Japanese cinema and his successful and high-grossing work with Yakuza films, Miike refuses to limit himself and opts for his more crowd-pleasing productions to finance his more risky projects, branching out between children’s films like The Great Yokai War, a farcical horror comedy musical with The happiness of the Katakuris, the cowboy film Sukiyaki Western Django and even a videogame adaptation with Ace Attorney.

 

14. Steven Soderbergh

STEVEN SODERBERGH

With Sex, Lies and Videotapes Steven Soderbergh won the Palme D’Or with his debut movie at age 26, leading many to rightfully predict a long and successful career. Although some of his endeavors have not been box-office successes, they always manage to offer something new and interesting to the audience.

As many current independent directors, Soderbergh tends to alternate between large, financially-viable Hollywood productions and smaller, unconventional films, dealing with both types with relentless creativity and rigorous professionalism.

Among the well-known mainstream movies Soderbergh has made, one can find drama film Erin Brokovich with Julia Roberts in the title role, the heist film Ocean’s Eleven and its two sequels and the comedy Magic Mike, experimental and more niche productions like Kafka with Jeremy Irons, the wildly off-beat Schizopolis, the drama Bubble and the documentary And Everything Is Going Fine.

Nonetheless, Soderbergh appears to be more comfortable working in a middle point between the two, with movies like the remake of Solaris, the Che films with Benicio Del Toro and Behind The Candelabra serving as a curious limbo between Hollywood and Sundance.

 

13. Ang Lee

best ang lee movies

Taiwan-born director Ang Lee have had an overwhelming success in Hollywood in the past few years, winning Oscars for his 1960’s gay drama Brokeback Mountain and the imaginative adventure fantasy film The Life of Pi, but as early as his “Father Knows Best” trilogy, it was clear that, despite different settings and characters, his forte laid in a remarkable ability to present emotions and tribulations that the audience can deeply sympathize with.

This dexterity allowed him to have no problem directing period drama Sense and Sensibility, his first foray outside Taiwan, which receiving seven Academy Awards nominations. Then he made family drama The Ice Storm and war film Ride with the Devil.

But not until Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that Lee garnered international fame and managed to bring the Wuxia genre to the western audiences. Many directors have had problems adapting their style and vision to the mainstream American film industry and, although Lee have had some bumps every now and then (superhero film Hulk and music film Taking Woodstock come to mind), his career is an example that good cinema has no frontiers.

 

12. Robert Wise

Robert Wise

Director of over 40 movies, the philosophy of Wise of letting the concept to define the style of the movie is often seen as a counterpoint to better-regarded auteur directors who put their trademark style on their films. Nonetheless, instead of diminishing his quality, it allowed him to work on several radically different types of projects with the same professionalism.

Starting in the production team of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersens, through his decade-spanning career he directed some of the most iconic films in their respective genre.

In musicals, for example, he directed the film adaptations of West Side Story and The Sound of Music, he also directed the horror classic The Haunting, the war film The Sand Peebles and even took a hand in westerns, film noir and science fiction, making himself a name with the latter with such memorable productions such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

 

11. Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner

Along with Steven Spielberg and John Hughes, Rob Reiner is regarded as one of the most popular and emblematic American filmmakers during the 80’s. But unlike Hughes and Spielberg, who at the moment had a reputation making light teenage dramas and family adventure films respectively, from the get go it was hard to pin down what made a Rob Reiner film be his own.

Among the films he directed in this decade were This is Spinal Tap, a fake comedic documentary about the tribulations of a rock band past its prime, the 1950’s coming-of-age Stephen King story Stand by Me, the cult fantasy comedy The Princess Bride and the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.

Though in the 90’s he directed Misery, another Stephen King adaptation, and the military courtroom drama A Few Good Men, the universally panned 1994 children’s film North was a blow to his career as a director, he only made few good movies like The Bucket List and Flipped after that.

 

10. Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg

If mainstream American cinema could be embodied in a single person, that person probably would be Steven Spielberg. Few directors have managed to leave a mark as him in popular consciousness worldwide as he did with films like Jaws, the Indiana Jones saga, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, Hook and many others, always offering stories full of human interest and warm sentiment, despite sometimes facing some of the worst adversities imaginable.

Although Spielberg is traditionally associated with visually-spectacular family-friendly entertainment, Catch Me If You Can and War of the Worlds just to name a few unmentioned, he has shown to be skillful telling heartfelt and memorable dramas where the best of people always manage to crop.

Starting with The Color Purple, some of his most serious films include Schindler’s List, Amistad, Saving Private Ryan and Lincoln. What makes his name enduring is perhaps his artistry on telling optimistic narratives without falling into common trap that would make the audience consider them corny, exaggerated or artificial.

 

9. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

One of the great auteurs of his generation, Tarantino learned about cinema through an obsessive consumption of movies in his youth and managed to refine himself through sheer enthusiasm and practice. His earlier and widely successful films, such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, proved his skills making a fresh and personal style out of known genre, this made him become one of the most prominent independent filmmakers in the 90’s.

Despite always exhibiting very distinctive characteristics in his body of work, such as his manner to portray violence and his very casual dialogue, Tarantino has managed to play out with different genres besides his usual blend of comedy, drama and action. Notably, he has worked with horror (From Dusk Till Dawn, written by him and directed by his friend Robert Rodriguez), martial arts (Kill Bill), war (Inglorious Basterds) and western (Django Unchained). Demonstrating his capacity to adapt his style to different types of cinematic action and execution.

 

 

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  • Anindya Sengupta

    “The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford” is directed by Andrew Dominik – not Ridley Scott.

  • Dhananjay S Madhavan

    Martin scorsese??

  • Vinashak

    Kim Jee-woon… Kim Jee-woon… and once more… Kim Jee-woon!!!

  • Vinashak

    horror, thriller, western, crime drama, revenge, action… one answer… Kim Jee-woon

  • Anindya Sengupta

    “The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford” is directed by Andrew Dominik, not Ridley Scott.

    • Ernest Delannoy

      and Black Hawk Down is not a Gulf War movie (Gulf War need caps) the kind of tremendous mistakes that discredits everything else in the article

  • Ted Wolf

    All one needs to do is focus on the golden age of Hollywood to find scads of examples of this. That was a prerequisite in those days.

  • Joseph Chastain

    What, no Howard Hawks?

    • LH

      He’s #2.

      • Joseph Chastain

        Must have skipped past him.

  • Roy Sevilla Ho

    Alan Parker? Bugsy Malone, Evita, Angel Heart, Angela’s Ashes, Fame…

    • Klaus Dannick

      The Commitments

  • Brian Lussier

    How did Tarantino end up here? He’s a great director, but he hasn’t made films in widely different genres. In fact, I’d say Tarantino makes only one kind of movie: Tarantino movies! Replace him with Scorsese. Happy Kubrick got the top spot!

    • RockyJohan

      Yes and Kubrick only makes Kubrick movies and Scorsese only makes Scorsese movies…..seriously dude?

      • Brian Lussier

        No, Kubrick has a style of his own that is recognizable from film to film, that’s clear, but Tarantino applies the same codes, visual style, pop culture references, musical references, anachronistic situations, dialogue style, etc., to every movie! I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; he’s clearly an original guy. But when I’m done watching a film of his, I always have a feeling I’ve just watched the same formula applied to a different story and setting. Also, he hasn’t made a wide variety of genres at all. The first three films he made were all crime films, Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained all fit more in the revenge flick genre than the genres they are ultimately meant to represent. Just because Hitler is in it doesn’t make Basterds a war film per se, as an example. Plus, although the first is a martial arts film, the second a war film and the third a western, he actually applied the codes and stylistic style of the spaghetti western to all three of them. Deal Proof, I guess, stands on its own, even if it’s his weakest film. As for Scorsese, what are you talking about?!?! Okay, Mean Streets, GoodFellas, Casino, The Departed and, to a lesser degree, Gangs Of New York all fit in the gangster genre, true. But Raging Bull is sports drama that also happens to be a biopic, Taxi Driver is a psychological drama, New York, New York is a drama about a musician, Boxcar Bertha has something of a Badlands feel to it, After Hours is an Orwellian comedy, The King Of Comedy is a satire, Cape Fear is a pure thriller, Kundun is a religious biopic (very different from Raging Bull, also a biopic), Bringing Out The Dead is another psychological drama but with a lot of the fantastical to it this time, The Color Of Money was a drama I guess (not sure how to qualify this film), The Last Temptation Of Christ may be another religious pic, but it’s very different in genre and style from Kundun. After that, The Age Of Innocence is a period film pure and simple, which doubles as a real melodrama; Gangs Of New York is period also and has elements of the gangster genre, sure, but it’s really a historical epic; The Aviator is another biopic, but again, very different from the previous two, though there are strong correlations to Raging Bull, I’ll give you that; Shutter Island is again a psychological drama, but radically different from Taxi Driver; Hugo is almost a children’s film; and The Wolf Of Wall Street is again a biopic that relates to both Raging Bull and The Aviator, but again with a very different style – it’s just an absolutely mad film! BTW, he’s also made plenty of documentaries. Now tell me he just makes Scorsese movies…

        • Erik Stone

          I really feel like you’re confusing genre with style, man. QT clearly has his own unique style, and all of his films can be easily identified as a Tarantino movie, but saying that all of his films are from the same two genres isn’t true. They made be crafted in a similar fashion to one another (all have that same QT-esque dialogue, the extreme violence, etc.), but they’re in different genres. Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Django, while similar in tone, are NOT from the same genre. As far as I can see QT has made 3 crime films (RD, PF, and JB), 2 Martial Arts films (Both Kill Bills), 1 War film (IB), and one Western (Django). Now QT definitely samples genres in all of his films. There are tropes from different genres scattered through most of his movies. Kill Bill has a tinge of Western, as does Inglourious Basterds, but that doesn’t change what there base genre is. Know what I mean? Just because certain plot elements resemble those of movies from other genres, doesn’t mean the movie is in an entirely different genre. I know what you’re trying to say, and I get it, but I don’t agree with it. That’s like saying that because all of Kubrick’s movies are semi-abstract and twisted, with limited dialogue and an emphasis on visuals, that all of his films are from the same genre, and that’s not true at all. A Clockwork Orange and The Shining are similar in style (Extended tracking shots, dreamlike visuals etc.), but they are totally different genres.

        • ray gudel

          Agreed, he should have had the number two spot, and fincher should have made the list somewhere.

    • JohnB

      Well I would say there are many genres in his films. Reservoir Dogs and Django are totally different genres.

      • Brian Lussier

        Yes, because one is a gangster film and the other is a western. But the point I made is that Tarantino has basically made two genres: gangster films or spaghetti westerns. And even the films that weren’t spaghetti westerns per se (like Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds) were constructed like spaghetti westerns in their stylistics.

        • JohnB

          yes but what im saying is QT has many genres IN his films than each film a different genre.

          • Brian Lussier

            To a certain extent. But still, the overall feeling of all his films since Kill Bill has been that of a spaghetti western. And even Reservoir Dogs had a great deal of that.

    • Klaus Dannick

      I was flummoxed by Tarantino’s inclusion as well. I feel that one could remove the settings and costumes from his films, and the specific genres would then be indistinguishable. I can’t really say that about Kubrick or Spielberg. Tarantino is similar to Woody Allen in this sense (Allen’s exclusion from this list rather surprised me, though) as both Woody Allen and Tarantino have made films in a variety of genres (to be honest, Woody Allen made films in far more diverse genres than has Tarantino), but they’re almost like cover-versions of the genuine article. For instance, Woody Allen’s “Shadows and Fog” is not genuine expressionism but rather Allen making another of his signature films in the manner of an expressionist film. “Inglourious Basterds”, magnificent as it is, is less a war movie than an elaborate WWII cosplay.

    • Choudhury Sayak

      I support Scorsese inclusion..admittedly one can say gangsters are one of his favorite subjects but he has made other kind of movies like Kundun, Hugo, The Last temptation of Christ, The Age of innocence..

    • loa

      I’m a huge tarantino fan. Indeed he is my favourite director however I came here to comment excactly what you’ve said. If you include tarantino in this list you can include everyone.

  • Malu

    Dude, where’s David Fincher?!

    • RockyJohan

      Of somwhere making another thriller…

  • RockyJohan

    Kubrick actually made 3 war movies.
    His first film Fear and Desire was a war movie

    • Brian Lussier

      I don’t consider Paths Of Glory a war film. To me, it’s more a military courtroom drama, similar in some ways to A Few Good Men, though it does have a major war scene.

  • Bryton Cherrier

    I’m going to be nitpicking here but…
    Black Hawk Down takes place during the Somali Civil War, not the Gulf War.

  • accidie

    Alan Parker explicitly set out to make a movie in every genre, and pretty much succeeded. Most of them were good.

  • Ruben

    some others that maybe considerd are Norman Jewison, Steven Soderbergh, Robert Zemeckis , Martin Scorsesse, Sydney Pollack and off course Billy Wilder

  • Youssef Ksentini

    Lars Von Trier , Richard Linklater

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Black Hawk Down was not about the Gulf war.

  • Orgo

    Harmony Korine

  • Richard Haywood

    danny boyle

  • Bwohahaha

    I don’t see how Tarantino fit into this list. Coppola has got a better chance in this list than Tarantino has.

    Crime/Drama- The Godfather Series
    Drama/War- Apocalypse Now
    Drama- Rumble Fish, The outsiders, Youth Without Youth
    Horror- Dracula, Twixt(2011)
    Mystery/Thriller- The Conversation(1974), The Rainmaker
    Romance- One From the Heart(1981)
    Drama/Music- The Cotton Club
    Biography- Tucker: The Man and his Dream
    Comedies- American Graffiti

    Though he wasn’t successful in some genres, most of the movies got positive reviews.
    Robert Zemeckis and Danny Boyle are the other two left out directors

  • Billy Wilder?

  • Klaus Dannick

    I’d have thought Woody Allen would be obvious.

  • Jeremy Jeffers

    Richard Linklater

  • Walter Rojas

    Where’s Coppola????

  • Vincent Morrissette

    DAVID LYNCH?!? How can one forget Lynch…

  • Debraj Bhattacharya

    Thank you but your list is restricted to Europe and America. Please see Satyajit Ray.

  • Matthew Sutton

    Ozu, Ford, Lean, Godard, Oshima, Bergman, and Hitchcock didn’t make the cut? Really?

  • warrenzoell

    Nobody beats Kubrick.

  • ray gudel

    David fincher.