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10 Directors Who Will Own The Next 10 Years

24 May 2017 | Features, People Lists | by Dustin Hull

Kevin Bacon once said, “A good director creates an environment, which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.” As for the performers associated with the directors on this list, there’s no doubt several sets of wings were grown.

These creators have depicted the struggles of young artists in Hollywood, a cursed oil man in the early 20th century, and a boy with super-heroic abilities. They’ve challenged the conventions of genre and character construction, while immersing us in environments many rarely witness.

This list revolves around directors with various backgrounds and levels of experience. They’ve positioned themselves to join an elite class of directors, yet they all stand apart because of their vastly different styles and subjects. Some of them have delivered Oscar speeches, and others are just breaking onto the scene, but they’re all equipped to grab hold of a generation.

This is simply about ten directors at the front-end of their careers, who are ready to take the next step toward greatness, becoming the Scorsese, Kubrick, Lynch, or Hitchcock of their time. Or at least getting in the ballpark.

Before we start, here’s some others who could’ve just as easily made the list: Ava DuVernay, Cary Fukunaga, Fede Alvarez, Jordan Peele, Jonathan Glazer, and David F. Sandberg.

 

10. Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright

Not only does this director somehow match his eye-catching style with substance, but he’s able to find substance within the style itself.

Edgar Wright seems to be on the tip of every executive’s tongue these days, yet he has yet to make his first major blockbuster. He was in the middle of directing Ant-Man, but when Marvel executives continually opposed his vision, he was driven away from the project. Beside the fact it would’ve been a resume-builder unlike any other, Wright was in no worse shape after his departure.

He instead came back with Baby Driver, which was the talk of the SXSW Festival this spring. Across the board, critics have pointed out the unrivaled coolness, the quality of pace, and the fact Wright has still yet to have a sub-par project on the big screen.

The Cornetto trilogy was beloved in Wright’s native Britain, even if it didn’t find a mass appeal in the States. Even Shaun of the Dead, one of the better horror comedies ever, barely made over $30 million. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World turned him into a geek favorite, but that film also wasn’t very bankable. Perhaps Baby Driver will finally be the one that combines critical reception with much-deserved cashflow.

For as stylish as Wright is in his films, they never possess an aesthetic overload. For as young as he was when he started the Cornetto trilogy, he never seemed hesitant or naïve behind the lens. Instead, he delivered sharp satire amid films full of rewatchable entertainment.

Who knows when or if Wright will try to helm another tentpole franchise. But with his track record and Baby Driver on the way to theaters June 28th (Shadows coming in 2019), we’ll be just as happy if he never does.

 

9. Alex Garland

Alex Garland

A successful screenwriter since the early part of the century, Alex Garland decided to make a small sci-fi film in 2014. It may’ve just been the best work the genre had seen since Moon or District 9 five years before it.

After penning such critical successes as Sunshine, Dredd, and 28 Days Later, it was only natural for Garland to create Ex Machina. Dredd had the perfect amount and type of humor to fit the gruff title character, along with biting satire. Meanwhile, the 2002 zombie-filled 28 Days Later brought subtle political themes to the table. And Sunshine, another Danny Boyle direction starring Cillian Murphy, even managed to get cerebral despite its thrilling adventure action.

Garland has been weaving deeper themes and sharp dialogue throughout the last 15 years, but Ex Machina gives them more time to simmer before any action takes place. The buildup is tremendous and uncertainties bountiful. The film has a bit of a Denis Villeneuve design to it, and likewise often evokes David Fincher.

Annihilation is Garland’s newest, and hopefully the director can explore deeper into a book that was mysterious, atmospheric, and at times, completely bonkers. It follows an expedition led by four women to a place on Earth called Area X, where many fellow explorers have gone but never returned. It sounds like a great fit, as Garland should be able to apply his tension-building and world-building skills to the film.

Expect an early 2018 opening, but it could hit limited release near the end of the year for prime award season hype. It very well could also end up being this year’s Arrival.

 

8. Barry Jenkins

Barry Jenkins

Whether the majority of people agree Moonlight should’ve won best picture or not, Barry Jenkins is a force when it comes to developing and dissecting his characters.

It’ll be difficult to follow up a story so near and dear to him, especially after he spent so much time (no directing or writing credits between 2012-2015) perfecting it. But he doesn’t need four or five movies over the next decade to make a maximum impact. Medicine for Melancholy, his only other feature-length directorial, was a socially enriched slice of life fully aware of its surroundings.

Moonlight was even more conscious, as the director painted his protagonist’s colorful Miami setting as a “beautiful nightmare.” There’s proof all through the movie that Jenkins drew influence from his own background for the film, but walked the fine line of “inspired by” and a biography.

His follow-up to Moonlight will be a TV series, The Underground Railroad. It’s based on a novel by Colson Whitehead, but still revolves around the history of the secret routes and safehouses that protected escaped slaves in 19th century America. Jenkins is also hard at work on his next movie with production company Annapurna. Founded in 2011, they’ve yet to produce or co-produce a poor flick since their inception.

Expect Jenkins to continue making smaller, intimate films focused on current social issues. And if he does, he very well could find himself back on the Oscar stage by 2019.

 

7. Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols & Michael Shannon

We’re probably a little late to Jeff Nichols’ coming-out-party, but better late than never. The director quietly had one of the best 2016’s anyone in this industry could ask for. Unfortunately, it was a little too quiet.

Midnight Special showed the expansion of his capabilities as a director, bringing out the best in an already lauded cast and displaying ample amounts of creativity. Trying to hide a child with special abilities isn’t unfamiliar territory, but Nichols brought a more grounded approach with this film that worked exponentially. It may draw homage to many films in the past, but it did them all justice.

Nichols also brought Loving to the big screen, teaming with Joel Edgerton and Michael Shannon once more, along with newly Oscar-nominated Ruth Negga. Loving managed to not bathe in oversentimentality and explored the fragility of the times with incredible grace. It certainly rivals Mud as Nichols’ best. Unfortunately, neither movie had much financial success, as Loving got lost behind many Oscar favorites and Midnight Special was considered a bomb despite solid reviews.

But Nichols is building a strong reputation for intimate storytelling and being an actor’s dream director. He has a great rapport with Shannon and Edgerton, two late-blooming stars who seem to be in everything these days. Those are great talents to be associated with, but some of their success has to be credited to the director as well.

Nichols will now return to science fiction with Alien: Nation, a surprising remake of a neo-noir buddy-cop film that didn’t land with audiences in the late-80’s. But the premise involves the unlikely combo of a racist (toward aliens) cop and one that is an alien. It sounds both timely and entertaining, if done right.

 

6. Damien Chazelle

Whether you thought La La Land was a breath of fresh air or the unworthy glorification of Hollywood, you must admit Damien Chazelle has talent.

In ways, he resurrected a dying breed: original musicals. Sure, he pays homage to a number of classics in the genre, but he didn’t entirely put them all into a blender and serve up whatever result came out. Call it pretentious, but there’s no doubting it’s beautiful, with two stars who establish great chemistry. Their arcs don’t travel too far, but their struggles in Hollywood come with a sincere payoff in the end.

Chazelle taps into an incredible vibrancy with his movies and gets the best out of the talent. He portrays the artistic dreamer with depth and great consideration, and that’s why he could develop a character like Andrew Nieman.

Andrew is the focus of Chazelle’s better film, Whiplash. Once again traveling into the realm of music, Chazelle created a determined drummer (Miles Teller) who is impossible to not root for. The film is nearly as fast as the drum sticks in the final scene, but it focuses on exactly what it should be: music, and the protagonist’s obsession with it. Aside from that, J.K. Simmons’ role was written to perfection, and he only elevates that as our favorite captivating enemy.

So the question is, can Chazelle expand into new topics? Well, he did write a draft of 10 Cloverfield Lane, much of which still ended up in the movie despite him moving on to do Whiplash. And he’ll be out with a Neill Armstrong biopic, First Man, come October 12th, 2018. It seems like a large step for his career, but it may only seem like a small one for a talent like Chazelle.

 

 

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  • Zwei

    Barry Jenkins……..eww

    • AmazingAmy

      um why…His direction really good tho

      • Zwei

        not really…..nothing in Moonlight is especially attractive or new. Moreover, his script, abundant in times of death, devoid of depth and with some rather flat characters, results in sociological topics relating to the African American minority in the United States.The film was more a laudable attempt than a quality work. More of the same…

        • AmazingAmy

          Screen Junkie joked in Honest Trailer Oscar that Moonlight is Oscar-Bait movie LOL

          • Zwei

            Guys, GUYS! Ugh, I’m sorry. NO. There….There’s been a huge mistake…… Moonlight…. you are this week’s honest trailer!

  • No women directors? BOO!!!!!

    • Magus

      Which ones would you add to the list?

      • Ava DuVernay, Andrea Arnold, Gina-Prince Blythewood, and Anna Biller. I would count Sofia Coppola and Lynne Ramsay but they’re sort of established.

        • Vincenzo Politi

          CÉLINE SCIAMMA!!!!!!! 🙂 <3

  • TatiDemyFass

    There are a few things here that are just odd:

    “[Lanthimos is] a shade or two away from Charlie Kaufman and David Cronenberg and seems to be a long-lost relative of David Lynch.”

    Aside from Kaufman (which is spot on), those comparisons are shoddy, if not flat-out vacuous. He’s more like the no calories version of Buñuel than anything related to Lynch; and closer to folks like von Trier, Sion Sono, or Carax than anything of Cronenberg’s. (Of course, Lanthimos is only close to Carax when it comes to balancing the scales with their work.) If you had to pick a director with Cronenberg-like aesthetics to make that comparison, then Greenaway or Jodorowsky are exponentially better candidates. Lanthimos’ work better compares to Sofia Coppola’s than Lynch or Cronenberg.

    I can be tolerant of the Lynch comparison just being poor and leaving it at that, but the Cronenberg one is clearly a miss. Cronenberg is virtually De Palma’s step-brother in vision and formula, and Lanthimos is miles apart from De Palma on the color spectrum — leagues away from “a shade or two” close.

    Saying Barry Jenkins is going to “own the next decade” and basing that off essentially one film is a bit silly. You’re absolutely right in saying “he doesn’t need four or five movies over the next decade to make an impact” — but he does need more than two films released 8 years apart, with the first flying way under the radars of consumers (even most of the consumers who consider themselves film buffs.)

    The same could be said about your honorable mention Jonathan Glazer, who has one more than Jenkins but with even larger gaps and less notoriety. (He hasn’t even had his Moonlight-moment yet). Is Jordan Peele being an honorable mention even worth commenting on?

    Looking at all the picks in this list and the giants of pop-culture your introduction posits as the potential endgame, there is a blatant disconnect here.

    It’s inconsistent, if not misleading to reference 4 of the most recognizable and often cited names in both commercial and critical corners of film culture as prime examples of “owning” their fields — why not throw Spielberg in to complete Mount Rushmore and make it a cool five? — but then include directors with only one big firework so far (Chazelle, Jenkins, McQueen, Peele; coincidentally all but one cover the very similar topics); or arthouse and more niche directors that have yet to enter the cultural zeitgeist to help support the claim (Lanthimos, Garland, Glazer, Nichols, Joon-Ho).

    When you use the word “own” then open the article by name dropping Lynch, Kubrick, Scorsese, and Hitchcock, that rhetoric describes a specific model the following choices need to fit: a director who has already proven themselves with a nice chunk of work that has tapped into the commercial and critical minds on a near-grand scale and shows no sign of slowing down. How can a lot of these directors apply when they don’t have the portfolios to adequately support the claim, nor can they have perceivable upward momentum when they have barely started jogging?

    In fact, the only 3 directors in the article that do apply to the proposed rhetoric are Anderson, Villeneuve, and Wright.

    You can’t mix directors who are either in their prime or occupy nascent position then claim all of them will “own” their field in the next decade. Either make two separate lists for these different classes or rewrite the article to replace the budding names with more culturally relevant ones — not just relevant in the past year or two.

  • pranshu gwalherkar

    if you added pta than you must have to add nolan because i think he is great film maker even though he is not in the competition with pta stuff but still he has better potential of making great films than berry jenkins and couple of other guys in the list. if you can include pta who is well established
    but just because you think he will continue to make great film you can also include kar wai, park chan wook , wes anderson, tarantino, farhadi.

    • TatiDemyFass

      Yes — Nolan, Wes Anderson, and Chan-Wook are all much better fits for this article’s proposal.

      I leave out Tarantino because he’s already engraved into the pop-culture canon of filmmaking like the 4 names cited in the article’s introduction.

  • Exit Exit Quit

    Who should own the next 10 years: Shane Carruth, Apichatpong Weerasethakul & Ben Wheatley

  • Mortimer

    Why was the long comment by TatiDemyFass deleted ?

    • TatiDemyFass

      I just saw the deletion. My notifications said both my comments on the article in general and the one concerning Wolf of Wall Street were marked as spam. Probably due to their length and paragraph breaks, which can apparently trigger Disqus’ auto-detection for spam. I unmarked the comments as spam and I guess they will appear again shortly (or not).

      • Mortimer

        I read your WoWS comment on time and I agree with what you said.

  • jann1k

    Decent list. However one missing name stands out in particular for me:
    Alejandro González Iñárritu, he arguably already has become a somewhat Kubrick or Scorsese like persona over the last few years (the same can btw also be said for PTA).

    Others I’d mention are:
    1. JC Chandor – Consistently great stuff!
    2. James Gunn – The only true standout of the whole Marvel Universe. GotG is for the current generation what Star Wars was for kids in the 80s. Depending on part 3 it can stand apart as its own Trilogy. If he finishes as strong as he startet, he’ll be able to do whatever he wants.
    3. Rian Johnson – Consistently interesting with his original material (Brick, Looper), great contributions to Breaking Bad (Ozymandias, Fly) and now the chance to really lift off his career with Star Wars Ep. 8.
    4. Cary Fukunaga – True Detective Season 1, Beasts of No Nation. Nuff said.
    5. Jennifer Kent – The Babadook was brilliant and if her sophomore attempt The Nightingale is anywhere near as strong she’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

  • AmazingAmy

    Bigelow,Maren Ade, Sofia Coppola, Lot of women director should be list.
    I generally agree with this list but there lot Hollywood and Non-Hollywood directors deserve to be this list like Nolan, Chan Wook, Koreeda, Armipur, Dolan, Larrain, Aronofsky, Bayona, Anderson

  • John Yu

    what about the guy that made revenant