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10 Directors Who Will Own The Next 10 Years

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

5. Bong Joon-Ho

Park Chan-wook in many ways is still the fan favorite when it comes to South Korean directors. But Bong Joon-Ho, a younger director with a spotless resume spanning over this century, has gradually approached the throne.

And he’s done so with comedies, crime films, satirical horror, and dystopian sci-fi. He can do a jackknife of genres, and now he’s going in the action-adventure route with Okja. It debuted at Cannes at the beginning of the week and received positive feedback for its levels of energy and heart. Be on the lookout for its release on June 28th in the States.

American audiences were introduced to Joon-Ho through the cult-hit Snowpiercer. It still only made a little over $4M of its $82M take in the U.S., but its unique mixture of wacky sci-fi elements and unrelenting movement caught on later with DVD releases. And it seems the director is six-for-six after following up Snowpiercer with a film much lighter but with—according to critics—nearly equal impact.

Joon-Ho isn’t waiting long to get back behind the camera. He has another film, Parasite, set to be released next year, and by the title, it sounds like he’ll be shifting genre focus once again. He’s certainly one of the best at it.


4. Yorgos Lanthimos

The reviews are rolling in from Cannes, and Yorgos Lanthimos has another crowd-pleaser in The Killing of the Sacred Deer.

Lanthimos is earning admiration as the next great surrealist filmmaker, and the movie itself is being considered perfectly unsettling. This is his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated The Lobster, the dark comedy that explores society’s tension placed on individuals to find soulmates.

For as abstract as some themes are around the madcap plot of The Lobster, Lanthimos never loses control of a forward-moving narrative. He manages to more than get his points across too in this depressing world, but doesn’t become the least bit sentimental toward his characters in doing so.

The director has grown a lot over this young century, and while Dogtooth is in many ways his best picture, The Lobster was what projected him to a larger audience. That’s partly in thanks to the vastly underrated Colin Farrell, who also stars in Sacred Deer. With a November release, look for Lanthimos’ newest to make a firm Oscars push.

He’s a shade or two away from Charlie Kaufman and David Cronenberg and seems to be a long-lost relative of David Lynch. He’s unlike anyone else on this list in the weirdest and best of ways. That won’t suite all moviegoers, but it doesn’t have to. In this day-and-age, he’s the change of pace and vision that cinema needs with Lynch (hopefully not for good) out of the game.


3. Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen & Michael Fassbender

He spent years toying with short films, but when Steve McQueen finally made Hunger, it’s an understatement to say it came out of nowhere.

His experience writing was even less defined, yet the engaging dialogue he helped put together for the film is a large reason why it succeeded. And his opener is absolutely fearless in every bit of brutality and struggle. Very rarely does a director open a career with a depiction this ambitious, but McQueen never shies from the harsh ways of the past.

That much was also exhibited in 12 Years a Slave, a film worth the watch even if it isn’t something easily digested. With an amazing cast to support his vision, McQueen’s raw and straightforward approach worked wonders. Though there were a wide array of films to choose for best picture that year, not just period dramas and biopics, this was a year where a film in those categories deserved the award.

We’ll have to wait a little longer than we desire for his next film, though with his uncut and ruthless style, the wait is more than worth it. He’ll be dipping into the crime genre next with Widows, a story of spouses who take the responsibilities of a robbery after their significant others are killed.

The director is working alongside Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn for the screenplay. With the legend Robert Duvall, disparate powerhouses Colin Ferrell and Viola Davis, and rising stars Daniel Kluuya and Elizabeth Debicki, expect this November 2018 release to catch the eyes of academy voters.


2. Denis Villeneuve

There are plenty of directors these days who deliver one solid indie film and automatically thrust themselves into big-budget franchises. We saw it with Gareth Edwards, Colin Trevorrow, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Josh Trank, and so on. And they obviously found mixed results.

But Denis Villeneuve’s trajectory has bided its time over the last two decades. From his first appearance at Cannes in 1998 (August 32nd On Earth) to his Oscar-nominated Arrival, Villeneuve has never made an insincere or pretentious work. And after slowly building up to bigger and bigger productions, he’s finally set to take his career to the next phase.

Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve’s latest, is the most expensive R-rated movie in history, with a $200M budget. There’s certainly some reason to worry that the follow-up to the 1982 classic Blade Runner will pander to general moviegoers with that kind of budget. But if there’s anyone who can please the devoted fans of the original and quell the uncertainties of Fox executives, it’s Villeneuve.

Though it could easily be a box office bomb, 2049 could also be the launchpad Villeneuve needs to officially become the king of sci-fi blockbusters. James Cameron’s next film is still far off and Christopher Nolan has moved on to another genre (for now), so why not? And after 2049, Villeneuve will be taking on Dune, another sci-fi cornerstone.

It’s an ambitious goal wanting to wrestle both projects. But he’s made his mark in the genre already, and mixing his attention to detail with such multifaceted works could earn him praise few in his generation will ever obtain.


1. Paul Thomas Anderson

Putting P.T. on this list is a little bit of a cheat, considering you’d be out of your mind to not consider him one of the best over the last 10 years. But there’s no reason to say history won’t repeat itself.

A little over two decades ago, Anderson made Hard Eight, where its force of character keeps you invested no matter how much the story slows down. Boogie Nights was next, and it would become a cinematic catapult for the director’s career.

Anderson has gone to all corners of the map in terms of setting. He’s done a movie revolving around the porn industry, one about a Navy veteran in a cult, and another taking place on the California frontier over a century ago. And he’s a chameleon, no matter where he decides to go.

And among such varied backgrounds are sincere, if always conflicted, protagonists to latch onto. Even in Inherent Vice, a movie that can become a tad incoherent to some, there’s a sprinkling of smart humor and the charming Joaquin Phoenix to deliver it. Actors like Phoenix, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Julianne Moore—the last two Oscar winners—have done or will be doing multiple projects with him. Though top-of-the-line talent does help out, actors flock to directors just as much as the other way around.

And since Anderson’s next film, Phantom Thread, involves another pairing with Day-Lewis, don’t be expecting a step back from P.T. anytime soon.



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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.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      James Gunn is like some nicer version of Brett Ratner. Still, a hack.

  • 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

  • Marios Thrasyvoulou

    I would add: Darren Aronofsky, Shane Carruth and Park Chan Wook

  • Logan

    How interesting that Dustin Hull predicts the continued lack of acknowledgement of good female directors into the future. Almost 2018.

  • shane scott-travis

    Not a single woman is listed? Weak.

  • David

    only men, mostly white… boring

  • Miroslav Maric

    Great list! Pt anderson owned last 10+ years already! I would add Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Copola .. Some ladies deserve more respect!

  • Jesus Lazo Quevedo

    Where is Xavier Dolan?

  • Capital F

    No women? This is not right. Not right at all.

  • Jules F. Melo Borges

    Some good people there, but an overall bleak future…

  • Abhishek

    Where is Dolan?