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10 Good Directors Who Haven’t Made A Good Movie in Ages

12 July 2017 | Features, People Lists | by Allan Khumalo

Hearts of Darkness A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

It’s a given that even good directors will make at least one bad film throughout their career. Quentin Tarantino famously stated that he’ll like to retire after his 10th film because he’d like to maintain some consistency in his filmography, and he has a point – there are some directors who’ve never made a bad film (depending who you ask), like Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson.

It’s true that once you get older or have been in the industry for a long time it’s hard to remain consistent due to various factors. Maybe it’s a lack of interest, difficulty choosing the right projects, being out of touch, failing to live up to certain expectations, becoming repetitive or simply reaching your peak.

M. Night Shyamalan is currently experiencing a career resurgence, proving that it’s never too late to turn things around. The same could be said of Tim Burton if you enjoyed “Frankenweenie” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”, which depends on how much of his style you can still enjoy.

Whatever the reason, the following directors have failed to live up to their former glory and are currently stuck in a slump. Naturally, it’s all a matter of opinion, but comparing their current output to their salad days you can’t help but feel a little disappointed.


1. Cameron Crowe

The one thing Cameron Crowe has done is live an interesting life. As a writer for Rolling Stone magazine at a young age, the magazine would send him to interview rock bands that were difficult or wanted nothing to do with the magazine. It’s those experiences that inspired his coming-of-age dramedy, “Almost Famous”, about a teenage rock journalist on tour with a fictional rock band who expose him to sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, of course.

Before that, he made a few sleeper hits before reaching his career height with the rom-com/drama, “Jerry Maguire”, about a sports agent who decides to strike out on his own, starring Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger and Cuba “show me the money!” Gooding Jr. The film became a huge hit in 1996, netting Gooding Jr. an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and turning Crowe into a sought-after director.

So where did it all go wrong? His last hit was the underrated Spanish remake “Vanilla Sky” about lucid dreams that divided critics and audiences, which ironically is his most accomplished in the directing chair. After that, his films struggled to gain an audience with the lackluster “Elizabethtown”, “We Bought a Zoo” and the career-killing “Aloha”.

Throughout out all these failures, you sense a lack of passion, a tendency to play it safe, some unlikable characters, and an abundance of clichés. Even if you didn’t like “Jerry Maguire” you have to admit that it at least had heart and purpose.

Like a lot of directors today, Crowe turned his attention to television with the music dramedy “Roadies” that suffered from the same issues, and sadly hasn’t been renewed for a second season.


2. Dario Argento


The influential Giallo director is known for sublime cult classics like “Deep Red”, “Suspiria” and “Tenebrae”, to name a few. He’s arguably one of the best thriller/horror directors with a repertoire of stylish, graphic, violent, strange and creative films that linger in your mind long after the credits roll.

Even his best films have issues like plot holes, bad acting, bad dubbing and some attention-grabbing camera work, but there’s always something to enjoy in a Dario Argento film. There’s a charm and style that’s uniquely his own and the music is always hypnotizing when Goblin’s involved.

So where did it go wrong? After a legendary run in the 70s and 80s, things started getting really bad by the 90s, especially with “Phantom of the Opera”, where the masterful and deliberate filmmaker started making lazy and amateurish films. By the 2000s, you could barely differentiate the quality compared to the usual onslaught of horror films coming out each year.

Watching his output in the 00s is an extremely painful exercise with “Pelts”, “The Card Player”, and career-worst “Dracula 3D” (heck, you know any film with the word “3D” in its title is bad). It would be great to chalk it all up to Argento being way past his prime, but to be honest, the execution on most of these terrible films feels like he could care less.

Being in the industry for so long and getting older no doubt has a hand in it. However, it’s much easier watching a bad film when you can see there’s some sort of passion in each frame than one devoid of any.


3. Francis Ford Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola is undoubtedly one of the most influential filmmakers to ever grace us with his talents, with classics such as “The Godfather”, “Apocalypse Now”, and “The Conversation”, to name a few. Perhaps it’s unfair to put Coppola on this list since he’s semi-retired, stating that he’d rather experiment and make films for his own enjoyment than work in the modern studio system.

So where did it all go wrong? “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” aside, the 90s were notoriously unkind to his output starting with the much maligned “The Godfather: Part III”, and taking things further with the question mark, the Robin Williams comedy “Jack” that had many people scratching their heads. “The Rainmaker” fared better and was seen as a return to form that any filmmaker would be proud of.

From 2007 onward, Coppola started experimenting more with the amazingly beautiful and equally frustrating “Youth Without Youth”, and the widely unseen “Tetro”, an interesting film that saw the auteur return to the family dynamics he’s known for, only to be undone by whatever 2012’s “Twixt” was.

Sadly, it’s the all too familiar tale of an aging artist struggling to remain relevant or consistent in the ever-changing world, but with over 40 years in the industry and a string of classics, what more can we ask for from Mr. Coppola?


4. John Singleton

At the age of 24, John Singleton made history becoming the first African-American and the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director. An amazing feat considering that it was for his directorial debut, “Boyz n the Hood”.

Fever pitch seemed to die out for the director who was once seen as the new Spike Lee in his misunderstood follow up “Poetic Justice” in 1993, which has enjoyed a sort of cult status after its release. A mixed bag of films followed with “Higher Learning”, “Rosewood” and “Baby Boy”, which weren’t bad but failed to live up to his first two films.

So where did it all go wrong? He gravitated to studio films in the 2000s with the uneven “Shaft” in 2000 and the as awful-as-its-title “2 Fast, 2 Furious” before the ultimate low with “Abduction”, which is more known for failing to make ‘Twilight’ heartthrob Taylor Lautner into an action star. And somewhere in-between is “Four Brothers” that highlights the problem with Singleton’s latter career – a mix of interesting characters and ideas that never come together as a satisfying whole.

He probably would’ve returned to the fold this year if he directed the Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me”, but ended walking out twice due to “creative differences.” Being friends and having worked with the late legendary rapper, he might’ve made a much better film than the terribleness that was released instead.

Currently focusing on television after criticizing Hollywood for not letting black directors make black-themed films and making them do films they want to see them in, it’ll be interesting to see if he returns to movie-making, especially with the possible Tupac film he still plans to do.


5. Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone probably doesn’t get the ‘full’ credit he deserves, even after delivering classics like “Platoon”, “Wall Street”, “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Natural Born Killers”. Even after penning the classic “Scarface” remake and “Conan the Barbarian”, his name just isn’t mentioned as much as it should be.

He used to deliver thought-provoking films that were entrenched in American history and identity, and the once-controversial director was one of the most exciting filmmakers in his heyday, even if his political films do sometimes feel like they’re beating you over the head with their messages.

So where did it all go wrong? Besides his hit/miss aforementioned political films and documentaries, his later films lack the focus and control that made his earlier output classics. They seem to be the work of a director so out of touch with modern trends but somehow still trying to play catch-up and strive for relevancy.

The Sean Penn-led “U Turn” didn’t do any favors to anyone involved and “Alexander” was a failure of epic proportions. “World Trade Center” had the obstacle of portraying the world’s most recent tragedy, to which it almost comes close, and the sequel to the two decades late “Wall Street” was as unnecessary as they come. “Savages” killed any hope it ever had with one of the most ill-advised movie endings of all time.

And then there’s his most recent Joseph Gordon-Levitt led “Snowden” that tried to hearken back to his popular themes and subjects, but failed to become anything more than an “okay” film due to Stone’s indifferent direction.



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  • Terrence Malick doesn’t belong in the list regardless of what people think of his recent work. I haven’t seen Song to Song yet but I have enjoyed both To the Wonders and Knight of Cups as I think of them as abstract experimental films that are all about a sense of time based on Malick’s own life. It should be noted that his next film is actually more script-driven so he should be stricken off the list.

    I haven’t seen anything by Neil Blomklamp but he’s more of a newcomer so I don’t think he should be in there nor Richard Kelly only because he’s made a few films.

    Everyone else… probably. Especially Cameron Crowe who is someone that really has become too comfortable with his own bullshit. If anyone here saw Aloha. That’s a film that is an example of what happens when a filmmaker becomes extremely comfortable with his own bullshit of having idealistic characters, hokey situations, and needing to have music to carry your story.

    Malick may have a style of his own that isn’t for everyone but at least he’s trying to do something new and doesn’t care if he’s going to fail with it. At least he’s not using a safety net unlike Crowe.

  • Gabriel Bisaccio

    Malick doesn’t belong here.Shame on you

  • bd

    Yikes at putting Malick here. Polarizing is not the same as “not good”, quite the opposite actually.

  • Ivica Đorđević

    Mallick is a bad director, pseudo-intellectual

    • Mortimer

      Nah…I enjoyed Song to Song way more than La La Land.

  • Agree with nearly all of this list. I could recommend a few additions, but don’t need to pile on the “hate.”
    I will say this, if a director (or artist of any kind, really) had 10+ years of good to great output then you can’t really sh*t on whatever they do after.
    There’s only so much quality that a creative can produce. So, Coppola gets a pass man.

  • AmazingAmy

    Whut, Gus Van Sant, Luc Besson, Atom Egoyan should be this list

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Especially Luc Besson!!!!

      • AmazingAmy

        I cant believe he chose to cast model with horrendous acting skill than established young actress (though i glad they didn’t consider how awful film outcome )

  • Mortimer

    Hey…I would rather watch last three Terrence Malick films 30 times more than some Hollywood box office smash garbage. Remove Malick from this list.

  • Zwei

    Cameron Crowe never has been a good director

  • Ted Wolf

    actually, perhaps add David Fincher and Christopher Nolan. And perhaps it’s a question of someone hitting a peak?

  • Gunn

    Kevin Smith has directed three more films since “Cop Out”, including the remarkable “Red State”…

  • Otto T. Goat

    Stone has done a lot of cocaine. Kevin Smith is garbage. Richard Kelly caught lightning in a bottle. Tim Burton is trapped in his self-created world of twee.

  • Pial2010

    Shit on this article to see Malick. maybe u couldn’t reach his output or artistic delve doesn’t mean hi didn’t made worthy film. context of cinema he experimented his narrative with Knight of cups or Song to song. that certainly unconventional filmmaking but not banal