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10 Living Directors Who Have Never Made a Bad Movie

21 February 2017 | Features, People Lists | by Dustin Hull

6. Christopher Nolan


Love him or hate him, Christopher Nolan has accomplished a lot over the past two decades. He’s built up his loyal Nolanite fan base by delivering in the science fiction, superhero, and crime genres. And nine films in, he’s yet to have a failure.

After the black-and-white Following garnered him attention, he made his first feature-length film, Memento. This is still considered his best film by a healthy number of critics, though The Dark Knight is easily his most popular work.

In terms of pure direction and editing, Memento takes the cake. In fact, Nolan is often criticized for some of the more technical aspects of his other films. But when it comes down to the story, and building magnificence and gravitas simultaneously within it, there’s no one better.

He won’t ever be Stanley Kubrick, but it’s hard to say Nolan’s not ambitious. Interstellar had all types of little issues, and even some bigger ones. But it’s hard to deny its overarching story, the beautifully encapsulating settings, and the reach it was trying to have.

The Prestige, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises are more examples of flawed movies. But they all seem to be drowned out by interesting narratives and the ideas attached to them.


7. Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson & Bill Murray

The other Anderson (no relation) on the list is Wes, an even more divisive director, but one equally as fascinating.
His whimsically artistic ways involve giving us one weird moment after another in a film and making it seem completely normal. And for some reason equally as strange, it works. Just not for everyone.

Though he has almost as many people who believe he’s overrated as he is masterful, Anderson brings a certain preciseness and flair to his sets that feel like a breath of fresh air. It’s hard to argue with at least the aesthetics of films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeering Limited are probably two of his more divided performances behind the camera. But for those already hooked on the director’s work, they will still supply the masterful mix of humor and melancholia.

Anderson’s movies aren’t acquired taste. They’re whether fascinating or pointless and frustrating from the start, and that opinion will be a hard one to change. Though he’s occasionally discredited for using an overload of style in the place of substance, movies like Budapest, Rushmore, and even The Royal Tenenbaums, balance out just fine.


8. Alejandro Inarritu

No matter how overrated the general moviegoer finds The Revenant to be, winning back-to-back best director Oscars is impressive. Inarritu became only the third director to accomplish the feat (Joseph Mankiewicz and John Ford were the others), and the first in 65 years.

Birdman was one of the most polished and powerful movies of this decade, a tale so naturally told. Much of that thanks goes to Michael Keaton and the rest of the cast, but Inarritu was incredibly active with his camera work. And he created one of the most invigorating screenplays to match it.

The Revenant mixed beauty and brutality as Inarritu tested the will of himself and his talent. There were enough visuals looking up at trees and sky to fill a National Geographic documentary, but it was one captivating view after another.

Inarritu’s start came with the violent splendor of Amores Perros, and ultimately moved onto the influential 21 Grams and heady Babel. Biutiful may be the only work by the director not worthy of much recognition, as Javier Bardem elevates the material tenfold.

What he’ll do next is a mystery, but Inarritu is in the center of a group that will rule the Hollywood awards ceremonies for the coming years. He’ll have much competition from Denis Villeneuve, Damien Chazelle, and several other directors coming into their prime. But Inarritu already has the hardware to prove his worth, and he’s brought the goods time after time.


9. Hayao Miyazaki


The king of anime and considered the Japanese Walt Disney, Miyazaki is an Oscar-winner with barely any projects we can consider mediocre, much less poor.

Even to those not all that aware to the anime genre, such titles as Ponyo, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke probably ring a bell. That’s because they’re not only considered anime classics, but classic foreign films in general.

Spirited Away could easily be considered the best work in Japanese animation, such a masterpiece that it became the only Asian film to win best animated feature at the Oscars. Still, many think the rich and imaginative Princess Mononoke is the better movie. And Ponyo is not only a delightful children’s story, but one with constructive themes and a voice cast that includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and Liam Neeson.

Miyazaki has never had a project that hasn’t established great worldbuilding and characters that defy convention. And if you’re more into judging someone on numbers, Miyazaki’s lowest directing score on Rotten Tomatoes is 87% (Howl’s Moving Castle and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). And that’s with eleven directorial efforts to his credit.


10. Quentin Tarantino

He’s known for his stylistic decisions, ultra-violent scenes, engaging dialogue, and his usage of pop culture. It all blends together to give a rare type of experience.

There’s a bit of an asterisk beside Tarantino. He’s had eight of his own feature-length films, all of which are at least debatably enjoyable. The only places where the logic of such success may falter is if you include his first true film, My Best Friend’s Birthday.

While it shows small flashes of what was to start five years later with Reservoir Dogs, much of the film has been lost. It’s not feature-length anyway, so we’re throwing it out of consideration.

Tarantino took the 90’s by storm, starting with Reservoir Dogs. The film didn’t test his abilities behind the lens as much as the movies to follow, but it was handled in a way that made Tarantino seem like a seasoned veteran.

And along with that came one of many incredible scripts. He won best original screenplay in Pulp Fiction, a film many complain should’ve won best picture that year. In only his second film, Tarantino already had a classic that every film class professor will be using for a century to come.

Since then, Tarantino has come close to matching Fiction’s critical success, from his Kill Bill films, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. And even when he’s not on the top of his game, like in his duo with Robert Rodriguez in the Death Proof segments or with Jackie Brown, he still has a style that envelops his viewers.

And some may even tell you Jackie Brown is one of his better films, rather than a step down from them. That speaks to incredible consistency.



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  • Matt

    how about Mike Leigh, Michael Haneke, Lynne Ramsey, Bong Joon Hoo,…?
    very inconsistent list

    • Šunamovac Makro

      cache by haneke is utter rubbish imo

      • I don’t like it either, but it is almost universally beloved (at least in the genre/geek crowd)

    • Mortimer

      Todd Haynes also (but I understand if someone think that Velvet Goldmine is a dud).

    • jamako

      Bong Joon-Ho, absolutely!

      Lynne Ramsay, I’d say, is a possible future contender alongside Jeff Nichols, Rian Johnson, JC Chandor, Damien Chazelle, Alex Garland and Jennifer Kent. I think they all show great promise but don’t have enough titles to their name yet.

  • Bình Thường

    compare to the departed, goodfellas, raging bull. Shutter island can be counted as a failure for some people. Just saying

    • Dustin Hull

      That’s why I tried to mention it may seem like a failure compared to his other works. But it’s still a successful movie in many ways. Just because it’s not Scorsese’s par, doesn’t necessarily make it all that bad. I get where you’re coming from though. Thanks for reading.

  • Ana

    Fincher’s alien movie was IMHO a worthy addition to the quadrology. Its rough edges work, evoking a sense of unease and it remains the most disturbing of the lot for me (and overall much better than Weedon’s contribution).

    • Suresh Wirasinha

      I agree, the opening credits sequence has to be one
      of the most suspenseful scenes in the entire series.

    • Orso Bruno

      I loved Alien 3, way better than the 4th or Prometheus…

    • jamako

      Alien 3 is mediocre, but no bad. So, yeah. Fincher could’ve or even should’ve been on here. It gets a lot of undeserved hate, because it’s a mediocre film in a franchise that up until then has produced two amazing films and because in retrospect people expect better things from a name like Fincher.
      Also I gotta hold up a flag for Alien 4, I quite enjoyed its campyness. It’s as fine a guilty pleasure as their ever was.

  • Sebastian Baraybar

    Hitchcock, Jarmusch, Kurosawa? Btw i agree with the list

    • Andres Abad

      “living” directors

      • Gentle_Giant

        Jarmusch is pretty much living.

        • Šunamovac Makro

          pretty much living pretty 😀

        • Vincenzo Politi

          Hitchcock and Kurosawa are kind of very dead though.

        • Andres Abad

          Even though i think i just saw Kurosawa on the supermarket today….

      • Sebastian Baraybar

        Ok, only Jim Jarmusch

  • colonelkurtz

    If we remember never making a bad film does not mean only making good films, then I suppose this list works.

  • Dave

    Charles Laughton

    • Adrian


  • Andres Abad

    Tarantisno´s Hatefull 8 was his black sheep to my opinion. You can cut that film to 1 hour and that would have been enough to make it a good movie. But… he had to go with the “3 hour great movie” gimmick… and even when i love all the dialogues Tarantino writes for all his films… i must say H8 was total a boredom and redundant.

  • I kind of disagree with David Lynch even though I love the man. His take on Dune was mediocre though it wasn’t his fault. I would make the case for Terrence Malick in my opinion as I pretty much love everything he’s made so far though I still haven’t seen Voyage of Time. It’s just that’s he’s creating films that play by a different set of rules as To the Wonder and Knight of Cups are definitely challenging films in terms of lack of conventional narrative but manages to create something that does feel very personal and gives you perspective into bits of his own life.

    Other filmmakers who should be in this list are Sofia Coppola, Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsay, Julie Taymor, and Nicole Holofcener as these are women who have made some very interesting films and continue to do things their way.

    • Nelsonoca Galvis

      Sofia Coppola? the Bling Ring is very bad

      • I didn’t think so. I thought it was awesome. How can you not love that sequence where the kids robbed Audrina Patridge’s home?

        • Nelsonoca Galvis

          yes is well directed, but is trama use up very quickly for a movie that just have 90 minutes, the reallity some times is very boring

    • Orso Bruno

      you’re right!!! Malick as well!!!

  • Andres Abad

    i know charlie Kauffman has only 3 movies as a director and that he is mostly known as a masterful writer for films like Eternal Sunshine and Beign JM, but each of those 3 movies he had directed (and written) are masterpieces. He is so freaking meticulous and perfectionist on his work on these movies.. i simply and utterly love his work.

    • Xanian

      Thank you. Charlie Kaufman is my favorite living film personality.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Céline Sciamma has directed only 3 movies too, by they are all great movies!

  • Adrian

    I think just about all Tarantino movies he’s made since Jackie Brown are pretty bad, with some good scenes here and there in a few movies made after. But hey, that’s just like my opinion man.

    • chrosTV

      I’m just glad that there are still people who don’t consider their opinion to be a fact 🙂

      • Adrian

        Trust me, I’m one of them. 🙂

  • Abhishek

    Denis is one of the best directors today. Insomnia by Nolan was not as good as the Original but yeah wasn’t bad either.

  • Maciek

    Tarantino?? HA HAHA HA! Best joke I have heard this week.

    • chrosTV

      Different strokes for different folks. I’d even go as far to say, that I not only think that he hasn’t made a single bad movie to date, but that each of the movies he’s made up until now has at least been good. But that’s just my opinion, man.

      • Gus

        Well, from the 10 films Tarantino has directed so far only 3 were really bad (Hateful 8, Death proof and Four rooms) which is quite remarkable! Let´s be serious! if any of these three films were made by an unknown director they would not have achieved theatrical distribution, they would have gone straight to VOD.

        • chrosTV

          Personally, I think that The Hateful Eight was great and one of Tarantino’s best to date. But that’s just my opinion.

          • Gus

            Don’t be so hard on you! You will probably see much more movies from different countries in the following years and maybe in twenty years time you will laugh about your words!

          • chrosTV

            Is it really that hard to accept the opinion of another person without making a statement as condescending as this one?

          • Gus

            If by opinion you meant:”a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.” I don´t see why anybody here should not be able to accept any other opinion… Most of us accept and respect other people’s opinions, even if we don’t share them. Was I condescending to you for wishing twenty more years of wonderful cinema as an spectator where You will have plenty of time to change your mind about some things and remain or reinforce your ideas about some others…! I don’t think so…

  • Alex Huet

    You re missing a few park chan wook movies!

  • Hannibal

    This may be the most inaccurate and silly list I’ve seen in here. It seems that it would be better to call it “ten directors I like – by Justin Hull”. Nothing interesting is said, and a very vague definition of what “bad movies” implies.

  • Murali Subramonian

    better to replace Nolan with Richard Linklater….Nolan is mere hype…..

    • Vincenzo Politi

      I <3 Richard Linklater!

    • Dustin Hull

      I’m a big Linklater fan as well, Murali. But the Bad News Bears remake burned his chances of being on the list. Just my opinion though.

      • Murali Subramonian

        of-course there are many other average movies from him like fast food nation, Bernie and so on…. but for that matter even the greats like Martin Scorsese and David Lynch have movies like boxcar bertha and dune to their credit….but on a percentage wise analysis it seems to me (completely a personal opinion) that Nolan by no means deserves to be in this list….he may have directed block busters….but never many great movies….for that matter peter Jackson too is a name that ‘ miss; though ‘ not at all a fan of his movies….

      • Mortimer

        Are you a fan of Todd Haynes filmography ? Just asking.

  • Dejan Aleksić

    Giuseppe Tornatore. Sinply genius. Additionally, he always writes his screenplays. One of the best, and in the same time, most underappreciated living directors.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Giuseppe Tornatore? Really? For me, he is always been kind of ‘meh’. I am from Sicily and I am always astonished by the following Tornatore has abroad. His depictions of Italy in general and Sicily in particular are full of awful stereotypes, everything looks like an unrealistic postcard in his movies and he always uses cheap tricks to move the audience (nostalgia, lost loves, melancholic mothers, wonderful countryside, and so on). The Legend of 1900 is soooo kitsch! However, I do like A Pure Formality, because it looks different from the rest of his production. I also love Maléna, because it has many funny parts and the evil gossipy Sicilian women are indeed very realistic.

    • Orso Bruno

      I can’t stand him…
      though regarding the Italians I would say Sorrentino could quite fit in this list.

  • Whoever came up with this list must have some good hallucinogens, especially to put Tarantino on the list. And much as I love Lynch, even he will tell you he’s made a stinker or two.

  • Nick Botton

    This list was a terrible idea. I love many of these directors but I’ll always be willing to admit when their production isn’t up to par.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Alejandro Jodorowsky, Pedro Almodóvar, Alfonso Cuarón, Micheal Bay…

    • Šunamovac Makro

      Michael Bay? You are joking, right?

      • Jacob Lyon Goddard

        Yes, that last one was a joke.
        I thought it was an obvious joke.

    • Dustin Hull

      Cuaron only didn’t make the list because of Great Expectations. But many people still enjoy that film. He was definitely considered though.

  • Nelsonoca Galvis

    Tarantino? Death Proof is garbage, a very long garbage, and Jackie Brown have a ridiculous cult than nobody knows of to defent because at the end is just a mediocre movie.

  • Raul F. Manfredini

    Darren Aranofsky? Stanley Kubrick? Fabian Bielinsky?

    • Vincenzo Politi

      It’s the list of the LIVING directors. Kubrick and Bielinsky died a while ago…

  • Xanian

    Tarantino and Nolan are definitely not part of this conversation. Everything Tarantino has done since Death Proof has been sub par. Nolan is a populist, pretentious hack.

  • Pingback: 10 Living Directors Who Have Never Made a Bad M...()

  • Pablo Martínez Dutra

    LMAO, this list. Wtf did I just read.

  • skainstein

    I would add Arren Aronofsky

    • Tragos Drica

      Forgot the “D” by Darren? 😉

      • skainstein

        😛 Yes

    • Dustin Hull

      This is one of a few directors I thought had only one bad film. I originally had him on the list, but I was just a little too turned off by Noah to include him. Love much of his work though.

  • Kartikey Sehgal

    There will always be a group, at different parts of the globe, who will say so for Woody Allen or any other director you don’t like.

  • Zwei

    insterstellar? the master? birdman? stocker? hugo? the departed?

  • Tragos Drica

    What about terry Gilliam? But ok, it’s hard to choose ten between about twenty.
    J.L. Goodard was really funny with Miachel Bay. He really should be on a top ten list … with the worst directors.

    • Nelsonoca Galvis

      the last one of Terry Gilliam is “meh”

  • oyunbozan

    wait… ridley scott?

    • Dustin Hull

      You can’t convince me Exodus was a good film. Ridley is one of my favorites, but he’s had his fair share of duds too.

    • Half of Ridley Scott’s movies are terrible.

  • Otto T. Goat

    Tarentino has never made a good movie.

    • Thomassamoth

      lol ! that was a joke ,right?

      • Otto T. Goat

        Actually that’s what I think. I find his movies not only empty, but there is something repulsive about them. I’m not really interested in debating Tarentino’s merits on the internet.

  • Tarkovsky.

  • Wyatt W.B

    I’ve never disliked work from the Coens.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    I didn’t find Scorcese ‘s The Departed as anything special. Same goes for Tarantino’s Jackie Brown

  • Orso Bruno

    how The Prestige, Inception could be even considered “flawed movies”???

  • Orso Bruno

    Instead of Ignarritu, 21 Grams, Babel(movies easy to be pleased) and Biutiful(not so much beautiful), I really would have insert Linklater…
    And Fincher??? I would consider him over Villeneuve.

  • Inspector71

    Tarantino? What is it with him? He loves the 70s, we get it. Even his movies set in historical periods seem like they were made in the 70s. His movies are good but not nearly all great.

  • Jim Bo

    Jeff Nichols, perfect example.

  • Relf

    Terrence Malick?

  • Gus

    Paul Thomas Anderson directed “Inherent Vice”
    Martin Scorsese directed “Gangs of New York”, “The Aviator”, “New York, New York”, “Cape Fear”
    David Lynch directed “Inland Empire”
    Christopher Nolan directed “Insomnia”
    Park Chan Wook directed “Stoker”
    Alejandro Iñarritu directed “Birdman”
    Quentin Tarantino directed “Death Proof” and “The hateful eight”

    All these directors are great and the films mentioned are a lot of things, but good is not one of them.

    Anyway, nice effort. 3/10 is not that bad!

    • Alan

      these movies might not be amazing, but they’re not bad either. Birdman, Insomnia, Hateful 8, Aviator… bad movies? Really?

      • Gus

        Absolutely! they are really bad. Of course some of these films are better than some Michael Bay or Adam Sandler films but what i meant is that those mentioned films are specially bad in the context of their respective film careers. If Goodfellas is a 10/10 then Gangs of new york could not be more than a 3/10. And the same goes for the rest: Inland Empire is a 4/10 compared to the 10/10 of Mullholand Dr.;Inherent vice is a 2.5/10 compared to the 10/10 of Magnolia;Stoker is a 3/10 compared to the 10/10 of The Handmaiden.;Insomnia is a 3.5/10 compared to the 9/10 of Memento; Birdman is a 3/10 compared to the 9.5/10 of Amores perros and The hateful eight is a 2.8/10 compared to the 9.5/10 of Pulp Fiction. Of course all these films are almost all of them technically good enough, but artistically you have to consider if they are at the top of their game or not….

        • Alan

          Your rating system doesn’t make sense. Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

          • Gus

            My rating system does not make sense to YOU?Ok. I certainly can live with that! But as long as you don’t want to share any reasoning about why, you would forgive me if I refrain myself from taking your observation into account!

    • chrosTV

      Many people – me included – think that Birdman is a masterpiece and Iñarritus best work to date. I thought that The Hateful Eight and Inherent Vice were great as well. But there’s an old saw many people often seem to forget when commenting on this page and that’s ‘Different strokes for different folks’.

      • Gus

        Coming out from the film theatre I thought exactly just like you about Birdman and Inherent Vice….That feeling last only half an hour until I realized that I needed to watch them again. after some more viewings, it was quite evident that Gonzalez and Anderson were ages away of their respective comfort zones. Gonzalez achieved partly the mix between drama and humor in Biutiful (specially drama) but in Birdman he was facing really serious dilemmas: a) to develop the main character or to develop the supporting characters instead, b) to respect the continuity of time and space or to respect an image CGI-free, c) going for a plot driven film or going for a character driven film; d) make audience love the main character or make audiences hate the main character…. The only great achievement of Gonzalez is that his audience almost stand the whole show ( mainly by the art of the DOP and the actors) without realising that they are just being mesmerised by a lazy soulless magic trick. Gonzalez by avoiding the a,b,c & d dilemmas and negating all those options he is making a great disservice to his talent and his actors talent and a greater disrepect to his audience.

    • Guido Von M

      All of them are good movies. Some of them masterpieces. I totally disagree with you.

      • Gus

        Don´t worry, nobody is perfect! Just keep watching movies the more different the better, and in some years time maybe we will agree more than you ever expect!

        • Guido Von M

          I do not understand your ironic tone. I did not offend you. I just said my opinion and i did not say we have to agree.

          • Gus

            Not irony implied! I seriously thought that you were an educated spectator willing to share, read and write about cinema with an open mind and willing to do so in the following years. If that is not the case accept my apologies!

  • dune was so bad that lynch himself took his name off it

  • Roberto Guzmán

    Are you kidding me? Where is Kubrick?

    • Terek Brajan

      Dead in the grave?…….This is the list of living directors…..

  • Jules F. Melo Borges

    You got to be… Geesh.

  • Generic Actor

    Sam Mendes should at least be here. Aside from that, great list.

  • shane scott-travis

    Andrea Arnold, Kelly Reichardt, Claire Denis, Maren Ade, and Sofia Coppola have never made a bad film either. But then again they’re all women and lists like this largely ignore the many brilliant female auteurs out there who have to work ten times harder than their male peers. Bullshit!!!

    • Gus

      Have you seen The Bling ring?

  • chrosTV

    There’s an old saw many people often seem to forget when commenting on this page and that’s ‘Different strokes for different folks’.

  • chrosTV

    Personally, I would have included Edgar Wright as well

  • OpticDisc

    It’s a pretty current list, some of the classic directors aren’t listed

  • brucedoull

    Ben Affleck? Steve McQueen?

    As for the Tarantino love. Nearly all of his films have great moments, which are let down by appallingly self-indulgent moments.
    And his acting is comfortably the worst part of any film in which he indulges himself!

  • Yolanda Anne Brown

    Thanks for the Jackie Brown props.

  • Hommy Cabrera

    Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Noah Baumbach (Greenberg, The squid and the whale, Frances ha, The Meyerowitz Stories) and I know Some people don’t like him for some of his recent work as an actor, but Ben Affleck as a director is simply amazing. Only four movies, but oh boy! Those four movies… (Gone baby gone, The Town, Argo and Live by night)

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Death Proof is, as a fan of Tarantino and of his inspirations, and someone who understands what he tries to do with his inspirations, awful.

  • jamako

    Edgar Wright anyone?

  • Joaquín Correa

    Mike Mills has three excellent movies

  • I like Christopher Nolan, but TDKR is not a good film.

  • Twicker

    Peter Weir?