There’s a common misconception that the most entertaining movies are the ones with multimillion-dollar action sequences or heightened comedic situations. Of course, cinephiles will find even the most depressing or obscure movies entertaining. After all, that’s what movies are all about.
Yet certain directors have the natural ability to be constantly entertaining no matter what story they decide to take on. They can just as easily get you excited shooting an action-filled chase sequence as they can showing two characters exchanging dialogue over a cup of coffee.
Whenever you sit down to watch a movie by the following directors, you’re guaranteed a good time, even if the overall story isn’t exactly sunflowers and sunny skies.
10. Edgar Wright
It’s surprising that Edgar Wright hasn’t helmed a $100 million plus blockbuster extravaganza. He came close with Marvels “Ant-Man,” which quickly turned sour when he wasn’t willing to conform to their checklist.
A real shame considering Wright’s “Ant-Man” would’ve been an interesting and unique endeavor to see for Marvel. Compared to their now all too similar formula, Wright could’ve brought something fresh to the franchise. But Marvel does follow its own particular checklist for a reason.
Wright definitely has the sensibilities to make such films, but like the greatest auteurs of today, he’s unwilling to compromise any part of his style for anyone. Which is a joy, because he makes some of the most entertaining films which are even more special because he follows his own rules and unique stories.
Arriving on the scene with his genre-hopping co-writing with Simon Pegg the “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” (or “The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy,” depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re from), Wright firmly established himself as one of the most entertaining directors in eons. Bursting with British charm and American pop culture influences, the trilogy is simply a blast from beginning to end.
From the romantic, zombie horror of “Shaun of the Dead,” the police action mystery of “Hot Fuzz,” and the sci-fi, apocalyptic “The World’s End,” Pegg and Wright created a trilogy that’s just as hilarious as it is smart, with scripts that are so well constructed and set up that you wish all mainstream movies were this well made.
His solo adventures with the ultra-zany, geek wet dream that is “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” and this year’s ode to music and car action movies with “Baby Driver,” further cemented his status.
Wright’s films appeal to the kid in all of us who grew up watching too much television and were practically raised by the movies and TV shows we discovered in our younger years. Yet his films never reach juvenile levels or flat-out ripping off without adding something new that other directors who have the same influences seem to churn out.
It’s because his films have soul and heart and a certain respect and love for his influences, characters and stories. From his trademark kinetic editing that pulsates with energy even when a character is simply making a cup of coffee and toast, to his endless homages and pulp culture references, Wright occupies a unique position in film today and it’s all the better for it.
9. The Coen brothers
It’s a well-known fact that Joel and Ethan Coen’s filmography have two sides which can be categorized or separated: the serious and the comedic.
In between, you’ll get everything else with light touches from many other genres and influences, from surreal plots, bleak worldviews, philosophical ramblings, zany characters that are more-well spoken than they are intelligent, and of course, lots of botched kidnappings! You know a Coen brothers film when you see it.
There’s a reverse dynamic to all their films that makes it all work. The comedic ones have serious touches that make them all the more hilarious, and the serious ones have comedic touches that makes them all the more dramatic.
Think of the iconic, everything but the kitchen sink chase sequence in “Raising Arizona” that sees Nicolas Cage being chased by the police and a number of dogs through the whole neighborhood. It’s beyond over the top. It’s beyond hilarious. It’s quite simply one of the greatest chase sequences ever dreamt up.
If you compare that to Josh Brolin in “No Country for Old Men” being chased by a vicious pitbull, you get something completely different. And tense! Which just shows you the vast number of easy ways the Coen brothers can entertain.
While you know what to expect from a Coen brothers film, you never know how to expect it. They deconstruct every genre in which they work and pack so much into their films that every subsequent viewing could mean something entirely different.
And that dialogue alone is worth any price of admission. It’s hard to summarize a career that’s produced so many memorable characters, dialogue and scenes. There’s a little something for everyone in a career that spans three decades and 17 feature films to date.
8. Christopher Nolan
Even with his independent breakthrough film “Memento” all those years ago, you could tell that Christopher Nolan was a master showman interested in making bold, intelligent and entertaining films. No matter how bigger, darker or serious his films became since then, you were always guaranteed a spectacle.
The Dark Knight Trilogy took the comic book and superhero genre and instilled a certain realism that didn’t skimp on the action and entertainment. Batman has always been the more realistic of superheroes and Nolan took full advantage of it while instilling an old-school action motif. Superhero movies are supposed to be fun, but not when they’re this serious.
And that’s always been Nolan’s secret weapon – making fun films that are serious and intelligent. It’s not something that everyone can pull off (looking at you, Zack Snyder), but with Nolan, you find the perfect contrast between the three. The big action set pieces which are just as exciting as the quieter moments, which feel just as big.
All Nolan films feel as though the fate of the world is hanging in the balance, even when it’s not.
“Insomnia” and “The Prestige” have a blockbuster atmosphere compared to their contained narratives and character-driven moments. While many people keep hoping that he’ll return to the smaller films he made before he became a box office god, Nolan has stated that he’ll keep making big films as long as he can, and frankly, we couldn’t agree more.
7. Bong Joon-ho
Although South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho has only made six films to date, he’s already established himself as a unique cinematic voice. It takes great talent to take serious subject matters and blend them with black humor alongside social and/or political commentary. A trademark Bong has perfected to amazing heights.
Bong’s first achieved worldwide status with his second directorial feature “Memories of a Murder,” a black comedy based on true events about South Korea’s first documented serial killer. The film would become a box office hit and introduced his expert juggling of tonal shift, which never derails a single moment with any of his films.
What also makes Bong such an excitingly entertaining director is his insane versatility from film to film. “The Host” is as thrilling as monster movies get; “Mother” is a strong character drama with excellent performances; “Snowpiercer” is an exciting science fiction yarn that Hollywood would never make; and “Okja” is a charming adventure that tugs on the heartstrings.
So far, his filmography is shaping up to be legendary and no matter where he takes you, you’re guaranteed a good time and a whole host of emotions to accompany it.
6. Guillermo del Toro
If you’re one of those social media savvy people, the one filmmaker to follow on Twitter is undoubtedly Guillermo del Toro. His awesome tweets show his inherent passion for all things cinema in fun and enlightening ways.
That same passion runs through all of his films. Mixing gothic and religion, fantasy and reality, horror and drama, monsters and humans, CGI and practical effects, del Toro’s films are filled with wonderful dynamics and a plethora of influences and stylings.
He doesn’t just make horror or just make fantasies (which makes a few of his films misunderstood), he makes films where horror or fantasies are just a surface layer to the greater story he’s aiming to tell. Not all horror has to be scary and not fantasy has to be epic.
His breathtaking visuals could hang on art gallery walls. Occupying a unique position in cinema today, del Toro’s work is always a breath of fresh air whenever it’s released because you know no one else making the types of films he makes.
Whether it’s his smaller and lesser-known classics like “Cronos” and “The Devil’s Backbone,” or his blockbuster, comic book yarns like “Hellboy” and “Blade II,” or his more art-house masterpiece’s like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Shape of Water,” by the looks of it, del Toro does indeed make some of the most entertaining films today.