5. Park Chan-wook
Aside from being known for his impeccable visual style, violence, and vicious subject matter, Park Chan-wook is an excellent storyteller with a niche for unexpected humor. His films are the right mixture of style and substance with philosophical musings.
There are so many multilayered aspects to a Park Chan-wook film that make each viewing of the same film a different experience. He’s a master manipulator who plays with the audience’s emotions, leading them down a rabbit hole of perverse and fever pitch fantasies.
Yet aside from all the sex, lust, violence, rage and revenge, there’s a simplistic beauty to all of his work which makes it all the more tender. And the Shakespearean and Dostoevsky influences take it to another level.
While “Oldboy” introduced him to international audiences and has since become the entry point to his body of work, films like “The Handmaiden,” “Thirst,” “J.S.A: Joint Security Area,” “I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK,” and the rest of the “Vengeance Trilogy” prove that Park is one of a kind.
4. Hayao Miyazaki
Multitalented Japanese artist Hayao Miyazaki has been enchanting children and adults alike for years with his masterful animated features. He boasts an impressive and consistent filmography and an imagination that knows no limits.
Quite possibly the greatest animation director the world has/will ever see, Miyazaki set the template that Pixar works on: animated films that engross both children and their parents while pushing the boundaries of what exactly animation can do.
It’s the amazing hand-drawn animation with breathtaking colors, and the strong female leads with themes of humanity and nature that make Miyazaki’s films so special. Above all else, it’s his master class storytelling that has layers of depth, heart and soul.
His films are modern fairy tales that are linked to the magic and wonder of old. His characters breathe and act like real people you would know, and his backdrops are as beautiful as any real location you’re likely to see. But above all else, it’s the sense of adventure in his films that never fail to entertain.
“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away” stand as not only animation classics, but film classics in general. And now that he’s come out of retirement, we have more magic to look forward to.
3. Quentin Tarantino
Whether you view him as an innovative genius or cinema’s biggest thief, you can’t deny the sheer talent Quentin Tarantino has in being able to soak up so many different influences from the countless films he’s seen, and then spurting them out at ideal moments in his own films.
Some of his films have influences and homages that range in the hundreds. Naturally, people will see something that’s just a pure coincidence, but that’s the gift and curse of Tarantino – people see something that can be just a coincidence.
All those years spent working at a video rental store (R.I.P.) and being exposed to a plethora of different films carved out a unique voice that will stand the test of time. You know you’re getting a full course meal when you sit down to watch a Tarantino film, including starters, main course, dessert and snacks in between.
It’s the conversational dialogue that’s as random as it seems, the badass characters who seem inherently aware that they’re in a movie, the ultra-violent bloodbaths, the obscure found music from his own personal library, and the pop culture references galore that all combine for a unique viewing experience.
Tarantino’s films seem to come in trilogies (which again is pure coincidence): the highly influential gangster crime films “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Jackie Brown”; the exploitation, B-grade, female-led “Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2” and “Death Proof”; the epic, race-related with a historical backdrop “Inglorious Basterds,” “Django Unchained” and “The Hateful Eight.”
No one makes movies for the sake of making movies quite like Tarantino.
2. John Carpenter
There is a number of reasons why John Carpenter films are so good, but the scores he composes himself are probably the biggest reason. As soon you hear those electronic notes coming in, leading you into whatever John Carpenter film you happen to be watching, you can’t help but be drawn in.
His trademark scores are so unique in cinema that you barely hear anything that sounds like them and when you do, all you hear is plagiarism. Cool scores aside, it always feels as if Carpenter doesn’t take any of his films too seriously (even the serious ones). Which he obviously does, but there’s a certain relaxed feel to even his tensest of scenes.
Operating at the height of his talents, you get far-out concepts like “Big Trouble in Little China”; iconic characters like Snake Plissken in “Escape from New York”; insane one-liners like, “I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum,” from “They Live”; the classic horror scenes that earned him his Master of Horror reputation from “Halloween”; and the signature score that breathes with that Carpenter atmosphere through all his films.
Like Steven Spielberg, Carpenter has influenced a whole generation of filmmakers. Hands down, he’s made some of the coolest films this side of the galaxy.
1. Steven Spielberg
There’s a reason Steven Spielberg is the highest grossing director in history. Those early, classic blockbuster films are synonymous with childhood and shaped many filmmakers working today, starting them firmly on their filmmaking journeys.
Besides breaking and setting box office records, Spielberg’s films captured a generation’s imagination and spoke to the kid in all of us, as clichéd as it is true. For better or worse, the cinematic landscape today would not be what it is if Spielberg had never stepped behind the camera.
“Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jurassic Park” and the Indiana Jones movies set the standard for what blockbuster movies really are – total escapism. Not just making movies for kids or adults, but for the whole family. As he ventured into more serious works which he perfected with “Schindler’s List,” Spielberg still managed to instill his epic blockbuster storytelling into more serious and personal stories.
While many criticize the sentimental aspects of his films that border on manipulation, Spielberg has always felt like an author making movies. Like Roald Dahl behind a camera, where there’s a lesson to be learned at the end of every adventure and the characters are better for it.
Sure, he doesn’t have to beat us over the head with it. But nothing can take away from the countless years of entertainment he’s provided over the years.
Author Bio: Allan Khumalo is a lover of all things cinema. That is all.