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The 10 Most Exciting Directors Working in Hollywood Today

17 January 2017 | Features, People Lists | by Ryan Jamison

5. Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater

It’s becoming apparent that there are a lot of writer/directors on this list. Richard Linklater has the most plain and relaxed visual style of anyone here, but it’s how that style complements his stories which sets him apart and defines his status as an American auteur.

Not unlike Woody Allen, Linklater’s subtle directorial approach which is consistent throughout his work provides an aura of familiarity that becomes a comfort with each film he makes. His observational slice-of-life stories are naturally conceived and relatable to all walks of life, and no one else utilizes time as a prominently recurring story element quite like Linklater does.

The Before trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset & Midnight) is arguably the best trilogy in the history of cinema. Its treatment of passing years presented in real time gives the characters and themes maximum longevity, and the progression of their simple story becomes more profound as the characters age.

Each one represents a different stage in their relationship, told through extended scenes of dialogue often delivered in long continuous takes. Each film greatly benefits one another as they all become snapshots of one poignant romance filled with memories.

This brilliant use of time was carried through to his most successful and ground-breaking film to date: Boyhood. Linklater once again focuses on the mundane aspects of a typical life, only to feel epic by its end after creating a lifetime of moments about which we can reminisce and relate to our own experiences. The concept is key to the final product but the execution itself is just as important, and no one would have given it the soft directorial touch Linklater brings.

Coming soon is Last Flag Flying, a “spiritual sequel” to The Last Detail written and directed by Linklater and starring Bryan Cranston and Steve Carell. It can be expected to serve as a solid entry onto the filmmaker’s resume before he hopefully comes back with another piece as sprawling in narrative scope as his other masterworks. Until then, he can always be trusted to quietly entertain with depictions of his philosophical ideas and appreciation for the little things in life.


4. Denis Villeneuve

If we were to rank these directors according to their ratio of quality to quantity in the 2010s, Denis Villeneuve would run away with the top spot. The Canadian-born visionary has been consistently churning out uniformly strong pieces of work, offering experiences that are aesthetically dazzling, cerebrally thought-provoking and intensely gripping. When it comes to crafting a mood that wholly immerses the viewer, there’s practically no one else around as dependently successful as this man.

In just the 2010s, Villeneuve has made five remarkable films. After the shocking and devastating Incendies, he made his first impression on U.S. audiences with what may still be his best-directed film, Prisoners. Taking on a pretty familiar concept, he gave the proceedings a broodingly atmospheric quality to match the desperations of the protagonist to escape the torment of his own uncertainty.

With help from his frequent collaborators Roger Deakins and Jóhann Jóhannsson – the cream of the crop in their respective fields – Villeneuve used his visual expertise along with his ability to draw tension through performances and editing to mold greatness out of a somewhat generic plot.

He dug deeper into the depths of the mind with his brilliant psychological thriller Enemy, then demonstrated his mastery of mood once again with his crime thriller Sicario. Most recently, he proved that he is capable of evoking more than just thrills with the sci-fi drama Arrival, in which there is still plenty of suspense to be found but its most crucial source of audience investment comes from its emotional weight combined with a real thinker of a story. Even when its screenplay muddles the line between smart and far-fetched, Villeneuve’s handle on the tone makes the film beautifully compelling to watch.

Up next from Villeneuve is another take on a world of science fiction, with the long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049 starring Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling (hey, it’s that name again).

Viewers tend to be rather skeptical going into sequels to classics, but we have more evidence than we need to know that Villeneuve will nail the universe and atmosphere of the beloved Ridley Scott film. In only a few years of showcasing his talents, he has already entered himself into the discussion of the great directors of our time.


3. Joel & Ethan Coen


Whether it be a screwball comedy or a dark drama, every single Joel & Ethan Coen film can be dissected for the sheer brilliance of its construction. With one of the most unabashedly original voices in screenwriting and direction, it is mind-boggling how their films come from two separate beings because it truly seems that they share one (amazing) brain.

They even edit all of their films as a two-man team under the alias Roderick Jaynes. It is clear that they have a thorough understanding of all aspects of the medium, and have shown on numerous occasions that they are a force to be reckoned with.

The Coen brothers’ films are very dense, in multiple senses of the word. Sometimes their work has a note of silliness at the surface which could be perceived by detractors as mere stupidity. Sometimes they leave viewers on a note of perplexity by the meaning of their stories.

In all cases, each of their films is without a doubt intricately conceived and thematically complex – often deceptively so, with their genius only coming to the forefront on subsequent viewings. When looking at a shot composed by the Coens, one can always be sure that they are looking at it for a specific reason.

Among their many great works are the cult classic The Big Lebowski, an outrageous spin on a neo-noir tale with endlessly quotable characters; the unforgettable dark comedy Fargo, a masterpiece of subtle humor mixed with violence and crime; and recently the music-driven Inside Llewyn Davis, another hilarious yet depressing character piece confronting the self-inflicted challenges of being an artist. This theme was addressed earlier on to great effect in Barton Fink, showing a common thread in their ideas. Even in their dramas, that signature Coens humor is never lost, and even in their comedies, they provoke further analysis into the subtext of their broader stories.

They took home several Academy Awards including one for Best Picture when they made the instant classic modern western crime drama No Country for Old Men, a monumental achievement that embodies everything in which they so excel. It combines their best strengths as writers and directors to be frankly one of the greatest films of all time. It also displays some of the most staggering visuals of their go-to cinematographer – the same as the previously mentioned Villeneuve’s – Roger Deakins.

In addition to some upcoming screenplay credits, the brothers just recently announced a Western miniseries project titled The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, which they plan to write and direct for television and possibly a theatrical release as well. Hopefully they don’t take long to return to traditional big screen films, though surely whatever they do will be something special.


2. Paul Thomas Anderson

Paul Thomas Anderson

Here’s a director whose films all at once feel both epic and intimate; both viscerally raw and cinematic as hell. Using the influences of such legends as Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and a touch of Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson has fueled his work with an excitement in style while narrowly focusing on characters above all else, ultimately creating an instantly recognizable flair of his own. His choices with the camera not only impress from a level of technicality in every scene, but they also without exception serve to bring the emotion of the story to life through movement, composition and performance capture.

A close-up of an actor’s face commonly tells a viewer in a sometimes cheap way that the moment bears a particular significance to the character. When P.T. Anderson does a close-up, he holds until that significance is born straight from the nuances of the performance, letting the face control the frame in movements that feel totally spontaneous and unplanned.

He also adds emphasis to scenes with perfectly timed dolly push-ins, ranging from unnoticeably slow to rapidly quick depending on the tempo of the sequence. His balance of super long takes and fast-paced edits gives each of his films a sensational feeling of life, inducing hungry anticipation of what every following frame will bring.

Bookended by two solid efforts are five masterworks by PTA. First was Boogie Nights, an ensemble drama full of high-octane energy following the rise-and-fall structure of films like Goodfellas. This multi-protagonist energetic style carried through to his three-hour epic Magnolia, a massively ambitious and personal film containing so many ideas and unconventional decisions that somehow come together to create one of the most memorable film experiences one can have.

Next was Punch-Drunk Love, a gloriously refreshing Adam Sandler rom-com to end all Adam Sandler rom-coms, introducing an entirely new perspective on the actor with more inventive directorial touches that could only come from the mighty hand of PTA. Oscars finally took more notice of his genius behind the camera with There Will Be Blood, a quieted-down piece with results just as explosively awesome, and boasting a performance for the ages by Daniel Day-Lewis as a flawed and complicated anti-hero giving viewers a plethora of things to study.

Prior to his most recent bizarre detective comedy Inherent Vice, he directed Joaquin Phoenix alongside his unequaled muse Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, an absolutely mesmerizing character study with a pair of the best performances in recent memory. It is hypnotic in its beauty and complexity, showcasing the highest quality of cinema by all involved.

Production soon begins on Anderson’s next outing, a 1950s London-set drama within the world of fashion, which will reunite the writer/director with Daniel Day-Lewis. Very few details are known, but that’s all the information required to make it one of the very most anticipated films of 2017.


1. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino & Christoph Waltz

This may be a controversial choice, as Quentin Tarantino has plenty of detractors claiming he’s a thief of other filmmakers’ styles. Whether his influences be labeled as homage or theft, the way he brings elements together from the works he so idolizes always emits the most satisfying of feelings when watching his films.

He always manages to maintain a consistently original tone along with his signature directorial trademarks which can be detected within the opening seconds of every film he makes. He is a director whose fans will fight to be the first in line to see each of his movies, because they are more than just time-fillers; they are events unto themselves, like the Old Hollywood pictures that had to be seen in a theater or not at all.

It is his unconditional love of cinema itself that oozes through every sound and frame he orchestrates, making him a prime source of new appreciation for the medium to young moviegoers and a revitalization of film adoration to long-time cinephiles.

Tarantino has received more accolades as a writer than as a director, for his iconic characters and immediately identifiable dialogue rhythm stand out as his most individually unique trait. This is perfectly understandable and totally warranted, but it should be said that his talents as a director are equally spectacular. He continually pulls off magic tricks of blending genres and tones that should never work together, but somehow do. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to call his films comedies, yet they rack up serious tension and even tackle heavy subject matter without straying too far into darkness, and it always works like a charm. He can even do over-the-top B-movie genre flicks like Kill Bill and give them an unforced emotional backdrop with well-rounded characters that rise above the self-aware ludicrousness of their universe, and at no point do these wildly different tones clash in any negative way.

He is also amazingly consistent, with not one of his films being less than great. He started off with a bang (lots of them) with Reservoir Dogs before making one of the most influential films of the modern age, Pulp Fiction. Nothing more can be said here that hasn’t been said a thousand times about this wheel-reinventing classic, which helped pave the way for independent cinema to have a new life, spawning a whole lot of eager copycats.

He then made the underappreciated Jackie Brown followed by a seven-year break leading to the aforementioned Kill Bill films, wherein his directorial talents exploded off the screen.

Many would argue that Death Proof was a subpar effort compared to the rest, but even that embraced its grindhouse genre with panache, and contained one of the best car chases ever put on film. His masterpiece of the current century was Inglourious Basterds, a World War II epic doing the best job of utilizing his riveting dialogue to build up to insanely satisfying payoffs of action in short bursts.

Then his buddy-comedy-slash-slavery-drama Django Unchained began his official foray into westerns, bringing us to his most recent chamber piece The Hateful Eight, which showed QT heading back to a smaller scale to focus entirely on atmosphere through character interactions – something in which he has always excelled. Now that’s a damn impressive filmography if there ever was one.

Lately, the writer/director has been doing research on the 1970s, possibly in preparation for an upcoming project. It is always such an exciting process to follow when he is trying to decide what genre and time period to put the Tarantino spin on next, and it is even more fun to see which cast members he revives from older films and which stars he paints in a new light.

His work always revs up so much anticipation that it’s hard not to give him this #1 spot. Many of the directors on the list utilize the combination of sight and sound to provide what could accurately be described as a taste of cinema, and Quentin consistently serves up a full-course meal.

Author Bio: Ryan Jamison is a first-year film student from Vancouver, Canada who loves to watch, discuss and make films. Right now, he works at a movie theater, but in the long term he aspires to become a writer/director on a more public level.



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  • Gilles Beleuze

    a little bit tired of mr. tarantino.

    • Shotgunster

      To me Tarantino is good, just good. But damn people ride his dick a lot.

    • Relf

      The most overrated director in the history of the medium

  • Hamid Razi

    “Most Exciting” ….pretty stupid title tbh
    And no Nolan? “Their contributions are always fresh and exciting even when they don’t reach masterpiece status” … Wasn’t Inception fresh and exciting? or Memento? or Prestige?

    • D Train

      Nolan sucks.

    • Kevin Niduaza

      Dark Knight Rises then Interstellar? It’s getting less and less exciting if you ask me….

      • Hamid Razi

        I agree that those are not on par with his previous works but that doesn’t make him a less “exciting” actor….anyone has ups and downs in his career

        • Kevin Niduaza

          Well, I am hopeful for ‘Dunkirk’ – bring it on!

      • Ryan Austin

        Quay (short): 100%
        The Dark Knight: 94%
        Dunkirk: 93%
        Memento: 92%
        Insomnia: 92%
        The Dark Knight Rises: 87%
        Inception: 86%
        Batman Begins: 84%
        Following: 78%
        The Prestige: 76%
        Intersteller: 71%

        • Kevin Niduaza

          Are these IMDB scores? Rotten Tomatoes? I’ll just say that I don’t really trust the aggregate sites that much…mob mentality is a real thing. Just look at all the movies that were “bad” or “flopped” in the last hundred years and what people consider of them now….Dunkirk was a good movie with some great sequences….93%, I think not.

  • Logan

    Really? 10 white guys? I thought this was 2017. Look around, there may be a little more diverse talent afoot than you are able to see.

    • Ruchit Negotia

      im sure you weren’t only talking about guys, as some woman are good also that are working today. And diversity for the sake of diversity is retarded. innaritu is fucking white???? he’s Mexican…
      however the problem with this list is its to narrowed in American filmmakers( except villineuve and innaritu) and too short. But, these are ‘some’ of the best talents in the biz, whether you think that’s fucking racist or not. are there one or two people on here that shouldn’t be? sure. But dont be a fucking ignorant idiot please. Lastly the fact that he omitted martin Scorsese completely invalidates this list so…

      • Logan

        Yes, exactly. I am simply observing that the ‘best of’ listed here are all guys, mostly white. A reflection of the industry I suppose. Of course, there are fantastic women directing, that’s part of my point, and people of colour. You are right about Inarritu being Mexican. The list speaks for itself, I don’t have to explain further. No need to be crass.

        • Why wouldn’t you take the time to list a few of those you think were slighted by being left off?

      • Kevin Niduaza

        Yea except Innnaritu sucks (except for ‘Love’s a Bitch’ which was awesome)

        • Ruchit Negotia

          yea agreed

  • Diego Rojas Bocanegra

    I’d take Iñárritu off this list, and add Christopher Nolan.

    • I seriously hope you are joking

      • Ryan Austin

        Nolan is one of the most brilliant directors today. What movie has he made that *HASN’T* been a blockbuster/game changing movie???

    • Nodar

      Please NO

  • Brandon Thompson

    This list should’ve been 10 directors who have yet to make a masterpiece but will soon.

    • sailor monsoon

      You’re younger than pulp fiction, aren’t you?

      • Brandon Thompson

        I am.

        • sailor monsoon

          There hasn’t been a movie that left the same impact on cinema since pulp fiction.
          It absolutely is a masterpiece

          • Brandon Thompson

            What I meant was that “exciting filmmakers” should be defined as directors who will take over from Tarantino, the Coens, PTA, and Fincher as the leading figures.

          • sailor monsoon

            Fair enough
            Edgar Wright is sorely missing from this list

          • Kevin Niduaza

            YES….although does he really work in the realm of “Hollywood”?

    • Ga5ton

      So the Coen Brothers, PT Anderson and Fincher haven’t made a masterpiece yet?

      • Brandon Thompson

        They’ve all made masterpieces (even in the same year) but I was talking about the content of the list, not the title.

  • Abraham Morales

    Wes Anderson should be in this list

    • Kevin Niduaza

      ditto get that guy chazelle outta here

  • David

    All male, mostly white, yeah, it sounds like Hollywood. Also, Damien Chazelle is so fucking overrated, it’s almost a joke at this point.

    • sailor monsoon

      Whiplash is one of the best films of the decade.
      Full stop

      • David

        Is not, its a clichéd, toxic and predictable script competently directed with some outstanding scenes. Also the orange-y palette and the grainy images make the cinematography really ugly looking. Not a bad movie per se, but mega overrated.

        • sailor monsoon

          Thoughts on la la land?

          • David

            A huge step up in direction by Chazelle with some amazing set pieces with a decent script that hides its many short-comings because of how talented and charming are its two leads. It’s a cute homage to Demy and classic Hollywood, also widely overrated and with some problematic cultural appropiation/diversity issues, but deserving of much more praise than Whiplash.

          • sailor monsoon

            I guess we’re polar opposites in taste.

      • Horacio Machado Flores

        Awful movie.

      • Kevin Niduaza

        dude, whiplash is cool but sorry this guy, after 3 movies (one great, two okay) does not belong on a list with the Coens and Tarantino

        • sailor monsoon

          If this list was the greatest directors working now, I’d agree.
          But chazelle is going to be the youngest director to direct the best picture winner.
          And multiple sites have whiplash on the list of the best films of the decade.
          If you think he’s overrated, that’s fine but you’re in the minority

          • Kevin Niduaza

            sir if consensus was an arbiter of quality, I would see your point but unfortunately for you, it isn’t. And if you think an Oscar is an arbiter of quality, then I really don’t trust your opinion. I’ll take a guy like Jeremy Saulnier or the Justin Benson/Aaron Moorhead duo over Damien Chazelle any day of the week.

          • sailor monsoon

            This list should be the most interesting up and coming directors.
            Because saulnier and benson/moorhead would definitely make the list.
            But so would chazelle

          • Kevin Niduaza

            those guys would be on THAT list but THIS list is about the most exciting directors in Hollywood today. I think the author wrote about that because he wanted to – why should the premise of the list be something different lol? Anyways Chazelle is a promising up and comer – if he wins an Oscar for La La Land, he will have entered the ranks of Hollywood but I’d argue then that it will be his follow up that will truly cement whether or not he is a truly interesting filmmaker. Even his best film, Whiplash, is a pretty formulaic affair, even if well done (Darren Aronofsky did it twice before he did and, some might argue, did it better). There’s no way this guy belongs on the most exciting directors in Hollywood today. Not when guys like Wes Anderson or Alfonso Cuaron have been left off.

          • sailor monsoon

            I will not argue that at all.
            There’s at least 50 directors i could think of that should be on this list instead.
            I’m just arguing that chazelle is a great director.
            And that whiplash and la la land are fantastic films

    • Harsh Parmar

      How dare those white male make great films.

  • AmazingAmy

    Add steve mcqueen, kenneth lonnergan, alexander payne, wes anderson and nolan.
    Personally, its too early to judge Damien Chezelle ( but i love la la land so much) since he only has two film so far. Inarritu bit overrated ( he robbed richard linklater and george miller last two years !! )

    Included Marty, Eastwood, malick to this list as well

    • Kevin Niduaza

      so many of these responses are ridiculous. Since when was Kenneth Lonergan “Hollywood” lol.

  • cinespective

    Good list – but the title should be: “!0 Most Exciting Hollywood Directors…”. Where’s Asghar Farhadi? Jacques Audiard? Hirokazu Koreeda? Like, the other 90% of the world?

    • Kevin Niduaza

      those dudes are great but I can’t remember the last time they worked in Hollywood….

  • Relf

    What is exciting about a guy who is a mediocre director and who’s work consists of stealing from better films and directors?

    • D Train

      You describe Chris Nolan perfectly.

      • Relf

        Nah was talking about Quentin “copy paste” Tarantino

        • D Train

          You couldn’t do 1/8 of what QT has done but go ahead being clever like you know how films get made. Maybe I’ll see you on set some time (no I won’t).

          • Relf

            Maybe I can’t, but a lot of people can. Just combine some other, better films, steal a lot, add some stupid dialogue about foot massages or cheese burgers (not too much plot or some depth, because your brain dead fans aren’t that clever), copy and combine the style from true masters and voilà : a Tarantino turd, a scrap book with no thematic depth, no emotional compelling story, just a mindless action flick

          • Kevin Niduaza

            Really? No plot or depth? I’d like to know who you would have chosen for this list.

    • Kevin Niduaza

      Because he is still the best at mixing arthouse with trash. He steals from 5 movies in one scene and makes it about subtext that is completely different than where he is cribbing from. There simply is no one like him – even if his movies have a ‘sameness’ to them (so does guys like Hitchcock and Scorsese, or even Fincher, Coens, Wes Anderson etc…take that as you will)

  • Nick Botton

    Coen brothers? Get the fuck out here, those guys are on their way out

    • shane scott-travis

      Wow. You’re clueless.

      • Nick Botton

        If Hail Caesar made you think these guys are still skilled directors then you probably just have a taste for terrible movies

        • shane scott-travis

          Tell that to Cahier du Cinema and the BFI both of which listed it amongst the best films of 2016. Just because it went over your head Nick, doesn’t mean anyone who liked it “has terrible taste”. Haha.

          • Nick Botton

            Looks like you’ve presented me with a classic argumentatum ad populum, looks like you should review the way you structure arguments in the future to ensure that they are based in sound logic. Hail Caesar was formless, and borderline incoherent. It has a superficial air of mystery, but lacks in plot, character, and message.

        • Harsh Parmar

          Thinking that they can never redeem themselves from his latest film is just stupid.Hail caesar was very good film btw.

    • Kevin Niduaza


      • Nick Botton


  • Raul F. Manfredini

    And Wes Anderson??? Where is?

    • Kevin Niduaza


  • Cameron Olsen

    Most of these bore the hell out of me. The only great inclusion’s the Coens, and perhaps Alejandro and Damian come close.

  • louis

    “10 White Guys and Innaritu”

    A more accurate title because (1) this is a list of 11 men (Last I checked, Joel and Ethan Coen are two people), and (2) this is a list of 10 white guys and Innaritu.

    Why not Sofia Coppola, Ava DuVernay, Maya Forbes, Lynne Ramsay, Takashi Miike, Ryan Coogler, Steve McQueen, Justin Simien, or Bong Joon-ho? A small list of “exciting” and diverse directors who have all created masterpieces.

    Finally, I saw someone below wrote “diversity for diversity’s sake is retarded.” So is keeping white men in charge of everything and honoring only white men because they’re white men. That comment also assumes that the women and minorities are less deserving and capable, which in itself is racist and sexist.

    • Kevin Niduaza

      Sorry bro but I don’t ever remember Takashi Miike, Justin Simien or Bong-Joon Ho working in Hollywood. Bong and Miike are brilliant and Simien’s only film was great but no dice on the premise of this list.

      Maya Forbes made one film and it was infinitely boring as fuck.

      Lynne Ramsey is great (not as great as Andrea Arnold but thats another story), however, never seen her ass make a Hollywood movie.

      Steve Mcqueen is pretty good so no argument there (except his movies are depressing as fuck without nearly as much subtext as some of the names on the authors list).

      Ava DuVernay is overrated as fuck – Selma was fine, 13th was a shallow attempt at historical social commentary (why not choose the more worthy Gina Prince-Blythewood).

      Sofia? Again, what ‘Hollywood’ movies is she making? Nowhere? The Bling Ring? I didn’t think so.

      Cooler is a goos choice but his two films are well-done formula. That said, I could live with this guy replacing someone like Damian Chazelle.

  • Mortimer

    Todd Haynes is underrated director. He should be on the list. But I understand that his movies aren’t for everyone.
    Jonathan Glazer perhaps ?

    • Kevin Niduaza

      But isn’t this list was about “Hollywood” directors?

      • Mortimer

        You’re right. But on ToC difference between “Hollywood” and “Indie” is non-existent sometimes.

  • Still D.R.E.

    McQueen should have made the list Dude is 3/3 Affleck could have too

  • Chrisychipz

    Everyone is complaining about almost all of the entries on this list being white and male, but the title says HOLLYWOOD directors, and the fact of the matter is that almost all the directors in Hollywood are white men. As far as women go, unfortunately they are scarce, and the ones that exist are not very good, with the exception of Kathryn Bigelow who is pretty good, but imo not deserving of a spot on a ‘most exciting’ list (Sofia Coppola is wildly inconsistent). Now considering non-white Hollywood directors, there are also very very few, with one already being on this list (Steve McQueen should have definitely made it wtf). The problem is not with the people on the list, but the list itself – it is very limiting.

    • D Train

      Oh good we needed some asshole to mansplain why privileged white guys make most of the movies out of Tinseltown without once saying “privilege”.

      • Chrisychipz

        Oh fuck off. Tell me ALLLL about the plethora of female and minority Hollywood directors then? And good ones at that?

        • louis

          Both of your posts reeks of bias against women and minorities, but I’ll play.

          Ava DuVernay, Maya Forbes, Lynne Ramsay, Tina Mabry,
          Ryan Coogler, Steve McQueen, Justin Simien, Park Chan Wok, Bong Joon-ho, Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Cary Fukunaga, Spike Lee, So Yong Kim, Carl Franklin, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo Del Toro, Mira Nair, Destin Cretton, Lee Daniels, Taika Waititi, Barry Jenkins, Ang Lee, Dee Rees, Dan Kwan.