5. Alfred Hitchcock (12 Masterpieces)
The “master of suspense” Alfred Hitchcock made some of the most entertaining and enduring movies of all time. Though his work spanned many decades and genres, the consistent quality of his films is that they were never boring.
Hitchcock’s career began to flourish around the same time that sound was making its appearance in the movies, and his early works The 39 Steps (1935), The Lady Vanishes (1938), and Rebecca (1940) helped shape the future of suspenseful cinema. During the next 10 years, Hitchcock would create some iconic films which set new standards for the level of tension that an audience could experience: Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951) still elevate our heart rates today.
With one very important exception – Psycho (1960) – the next period of Hitchcock’s life consisted of color films, which stand as some of his most admired work. Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959) were an almost unbelievable string of masterpieces rarely matched in quality by any director.
One of his final movies, Frenzy (1972) showed that the master could still make a masterpiece at any time and for any generation. Hitchcock’s body of work is unparalleled in the suspense genre, and ranks as one of the all-time greats in cinematic history.
4. Fritz Lang (13 Masterpieces)
The great Austrian-German-American director Fritz Lang was once labeled the “Master of Darkness” by the BFI. Lang’s iconic films helped shape the future of cinema, and set the standard for each genre that he worked in. Let’s take a closer look at the career of the director with the trademark monocle.
Lang’s silent films stand as some of the most famous and accomplished works of the era: Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922), Die Nibelungen (1924), and the classic Metropolis (1927) are as revered today as ever. When sound came to the big screen, his success continued with the classics M (1931), The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933), Fury (1936), and You Only Live Once (1937).
Though Lang had plenty of success making sci-fi films, the noir genre is where he spent a good deal of his time, as seen in Man Hunt (1941), Ministry of Fear (1944), The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1945), Secret Beyond the Door (1948), and The Big Heat (1953).
Fritz Lang was a true cinematic pioneer, and it’s difficult to image the landscape of film without his influence. He wrote the rule book for filmmaking in so many ways that his work is sure to remain timeless.
3. Ingmar Bergman (14 Masterpieces)
The Swedish master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman had a lengthy and prolific career. His probing films often reflected his own personal struggles, but always resonated with the anxiety and anguish that we all face as humans. Bergman’s work ranges from the deeply personal to the universally representative.
Bergman first began to earn his respected reputation in the 1950’s when he made the first of many collaborations with actor Max von Sydow: The Seventh Seal (1957), Wild Strawberries (1957), and The Magician (1958) put him on the map of the cinematic landscape for good.
With growing confidence and creative freedom, Bergman went on to make his legendary “Silence of God” trilogy consisting of Through a Glass Darkly (1961), Winter Light (1963), and The Silence (1963). Another creative burst helped him finish the decade with the masterpieces Persona (1966), Hour of the Wolf (1968), Shame (1968), and The Passion of Anna (1969).
By Bergman’s own standards, the following decade was a slower one, but still saw the release of the classics Cries and Whispers (1972), Scenes From a Marriage (1973), and Autumn Sonata (1978). And his epic and moving Fanny and Alexander (1982) is sometmes ranked as the best work of his career. Bergman altered the face of cinema through his revolutionary way of filming the human face. His unblinking examinations of the soul led to a unique collection of masterpieces which are sure to continue standing the test of time.
2. Martin Scorsese (15 Masterpieces)
One of the greatest American directors, Martin Scorsese has always pursued his bold and uncompromising cinematic vision. When a project arrests Scorsese’s attention, he has become famous for passionately pursuing it to completion, no matter the obstacles and years that intervened.
Scorsese’s prolific career has often found him working in televesion and making documentaries, but it is his feature films for which he is most famous. His first collaboration with actor Robert de Niro came in Mean Streets (1973), and the successful duo followed up with the iconic Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980).
Scorsese went on to explore other genres with the dark comedy After Hours (1985) and the spiritual masterpiece The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). In the 1990’s the classics kept coming with Goodfellas (1990), Cape Fear (1991), The Age of Innocence (1993), Casino (1995), Kundun (1997), and Bringing out the Dead (1999).
Just as Scorsese never met a genre he couldn’t conquer, the new millenium did nothing to slow him down. Since the turn to the 2000’s, he has made Gangs of New York (2002), The Departed (2006), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and Silence (2016). Scorsese’s furious energy and passionate genius are a gift to cinema, and these masterpieces are unforgettable triumphs.
1. Akira Kurosawa (16 Masterpieces)
The Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s career encompassed 57 years and 30 films. In addition to creating some of cinema’s most iconic samurai films, Kurosawa also brilliantly adapted many great works of literature. While it’s hard to leave out any of his movies, 16 are especially iconic.
During the 1940’s he established his reputation with early works like Drunken Angel (1948) and Stray Dog (1949), both collaborations with his longtime acting partner Toshiro Mifune. The following decade witnessed some of Kurosawa’s most explosive success in the masterpieces Rashomon (1950), The Idiot (1951), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), and The Hidden Fortress (1958).
Had he retired after these masterpieces, Kurosawa would have already cemented his status as one of the greats, but he continued his brilliant work with The Bad Sleep Well (1960), Yojimbo (1961), Sanjuro (1962), High and Low (1963), and Red Beard (1965).
Kurosawa possessed the boundless energy to sustain his explosive genius which allowed him to continue his career even as his age advanced. Having filmed many films in beautiful black and white, he blessed movie lovers with several stunning color films at the end of his career. Kagemusha (1980), Ran (1985), and Dreams (1990) all stand as testaments to the great Kurosawa’s ability to adapt to the times and technology in order to do what he always did – make truly great films.