Within the category of narrative fiction film there is a broad range of directors who are either more devoted to film as art or to film as entertainment.
Both art and entertainment serve legitimate functions for viewers but some directors manage to advance the art of cinema while still making enjoyable movies. Here is a list of directors that fall in the middle of these two poles, celebrated for their refined artistic standards but also valued internationally for the entertainment they provide.
10. Wes Anderson
One of the most visually literate directors working today, Anderson’s signature use of color and composition has spawned numerous video parodies circulating online. Although it may be possible to mimic the trappings of his style, it’s Anderson’s quirky humor that remains uniquely his own yet accessible enough to carve out a niche with appreciative fans across the globe.
Ever since the refreshingly original BOTTLE ROCKET was released in 1996, Anderson has continued to create theatrically released feature films, starring accomplished actors such as Bill Murray, at a surprising rate of every two to three years. He’s in an enviable position for any director regardless of their style.
9. Stanley Kubrick
One might argue that Kubrick was more personally concerned with the grand spectacle of the theatrical viewing experience than with film as art. Yet legendary for his uncompromising camerawork, through his sheer force of will, Kubrick advanced the art and technology of cinematography more than any other director on this list.
Unlike the films of famous directors such as Spielberg and Lucas, who are also devoted to the cinema of spectacle, Kubrick’s films can be highly controversial. Viewers often either love or hate a film such as Kubrick’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), due to its deeply provocative themes and techniques.
8. Mira Nair
Her films are a celebration of humanity’s diversity but also a bounty of color and composition. In 1988, her first narrative feature, SALAAM BOMBAY!, burst on the scene with some of the most powerful colors and z-axis compositions to be found in international cinema.
This quickly earned her the opportunity to work with Hollywood level budgets and A-list actors, such as Denzel Washington, for her later films. Her monumental talent and determination have shattered through multiple glass ceilings and Nair continues to bring film-goers her artful, intelligent, and globally-conscious films.
7. Sergio Leone
His name is synonymous with the genre Spaghetti Western, a category of film so immensely entertaining that it charmed its way into the American mainstream to a degree unparalleled by the cinemas of other non-English speaking countries.
Films like THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) delivered this distinct aesthetic along with popularizing actors such as Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach. It is Leone’s breathtakingly epic compositions and daring editing, however, that continue to influence directors such as Quentin Tarrantino.
6. David Lynch
There is a dark magical alchemy at work in the films of David Lynch. A lot is written about his use of lighting, composition and overall style, yet try as they might to concoct the right formula, few directors come close to achieving the near mystical quality of Lynch’s work.
As dark and violent or unconventional as films like BLUE VELVET (1986) or LOST HIGHWAY (1997) might be, against all odds Lynch’s movies have enthralled a wider audience and established him as an ardent maverick who yet entertains.