Eight directors

A recent conversation about the works of Alfred Hitchcock got me thinking about some of my other favorite directors. It’s a challenging subject, because I don’t often think of myself as a fan of a particular director as opposed to specific films. After all, the fact that I’ve enjoyed certain of a director’s works ought not to obligate me to like every film in his or her oeuvre.

Let’s not think of this, then, as a list of my favorite directors. Instead, it’s a list of eight filmmakers who’ve made multiple movies that resonated with me in a memorable way. Even if some of their work just didn’t do it for me.

For each director, I’ve noted what I consider to be his absolute must-see films (in order of preference), other examples of his work that I also enjoyed, a hidden gem — a lesser-known picture that I personally think ranks with the director’s best work — and, where appropriate, a film or two that I didn’t like all that much (or even outright detested).

Spike Lee

  • Must see: Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Inside Man, 25th Hour
  • Also enjoyed: Mo’ Better Blues, Clockers, Get on the Bus, He Got Game
  • Hidden gem: School Daze
  • Not a fan: Jungle Fever, Girl 6

David Mamet

  • Must see: The Spanish Prisoner, Heist, Homicide, House of Games
  • Also enjoyed: Oleanna, State and Main, The Winslow Boy
  • Hidden gem: Spartan
  • Not a fan: Things Change

Christopher Guest

  • Must see: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman
  • Also enjoyed: For Your Consideration
  • Hidden gem: The Big Picture
  • Not a fan: Almost Heroes

Paul Schrader

  • Must see: Auto Focus, Light Sleeper, Cat People
  • Also enjoyed: Hardcore, Blue Collar
  • Hidden gem: Light of Day
  • Not a fan: American Gigolo

Quentin Tarantino

  • Must see: Jackie Brown, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs
  • Also enjoyed: Kill Bill: Volume 2
  • Hidden gem: Death Proof (which I actually don’t think is a good movie at all, but if you like Tarantino’s other work, you should see it once)
  • Not a fan: Kill Bill: Volume 1

Clint Eastwood

  • Must see: Unforgiven, Mystic River, The Gauntlet, Bronco Billy, Bird
  • Also enjoyed: Sudden Impact, Play Misty for Me, Pale Rider
  • Hidden gem: Breezy
  • Not a fan: Eastwood has directed quite a few forgettable films during his lengthy career, but in 1990 he phoned in two of his worst — White Hunter, Black Heart and The Rookie.

Steven Soderbergh

  • Must see: Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic
  • Also enjoyed: Sex, Lies and Videotape, Ocean’s Thirteen
  • Hidden gem: The Limey
  • Not a fan: Solaris, Full Frontal

Walter Hill

  • Must see: Streets of Fire, The Warriors, 48 Hrs., Crossroads
  • Also enjoyed: The Long Riders, Trespass, Last Man Standing
  • Hidden gem: Undisputed
  • Not a fan: Another 48 Hrs., most of his Westerns and pseudo-Westerns (Extreme Prejudice, Southern Comfort, Geronimo: An American Legend, Wild Bill)

 

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