The IMDb Top 250 is a useful list for cinephiles to discover a good selection of films that they may not have seen. However, due to the nature of IMDb, it’s very subjective and biased- the list favours audience favorites like The Shawshank Redemption (#1 spot), The Dark Knight (#4 spot) and Pulp Fiction (#7 spot).
Although most, if not all, of the 250 films on the list are essential viewing for any film fan, the quintessential works of some directors are not found in it. Here are 10 iconic directors who don’t have a film in the IMDb Top 250.
1. Jean Renoir
“A director makes only one movie in his life. Then he breaks it into pieces and makes it again.” Having directed over 40 films over his illustrious career, French director Jean Renoir was an influence to so many filmmakers who came after- including Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles and François Truffaut just to name a few. In the BFI’s 2002 poll on greatest directors, he was ranked 4th greatest director of all time. He has won the Prix Louis Delluc, multiple awards at the Venice Film Festival, an Honorary Academy Award and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The son of a painter, Renoir’s films often shared similar aesthetic qualities of his father’s work. He achieved international recognition in the late 1930s with La Grand Illusion & The Rules of the Game- two films often cited as masterpieces of world cinema. He later found success in America with movies like The Southerner (which got him nominated for a Best Director Oscar) and The Diary of a Chambermaid. Renoir’s last great film, 1951’s The River, is just a cherry on top of his indelible legacy to cinema.
2. David Cronenberg
“I think of horror films as art, as films of confrontation.” Canadian director David Cronenberg started his career making inventive B-grade horror films Shivers, The Brood & Scanners. These films were known for blending the psychological with the physical, and exhibiting elements of the body horror genre.
The study of mankind’s fears and anxieties often combines with overt sexual imagery- this climaxed in Cronenberg’s 80s classics Videodrome & The Fly. He then went on to make a string of beloved cult films, and broadened his horizons into straight thrillers: Naked Lunch, Crash, eXistenZ, Spider, A History of Violence… his most recent work includes the Sigmond Freud biopic A Dangerous Method and satirical horror-drama Maps to the Stars.
Cronenberg has won the Genie Award for Achievement in Direction, the Silver Bear at Berlin, the Jury Prize at Cannes, multiple DGA Awards and accolades at TIFF. His name has become synonymous with weird, gross out horror films that emotionally challenge and intellectually stimulate the audience. The Village Voice described David Cronenberg as “the most audacious and challenging narrative director in the English-speaking world.”
3. Werner Herzog
“I think the worst that can happen in filmmaking is if you’re working with a storyboard. That kills all intuition, all fantasy, all creativity.” Werner Herzog is not just a filmmaker; he is one of the most audacious artists in the world. This is the guy who literally pulled a boat over a mountain for Fitzcarraldo, filmed a volcano about to erupt in La Souriere, pushing actor Klaus Kinski to the brim on set (to the extent that lives were threatened), filmed scenes for My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? in China without a permit, guerrilla-style, and also ate his own shoe- yes, ate his own shoe- boiled in garlic and herbs to settle a bet with fellow filmmaker Errol Morris.
Herzog represents the pure exhilaration of the creative process, and his crazy ways are inspiring to young filmmakers around the world. He taught himself film by travelling around Europe with a stolen camera, and started directing during the height of New German Cinema alongside directors like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders. His most famous film during this period was Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a film epic which highly influenced Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Herzog’s great string of films also include Stroszek and Nosferatu the Vampyre.
With daringness like no other modern filmmaker, he has also branched out as a documentarian of the wonderful and the bizarre. Herzog’s most famous documentaries- Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World, Into the Inferno- ranks among the most eclectic and eye-opening ones in the history of film. At 75 years old, Werner Herzog is still a cinematic force to be reckoned with.
4. Terrence Malick
“I’ve always liked movies in a kind of naïve way.” Malick is a mysterious figure in modern filmmaking. He is to American film what Thomas Pynchon is to American literature. His first films, Badlands and Days of Heaven, were seminal works of the 1970s and won him awards at the San Sebastian and Cannes Film festivals. One can only imagine what would’ve happened if Malick continued his career alongside his New Hollywood contemporaries like Scorsese or de Palma. Instead, what he did was go on a 20-year hiatus, returning to cinema in 1998 with The Thin Red Line, a WW2 drama that Gene Siskel called “the greatest contemporary war film”.
Malick’s later films are known for their erratic, non-linear structure, with surreal scenes (all shot by the master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) that follow multiple characters’ existential journeys; functioning more like tone poems than conventional movies. 2005’s The New World and 2011’s The Tree of Life received acclaim, but To the Wonder, Knight of Cups and Song to Song has divided viewers, with some hailing them as masterpieces and others seeing them as nothing more than the self-indulgent mind vomit of Terrence Malick.
His actors cite his unconventional approach of directing, spontaneously giving directions and letting actors come up with lines and entire scenes themselves. He’s also managed to sneak an IMAX documentary in his back catalogue with Voyage of Time, and will return to a linear story with another WW2 film in the following years, titled Radegund.
5. Kathryn Bigelow
“Cinema has the capacity to be so physiological.” In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow was named as one of the most influential people of the year. This was due to her being the first woman director to win an Academy Award, for The Hurt Locker. Throughout the 80s and 90s Bigelow made a batch of extreme genre fare, many of which are now cult favorites- The Loveless (with Willem Dafoe), Near Dark, Blue Steel, Point Break.
Her most recent three films have changed subject matter and brought her name to international recognition. The Hurt Locker is about the Iraq War, Zero Dark Thirty- the hunt for Bin Laden, and last year’s under-appreciated Detroit about 1967’s 12st Street Riot. Both in her real-life thrillers and horror or action movies, Kathryn Bigelow’s talent for making visceral cinema has been on display for decades.
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