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What makes a movie memorable?  Is it the talented cast of actors who engross themselves in unforgettable roles, the producers who spare no expense to achieve perfection, the technical production staff who polish the film's rough edges, the magical sound makers who captivate an audience, the advertising geniuses who convince a skeptical public, or something else?

The most compelling case can be made for someone who brings all these diverse people together and meshes their talents into a compelling and coherent whole. Legendary British Director Alfred Hitchcock made some of the very best suspense thrillers that have stood the test of time.  These include Rebecca, North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds, and Torn Curtain.

The Movie Director's Importance

What can movie directors like Hitchcock do that perhaps no one else can?

The premise of honoring these film directors is based upon the debatable auteur theory -- the idea that the director is the primary 'author' or voice of a movie, and through a director's film, we see one person's way of viewing the world -- one that has the potential to change the way we see the world.  

This theory also holds that the how of a film (mise en scene, literally meaning 'putting in the scene') is something under the director's control.  Elements or features of mise en scene include the action, composition, sets, props, lighting, costumes, make-up, cinematographic style and technique, and visual properties - and the theory postulates that these things are more important than the what or subject of the film.

In any regard, the director is probably the most important person responsible for creating 'movie magic' and mixing together all the ingredients of the film-making process.

Movie Directors and Academy Awards

Some interesting facts about movie directors

  • The Winning-est Directors

The top three directors (with number of nominations in parentheses) are:

▪  John Ford - 4 (5)
▪  William Wyler - 3 (12)
▪  Frank Capra - 3 (6)

Fifteen directors have two Best Director Oscar wins, and include the following:

▪  Billy Wilder (8)  ▪  David Lean (7)  ▪  Fred Zinnemann (7)  ▪  Steven Spielberg (6)  ▪  Elia Kazan (5)  ▪  George Stevens (5)  ▪  Clint Eastwood (4)  ▪  Joseph L. Mankiewicz  (4)  ▪  Robert Wise (3)  ▪  Oliver Stone (3)  ▪  Milos Forman (3)  ▪  Leo McCarey (3)  ▪   Lewis Milestone (3)  ▪  Frank Lloyd (3)  ▪  Frank Borzage (2)

  • Back-to-Back Director Winners

Only two directors have won back-to-back (consecutive year) directing Oscars:

▪  John Ford for The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and How Green Was My Valley (1941).
▪  Joseph L. Mankiewicz for A Letter to Three Wives (1949) and All About Eve (1950).  He is also the only writer-director to have back-to-back double wins for both screenwriting and directing.

  • Best Director Oscar Omissions

Some of the greatest directors of all time have never won an Academy Award for Best Director (and many were never nominated - see Great Directors Who Have Not Won).

Among others, they include:

▪  Clarence Brown  ▪  Charlie Chaplin  ▪  King Vidor  ▪  Howard Hawks  ▪  D. W. Griffith  ▪  Brian De Palma  
▪  George Sidney  ▪  John Cassavetes  ▪  Cecil B. DeMille  ▪  Alfred Hitchcock  ▪  Orson Welles  ▪  F.W. Murnau  
▪  William A. Wellman  ▪  Otto Preminger  ▪  Sam Wood  ▪  Gregory La Cava  ▪  Norman Jewison  ▪  Sidney Lumet  ▪  Ernst Lubitsch  ▪  Terrence Malick  ▪  Robert Altman  ▪  Robert Rossen  ▪  Fritz Lang  ▪  Spike Lee  
▪  Rouben Mamoulian  ▪  W.S. Van Dyke  ▪  Stanley Kubrick  ▪  Herbert Ross  ▪  Tim Burton  ▪  Blake Edwards  
▪  Stanley Kramer  ▪  Joshua Logan  ▪  James Ivory  ▪  Alan J. Pakula  ▪  Paul Mazursky  ▪  Arthur Penn  
▪  Richard Brooks  ▪  George Lucas  ▪  Ridley Scott  ▪  David Lynch  ▪  Peter Weir  ▪  Akira Kurosawa  ▪  Barbra Streisand  ▪  Ingmar Bergman  ▪  Sam Peckinpah

Prominent Movie Directors

From a very large list of great movie directors, a few prominent ones include:

One of Hollywood's most-accomplished actors and political activists, Robert Redford has also had considerable success as a film director.  His 1980 movie Ordinary People won him the Academy Award for Best Director and other Redford-directed movies including The Milagro Beanfield War, A River Runs Through It, Quiz Show, and The Legend of Bagger Vance.

George Lucas has directed or written some of the most commercially-succesful blockbuster movies in recent decades. These include American Graffiti, Star Wars, and the Indiana Jones movies.

Sydney Pollack directed such high-profile and critically-acclaimed movies as They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Jeremiah Johnson, The Way We Were, Three Days of the Condor, Absence of Malice, Out of Africa, Tootsie, and Havana.

Encountering legal difficulties over the past few years, Polish Director Roman Polanski, nonetheless, directed excellent movies like Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Tess, Death and the Maiden, and The Pianist.

Director Martin Scorsese -- long acknowledged as one of Hollywood's finest directors -- finally won a Best Director award for his 2006 film The Departed.  His other brilliant films include Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Color of Money, Cape Fear, Casino, and Goodfellas.

Nominated several times and having twice won the Best Director award for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, Director Steven Spielberg may be the most-successful movie director in recent memory with other hits like Jaws E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark (and its many sequels), Poltergeist, The Twilight Zone, The Color Purple, and Jurassic Park.

A Note About the Diary Poll

The diary poll is neither a list of the best or, necessarily, my favorite film directors of all time.  With so many excellent directors to choose from, it was awfully difficult for me to decide which ones to include in the poll.  

A partial list of other great directors (and in no particular order) includes Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut, John Cassavetes, Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Bernardo Bertolucci, Mel Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, Charlie Chaplin, George Cukor, Cecil B. DeMille, Jonathan Demme, Brian De Palma, Sergei Eisenstein, John Huston, Elia Kazan, Stanley Kramer, Akira Kurosawa, Spike Lee, Sergio Leone, Sidney Lumet, Louis Malle, Mike Nichols, Sam Peckinpah, John Schlesinger, Ridley Scott, Peter Weir, Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Milos Foreman, John Frankenheimer, William Friedken, Costa-Gavras, George Roy Hill, Norman Jewison, Lawrence Kasdan, Barry Levinson, Paul Mazursky, Alan J. Pakula, Carol Reed, Franklin J. Schaffner, and John Sturges.

A more complete list of notable directors and some of their better-known and best movies is available below.  Browse through these lists if you'd like and comment below on why you like particular directors and the movies they made.

And, don't forget to take the diary poll.

Originally posted to JekyllnHyde on Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 07:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Electronic America: Progressives Film, music & Arts Group, DKOMA, and Moose On The Loose.


Of the Ones Listed, Who is Your Favorite Film Director?

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| 86 votes | Vote | Results

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