Numbers fourteen down to seven on the list are here, if you missed it. If not, may I present the final countdown:
(click on PDF icon, above right, if you prefer to read black script on white)
6) Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan has never made a bad film (the worst on the list below is the Dark Knight Rises, and it’s still decent). With the exception of Batman Begins, he also wrote all of his films.
Nolan, like Cameron, was inspired by Star Wars when he was growing up, and as a childhood fan of Batman, was the one who approached Warner Bros with the idea of updating the franchise. So: geek.
He’s made at least two classics (the Dark Knight and Inception) and three more very good SF movies. a third classic, not on this list, is the neo-noir Memento, one of my favourite movies of all time. I’d take Nolan over #2 on this list, and if the man keeps making SF classics for another 20 years, well, he’ll be the top dog.
- Batman Begins (2005)
- The Prestige (2006)
- The Dark Knight (2008)
- Inception (2010)
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
- Interstellar (2014)
4 (equal) George Miller
My man, Big George. He created, in the words of JG Ballard, ‘The Sistine Chapel of Punk’ in Mad Max 2. Then one-upped himself with the Sistine Chapel of the Apocalypse in Fury Road. He gave us dancing penguins and talking pigs as well. If nothing else, the man has range.
George is Australian, so I’d like to have him as number one. But, look, he’s earned his #4 spot with two classics in Road Warrior and Fury Road – and if he’d directed the first Babe film, would have a third (he produced and wrote the pig movie, but was not the director). George has been personally nominated for six academy awards, won one for Best Animated Feature in (Happy Feet), and was robbed – fucking robbed – when Fury Road won neither best director nor best picture. I mean, good lord really, does anyone think the director of that c-grade survival porn, The Revenant, did a better job? If you do, give yourself an uppercut.
Fury Road was the best-reviewed film of 2015, was easily the best film of 2015, and in my view the best action film since the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (1997).
George Miller has the ability – unlike John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, and Steven Spielberg – to still make a classic. He’s in his 70s, fuckers. My fervent wish is that George has two more Mad Max films in him. Should he make them, and both be in anywhere near the vicinity of greatness of Fury Road, he will have created the greatest SF franchise of all time. Yes, this includes Star Wars.
- Mad Max (1979)
- Mad Max 2 (1981)
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
- The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
- Babe: Pig in the City (1998)
- Happy Feet (2006)
- Happy feet Two (2011)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
4 (equal) Ridley Scott
Makes the number four spot on the basis of Alien and Blade Runner, two all-time classics of SF cinema. But gee, he’s not done much since 1982. The Martian was competent, Exodus bombed, and Prometheus was a penis-shaped alien that killed off any credibility the franchise had left.
He did the famous 1984 commercial for Apple. Which is ironic today, I guess, given the level of surveillance Apple, Google, and all the mega-corps stuff into every corner of our lives. A television that merely watches us seems quaint now, doesn’t it? We really need Huxley to understand the second, crucial component of the Orwell surveillance state – the bit where we willingly, enthusiastically, take the panopticon and put it in our pocket.
Anyway, Ridley: the clown is going back to Blade Runner, which I find infuriating. He shouldn’t be doing a sequel; the first movie was a masterpiece. Definitely feels like making-a-buck-off-former-glory to me. His position as equal fourth is basically because of Blade Runner, but by god if he fucks the sequel he’ll be blown out of the airlock to Romero land.
- Alien (1979)
- Blade Runner (1982)
- Legend (1985)
- Prometheus (2012)
- Exodus: God and Kings (2014)
- The Martian (2015)
- Alien: Covenant (2017)
3) Hayao Miyazaki
Widely considered in Japan to be the greatest Anime director in history. I haven’t watched him much myself, but my wife and son would thrash me with a rake if I failed to include him on this list.
Every movie he’s every directed sits between 87 – 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a standard of high-level consistency no-one else on this list comes close to matching (except Nolan). My Neighbour Tortoro (1988) Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001) are all considered classics. He is only the second Japanese Director (after the master, Kurosawa) to receive an Honorary Academy Award, and also won outright for Spirited Away.
- The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind(1984)
- Castle in the Sky (1986)
- My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
- Porco Rosso (1992)
- Princess Mononoke (1997)
- Spirited Away (2001)
- Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
- Ponyo (2008)
2) Stephen Spielberg
Personally, I’d take Ridley Scott, George Miller, or Nolan to Mars before I’d take Spielberg. I find him a saccharine filmmaker, prone to moral preachiness and a black/white morality. He’s also guilty of making shitty sequels (Crystal Skull, Lost World), and a shitty reboot (Hook).
But look, with the exception of these, everything else on the list ranges from adequate to classic. He brought us two franchises: Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, and one-off classics Close Encounters and E.T. He’s adapted a Philip K Dick story (Minority Report), and his output is higher than all save Carpenter. He’s responsible for some of the most iconic SF moments of all time: E.T. bike-flying in front of the moon, that tune in Close Encounters, the face-melting in Indiana Jones.
I doubt Spielberg will make another classic. His last competent SF film was in 2002 (Minority Report), and last classic was way back in 1993. I’d expect him to be overtaken by Nolan in about ten years, and by George as well, if that brilliant old bastard has enough petrol in the tank to make a couple more films. But until then:
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
- E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
- Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
- Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
- Hook (1991)
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- The Lost Wold: Jurassic Park (1997)
- I Artificial Intelligence
- Minority Report (2002)
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
- The BFG (2016)
- Ready Player One (upcoming – 2018)
1) John Carpenter
This was a hard one, I must admit. He’s a B-movie maker, to be sure, which is why the snobs rarely put him on the best director list. Carpenter is inconsistent, but at his best is brilliant, funny, subversive, and iconic.
He has no less than five classics (Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and They Live). Sequels (and therefore franchises) have been made from at least three of his films. Dark Star is a cult hit among phenomenologists. Wikipedia tells me that Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness are now ‘cult’ hits, which I hope is correct because I relied on it for everything I wrote about Miyazaki.
They Live, in my view, is the finest anti-capitalist B-movie ever made (appropriately, it lost money). He gave Kurt Russell the two best roles of his career (Snake Plissken from Escape From… and Jack Burton from Big Trouble…) (and yeah, that includes the spots Quentin Tarantino has found for Kurt) (I swear to god if Quentin kills Kurt Russell one more time I’m going to fly to the US and punch him right in the dick).
Anyway, Carpenter is an old fart now and you can’t begrudge him the cow dung he made towards the end of his career. He’s influenced two directors on this list (James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro), made more SF films than any of them, and has made quite a few that are eminently re-watchable. He’s here to chew gum and make movie history, and he’s all out of gum.
For Mars, he’s your man:
- Dark Star (1974)
- Halloween (1978)
- The Fog (1980)
- Escape from New York (1981)
- The Thing (1982)
- Christine (1983)
- Starman (1984)
- Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
- Prince of Darkness (1987)
- They Live (1988)
- Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
- In the Mouth of Madness (1995)
- Village of the Damned (1995)
- Escape from L. A. (1996)
- Ghosts of Mars (2001)
- The Ward (2010)
Close, but no cigar: Joss Whedon’s successes have mainly came on television; I don’t like Tim Burton; JJ Abrams is overrated; Bong Joon-Ho is edgy and brilliant, but hasn’t made enough to make the list; Peter Jackson should be in the top ten, but fuck you Peter Jackson for the Hobbit trilogy; I haven’t seen any Andrei Tarkovsky; Terry Gilliam probably should have got a Guernsey now I think about it; Fritz Lang is old, dude; Harold Ramis has two classics, but that’s it; Alfonso Cuaron – gee, maybe he should have snuck his way in, as well; Neill Blomkamp is great but patchy.