Greatest Film Director?

Greetings, everyone,
Who was the greatest film director of all time?

I cheerfully admit, this is a silly question. There are scores of great directors, each with his own style and virtues. How to choose? Apples versus oranges. I confess that I, myself, am unable to settle on one choice. So I will propose three criteria and nominate one director for each.

(1) *Technical Virtuosity * - A demonstrated mastery of the 10,000 tricks of the director’s craft (lighting, camera angle, etc.). Clearly the obvious choice here is:

Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980)

This choice is bolstered by the fact that Hitchcock is probably the most imitated director of all time. Dozens of directors have copied his style (but not, alas, his genius).

(2) Audience Manipulation * - A demonstrated ability to play with the viewer’s emotions. And when it comes to generating suspense, or just plain f**ing with your head, no one does it better than:

Alfred Hitchcock, again

My father was a stolid film-watcher and immune to being diddled by most directors. But he paid Hitchcock the ultimate compliment, deeming him “spooky.”

(3) Versatility - A demonstrated ability to effectively direct any kind of film - westerns, musicals, comedies, costume epics, urban dramas, soap operas…you get the idea. The obvious choice here is:

**Michael Curtiz ** (1886-1962)

Curtiz is a director whose name is not in the public consciousness (like Hitch), but when you look at his filmography, his contribution to cinema leaps into startling focus. A selection:

*Mystery of the Wax Museum * (1933)
*Jimmy the Gent * (1934)
*Captain Blood * (1935)
*The Charge of the Light Brigade * (1936)
*Kid Galahad * (1937)
*The Adventures of Robin Hood * (1938) A “perfect” film
*Angels With Dirty Faces * (1938)
*Dodge City * (1939)
*The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex * (1939)
*Virginia City * (1940)
*The Sea Hawk * (1940)
*Santa Fe Trail * (1940)
*The Sea Wolf * (1941)
*Yankee Doodle Dandy * (1942)
Casablanca (1942) The greatest “pure Hollywood” film of all time
*Mildred Pierce * (1945)
*Life With Father * (1947)

And there are many others. Curtiz ended his career with a fine John Wayne western, *The Comancheros * (1961). The point is, not only was Curtiz exceptionally versatile, his films include many of our most beloved classics.

I am sure that many Dopers will be quick to point out that, since Hitchcock won two of my three criteria, he must be my *de facto * favorite. But Curtiz has Casablanca…<swoon> And that counts for a lot.

So, in your opinion,
who was the greatest film director of all time?

When you choose, you should offer a criterion. You may use my criteria or propose new ones.

Billy Wilder made these consecutively, and co-wrote each of them:

Front Page, The (1974)
Avanti! (1972)
Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The (1970)
Fortune Cookie, The (1966)
Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)
Irma la Douce (1963)
One, Two, Three (1961)
The Apartment (1960)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Love in the Afternoon (1957)
The Spirit of St. Louis (1957)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Sabrina (1954)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Big Carnival (1951)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
Foreign Affair, A (1948)
The Emperor Waltz (1948)
Death Mills (1945)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
Double Indemnity (1944)

He also supposedly, one year, tripped the less deserving winner of the best director Oscar as he walked down to receive his award. Now that’s cool.

I’ll list a dozen–feel free to narrow down from there:

Yasujiro Ozu
Howard Hawks
Fritz Lang
Jean Renoir
Luis Bunuel
Carl Dreyer
Michael Powell (w/&w/o Pressburger)
Akira Kurosawa
Stanley Kubrick
Nicholas Ray
Ingmar Bergman
F.W. Murnau

Add Hitchcock and that’s a Baker’s Dozen.

Paul Verhoeven

Brought to you by the Lissener Memorial One-Note Trust. :smiley:

Two that haven’t been mentioned:

John Ford

Steven Spielberg - let’s give him his due. Fifty years from now he’ll be regarded as one of the greatest directors of all time.

Also, Ron Howard has a shot at greatness. He’s maybe not there yet, but he’s close. And he’s got a good 20 or 30 years of filmmaking left in him.

Ethan and Joel Coen

They meet the criteria in every single movie they made.
[As a critic once said: “If only every movie could be made by the Coen Brothers”]

I’ll second Wilder.

I’ll second the Coen Brothers.

And, since nobody is willing to give him any due, I’d say Tarantino has a shot. He’s definitely revolutionized the way Western film is made, and his career is still fledgling. If only he’d make a new film more frequently than one every 6 years.

While on the overall, I’d vote with Hitchcock and Ford, I think if you add the category of “Creativity and Inventiveness”, we’d have to put D.W. Griffith at the top of the line.

And I wouldn’t underestimate Chaplin, either.

There are so many greats…Welles, Ford, Lang, Hitchcock, Griffith, Truffaut, Kurosawa, Melies, Porter, Altman…the list goes on and on and on. I guess if I had to name just one though, it’d be:

James Melkonian

Peter Jackson (based on Lord of the Rings).

(1) Technical Virtuosity - A demonstrated mastery of the 10,000 tricks of the director’s craft (lighting, camera angle, etc.).

Not only the standard things, but the research on locations, the blending of special effects (minatures / blue screen / prosthetics / forced perspective, CGI etc) adapting the book for the screenplay and editing for both theatrical + DVD release.

(2) Audience Manipulation - A demonstrated ability to play with the viewer’s emotions.

From the audience gasping when Bilbo tries to snatch the Ring from Frodo in Rivendell, through the archery feats of Legolas (especially the Mumakil slaying), including the tearjerking moment when the assembled multititudes kneel to the hobbits and finishing with the rousing cheer for Sam saying “I may not be able to carry the Ring - but I can carry you!”

I also think Jackson was far better at working with actors.
Hitchcock seemed to enjoy ‘humiliating’ actresses, whereas Jackson is applauded by the large cast which filmed for 15 months!

Bob Fosse.