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What Directors Should You Know to Be Considered a Cinephile?

Updated on July 8, 2013
Pieerot Le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard
Pieerot Le Fou, Jean-Luc Godard

From Buff to Expert

A basic knowledge of film is fairly easy to accomplish. All you have to do is watch AFI’s top 100 films and, bang! You’re a basic film buff. But, what happens when you’re done with the list, and you still want more? The kind of film knowledge that takes you from a buff to a cinephile requires a lot of work, and it will be some of the most rewarding art exploration you’ll ever do.

In this article, I have created a series of women to represent different types of intelligent movie watchers by which directors they adore. See which category you fall into, or master them all to become a true cinephile with the top taste in film.

The Basic Movie Lover: The Directors Everyone Should Know

This is Cindy.

Cindy's a thirty five year old Capri-wearing mom. She lives in a gated community, and she runs her own children’s clothes company. Cindy likes movies, but doesn’t know a lot about them. She follows the Oscars every year, and she knows all the household names.

When Cindy’s drinking white wine at a mixer, and the topic of great movies comes up, she’ll reference these directors:

Woody Allen

Francis Ford Coppola

Steven Spielberg

James Cameron

George Lucas

Alfred Hitchcock

Stanley Kubrick

Peter Jackson

Tim Burton

Quentin Tarantino

Martin Scorsese

Clint Eastwood.

The Shining, Stanley Kubrik
The Shining, Stanley Kubrik

More Than Your Basic Basics: The Culturally Literate “Movie Buff.”

This is Andrea.

She loves movies. She’s never studied them, and she’s by no means an artist. She works at a law firm, and being intelligent and culturally savvy is important to her.

When she’s grabbing after-work cocktails at the best happy hour spot, and the topic of great movies comes up, she’ll reference these directors:

Guillermo Del Toro

Alfonso Cuaron

Wes Anderson

PT Anderson

The Cohen Brothers

Nora Ephron

Roman Polanski

Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson
Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson

Deeper Cuts: The Indie Film Buff Rising Star

This is Ella.

She’s sixteen years old. She loves Wes Anderson and Tim Burton, but she never mentions them in film conversations. She’s gonna do great on her SAT’s and her art projects are always featured in her high school hallway.

When she’s typing out her ideas in online movie forums, she’ll talk about these directors:

Michel Gondry

Spike Jonze

Miranda July

David O. Russell

Terry Gilliam

Noah Baumbach

Me And You And Everyone We Know, Miranda July
Me And You And Everyone We Know, Miranda July

Deeper Cuts: The Film Minor

This is Alice.

She’s twenty five and she’s minoring in film classes at her college. She loves great movies, and her eyes are being opened to the greatest films of all time.

When she’s sitting in the college bar, and the topic of great films comes up: she references the best foreign directors:

Ingmar Bergman

Werner Herzog

Fredirico Fellini

Akira Kurosawa

Orson Welles

Fritz Lang

Sergei Eisenstein

Woyzeck, Werner Herzog
Woyzeck, Werner Herzog

Deeper Cuts: The Part Time Film Professor at the Community Center

This is Sue.

Sue is forty years old, and teaches a film class at your local community center. She’s in love with classic films, and wants everyone to see movies from the hollywood’s golden age.

When the topic of great films comes up at her pottery class, she references these directors:

Sam Peckinpah

John Ford

Charlie Chaplin

Billy Wilder

John Houston

Elia Kazan

William Wyler

Micheal Kurtiz

Robert Altman

On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan
On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan

Deep Deep Cuts: Artsy Film Buff

This is Sadie.

Sadie grew up in San Francisco. Both of her parents are working artists. She has her own fashion blog, and she’s been to a party hosted by people who knew Lena Dunham, twice. People are regularly impressed by her film knowledge, and being a film buff is part of Sadie’s identity. She’s a bit radical in her tastes, and she likes knowing the cult figures girls like Ella aren’t allowed to watch yet.

When she’s sipping tea in a silk kimono in her friend’s art collective and the topic of great films comes up, she’ll reference these guys:

Harmony Korine

Lars Von Trier

Yorgos Lanthimos

Larry Clark

Wim Wenders

Jean-Luc Godard

Luis Bunuel

Catherine Breillat

Gaspar Noe

Wong Kar Wai

Lynn Ramsey

Kids, Larry Clark, written by: Harmony Korine
Kids, Larry Clark, written by: Harmony Korine

Deep Deep Cuts: Traveler Film Afficianado

This is Marley.

Marley loves everything European. Her cover photo on facebook is a painting by Monet, and she wants to be buried in the Uffizi Gallery. She just loves listening to people speaking Italian and French and her eyes were opened up to a whole new culture of filmmaking. This girl knows her stuff.

When the topic of great films comes up while perusing the asparagus selection at the Saturday morning farmer’s market, here’s who she’s talking about:

Michel Antonioni

Vittorio De Sica

Rene Clair

Jean Renoir

Marcel Carne

Jean Cocteau

Bernardo Bertolucci

Henri-Georges Clouzot

Robert Bresson

Roberto Rossellini

Jacques Demy

Alain Resnais

Agnes Varda

Bicycle Thief, Vittorio De Sica
Bicycle Thief, Vittorio De Sica

Deep Deep Cuts: Traveler more time

This is Marley (after she went to Asia).

She’s back. She spent the last six months in China, Cambodia, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.

While looking at the eggplant selection at her local farmers co-op, she’s discussing these directors:

Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Nagisa Oshima

Hayao Miyazaki

Hiroshi Teshigahara

Park Chan-wook

In The Mood For Love, Wong Kar Wai
In The Mood For Love, Wong Kar Wai

The Masterpieces: The True Cinephile

This is Nadia.

Nadia's a successful photographer that lives in Brooklyn. For her, movies are inspiration. She seeks out directors that stretch film to it’s limits, and experiment with different visual representations. She goes to the local independent cinema four times a week. She’s a true film buff, and there isn’t a director she doesn’t know about. She spends time meeting influential artists, and has had dinner at Werner Herzog’s house. She’s been to Cannes and Sundance. She is known for her unassailable taste.

When she’s at an after party of the premiere of P.T. Anderson’s new movie and the topic of the greatest films comes up, here’s who she’s talking about.

Many of the directors listed above.

Andrei Tarkovsky

Emir Kusturica

Bela Tarr

Luchino Visconti

Carl Dreyer

Kenji Mizoguchi

Sergei Parajanov

John Cassavettes

The Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky
The Mirror, Andrei Tarkovsky

Did I Miss Anyone? I know I did. Let me know, and I’ll add them to the list. Also, what are your favorite movies by these directors?


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      3 years ago

      Some more contemporary auteurs (popular among cinephiles) are:

      Apichatpong Weerasethakul

      Cristi Puiu

      Cristian Mungiu

      Corneliu Porumbuiu

      Aki Kaurismaki

      Dardenne brothers

      Bruno Dumont

      Tsai Ming-liang

      Andrei Zvyagintsev

      Leos Carax

      Carolos Reygadas

      Lucrecia Martel

      Claire Denis

      Abderrahmane Sissako

      Takeshi Kitano

      Nuri Bilge Ceylan

      Mike Leigh

      Arnaud Desplechin

      Jia Zhang-ke

      Abbas Kiarostami

      Jim Jarmusch

      Michael Haneke

      Hirokazu Koreeda


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