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Most Popular Directors of Our Time

Updated on June 25, 2017

A normal Hollywood movie is made by a professional team of producer, director, actors, screenplay writer, editor, cinematographer, etc… A successful movie is usually made by a professional team with dedication, originality, and vision. For the same professional team to come up with several successful and popular movies, it needs a team leader who knows how to master all the resources to realize his dream. In the movie business, this leader can only be the director who is in the unique position of being able to affect the look, feel, and the scope of the whole movie. The following directors exemplify the best in the industry not only in the quality and quantity of their work but also in their popularities in terms of box office receipts.

James Cameron (1954 - )

He is the undisputed king of the movie-making hill. His latest work, Avatar, is the most popular film ever made with a worldwide gross of $2.78 billion. The movie combines the state of the art of computer- generated imagery (CGI) and motion capture technology to create a make-believe world of incredible beauty populated with exotic animals and human-like creatures. Hiding behind the dazzling special effects is a story of human compassion and sacrifice over advance technology and cold-blooded industrial machines. He also made the widely popular Titanic, Terminator-Judgment Day, and Aliens. These 4 films grossed an unprecedented $5.62 billion. They all had huge budgets and were laden with special effects. But, the emphasis had always been on human values, courage, and ideals.

Steven Spielberg (1946 - )

He made his first blockbuster, Jaws, at the tender age of 28. Jaws was scary and entertaining at the same time. It made audiences trembling with excitement, cold sweats, and suffocating anxiety in their seats. Most importantly, the movie makes people curious and knowledgeable about sharks till the present day. After Jaws, he followed with ET, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List. The 4 films were immensely successful and grossed for a total of $2.46 billion. His movies explored human emotions and characters, manufactured incredible human adventures, and always left indelible images in the audiences psyche. After more than 40 years, he is still actively involved in movie making and turning out gems every now and then.

Chang Cheh (1923 – 2002)

He was probably the most productive director who made more than 88 films for the Shaw Brothers Studio in Hong Kong from 1965 to 1993. His movie, One Armed Swordsman, made in 1966 cemented his reputation and enabled him to turn out consistently suspenseful, revenge-themed, and all-male Kung-Fu flicks. He used the same crews including the actors to churn out movies on a regular basis, sometimes, 7 in one years. He relied on good scripts, good acting, and a studio backlot similar to that of the Universal Studio to produce movies in quantity with acceptable quality. His movies were well received all over Southeast Asia and Chinatowns around the world. The popularity of his Kung-Fu movies not only influenced future generations of action directors but also paved the road to international stardom for the martial artists like Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jacky Chan.

Akiro Kurosawa (1910 - 1998)

He was the most famous Japanese director during the golden age of Japan cinema from 1950s to 1960s. His movies about common people facing and solving uncommon problems were not only identifiable by people around the world but also imitated by fellow movie makers outside Japan. For example:

1) Rashomon – It was made in 1950 about a murder in the countryside witnessed by several people. Due to their individual perceptions and professional background, they offer varying yet credible accounts as to what has transpired. The movie so convincingly depicted a complicated and yet common-place phenomenon to which the movie title Rashomon is forever connected.

2) 7 Samurais - It was made in 1954 about 7 samurais coming to the aid of a remote village people being taken advantage of by a powerful group of bandits. The movie was an international hit and was remade successfully in the United States as The Magnificent Seven in 1960.

3) Hidden Fortress - It was made in 1958 about 2 fortune-seeking and fumbling peasants reluctantly escorting a princess and her general to safety after the defeat by a neighboring clan. The popularity of the movie caught the attention of George Lucas and inspired him to create the revolutionary film, Star Wars. He recast the 2 clowning misfits as R2D2 and 3CPO.

4) Yojimbo - It was made in 1961 about a wandering, street-smart swordsman attempting to save a small town from two warring clans single-handedly. Relying on his uncanny fencing skill and quick wits, he schemes up conflicts between the two clans by selling himself as bodyguard to both sides. The movie was a hit internationally and was remade by the Italian director, Sergio Leone, as A Fistful of Dollars.

David Lean (1908 – 1991)

A good movie entertains, a great movie inspires, but a memorable movie touches the heart a nd soul of the audiences. Before there are blue screen and CGI, he made 3 of the most memorable films with big budget, a cast of thousands, and on locations of exotic vista. His movies employed good acting, detailed character development, and elaborate production design to unveil a story of human struggles under adversity, unbreakable will for survival, and spirits in the pursuit of one’s ideal. All 3 films, Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago, and Lawrence of Arabia, were made before the 1970s. But, they have withstood the test of times and are still relevant and enjoyable to watch today. They offer no cheap thrill and quick entertainment but are spirit uplifting and nourishment for the intellect. He had long passed away but his films will live on as long as mankind’s civilization giving testimony to the importance of movie as a medium of human expression at its best.


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