So, the question arises—what are these guidelines? For me, the most important criteria to adhere to is whether or not the filmmaker contributed in any way to innovating or advancing the medium of film. Just as the most innovative scientists were able to come up with theories that contributed to the evolution of technology, we must similarly determine if there were certain filmmakers who were able to elevate cinema to a higher level.
An equally important criteria is whether or not the filmmaker has influenced other filmmakers. All art forms are influenced by earlier works of art, and there is a reason why this happens. It’s because the original art work had a lasting and important impact on the field in question. When an important innovation occurs, it is oftentimes misunderstood and questioned by many, and thus it may sometimes takes years, and even decades, before the innovation is even acknowledged by the wider society.
There are many examples of films that were dismissed upon their initial release, only to be regarded as significant works of art in later years. This is because these films were ahead of their time, and it oftentimes takes society some time to catch up to them.
So, with these guidelines in place, here is my list of the ten greatest filmmakers of all time, along with their most important films:
1. Stanley Kubrick (Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, 2001)
2. Jean Luc Godard (Breathless, Masculin Féminin, Histoire(s) du cinéma)
3. Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, Ran)
4. Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window)
5. Sergei Eisenstein (Strike, Alexander Nevsky, Battleship Potemkin)
6. Ingmar Bergman (The Virgin Spring, Scenes from a Marriage, The Seventh Seal)
7. Edward Yang (The Terrorizers, A Brighter Summer Day, Yi Yi)
8. Fritz Lang (Die Nibelungen, Metropolis, M)
9. Orson Welles (The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane, Mr. Arkadin)
10. Federico Fellini (Nights of Cabiria, 8 ½, La Dolce Vita)
Honorable Mentions: John Ford, Bela Tarr, D.W. Griffith, Martin Scorsese