50 Greatest Directors of the 21st Century

15. Pedro Almodovar

21st Century Filmography:Talk to Her (2002), Bad Education (2004), Volver (2006), Broken Embraces (2009), The Skin I Live In (2011) Pedro Almodovar is probably Spain's most internationally-recognized director - and perhaps the county's greatest. Almodovar has, after all, built an extremely intimidating body of eighteen feature films since he started out making campy comedies in the 1980s. Renound for his twisted narratives and love for the melodramatic, Almodovar is also a great director of women. His latest film, The Skin I Live In, is somewhat of a departure of his usual style, incorporating elements of the horror genre and greatly influenced by Hitchcock, F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang, emphasizing Almodovar's experimental nature. First Feature: Pepi, Luci, Born (1980)Cream of the Crop: The Skin I Live In (2011)Next Up: I'm So Excited (2012)

14. Alfonso Cuaron

21st Century Filmography: And Your Mother Too (2001), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), Children of Men (2006) It might be strange to consider that the brutally honest, sexually-charged dramatics of 2001's And Your Mother Too came from the same man who brought adoring children the third Harry Potter movie. But Alfonso Cuaron refuses to be pigeon-holed, having made three films in three very different genres over the last 11 years - each one a masterclass in filmmaking technique. Cuaron uses his camera like a documentary filmmaker, favouring long takes and precisely-calculated movements disguised as vérité. After his films were considered unimaginative and too by-the-book adaptations of the first two Harry Potter novels, Chris Columbus was replaced by Cuaron when the time came to adapt Azkaban - producers hoped that the promising Mexican director would inject a little energy and magic into the series. He accomplished the task, adding the necessary visual flair and energetic pacing largely missing from Columbus' efforts. Then came Children of Men, a science-fiction film to rank with the all-time greats - bleak, brilliantly-realized, touching, tense and resonant. Cuaron's best film so far, it saw him working at the peak of his talents, the sum of which emerged as a beautifully-told parable with all the excitement of the highest-grade action flick. The most amazing aspect of the film was Cuaron's grasp of the London aesthetic, and his creation of a believably detailed world that could stand up against the likes of Blade Runner. First Feature: Love In The Time of Hysteria (1991)Cream of the Crop: Children of Men (2006)Next Up: Gravity (2013)

13. Paul Thomas Anderson

21st Century Filmography: Punch-Drunk Love (2002), There Will Be Blood (2007) Paul Thomas Anderson is one of those directors who have garnered an incredible reputation despite making just a handful of films. Luckily for Anderson, it's well-deserved. After leaving film school in the confidence that it was a waste of money, the self-taught filmmaker impressed film-goers with the cool assurance of his 90s fare. A talented writer, too, Anderson's work might appear too preachy or pretentious for some audiences, but that's a minor criticism of a director whose films emanate a strange, transcendent power. Having made just two films this century, this is still arguably Anderson's best period. The genre-defining romantic comedy Punch-Drunk Love made Adam Sandler look like an actor of tortured complexity, and There Will Be Blood, a dark, haunting portrait of an late-19th century oil prospector, brought Daniel Day Lewis his second Oscar with his portrayal of the broken maniac Daniel Plainview. First Feature: Hard-Eight (1996)Cream of the Crop: There Will Be Blood (2007)Next Up: The Master (2012)

12. Lars Von Trier

21st Century Filmography: Dancer in the Dark (2000), Dogville (2003), The Five Obstructions (2003), Manderlay (2005), Antichrist (2009), Melancholia (2011) Whether or not Lars Von Trier meant to suggest he was sympathetic to Adolf Hitler when attending Cannes in 2011, or it was just a bit of ill-judged humour on his part, it's a fitting moment for a director who seems to thrive on controversial filmmaking. Perhaps Von Trier would say he isn't purposely trying to be controversial (or maybe he would), but the man is an undeniable provocateur: the themes this Danish director often chooses to emphasis can be difficult to digest in large doses. There's no denying his talent, either, which has resulted in some of the best and most important works of the 21st century. The 21st century has also seen a slight change in his approach as director - Von Trier isn't trying so hard to force his material like he was in the 90s, and his films these days are better because of it. First Feature: The Element of Crime (1984)Cream of the Crop: Dogville (2003)Next Up: The Nymphomaniac (TBA)

11. Jia Zhangke

21st Century Filmography:Platform (2000), Unknown Pleasures (2002), The World (2004), Still Life (2006), Dong (2006), Useless (2007), 24 City (2008), I Wish I Knew (2010) The Chinese director Jia Zhangke has got films fans all over the world waiting with baited breath for whatever project he's planning next: Zhangke, a humanist, and sometimes surrealist, has been described a number of times as "the most important filmmaker working in the world today," which is about as good as references come. If you're new to Zhangke, the place to start is with 2006's Still Life. This portrait of a community returning to a destroyed village to reclaim some of their lives is deeply touching and emotive - it won the prestigious Golden Lion at the 63rd Venice Film Festival. First Feature: Xiao Wu (1997)Cream of the Crop: Still Life (2006)Next Up: -
 
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