In the early 20th century, when the public's love affair with cinema began, we were first introduced to this beguiling new art form through its stars, and this is exactly how the powers that be wanted it. When the Hollywood studios ran the film industry like a tightly controlled, upper-class bordello, the emphasis was placed on the faces you could see, the actors, and a films director existed in some theoretical dark corner of the silver screen, practicing some ethereal cinematic wizardry that the plebeian film fan could never even hope to understand. As the Hepburns', Davis', Borgarts', and Gables' of the world began to age though, and their box office power diminished, the studios were briefly forced to let the inmates run the prison, handing over the keys to the pesky directors. Suddenly, the auteur was born. While technically speaking, Auteur Theory, the belief that a films director is its author and is primarily responsible for its success or failure, started with the essays of the French New Wave director Francois Truffaut, it didn't burrow its way into the minds of mainstream moviegoers until the 1970s when directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas became household names. This was not to last though, for as the money came rolling in from the box office receipts of films such as Jaws and Star Wars, the multi-national corporations that took over the film studios more or less replaced the auteur with high-concept blockbusters and film franchises. However, even as the public has gorged itself on mind-numbing popcorn flicks, a significantly large group of cineastes have kept the idea of the auteur very much alive. For these film fans, debating the merits of this director's filmography over an others is a discussion of pure joy, but while it's easy to look back a few decades and declare this or that auteur a "genius", it's a little harder to build consensus around contemporary filmmakers and their work. The difficulty of this task is exactly what makes it worthwhile though, so what proceeds is a list, only considering films made post-1999, of the 20 greatest directors of the 21st century.