50 Greatest Directors of the 21st Century

45. Michel Gondry

21st Century Filmography: Human Nature (2001), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), The Science of Sleep (2006), Be Kind Rewind (2008), The Green Hornet (2011) Michel Gondry has often struggled to find his voice when it comes to feature filmmaking - both Be Kind Rewind and The Green Hornet were unveiled to bewildered audiences and critics, all of whom failed to connect with the somewhat conflicted mood of the films. Maybe that's because Gondry, who was born in France and started out directing music videos, is meant for better material. You can't argue with the aesthetic quality of those Hollywood outings, but 2005's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, based on a script by Charlie Kaufman, allowed Gondry to showcase his talents as an accomplished visionary director when paired with material that worked for him: the result was a sensational achievement, a film that was dreamlike, surrealistic, colorful, weird and (above all) warming, just like, one supposes, the inside of Gondry's mind. First Feature:Human Nature (2001)Cream of the Crop:Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)Next Up:The We and I (2012)

44. James Cameron

21st Century Filmography:Avatar (2009) We know, we know: James Cameron has made just one film this century, but there's no way the man behind the highest grossing film of all time could have been left off of a list like this. Although most of the world seems to have had some second thoughts regarding Avatar (replacing that original awe with concerns over its supposed unoriginality), there's absolutely no way anybody can deny the impact and legacy that such a film has made in so short a time. After all, this was the motion picture that made 3-D look necessary (that's really, really hard to do) and at the same time served as a kind of "Hey, this is what we can do with computers now!" showcase. Whether or not you're still blown away by Avatar, or feeling betrayed at the similarities it shares with Pocahontas, James Cameron must be commended for the extent of such an achievement. The guy really knows exactly how to make an event movie. First Feature:Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)Cream of the Crop: Avatar (2009)Next Up:Avatar 2 (2014)

43. Richard Linklater

21st Century Filmography:Waking Life (2001), Tape (2000), School of Rock (2003), Before Sunset (2004), Bad News Bears (2005), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Fast Food Nation (2006), Me and Orson Welles (2009), Bernie (2011) Texas-born Richard Linklater has refused to be labeled since he first emerged in the 90s with his uniquely-voiced slacker/stoner comedies - and that's a good thing. Diverse, dialogue-obsessed Linklater has put his name to a variety of projects over the course of the 21st century with varying degrees of success, but there's no denying his talent and unwillingness to play it safe. Recent highlights include the wonderful Me and Orson Wells, the real-time rom-com sequel Before Sunset, and the strange and paranoid A Scanner Darkly. It's irresistible Jack Black vehicle School of Rock, however, that remains Linklater's most enjoyable work ever. What could have been generic and formulaic comes across as first-class entertainment - and has perhaps since earned its place as the most rewatchable comedy ever. First Feature:Slacker (1992)Cream of the Crop: School of Rock (2003)Next Up:Boyhood (TBA)

42. Ang Lee

21st Century Filmography:Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Hulk (2003), Brokeback Mountain (2005), Lust, Caution (2007), Taking Woodstock (2009) So his version of the Hulk origin story was artier than superhero fanboys were hoping for, but Ang Lee's tender telling of the big green transformation was at least original, beautiful and complex - three signature traits that each of Lee's films emotionally-weighed films tend to encompass. Most film-goers became familiar with the Taiwanese director when his brilliant art-house/martial arts hybrid Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon hit foreign shores, but it's the romantic cowboy drama Brokeback Mountain that Lee finds himself most associated with nowadays (perhaps for the wrong reasons). First Feature:Pushing Hands (2001)Cream of the Crop:Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)Next Up:Life of Pi (2012)

41. Shane Meadows

21st Century Filmography:Once Upon A Time In The Midlands (2002), Dead Man's Shoes (2004), This Is England (2006), Somers Town (2008), Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee (2009) Before he made his debut as a filmmaker, Staffordshire-born Shane Meadows left school without finishing his GCSEs and took to a life of petty crime. It's somewhat fitting, then, that Meadows would eventually take the torch from Ken Loach to become the century's leading director of modern kitchen sink drama. Meadow's films are mostly dingy, realistic, partly autobiographical tales set in England's culturally diverse Midlands. As seen in his 2002 romantic comedy Once Upon A Time in The Midlands, his characters are often flawed, likable souls, almost always searching for something or someone to connect with. His dark, haunting masterpiece Dead Man's Shoes is a terrifying exercise in revenge cinema and established Meadow's talent for utilizing performances to make up for a low-budget. 2006's This Is England brought Meadows worldwide attention and further critical acclaim with its exploration of friendship, music and race relations. He tried his hand at mockumentary in 2009 with Le-Donk & Scor-zay-zee, ensuring that he is not a director to be pigeon-holed into one genre. First Feature:Small Time (1996)Cream of the Crop:Dead Man's Shoes (2004)Next Up: -
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