Movies and Film: Film Directing

Film Directing

Okay, everybody knows his or her favorite actors. But how many people know who the directors of their favorite films are? Sure, James Cameron directed Titanic (1997). But who directed The Wizard of Oz (1939)? Sleepless in Seattle (1993)? Casablanca (1942)? We all know what constitutes a Julia Roberts film: It will be winsome and a little wry. Her character will be threatened if the film is a thriller. She will weigh one or two pounds less than in her last film. But who can say what a John Ford or Peter Greenaway film feels like? In short, how many directors' names do you know? It's a little like naming all eight of your great-grandparents. Almost everyone can name one or two; no one can name all eight. (Or is it four? Or sixteen?)

In this section we explore the meaning of great direction through the examples of some of the best directors the world knows. We have tried to fulfill three criteria in making the whole list: The names are representative of a wide variety of world directors; we have tried to represent a range of styles and genre interests; and we have tried to stay away from filmmakers who, like D. W. Griffith, have been extensively treated elsewhere in this guide.

Rating the Directors

Here are some of the dimensions along which we will be discussing the directors in this section:

  • Those who work in the system: auteurs
  • Those who work outside the system: independents
  • Those who specialize in meaning
  • Those who specialize in technology

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order the e-book book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website. You can also purchase this book at