Listing Movies: Double-Digit Directors

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

For some years now I’ve kept a spreadsheet containing information related to movies that I consider to be part of my personal pantheon. It’s hardly an exclusive list — it now includes over 2000 movies (I’m an inclusive sort of dude). And it’s definitely not intended as a declaration of all-time greatness. It’s more of a tool for keeping track of movies I’ve found meaningful, special, etc. I find that scrolling through it can be kind of therapeutic. Among other things, it provides interesting perspective on my tastes and viewing habits.

Anyway, I thought it’d be fun to see what filmmakers turn up most frequently on my list. So I sorted by director name and tallied ’em up. The results are surprising, even to me.

Filmmakers with 10 or more entries:

D.W. Griffith  25
Howard Hawks  23
Alfred Hitchcock 23
Mikio Naruse  23
Yasujiro Ozu  22
Buster Keaton  20
Fritz Lang  20
Ernst Lubitsch  20
John Ford  18
Kenji Mizoguchi  18
Brian De Palma  17
Jean Renoir  17
Frank Borzage  16
Anthony Mann  16
Luis Bunuel  15
Charles Chaplin  15
Satyajit Ray  15
Robert Altman  14
Jean-Luc Godard  14
Raoul Walsh  13
John Boorman  12
John Huston  12
Louis Malle  12
Max Ophuls  12
Johnnie To  12
Jacques Rivette  11
Eric Rohmer  11
Jacques Tourneur 11
George Cukor  10
Sam Peckinpah  10
William Wellman  10
William Wyler  10

Some notes and observations:

  • It’s impossible for a filmmaker to score highly using this method of evaluation unless he was regularly active for a long time. So giants like Orson Welles, Edward Yang, and Chris Marker lose out — at least on this particular metric.
  • Griffith leads the list in part because he’s Griffith, but also because he made a lot of amazing short films.
  • Keaton wasn’t always credited as the director of his films, but I don’t think anyone denies that he more or less directed his movies.
  • A similar case can be made for Harold Lloyd: He’s another non-director who clearly had a lot of control over his output. Unfortunately, I can’t sort the list to yield a number on Lloyd, and I’m too lazy to count them all up by hand. Consider him present in spirit.
  • I’m counting “Corvette K-225” and “The Thing from Another World” as Hawks-directed pictures, even though that’s debatable.
  • De Palma is surely the most controversial guy on the list. That’s fine by me. Who wants a non-controversial De Palma?
  • Numbers that surprised me: Mann, Huston, Malle, Tourneur, Boorman, Wellman, To.
  • There is clearly a bias against filmmakers who made their mark after the ’60s. I think that’s mostly due to the changing nature of film production. A Ford or a Hitchcock made a new movie almost every year. Today no one but Woody Allen does that.
  • Oh, I’m forgetting about the indefatigable Johnnie To. Like Allen, he makes about a movie a year. Obviously, I’ve liked a lot of them.
  • Directors just missing the cut: Ingmar Bergman, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Roman Polanski, Fred Schepisi (somewhat surprisingly), Victor Sjostrom, Preston Sturges, King Vidor.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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15 Responses to Listing Movies: Double-Digit Directors

  1. That’s quite an advanced case of film-geekery you’re got there!

    Clearly I’ve got a lot of Mikio Naruse and Johnnie To to catch up with. I’m pretty up to date with everyone but those two guys. In each case I think I’ve only watched a couple of their movies. Which three or four titles for each guy would you suggest looking for?

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    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      For To try “Sparrow” and the two “Election” movies.

      For Naruse I would start with “The Travelling Actors,” “Hideko the Bus Conductress,” and “When a Woman Ascends the Stairs,” then do “Floating Clouds,” “The Sound of the Mountain,” and “Repast.”

      I have a feeling you won’t like Johnny To all that much. Don’t you tend to dislike Chinese movies? These are generally Hong Kong, but still. Sax really liked his new romance movie. I didn’t like it as much. I find it hard to get into his non-action stuff.

      To is interesting. He’s operating almost like a classical Hollywood director.

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      • Sax von Stroheim says:

        Yeah, I absolutely loved To’s Romancing in Thin Air, which I think gets closer than any other contemporary movie to working (in spirit) like one of Minnelli’s romantic melodramas. And I’d agree that Sparrow is the best place to start: it covers all of the things that he does best.

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      • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

        I see he has yet another one: “Blind Detective” or something? Bordwell mentioned it. Bordwell has written a lot of good stuff about To. He did an extensive write-up of “Drug War,” which I liked fairly well.

        Sax — have you seen “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”? That was another To rom-com that I couldn’t get into.

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      • Sax von Stroheim says:

        I like Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, too. I don’t think it’s as powerful as Romancing in Thin Air, but I found it really charming and inventive (I love the sequence where they’re flirting through their office windows). I don’t think there’s a filmmaker working in “popular” cinema anywhere in the world who has as sophisticated, yet seemingly effortless, grasp of “classical” filmmaking technique.

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      • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

        No one seems to have as much control over his films as To does, that’s for sure. He’s a real craftsman, and a smart one.

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      • Sax von Stroheim says:

        Oh, the other recent one I really love is Life Without Principle – that had been on Netflix streaming for a while, but seems to be gone now.

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      • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

        I like that one as well. I think I posted about it on UR. That’s the one with the all financial stuff and the weird switch-back plot structure, right?

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  2. I’ve watched a movie or two by each guy but can’t remember which. Time for me to start using a spreadsheet, I guess.

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  3. Even though my spreadsheet wouldn’t be 1/10th as extensive as yours, I wish I would’ve started something similar back when my movie-watching became more serious. One of my high school teachers was a major film geek who maintained a file of 3″ x 5″ index cards on everything he saw.

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    • Fabrizio del Wrongo says:

      The original idea was to link the spreadsheet to capsule reviews, then to make it into a website type of thing. But I fell behind with capsules. Now I will never catch up.

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  4. Newsweek’s David Ansen once told me that he started keeping notes — little write-ups — of movies he’d watched when he was still a kid. Some are truly born to be movie reviewers, I guess. I wonder if there’s a gene for it.

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  5. cyrus says:

    Wot, no Dick Lester?

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  6. Pingback: Johnnie To’s romances | Uncouth Reflections

  7. Pingback: Notes on “That’s My Man” | Uncouth Reflections

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