The 2000’s have been filled with hundreds of fantastic films with brilliant directors behind them. While returning directors, such as Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen and Martin Scorsese, have made their fair share of masterpieces over the last two decades, I am focusing on directors that debuted over the last twenty years. Here are my top 10 directors of the 2000’s.
10. Matthew Vaughn
Matthew Vaughn is the master of the adaptation. Between Stardust, Kick-Ass and X-Men First Class, Vaughn has proven how well he can adapt a book or comic book into film without losing what made the source material work. Kingsman: The Secret Service, however, is the golden jewel next to the other shiny rocks in Vaughn’s collection. Kingsman manages to balance action and comedy perfectly, something the director seemed to learn from his work on Kick-Ass. Hopefully The King’s Man is even a fraction as good as the original.
9. Taika Waititi
Taika Waititi is a weird filmmaker that makes some truly weird comedies. However, that awkwardness he brings through his directing makes his films stand out among that sea of abysmal comedies. Waititi brings this bizarre comedy to all of his films, especially What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilder People, and most recently, Jojo Rabbit. What We do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilder People are, for the most part, straight comedies with a little bit of heart thrown in here and there. Jojo Rabbit, on the other hand, flows from over-the-top hilariousness to dark drama seamlessly. When I saw Jojo Rabbit in theaters last year, I expected to cry from laughter, not from sadness. I hope Taika keeps crafting these unique comedies when he is not working on the next Thor film.
8. Barry Jenkins
I do not need to tell you how Moonlight is a masterpiece and how it absolutely deserves its 2016 best picture win. Barry Jenkins tells stories about those who lack representation on the big screen. Moonlight is a coming of age story following the life of a gay black man as he ages into the man he thought he always wanted to be. If Beale Street Could Talk takes his superb filmmaking from Moonlight and improves on it in every way. Each section of Beale Street feels frozen in time, as if it is a moving picture taken out of history. It was also the first movie that filled me with hope while watching, only to drown me in sorrow by the end.
7. Robert Eggers
Have you heard about that obscure 2019 horror film, The Lighthouse? Robert Eggers is one of many directors pioneering modern horror. His debut with 2015’s The Witch left me with a renewed sense of hope for modern horror, but nothing would prepare me for the sheer guts of The Lighthouse. Shot like a classic horror film from 1930’s, The Lighthouse was easily one of my favorite films of last year.
6. Greta Gerwig
2017’s Lady Bird set the standard for the “coming of age” film, and was easily the best one since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The characters felt so real it hurt to watch them on screen. Serving as Greta Gerwig’s entrance into filmmaking, Lady Bird laid the ground for her 2019 adaptation of Little Women. The chronology of the movie is a bit unorthodox, but Gerwig’s direction ties everything together visually. Hopefully her next movie wins best picture, although it depends on how steep the competition will be.
5. Jordan Peele
Primarily known for his time as part of the comedy duo Key & Peele, Jordan Peele surprised everyone with his racial commentary horror film Get Out. Taking various horror tropes and combining them with some on-the-nose racial allegories created the best horror movie of the last decade. While his 2019 film Us does not quite live up to the vast expectations created by Get Out, it still managed to be a captivating horror allegory on America’s class system. Peele brings these grand ideas to his horror films that will always keep me coming back to them. A single viewing does not do his films justice.
4. Rian Johnson
Say what you will about The Last Jedi, but Rian Johnson is at his best when he is telling a grand story from a small scale. 2012’s Looper introduced audiences to a simple yet complex world that was not too dissimilar to our own. The small personal stakes made the world feel tangible. This method of storytelling Johnson employs perfectly in Looper, was repeated in The Last Jedi, grounding the stakes of the Star Wars universe from a grand battle between good and evil to personal battles within each character. Knives Out is the cherry on this “grand but simple” cake, turning a classic murder mystery story into commentary on family dynamics. Rian Johnson can turn any large story into a small one given the right tools and enough time.
3. Damien Chazelle
Damien Chazelle combines emotional, visual, and audio together so perfectly that it creates a filmmaking crescendo as I call it. This is most recognizable in Whiplash with the exciting finale that could never be replicated by any other filmmaker. La La Land takes this even further, spreading the combination between visuals and music throughout its runtime and allowing Chazelle to show off every trick up his sleeve. With La La Land, he created the best musical of the past couple decades. First Man operates on the same principles as well, only it uses sound design instead of music for the most powerful scenes. Chazelle is the master of the final thread of film.
2. Bong Joon-ho
No one, not even Jordan Peele, does class commentary quite like Bong Joon-ho. Nearly every movie Joon-ho has made has some form of critique on class systems, no matter the genre or setting. Whether it be The Host, Mother, Okja or Snowpiercer, he always has something new to say and I am always ready to listen. However, none of these great films compare to his masterpiece, 2019’s Parasite. Everything, from the camera work to the visual style and the flow of the plot, make Parasite one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. It is the culmination of all of Joon-ho’s previous films
1. Edgar Wright
If Damien Chazelle is the master of musical third acts, then Edgar Wright is the king of musical action set pieces. He first introduces the idea of an action set piece synced to music with the “Don’t Stop Me Now” sequence from Shawn of the Dead. He then takes the idea one step further in Scott Pilgrim vs the World with the many concert scenes in the movie, with the stand out being the bass battle between Scott and Todd. The true show-stopper, however, is Baby Driver. Before Baby Driver, Wright had only done comedies, and quite hilarious ones at that. Baby Driver is special, and not just because it is the least crazy of Wright’s films. Baby Driver is a non-stop fun music-synchronized car chase film where the best chase is on foot. Wright’s visual style leaves my mouth agape every time I watch his films.
Do you feel like there is a director I forgot? Comment below who you would put in your top 10!