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Top 5 Filmmakers to Know if You Don’t Know Anything About Film

Whether it’s at a drive-in movie theater, a 3-D Imax experience, or just a simple movie night at home, we all love watching movies. Film is often described as the working man’s artform, because of how accessible it is compared to other forms of art. For instance, an art museum ticket for $20 isn’t as appealing as a $7 movie ticket with comfort food and cozy chairs. For many moviegoers, not much thought is given to the artists behind the camera and that’s okay. But for those interested in understanding the people working behind some of the biggest films in history, here is a list of 5 filmmakers to know if you don’t know anything about film.

1. Steven Spielberg

Easily one of the most well-known filmmakers around the world, Spielberg has produced a variety of entertaining films for everyone to enjoy. Chances are you’ve seen at least one of his titles which include: Jurassic Park (1993), Jaws (1975), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T. (1982). His films speak to all audiences as he continuously creates original content, instead of milking the same cow. Some trademarks of a Spielberg film include natural long shots a.k.a. the “Spielberg Oner”, and themes of childhood trauma and fractured families.

2. Alfred Hitchcock

If you’re looking to sit down for lighthearted, comedic titles then Hitchcock is not for you. His psychological thrillers will keep you enthralled in the action and sitting on the edge of your seat. There are endless ways to analyze his films, as they are full of important symbolism and motifs that comment on real world experiences. Some notable titles of Hitchcock include Psycho (1960), Rear Window (1954), and Vertigo (1958). A famous trademark of Hitchcock’s is his cameos he makes in every one of his films. Some cameos can be harder to spot than others, thus making for a fun challenge when watching his films.

3. Spike Lee

As a writer and director, Spike Lee produces original and engaging films with an emphasis on social commentary. His films often include themes of the African American experience and racial justice. Trademarks include characters frequently addressing the camera directly and references to baseball as Lee is a baseball fan himself—more specifically a Yankees fan. Lee’s most notable titles include Do the Right Thing (1989), BlacKkKlansman (2018), and Malcolm X (1992).

4. Martin Scorsese

A director with many cult classics, Scorsese knows how to quickly capture his audience and keep them hooked for the duration of the film (which is impressive considering the length of many of his films). Many of his famous works center around mob dramas such as The Irishman (2019) and Goodfellas (1990). Many of his films often star the iconic duo that is Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro. Some trademarks of a Scorsese picture include New York City as the main setting, rapid editing, and long tracking shots.

5. Sofia Coppola

Despite having fewer director’s credits than the rest of the list, Coppola is no stranger to the camera. Her father, Francis Ford Coppola, is the famous director of The Godfather trilogy, which Sofia herself had roles in as a child. With notable titles such as Lost in Translation (2003), Marie Antoinette (2006), and The Virgin Suicides (1999), her films land in the indie drama category as an inverse to her father’s famous crime dramas. Coppola is one of only five women ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar for her film Lost in Translation, which happens to be one of my favorite films of all time. Coppola’s trademarks include the use of natural light and characters in middle-of-life transitions. 

Some honorable mentions include: Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Jordan Peele, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher, and Tim Burton.

Of course, this list could go on forever because there will truly never be a ‘number one’ filmmaker that tops all other filmmakers, because each one is unique and brings a unique point of view to each film that cannot be replicated. This list acts as a starting point for anyone looking to know a little bit more about what’s going on behind the camera. Next time you watch a movie, pay attention to some trademarks the director might have, or themes that you may never have caught before. 

At the University of Tampa, Emma is pursuing a BA in Philosophy and double minors in Cinema Studies and Law, Justice, and Advocacy. Some of her many interests include writing, traveling, and skateboarding (if she manages to stay on the board for more than 30 seconds). She aspires to travel and live in many different cities but for now, you can find her in Tampa, FL. Say hi and follow her on Instagram @emmahitzemann!
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