This is a completely unfair question. It’s like limiting ice cream to either vanilla or chocolate. Sometimes, I want some cookie dough. Sometimes, I want Ben & Jerry’s Cinnabun. It’s the same with directors. You’re not always in the mood to have your tolerance level tested by Takashi Miike. (If you are, then maybe you should invest some therapy. Seriously, watch Audition all the way to the end if you don’t know what I’m talking about) So I looked at this question as a director that I feel hasn’t had a really bad film in his entire library. That qualification alone disqualifies a massive number of directors instantly, including Spielberg, Scorcese, and David Cronenberg.
1. Frank Darabont
The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist, The Green Mile, AMC’s The Walking Dead
Darabont knows how to do traditional Americana extremely well. All of his films feel grounded in a very real reality, even with some supernatural or illogical circumstances. If you ever hear the way he walks about his projects, that’s how I always envisioned myself talking about my own. With a reverence to the past, an acknowledgment to the wonderful people he works with, and an extreme passion for all things film-making.
2. Christopher Nolan
Memento, Insomnia, Inception, The Dark Knight, Batman Begins
Nolan is just a natural storyteller. His films never seem to poke or plod along. His scripts always seem tight and well paced. His ideas are usually pretty original. He single-handedly brought the Batman back from its grave (see nipples on the Batsuit for proof) and made quite arguably the greatest comic book movie made so far in The Dark Knight. Sure, Inception was a little too self involved, but the imagery alone was worth the price of admission. Nolan was even able to get somewhat subdued performances out of Al Pacino AND Robin Williams in the criminally underrated Insomnia. That feat does not go unnoticed. Not on my watch.
3. Danny Boyle
Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, 28 Days Later, Sunshine
Ok, let me get this out of the way first…The Beach sucked. But everything else Danny Boyle has made, I’ve enjoyed thoroughly, even including the kid-friendly Millions and the commerical flop Sunshine. Although the latter is the film responsible for making me believe that Chris Evans could handed the leadership & command the respect associated with Captain America. Boyle was even able to boil down the frenetic pace of Irving Welsh’s heroin fueled Trainspotting into a mostly cohesive (and completely memorable) film, an impressive task in and of itself. 28 Days Later might not be a zombie movie per say (since the infected aren’t really the living dead), but it completely revolutionized the genre and contained some of the most haunting images I’ve seen in a horror movie. And the Academy heaped enough praise on Slumdog Millionaire that I don’t need to.
Honorable Mention: David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Darren Aronosky, Steve Pink, Werner Herzog, Savage Steve Holland, David Cronenberg, Marty Scorsese, Cameron Crowe, Edgar Wright, Roman Polanski