Christopher Nolan

Filmmakers Whose Work Stands the Test of Time

There are occasionally filmmakers who break all barriers, whose work stands the test of time and continues to captivate audiences and critics even decades later. If you’re looking for a master class in original, timeless filmmaking, check out these filmmakers whose originality stands the test of time and offers experiences that are still relevant, riveting, and righteously entertaining.

Alfred Hitchcock

It’s impossible to have a list of enduring filmmakers without including Hitchcock. His silent film roots allowed him to innovate in the area of visual storytelling by mastering mise-en-scène, captivating use of music, and wise editing.

Hitchcock is perhaps best known for his innovative camera movement, and his knack for persuading audiences to feel as if they are a part of the story through the clever manipulation of perspective through close-ups, long takes, and more.

Click here to read more about why we think Hitchcock’s work will be enjoyed for years to come.

Timeless Hitchcock films to watch asap:

  • Notorious (1946)
  • Rear Window (1954)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • North by Northwest (1959)
  • Psycho (1960)

Akira Kurosawa

Posthumously named “Asian of the Century” in in 1990 by AsianWeek, Kurosawa’s work did more than just put the Japanese film industry on the international map. His superb screenwriting abilities, dynamic style, and innovative techniques went on to influence all of Western cinema, including The Magnificent Seven, a reimagining of Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai. From Americans like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to fellow Asian filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki and John Woo, countless notable filmmakers have expressed their admiration for Kurosawa’s cinematographic achievements.

Timeless Films

  • Rashomon (1950)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Kagemusha (1980)
  • Ran (1985)

Steven Spielberg

If there’s one reason Spielberg will be esteemed for ages to come, it’s for his versatility. From intense war stories and terrifying thrillers to adventure movies fun for the whole family, this man has probably done it all — and done it marvellously. While most directors find their niche and stay put, Spielberg’s storytelling prowess has been proven across an amazing range of genres while somehow still expressing his signature style. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love at least one film from this iconic director who, at the ripe age of 71 in of 2018, is still behind the camera.

Timeless Films

  • Jaws (1975)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Schindler’s List (1993)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Spike Lee

This African-American filmmaker began impressing critics and viewers alike with his first feature film “She’s Gotta Have It,” a comedy drama shot in two weeks with a budget of $175,000. When it grossed over $7 million in America, people knew Lee was something special. He has since then delivered several classics that have earned him numerous accolades over the years. Many of his projects are renowned for examining important issues such as race relations, urban poverty, and discrimination even among black communities.

Timeless Films

  • Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • Malcolm X (1992)
  • The Original Kings of Comedy (2000)
  • 25th Hour (2002)
  • Inside Man (2006)

Stanley Kubrick

The late, great Kubrick made an impact on the film industry in a way few other directors have. His constant striving for perfection and mastery of the technical side of filmmaking allowed him to craft cinematic experiences that transcended genre and changed everything that followed. Along with working closely and intensely with his writers and performers, Kubrick was also known for requiring as many takes as it took in order to find what he called “the magic.”

Timeless Films

  • Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • The Shining (1980)
  • Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Francis Ford Coppola


This American filmmaker is responsible for one of the most overwhelmingly praised trilogy of films ever to hit the big screen: The Godfather alone won nearly a dozen Oscars and is #2 in American Film Institute’s list of best American films. The trilogy’s influence inspired the creation of other notable gangster films such as Goodfellas and TV shows like The Sopranos.

Timeless Films

  • The Godfather (1972)
  • American Graffiti (1973)
  • The Godfather: Part II (1974)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Sofia Coppola

The daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has emerged as one of the most talented female directors of all time. She was the first American woman to win Venice Film Festival’s top prize and receive a Best Director nomination at the 2003 Academy Awards, while also serving as the second woman to win best director at Cannes Film Festival. Her Oscar-winning Lost in Translation a great starting point for film fans to witness Coppola’s impressive ability to balance humor and drama.

Timeless Films

  • The Virgin Suicides (1999)
  • Lost in Translation (2003)
  • Marie Antoinette (2006)
  • The Bling Ring (2013)
  • The Beguiled (2017)

Orson Welles

What’s there to say about Welles that hasn’t been said before? The legendary director changed the game with Citizen Kane, a film ranked by many as the best of all time. The 1941 drama went on to influence even the most prominent directors with its nonlinear storytelling, powerful use of themes and motifs, and phenomenal cinematography. Welles would go on to direct several more films, many of which are also worthy of viewing almost a century later.

Timeless Films

  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
  • The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
  • Touch Of Evil (1958)
  • Chimes at Midnight (1965)

Up-and-Coming Timeless Filmmakers

Christopher Nolan

Still arguably near the beginning of his illustrious career, Nolan came into prominence at the turn of the millenium with Following, a neo-noir crime thriller he funded personally. Since then, the English filmmaker has made a name for himself by producing hit after hit, making him one of the highest-grossing directors of all time. His use of nonlinear storytelling and enticing themes surrounding human morality and identity have allowed him to create films that will likely be watched in film classes for a long time.

Timeless Films

  • Memento (2000)
  • The Dark Knight (2008)
  • Inception (2010)
  • Interstellar (2014)
  • Dunkirk (2017)

Catherine Hardwicke

Hardwicke got her start in the business as a production designer, where she was able to study the techniques of skilled directors like Cameron Crowe. She first proved her own directing talents with 2003’s Thirteen, which won six awards and nearly a dozen nominations. Highly successful films like Twilight and The Nativity Story have only helped cement Hardwicke’s legacy as one of the best female directors of all time.

Timeless Films

  • Thirteen (2003)
  • Lords of Dogtown (2005)
  • The Nativity Story (2006)
  • Twilight (2008)
  • Red Riding Hood (2011)

Ava DuVernay

Leading the new generation of great African American filmmakers is DuVernay, who in less than two decades has already made a name for herself behind the camera. This includes being the first black woman to win the Sundance Film Festival’s directing award. She is also the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Golden Golden Globe award and Academy Award for Best Picture. With so many accomplishments at the ripe age of 45, we’re confident that DuVernay’s best work is yet to come.

Timeless Films

  • Saturday Night Life (2006)
  • I Will Follow (2010)
  • Middle of Nowhere (2012)
  • Selma (2014)
  • 13th (2016)

What other directors would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments below, and learn more about Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

 

Our 90th Academy Award Predictions: Best Picture, Best Director, and More!

The greatest award show of the year is just around the corner! With the list of Oscar nominees already garnering predictions and buzz, fans will be crossing their fingers until March 4 in hopes of seeing their top picks take home a shiny golden statuette. We’ve joined in on the fun by coming up with our own predictions on who will win this coming Academy Awards 2018.

Top Categories

Best Picture: The Shape of Water

This is one of those years where competition is so stiff that most of the nominated films can win and few would be surprised. But among the excellent choices, Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fantasy is likely to take away the main prize. It has nominations in more than a dozen different categories, was deemed a critical success, and is viewed by many as a major artistic achievement. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the the most diverse of the best pictures nominees in a time when diversity and gender equality in the industry are major focus points.

Best Director: Christopher Nolan

If there’s one category that has two clear potential winners, it’s Best Director. Greta Gerwig’s nomination serves as the first time in eight years (almost a decade!) that a female has been nominated in the category, and marks the first time that a female director has been nominated for her directing debut –– but Christopher Nolan is also likely emerge victorious. “Dunkirk,” one of the highest grossing films of 2017, is a testament to his directorial prowess. Nolan was able to make his historical war movie — a genre we’ve all seen before — feel raw and intense without the need for excess explosions and effects.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman

Here’s a category where we’d put money down on our choice and not break a sweat. Having won Best Actor at the Golden Globes and then again at the SAG Awards a few weeks later, it’s a safe bet to predict that Gary Oldman will win this award at the Oscars. His transformation into the great Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, which required wearing a fat suit and makeup that took hours to apply, is considered one of his most impressive performances to date. This win would serve as Gary Oldman’s first Academy Award.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand

Best Actress is as competitive as ever at the 2018 Academy Awards. There were many impressive performances throughout the year that all deserve recognition, but only one leading lady is going into the Oscars with momentum. Frances McDormand has already netted Golden Globe and SAG Awards for Best Actress for her performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, making her the reasonable winner of this race. It would be a well-deserved recognition for a remarkable performance from a truly great actress.

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell

Both Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project, produced by NYFA Instructor Darren Dean), and Richard Jenkins (The Shape of Water), are certainly among the favorites to take home this award.

At the top of the list, however, is Sam Rockwell for his large performance in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. This role has earned Rockwell widespread acclaim, not to mention a two SAG awards, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA Award nomination. His impressive acting abilities are on full display in the 2017 crime drama alongside other incredible talents like Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, who also received praise for their performances.

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney

This is another extremely tight category where we can easily see the award go to more than one talented actress.

While Best Supporting Actress nominee Mary J. Blige has made Oscar history this year as the first person ever to be nominated for an original song and acting in the same year, it seems likely that the decision for this category will come down to either Laurie Metcalf for her role in Lady Bird and Allison Janney for hers in I, Tonya, with the latter being our prediction.

Janney has already won a handful of awards for her memorable portrayal of this imperious mother — a performance that created more talk than the rest of the cast.

Other Categories:

Best Animated Feature: Coco

In a year where there aren’t many strong contenders in the animated feature category, it would be the surprise of the night not to see Disney Pixar take home the gold.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Mudbound

Dee Rees’ American period drama, based on Hillary Jordan’s novel and fueled by a fantastic screenplay, is a top contender for this category. While Rees’ exclusion from the Best Director category for Mudbound is already seen as the season’s most controversial snub, with the film receiving both Best Cinematography and Best Supporting Acting nominations, the multi-hyphenate filmmaker has absolutely broken barriers and made Oscar history as the first woman of color nominated in this category.

Best Original Screenplay: Lady Bird

This poignant coming-of-age tale has earned an impressive amount of awards and nominations in various categories, making it a likely winner in this one.

Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

The gold statuette for this category could easily go to either Dunkirk or Mudbound — the latter making history by helping Rachel Morrison become the first woman ever nominated. At the end of the day, we’re predicting that the amazing cinematographic work that went into Villeneuve’s impactful sci-fi film Blade Runner 2049 will set it apart as the winner.

Best Costume Design: The Shape of Water

With a category as unpredictable as this one, we have to go with The Shape of Water, which was snubbed in the makeup and visual effects categories.

Best Film Editing: Dunkirk

Dunkirk is a perfect example of Nolan’s ability to captivate audiences by showing the anxiety and horror of war across intertwined characters and events.

Best Makeup & Hairstyling: Darkest Hour

Like we mentioned before, the fact that Gary Oldman was able to deliver his stunning performance in a fat suit and after hours of makeup is enough to convince us.

Best Original Score: Phantom Thread

In arguably the toughest category to select a prediction, we’re placing our bets on Jonny Greenwood’s work for Phantom Thread. His moving musical score, which has already earned numerous nominations and awards elsewhere, did an admirable job of further heightening the acclaimed screenplay and direction of the film.

Best Production Design: The Shape of Water

Another close fight where any nominee can hear their name called up. At the end of the day, it’s The Shape of Water that impressed the most with a real-life twist to its fairy-tale world.

Best Original Song: Remember Me from Coco

Plenty of excellent choices but only room for one winner — and our prediction is Coco’s memorable lullaby. A close runner up is “Mighty River” from Mudbound, a nomination that made history by making Mary J. Blige the  first woman of color nominated in both this category and Best Supporting Actress.

Best Sound Editing & Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

In a film with little dialogue and lots of acting, it was the excellent sound editing that helped keep us engrossed by what takes place in Nolan’s war drama.

Best Visual Effects: War for the Planet of the Apes

We feel this year is when these visually groundbreaking films finally earn an award for their cutting-edge performance-capture work.

Best Foreign Language Film: In the Fade

Though not a lock, Critics’ Choice Award and Golden Globe wins might be enough to set this German film apart as winner.

Best Documentary Feature: Faces Places

Agnès Varda’s documentary about traveling portrait painters is expected to pull ahead and win the gold. Varda, a French woman who has been a filmmaker for more than 60 years, made Oscar history this year when she became the oldest-ever nominee, at the age of 89.

Best Animated Short: Lou

Pixar Animation Studios tackles schoolyard bullying in this inspiring animated short by the iconic Emeryville studio.

Best Live Action Short: The Eleven O’Clock

Our bold prediction is that Derin Seale’s humorous live action short will upset other clear winners on Oscars night.

Best Documentary Short: Heroin(e)

For this close category we can’t help but side with Heroin(e), a doc that follows Huntington, West Virginia’s fire chief, a local judge, and an impassioned volunteer — all women — as they battle to save lives from opioid addiction in a town where the overdose rate is 10 times the national average. Our very own Kristen Nutile, a NYFA Documentary Filmmaking teacher, served as editor on the film.

Christopher Nolan & Wally Pfister: The Best Cinematography Duo in Modern Cinema?

Make no mistake about it – Christopher Nolan is an exceptional writer who has the uncanny ability to bring innovative ideas to a plot while at the same time never straying from established storytelling conventions.

Christopher Nolan movies

This balance – and knowing precisely when to push boundaries and when to stay within them – have resulted in a near-flawless filmography over the past fifteen years. His only real box-office and critical bomb was this year’s Transcendence, on which he only acted as a producer rather than a screenwriter.

But it could be argued that Christopher Nolan’s finished movies would look a lot more paint-by-numbers if it wasn’t for how stunningly beautiful they’re always packaged.

And for that, Nolan has one man to thank.

Wally Pfister NYFA

Wally Pfister: DP Extraordinaire

Like many of the industry’s most gifted professionals, Pfister started out young. He’d already discovered a passion for cinematography at the age of just 11, having become enthralled watching a lighting crew work on scenes for a movie being shot in his neighborhood.

Shortly after high school, he began turning his passion into a paying career, working as a production assistant for a news channel in Maryland. But it was to be a stretch of fifteen years shooting PSAs, doing odd grip and electrician work, and working on PBS documentaries before he was to form a partnership that would change the face of Hollywood.

When Wally Met Chris

In 1998, Pfister was working long into the night on a movie with a tiny budget. Feeling restless and looking for a change in career pace, he began leafing through a script that was doing the rounds on set. The other crew members and DP couldn’t see any value or merit in the choppy, confusing narrative; Pfister, however, was blown away.

Memento Wally Pfister

That screenplay was to be Memento.

By chance, Christopher Nolan had heard of Wally’s prior work and was interested in meeting him – but it was a one shot-chance with a finite window of opportunity. Pfister walked off set, caught the first plane from Alabama to Los Angeles and made it back in the same day to continue working.

“I hadn’t slept in 36 hours. I was a mess. I was rambling. Obviously, I was impressed by how intelligent Chris was. I was a little intimidated meeting him,” Pfister told The Daily Beast. “So I left there going, “Oh, well, that would have been great.”

But as fate would have it, not only did Nolan hire Pfister for the job of Director of Photography, but the quirky independent movie went on to great critical and commercial success, arguably thanks to Wally’s stylistic handling of the source material.

What Wally Brought to Chris

Following Memento, Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister went on to even greater heights and many of the most defining moments in the duo’s shared filmography came from Wally.

Wally Pfister Dark Knight joker
The scene with Batman standing on the Sears Tower at dusk, overlooking the city? That was Pfister. The shot outside the Parisienne cafe in Inception where the city folds in on itself? Also Pfister.

But as well as bringing his own visual elements to the table, one of the biggest reasons behind the success of the Nolan/Pfister partnership is that they’re in lock-step with each other. Nolan dreams up a scene involving an anti-gravity hotel corridor, and Pfister works out how to achieve it; Pfister pitches a visual involving a command module docking with a rapidly spinning spaceship, and Nolan writes it into the script.

What Chris and Wally Share

The other ingredient for success is that they both share a similar ethos when it comes to filmmaking. While it is Nolan that is famed for hating digital effects, 3D shooting and an over-reliance on CGI, it was Wally who helped him nurture this passion and turn it from a restriction to a benefit.

This even goes right down to how the pair utilize lighting, with Pfister stating: “Before you can know how to place a light, you have to understand natural light. You don’t need technology to have a good eye and an appreciation of the beauty of natural light. Go buy a book on Carvaggio or any of the Dutch Masters. To me, that’s beautiful lighting and it’s all natural and from 500 years ago.”

Pfister-director

And the reason that Nolan and Pfister appears to pioneer the craft of filmmaking is because it is; the two came to iMax filming together for their work on the Dark Knight trilogy, and had to problem solve and figure it out together at a time when nobody else knew how.

What Wally Teaches Cinematography Students

In a hugely popular talk and Q&A session given at the New York Film Academy, Pfister had this closing advice to offer students at the cinematography school: “You have to take risks. That’s what will make your career last longer. You have to fight to get your vision on the screen (but not fight with your director).”

Never a truer word spoken.