Stanley Kubrick

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.


Stanley Kubrick

Stanley KubrickName: Stanley Kubrick

Essential DVDs: Paths of Glory (1957); 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); Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Oscars: Best Visual Effects (2001: A Space Odyssey)

In His Own Words: “Telling me to take a vacation from filmmaking is like telling a child to take a vacation from playing.”

On this day, we remember the legendary and visionary filmmaker, Stanley Kubrick.

If Stanley Kubrick was still alive and had kept to his familiar stately schedule of completing a movie every six or seven years, we’d have been able to enjoy a 13th project. But though the legendary, visionary director may be gone, we have the films; 12 made in half a century of work, each radically different from the others — there was science fiction and sex, heists and horror — yet familiar themes snake through them. There are meditations on the usual big subjects: war, violence, love, sex and death but if he had overriding concerns they cluster around notions of reason and irrationality; control and chaos; of man’s attempts to corral and master the world, to impose his will, and his inevitable failures.

The theme reveals itself in his first properly “Kubrickian” movie, The Killing (he disowned both Killer’s Kiss and Spartacus, the first as an amateur, practice, piece of work, the second as a studio picture on which he was a hired hand) in which a perfectly planned heist slowly unravels with deadly and then comic results. Dr. Strangelove, Paths Of Glory and Full Metal Jacket gaze, horrified, on the phenomenon of war, not so much on its injustice and violence, but on its insane, deadly illogicality. In Dr Strangelove a plan, The Doomsday Machine, supposed to prevent the apocalypse actually precipitates it; in Paths Of Glory a general winds up ordering his troops not to fire on the enemy but on each other, while the first act of Full Metal Jacket (and its best) has R. Lee Ermey (one of only two actors ever encouraged, indeed allowed to improvise dialogue on set –the other was Peter Sellers) turning his troupe of boys into inhuman killing-machines, but the unintended consequence is that one kills his tutor, and then himself. (Shades of HAL here, a being created to be perfect turns on his creators and destroys them.) For Kubrick, a man famously devoted to order and reason, these collapse into chaos and self-contradiction provoked a ghastly fascination.

If the intellectual content of Kubrick’s films has an admirable consistency, then so do his astonishing visuals. He once compared the experience of watching a film to be near to dreaming, and dream motifs and ideas repeat, mutate and develop, symbols that slip from one film to the next. There are the hotels: The Shining’s Overlook obviously but also The Orbiter Hilton in space in 2001, and the New York hotel foyer where Alan Cumming flirts with a nervy Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut. Ballrooms recur in The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut and as the scene of the court-martial in Paths Of Glory. And, of course, there are the lavatories. He had an almost mischievous love of setting vital scenes in the room that has us at our most undeniably human. Jack Torrance confronts his demons and determines to kill his wife and child in the Overlook gents. Tom Cruise begins his odyssey reviving an OD victim, who will subsequently save his life, in a luxurious Manhattan penthouse bathroom while in Full Metal Jacket (starring NYFA Board Member and Master Class Instructor Matthew Modine) Vincent D’Onofrio unleashes his fury and his rifle in a barracks latrine. It’s a version of that old tension again, the perfections and profundities of drama set against the realities of life: we all have to go to the crapper.

No other director has had such a sure technical grasp of the mechanics of filmmaking: the lenses and film stocks; the cameras and contraptions. He pushed the technical envelope with almost every movie he made: he shot by candle-light in Barry Lyndon; he pioneered the now overused Steadicam in The Shining while his last film, Eyes Wide Shut gains its hallucinatory luminousness from his daring, borderline crazy decision to “push-process” the entire movie, a dangerous strategy, usually only used in emergencies since the slightest miss-timing can destroy the negative. But Kubrick managed to marry this technical virtuosity to an almost spiritual understanding of cinema’s intangibles: the relationship of images to our subconscious; the feelings and attitudes that can be provoked by space, colour and movement –the things that make cinema a uniquely potent art form. 2001: A Space Odyssey is as near to a purely visual experience as cinema gets. What dialogue there is is deliberately banal and unhelpful, but the imagery: bones transforming to bomb platforms; a ballet in orbit performed entirely by spaceships; Bowman bathed in HAL’s amniotic-red light as he performs, in the film’s most ironically emotional scene, the termination of a machine, are unforgettable. They communicate more potently than words.

Red, in fact, forms another of Kubrick’s repeating motifs, it gushes out of elevators in The Shining, signals decadence and danger as the scarlet carpet in Eyes Wide Shut, it’s the colour of the typewriter that looms in shot at the house of Alex’s rape victim in A Clockwork Orange and her fetishistically ripped jump-suit.

He didn’t live to see critics tear into his last masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut though he may have been aware of them arming themselves during the dimwit hysteria that surrounded its filming. (None of his films received unalloyed praise immediately, but most were subject to the gradual, embarrassed shifting of critical opinion in the years that followed their release.) Many publicly lamented what they saw as Kubrick’s stunt casting of Cruise and Kidman, bemoaned the film as a crass celebrity fuck-fest and were secretly disappointed when said treat didn’t materialise. In fact, it might be his finest film, synthesising the pessimism of The Shining and the glorious optimism of 2001 into a human experience both intimate and recognisable, the stresses and contradictions of sex and marriage. And it unambiguously cements Kubrick’s belief that film is akin to a dream (mind-bogglingly some critics failed to notice the theme: the clue’s in the title guys). It certainly, like all of them, bears repeated, fascinated re-watching.

In matters of mystery, Stanley Kubrick once said, never explain. His films are, as they always will be, precise, elusive, beguiling. They often seem at first glance to be alien and cold, yet later we find that they can speak to us at our most human level. Unique against the cinematic landscape, they stand like monoliths in a desert.