12 greatest living narrative filmmakers

Richard Brody revisits a topic Jonathan Rosenbaum first wrote about in 1993: who are the twelve greatest living narrative filmmakers? 

This is not a list of the greatest directors in the world, because not all great artists are innovative. Nor is it a list of my favorite living directors, though there’s an inherent element of value judgment. These are the living directors who most changed, for the better, my way of perceiving. Also “influential” may well be the opposite of “imitable.” (I reached rock bottom editing and still had thirteen.) In alphabetical order:

  • Chantal Akerman
  • Wes Anderson
  • Andrew Bujalski
  • Pedro Costa 
  • Jean-Luc Godard
  • Jia Zhangke
  • Abbas Kiarostami
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Terrence Malick
  • Elaine May
  • Jim McBride
  • Alain Resnais
  • Joe Swanberg

Some of the directors from Rosenbaum's list have passed away, like Antonioni. I would concur on Godard, Kiarostami, and Malick.  David Lynch would find a spot on my list. Using innovation as a primary criterion reduces the possibilities quite a bit.

We also live in an interesting age for distribution with the rise of the internet as an alternative or companion medium to the big screen. I've yet to encounter a filmmaker whose vector of innovation capitalizes on that development beyond simple marketing ploys. I suspect we will soon, though.