Gary Collinson presents Five Essential British Film Directors…
With his latest film Inception grossing over $271m to date in North America, director Christopher Nolan has officially overtaken fellow countryman Ridley Scott to become the most financially successful British filmmaker of all time. This is a marvellous achievement when you consider the fact he's made just seven features and banked a hefty $1.156b overall compared to Scott’s cumulative gross of $1.124b from eighteen movies (while The Dark Knight accounts for $533m of Nolan’s figure, debut feature Following grossed just $48k from a limited release).
Nolan currently stands at number fourteen in the list of highest-grossing filmmakers and with much of his career - not to mention a third Batman picture - still to come, it's surely just a matter of time before he breaks into the top ten. But where does he rank in terms of Britain’s best ever directors? Does financial success automatically equate to greatness? Let’s take a look as we present our Five Essential British Film Directors…
5. Danny Boyle
Beginning his career in the early 80s as a BBC TV producer and theatre director, Danny Boyle burst onto the scene in 1995 with Shallow Grave, which became the most successful British film of the year. He further revitalised the flagging British film industry the following year with Trainspotting before trying to crack the US market in 1997 with A Life Less Ordinary. After adapting Alex Garland's novel The Beach in 2000, Boyle would go on to direct 28 Days Later (2002) and Sunshine (2007) (both written by Garland), in addition to the well-received coming-of-age drama Millions (2004). His biggest success however came with his last effort, the critically acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which won eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.
4. Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott directed his first feature in 1977 with The Duellists before delivering back-to-back sci-fi classics in Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982). Struggling to recapture the form of his early work through-out the 80s and 90s, Scott enjoyed a major career resurgence in 2000 with the historial epic Gladiator and has since enjoyed a string of hits including Hannibal (2001), Black Hawk Down (2001), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), American Gangster (2007) and Robin Hood (2010). Nominated three times for Best Director at the Academy Awards (Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down), Scott has earned a reputation for his stylish visuals and innovative techniques and will attempt to reclaim the title of highest-grossing British director when he returns to the Alien franchise for a pair of 3D prequels in 2011 and 2012.
3. David Lean
Honing his filmmaking skills as an editor, David Lean made his directorial debut alongside playwright Noël Coward on the patriotic war film In Which We Serve (1942) before adapting three of Coward’s plays for the silver screen including the classic Brief Encounter (1945), which gave Lean the first of nine Academy Award nominations. He won the Oscar for Best Director on two occasions for epics The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), along with three Golden Globes (the third coming for the 1965’s Doctor Zhivago). One of only three non-Americans to be honoured by the AFI with their Life Achievement Award, David Lean has been cited as an influence on a host of prominent directors including Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.
2. Christopher Nolan
Making his debut with the self-financed thriller Following (1998), Christopher Nolan gained widespread recognition in 2000 with Memento, earning Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Screenplay and establishing Nolan as hot property in Hollywood. His next move was to collaborate with Oscar-winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hilary Swank for Insomnia (2002) before resurrecting the Batman franchise with 2005's Batman Begins. After directing the period mystery The Prestige (2006) Nolan shattered box office records with The Dark Knight (2008), which is heralded by many as the best superhero film of all-time. Currently earning plaudits for the mind-bending sci-fi thriller Inception (2010), Nolan's future projects include a third Batman movie and reboot of the Superman franchise.
1. Alfred Hitchcock
Nolan may have taken the record for highest total box office and is certainly enjoying a fine run of form but he still has some way to go before he can match the impact and influence of legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. Directing more than fifty features in a career spanning six decades, Hitchcock may have produced some forgettable pictures but he is also responsible for a host of genuine classics that remain among the very finest that cinema has to offer. Early effort The 39 Steps is regarded as one of the greatest British films ever made while his transition to Hollywood produced a string of masterpieces including Rebecca (1940), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948), Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963).
A Great Reed: A Carol Reed Profile
Hard to Replicate: A Ridley Scott Profile
Lean Times: A David Lean Profile
Theatre of the Mind: A Christopher Nolan Profile
Five Essential Films of Alfred Hitchcock
Five Essential Films of Ridley Scott
Agree? Disagree? We'd love to hear your comments on the list...