Most of us Laser Time readers are 80s and 90s kids. Our childhoods were shaped in an era of blockbusters in a very different way from the likes of our parents or grandparents. The directors of grand spectacles were visionaries, pioneers of a new direction in cinema at the close of the 20th century.
Each has an unmistakable voice and style, and all are over that unfortunate, proverbial hill. They’ve been creating so long we’ve forgotten how much we’ll miss them when they’re gone. So let’s remember them now.
Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, The Departed)
A master of intense and action-packed dramas, and one of the strongest pillars of the New Hollywood movement. Although many remember him for his intense, visually lush executions of clandestine, urban crime and domestic violence, he’s one of those directors who has never been afraid to extract the raw ugliness that sits festering inside of many humans.
Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away)
The only full-time animator on this list, people often call him and his Studio Ghibli the “Disney of Japan.” But that’s probably more insulting than it’s intend it to be, especially to him personally. Miyazaki has been a powerhouse animator since the late 60s, garnering praise from fans and colleagues alike for his noteworthy attention to detail and fluidity within the animated world. Since his meteoric rise, you can see the evolution of his state of mind, growing from restless aggressive youth to an elder who takes time to stop and think peacefully about life, friendship, and giving back to the world.
Steven Spielberg (e.T., Bridge of Spies)
A directorial success story, having helped to usher in the era of the blockbuster film in the redefining New Hollywood era. After watching his Inside the Actors Studio interview a few years ago, I realized that if anyone were destined to be a legendary director, it was him. He has time and time again been a cinematic taste-maker, leading the pack and never turning back to see how far ahead he is.
Tim Burton (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands)
An animator who makes live-action movies usually creates very visually intense films, and Tim Burton is more like the rule rather than the exception. His unmistakable Gothic cartoon style defines his works with distinct shapes forms and colors. His unique vision is full of playfully nightmarish landscapes occupied by gaunt figures of haunted romanticism.
Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade runner)
Say what you will about the mess that was Prometheus, but you can’t deny that everything you know about cyberpunk futures was defined by several of this man’s works. He changed futuristic stories, and certainly changed the way the future looked in video games and movies, for better and worse. All of his works have a certain level of grit, but he has a way of making sci-fi futures resemble the working class, heavy with metals and wet with humidity and sweat.
John Carpenter (the Thing, Halloween)
Creator of many wildly divergent and unforgettable cult film classics of the late 20th century, with a strange sense of pacing anchored to an oddly grounded cinematic style. He develops worlds were secret truths are hidden right in front of us. There’s a restless tug of war with the mundane and the fantastically paranormal, the ancient mixed with postmodern culture.
George Lucas (Star Wars, Willow)
I know, I know! But you have to admit that he changed the pop culture and cinematic landscape like no other director on this list. From visual effects to sound design, from THX to ILM to Pixar, he pioneered many of the elements and industries of modern cinema. He may not be at the helm of the good ship Star Wars any more, but when he finally becomes a Force ghost, I think we’ll miss him more than we are currently annoyed by him.
James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar)
He turned heads and raised eyebrows immediately with his first batch of films in the mid-80s, as a dominant voice with intense action thrillers and breathtaking visual effects. That voice carried over into the 90s, as he went on to write and direct several award-winning and box office record-breaking films.
These are just some of the directors I personally feel will be missed, but that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones. Let me know whom you would put on this list and why. Thanks for reading!
Article by contributor Smars. When he isn’t standing around in a bathrobe making people sad, he’s making them suffer through his collection of digital comics and visual novels at smarscomics.com.