When is it decided that collective critical analysis becomes consensus? Though certain great directors – Hitchcock, Kurosawa and Godard – are household names for their consistently impressive work, few would consider the objectivity of their films up for much debate. But those filmmakers whose creations are bound to incite wildly varying responses from viewer to viewer are left in a constant cycle of reassessment. Not every one of these divisive directors is necessarily a genius for what their filmographies provoke, but they are some of the most brazenly determined filmmakers of all time.
12. David Cronenberg
The Godfather of body horror has justified his aptitudes many times over decade by decade. Aside from his numerous classics, several of his most famous films have yet to be entirely processed by audiences and critics. The opinions of films as particular as Crash, Scanners and Naked Lunch are still in fluctuation, with equal numbers calling these entries his best and his worst. Recent films like Spider and Cosmopolis have continued his perplexing output enough to conclude that Cronenberg’s days as a provocateur are far from over.
11. Tim Burton
There are few modern directors with a style as recognizably singular as Tim Burton. There are mild diversions from his milieu – Big Fish, Big Eyes – and numerous overindulgent misfires – Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows – that have muddied his collective filmography. Still films as identifiable as Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Sleepy Hollow and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory all exist on his signature level of take it or leave it. Burton is an oddity of film craft, his tendencies in visuals and casting so ingrained in the majority of his work that indisputably good films like Ed Wood, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd seem almost brushed over in discussion.
10. Oliver Stone
No American film director has ever been so consistent in his apathy for the spectrum of liberal and conservative slants. Even though Oliver Stone is easily one of the most politically minded filmmakers ever, his movies are removed from common discourse by exhibiting his personal unhindered opinions rather than functioning as filmic mouthpieces for any party. Whether lampooning the Vietnam War (Platoon, Born of the Fourth of July) or painting portraits of presidents (Nixon, W.) and controversial figures (The Doors, Snowden), Stone has foremost been a director fascinated by extraordinary events and interesting figures of modern US history. Stone’s refusal to be pinned down ideologically makes him capable of enraging literally anyone with his own brand of partiality.
9. Zack Snyder
No mainstream filmmaker to emerge in the 21st century has been quite so polarizing as Zack Snyder. While Justice League seems universally disliked – to be fair he only mostly directed it – there is still plenty of discussion among superhero fans as to whether Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are murky trash or secret masterpieces. Even before his triptych of DCEU enterprises, films like 300 and Sucker Punch offered his standard of grotesque visual absurdity that resulted in a pop culture phenomenon and one of the more reviled films of the decade, respectively. Even his most appreciated movies like Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen can’t quite been described as calling cards or striking failures – his directorial style offers no middle ground.
8. Darren Aronofsky
If mother! was in anyone else’s oeuvre, it alone would give cause for consideration for this list. As it stands that Jennifer Lawrence showcase is just another fragment of Darren Aronofsky’s collection of severely troubling films. Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and Noah all epitomize the psyche of a filmmaker that is utterly uncompromising and totally unsettled. Even when The Wrestler and Black Swan emerged as prime Oscar contenders, Aronofsky hardly softened his edge. mother! just happens demonstrate his inclinations most vividly. It’s the film equivalent of cilantro – half the population will take it as is and the other half is bound to taste soap.