4. Big Fish – Tim Burton
Previously known for: Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood
Brightly lit, whimsical stories backed by a sense of drama in relation to a neglectful son and his dying father are usually directed by someone like Wes Anderson, but not in this specific scenario. Big Fish is a funny and heartfelt movie that features many moments of reality that are typically very uncommon of the way Tim Burton works. He has dealt with the more fantastic elements of film many times before but Big Fish is an altogether different film for him since it deals with real life and the consequences people have to face.
Burton’s films are usually either very funny in a creepy kind of way, while balancing darker themes with a childlike innocence. Beeteljuice is one such example and it is positively worlds away from Big Fish. All of the performances given in Big Fish blur the line of reality and fantasy in a way that actually humanizes the characters instead of having the opposite effect as many of Burton’s movies tend to do.
3. Slumdog Millionaire – Danny Boyle
Previously known for: Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and Sunshine
Danny Boyle has proven himself to be a cinematic chameleon over the course of his increasingly varied career and Slumdog Millionaire is a film that really sticks out in his repertoire. It bears none of the usual existential dread that hovered over his earlier movies Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, while it also shys away from the doom laden tone that he gave to 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Slumdog Millionaire does feature many moments of darkness, but it ultimately resolves in a way that no other Danny Boyle film has.
The movie’s main characters, Jamal and Latika, are reunited just as Jamal wins the 20 million rupees he had been competing for. The ending has such a happy resolution that Boyle went so far as to even include a Bollywood inspired dance number that plays out over the credits. The Bollywood influences not only set the film apart from anything else made by Danny Boyle, but also from anything else to be released in America and Great Britain in 2008.
The visuals are also brighter and more vivid than Boyle’s other films. He has always given his directing a visual flair but here he uses the full spectrum of colour to tell his story in a way that is truly unique.
2. No Country For Old Men – The Coen Brothers
Previously known for: Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo and The Big Lebowski
The Coen brothers are two of the greatest comedic filmmakers of the last 25 years so No Country for Old Men especially sticks out when browsing through their filmography. They made a name for themselves by writing and directing screwball comedies, like Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but even their most serious movies were always exceptionally funny.
The overall hopeless tone employed throughout No Country For Old Men was in stark contrast when compared to films like Barton Fink or Fargo. Drama in the world of Joel and Ethan Coen is always one step away from becoming comedy and they walk that line brilliantly. They have never been dark filmmakers, instead they’ve always chosen to focus on the absurdity of life by mixing comedy and drama in equal measure.
No Country For Old Men is an exceptionally dark and nihilistic movie that features no comedic elements, which makes it feel like a giant departure for the Coen brothers.
1. Schindler’s List- Steven Spielberg
Previously known for: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark
The same director who is responsible for all of your fondest movie watching experiences during childhood is also responsible for exposing you to some of the harshest truths of life. Steven Spielberg is most known for making fun and thrilling action/adventure movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws. He is also responsible for giving the world some of the most magical moments in the history of the summer blockbuster with Close Encounter of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
1993 was arguably the best year in the career of Spielberg. He released Jurassic Park, which fits perfectly with his other summer blockbusters, and Schindler’s List. The latter film was personal, real and exceptionally eye opening in a way that allows it to stand in stark contrast to his previous work. Gone was the fun and optimistic tone of Spielberg’s usual directing. He had replaced it with an intense drama that was shot with especially potent black and white photography.
Spielberg was never looked at as a serious minded filmmaker until he directed a movie so unlike anything else he had ever made that people had to reevaluate his talents.
Thanks so much for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments.