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Top 10 Filmmakers You Should Know

03.18.2016by: Alex Maidy
Every year, a new crop of young directing talent breaks out from the independent scene and hits it big. We are all familiar with names like Ava Duvernay, Rian Johnson, Colin Trevorrow, Josh Trank, Ryan Coogler, and J.C. Chandor, but who will be the next big name helming motion pictures we laud and cannot stop talking about? Here is our ranking of the ten directors on the brink of hitting it big. Remember these names because more than likely you will be talking about them for years to come. If you think we missed anyone, please let us know in the talk backs below.

#10 - Leslye Headland


Female directors have been thriving in independent cinema but have yet to truly break into studio projects. One name that will likely bridge that gap is Headland who is known for writing and directing some of the better comedies in recent years. After her film BACHELORETTE was unfairly called a clone of BRIDESMAIDS, Headland delivered the sexy and hilarious SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. Definitely a talented writer with an ear for comedy.

#9 - S Craig Zahler


Zahler surprised audiences with his debut film, the horror western BONE TOMAHAWK. Featuring one of the most brutal death scenes in recent memory, Zahler instantly made a statement as a filmmaker able to bridge genres while directing some very talented veteran actors. Zahler has four novels to his credit while having also worked as a screenwriter and a cinematographer. You know who else dons those same hats? Steven Soderbergh. Just sayin.

#8 - Ben Wheatley


Wheatley is not exactly new to filmmaking having helmed some very well received movies in the United Kingdom, but he is on the verge of making it big Stateside thanks to Tom Hiddleston starring in the upcoming HiGH-RISE. Wheatley got his break directing comedy on British television but has also made some of the most disturbing and provocative films of the last decade.

#7 - Dan Trachtenberg

Notable Films: 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Trachtenberg is the guy who directed the 2011 short film Portal: No Escape which instantly put him on Hollywood's radar. He has been linked to several projects like the cancelled adaptation of the comic Y: The Last Man. But, with the critical acclaim for the recently released 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, I would anticipate more projects coming his way very soon.

#6 - David Robert Mitchell


Mitchell has two very different films to his credit, but the fact that IT FOLLOWS ranks as one of the best horror films in years should say something about his talents. Mitchell's next project has not been officially announced yet, but the guy is too talented to not have a long career ahead of him.

#5 - Damien Chazelle


With WHIPLASH being on virtually every top ten list of 2014, Chazelle earned himself a blank check for his next project. With LA LA LAND, Chazelle is attempting to hit it big with an original musical (his second after his directorial debut GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH). It doesn't hurt that he got Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling to star.

#4 - Robert Eggers

Notable Films: THE WITCH

Robert Eggers may be the newest filmmaker to rank on this list, but THE WITCH is one hell of debut for any genre and won the directing award at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Eggers is already linked to a remake of NOSFERATU as well as the medieval film THE KNIGHT. At only 33 years of age, Eggers has a long career ahead of him and it doesn't sound like he plans to pigeon-hole himself as a genre filmmaker.

#3 - Alex Garland

Notable Films: EX MACHINA

Alex Garland may have just debuted as a director, but the novelist has also written screenplays for THE BEACH, 28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE, NEVER LET ME GO, and fan favorite DREDD. His next project is the adaptation of the novel ANNIHILATION which is bound to deliver a unique visual style and employ some pretty impressive special effects.

#2 - Jennifer Kent

Notable Films: THE BABADOOK

Starting her career as an actress on several Australian television series, Kent was inspired by Lars Von Trier's DANCER IN THE DARK and studied under the director. She made her feature debut with the excellent THE BABADOOK which put her on the shortlist to direct Warner Bros' WONDER WOMAN. Instead, Kent will next adapt the non-fiction book Alice + Freda Forever which will follow a true crime tale about lesbianism in 19th century America.

#1 - Jeff Nichols


Nichols has carved himself quite a fan-base thanks to his first three films. While many may not have seen the excellent SHOTGUN STORIES, the apocalyptic TAKE SHELTER was both a masterful directing effort as well as a tour de force for star Michael Shannon. MUD was one of the key films in Matthew McConaughey's resurgence as a leading man. Today marks the release of Nichols' latest film and first studio movie, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, which is bound to land on virtually every Top 10 list of 2016. Nichols' next film, LOVING, has already found a release later this year. Just imagine where this guy could go from here.

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