A New Yorker to the bone, Allen developed his very personal brand of talky, neurotic humour as a stand-up comic. Zany hits like Bananas gave way to more introspective and some would say less entertaining films, but more recent offerings like Mighty Aphrodite are a joy.
It's hard to imagine this maverick director helming episodes of Bonanza, but after making his first feature, The Delinquents,that's what he did. Luckily, he escaped and broke into the top rank with M*A*S*H* in 1970, pioneering one of the most recognisable techniques which was to record sound in a way that allowed actors to speak over each other's lines in a far more naturalistic style than had been heard before. Altman's best films, like Nashville, McCabe And Mrs Miller and Short Cuts, feature large casts and wandering narratives, and he likes to use shallow focus to pick his protagonists out of seemingly endless crowds.
Iconoclastic British director with a passion for socially concious filmmaking and a distaste for Hollywood--except for John Ford, about whom he wrote a succesful biography. This Sporting Life, a tense study of a couple's affair in 1960s Yorkshire, embodies his concerns with human desires repressed by convention. His loose trilogy If..., O Lucky Man! and Britannia Hospital, all set around the character of Mick Travis (Malcolm McDowell) became increasingly farcical, but Anderson's disgust with all things bourgeois shines throughout.
JOEL AND ETHAN COEN
Although Ethan is credited as producer and Joel as director, the Coen brothers work very closely on all aspects of making their films. They draw deeply on classic Hollywood cinena, but make the genres their own with stylish scripts and inspired perfomances. Their first three films all refer heavily to established genres-- Blood Simple to film noir, Raising Arizona to madcap comedy,Miller's Crossing to gangster films, but each one is far more than just an homage to filmmakers of the past.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
Like so many top directors, Coppola made low-budget schlock for Roger Corman, but quickly progressed to sumptuous epics with a trademark attention to detail, as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Coppola has won five Oscars, but some of his films (such as One From The Heart and The Cotton Club) have been spectacular box-office flops.
He started out as a purely horror director with films like They Came From Within, before moving on to more mainstream subjects, often with a horrific edge. Exploding heads (Scanners), TV sets with human entrails (Videodrome) and a sexual fetish for car accidents (Crash) may sound like gimmicks but Cronenberg's movies always trancend the horror.
His best movies were canvases on which he painted sprawling casts of grotesques engaged in stories of love, creativity and satire. His distinctive imagination led to the adjective "Felliniesque" being used to describe any eccentric and colourful film moments.
It's rare that a single filmmaker is responsible for such diverse masterpieces as Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Kubrick's cinematic genius was never limited to a single genre. Controversial stories like Lolita and A Clockwork Orange were given a stunning visual gloss without compromising the impact of their subject matter, and although his output was never prolific, it is consistently interesting and provocative.
Lee's technical brilliance is matched by his often in-your-face approach to telling things the way he sees them. Whether an early comedy like She's Gotta Have It or one of his more serious later films like Malcolm X, Lee's films are characterised by sharp observation, great perfomances, and a penchant for tackling the uncomfortable issue of racism in all its forms.
Just when everyone thought brilliant but weird films like Eraserhead, Wild At Heart and Lost Highway were the only kind of film Lynch was interested in making, along came The Straight Story, one of the most touching and direct films of recent years.
If there's a conspiracy theory out there, Stone will have made a film about it, whether it's JFK, Salvador or his Vietnam trilogy: Platoon, Born On The Fourth Of July and Heaven And Earth. His style is to wake up the audience with fast cutting, huge changes of pace and vibrant perfomances extracted from, if rumours are to be believed, terrified actors. No matter what he does to get the films made, he pulls no punches in getting his stories across.
Despite making only a handful of films on his own terms, Welles looms large over filmmaking history as the director who still claims the title of best feature debut. Citizen Cane, made when Welles was only 26, revealed an extraordinary cinematic gift and directors all over the world have adopted Welles' use of eye-popping camera angles, deep focus, sound devices and montage. The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch Of Evil are also visionary films.