For all the legendary filmmakers who have won the Academy Award for Best Director, the honor will forever be cheapened because Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick never won one. A few years ago, as Martin Scorsese edged dangerously close to joining that infamous group, the academy awarded him an Oscar for The Departed. A good movie, but most wouldn’t even put it in his personal top five. It clearly had the look of a retroactive award for his previous accomplishments. Hopefully the academy will remember these great active directors who still deserve recognition for their many great films.
7. Michael Mann
Notable Films: Thief, Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, The Aviator, Heat, The Insider, Collateral
Why He Hasn’t Won: Most of Mann’s films fall in the action genre, which gets no love at all from the academy. He also has a similar style in most of his films, meaning he has not shown much range.
Why He Deserves to Win: Mann’s action movies are much different from other action movies, often very character driven, with equal focus on both the protagonist and antagonist. He also puts a very strong emphasis on being realistic, and routinely puts actors through weapons training and intense preparation for aspects important to their character.
6. Tim Burton
Notable Films: Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland
Why He Hasn’t Won: Burton’s unique films emphasize tone and style, but don’t have much depth of character. But the main knock against him is that many of his movies are remakes, or as he describes them, reinterpretations.
Why He Deserves to Win: Just look at that body of work, all ambitious films that have employed very creative sets, effects, costumes, and characters. Most significantly, Burton’s interpretation of Batman changed superhero movies for good by showing they could be darker and dramatic.
5. David Fincher
Notable Films: Fight Club, Seven, The Social Network, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Gone Girl
Why He Hasn’t Won: Fincher’s movies are mostly psychological thrillers with a dark, edgy style the academy tends to ignore.
Why He Deserves to Win: Despite his movies being primarily in the same genre, his gritty style is unique and his characters often have a lot of depth. Fight Club was a flop when released but became a huge hit with rentals and syndication.
4. Christopher Nolan
Notable Films: Insomnia, Memento, Batman trilogy, Inception, Interstellar
Why He Hasn’t Won: Like Tim Burton, Nolan’s movies have a unique style and lack great characterization. In recent years, the academy has leaned more toward low-key dramas as opposed to the epics Nolan has produced.
Why He Deserves to Win: Nolan has been able to successfully combine action and epic dramas better than probably anyone else. His successful interpretation of Batman revitalized the superhero genre and allowed Nolan to pursue the ambitious Inception, which many feel was far more deserving of the Best Picture award than the already mostly forgotten The King’s Speech.
3. Quentin Tarantino
Notable Films: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained
Why He Hasn’t Won: Since Tarantino’s movies have a unique style and are character driven, traits the academy tends to reward, the only logical explanation is that the extreme violence in his movies turns off voters.
Why He Deserves to Win: Tarantino’s films routinely draw massive critical acclaim and many feel Pulp Fiction is one of the greatest Oscar snubs of all time. Since Tarantino is still fairly young, he has a good shot at winning some day.
2. Rob Reiner
Notable Films: This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, The Bucket List
Why He Hasn’t Won: Many older moviegoers still only remember Reiner for being Archie Bunker’s son-in-law on All in the Family. (That’s like remembering Tom Hanks only for dressing in drag on Bosom Buddies.) Reiner has certainly accomplished a great deal since then, with the exception of the critical and box office flop North (1994). That dreadful film derailed his promising career.
Why He Deserves to Win: Look at the range of film genres Reiner has done. He basically started the mockumentary craze with the cult classic This is Spinal Tap. The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally also had mass appeal to audiences beyond the usual crowd that enjoys fantasy films and romantic comedies. Misery became a hit horror film that revived James Caan’s career and made Kathy Bates a star. Of course those are all genres the academy has largely ignored, but Reiner certainly proved he can make a good drama with Stand by Me, A Few Good Men, and The Bucket List. Now in his late 60s, Reiner is still making movies, so hopefully the academy will reward him at some point.
1. Ridley Scott
Notable Films: Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, The Martian
Why He Hasn’t Won: For all of Scott’s box-office success and critical acclaim, most of his movies are in genres that don’t get much consideration. Still, Scott has received three Best Director nominations (Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down and Gladiator), so it’s just been his bad luck to go up against tough competition in the awards.
Why He Deserves to Win: Scott’s amazing range and ability to use the latest technology and trends highlight his remarkable talents. Scott’s most recent film, The Martian, has drawn critical praise and he may finally get his long-overdue award.
One More: Mel Brooks
Notable Films: Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, Silent Movie, Spaceballs
Brooks does have an Oscar, for Original Screenplay for The Producers (1968). But it’s hard to believe he has never won one for Best Director. He revolutionized comedy with his edgy, satirical, and often lowbrow style. Brooks certainly doesn’t need any more awards; he is one of 11 people to have won Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony awards. But in the past decade the academy has given honorary Oscars to a number of filmmakers, including Spike Lee, Robert Altman and Hal Needham. It would be nice to see Brooks, who turns 90 next year, receive such an honor.