A Beginners Guide to Movie Directors, Part Two: 70s & 80s


Oliver Barnfield, Cool Guy/Entertainment Editor

Part One can be found HERE

Behind every great movie is a great director. If a director is inexperienced, the movie will fail. Such is the way of films. Quite a few directors make 1 or 2 memorable films and then become forgotten. But some directors have built up a reputation, a distinctive style, and changed the way movies are seen or made. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a handy guide to the important directors of the 70’s and 80’s, which is, in my opinion, the golden age of movies.


  • Steven Spielberg (1971-) Adventure, Sci-Fi, Drama, War

Even if you don’t know Steven Spielberg’s name, you know his movies. Indiana Jones, ET, Jurassic Park, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan, and his current hit Ready Player One. His films have inspired countless young visionaries to pick up a camera and create. His emotional stories, funny dialogue, and great special effects mingle with iconic visuals and memorable characters. One of the few directors that continue to make hits to this very day, even after 5 decades, and it makes sense why this would be the case. After all, he has a style that spans horror, Sci-Fi, and historical drama’s.

Check Out: Jaws (1975) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Raiders of The Lost Ark (1981) ET (1982) Jurassic Park (1993) Schindler’s List (1993)

Skip: Always (1989) 1941 (1979)

  • Martin Scorsese (1967-) Thriller

Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are quite similar in many ways. To me, they are the Beatles and Stones of cinema. Spielberg’s style is friendly but occasionally dark, and Scorsese is almost the polar opposite. His movies are steeped in darkness, crime, and detestable people. But that’s what makes him so alluring. His hugely influential style is still being felt to this very day, and he continues to make popular and critically acclaimed films.

Check Out: Taxi Driver (1976) Goodfellas (1990) Mean Streets (1973) Raging Bull (1980)

Skip: Kundun (1997)

  • Stanley Kubrick (1956-1999)

Cerebral and extremely influential director with several classics to his name. Never kept with the same genre, making a horror film, a comedy, and a historical drama over the course of his career. His methodical pacing and cryptic dialogue made his films hugely important. The Shining, his most mainstream and popular film, has inspired nearly every horror movie that followed, and not just for it’s infamous “HEEERE’S JOHNNY!” scene. 2001: A Space Odyssey created a whole new genre of smart sci-fi with its mind-bending conclusion, and Dr. Strangelove influenced dark comedy forever.

Check Out: The Shining (1980) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Dr. Strangelove (1964) A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Skip: Fear and Desire (1953)

  • Rob Reiner (1984-) Comedy, Drama

One of the most underrated directors of all time. Not many people realize how many beloved movies he has to his name. His versatile directing style, great casting, and excellent sense of comedy has created some of the greatest and most loved movies of the 80’s. His star has fallen, however, and since the 90’s it seems he’s fallen into a rut, producing and directing forgettable movie after forgettable movie.

Check Out: This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Stand By Me (1986) The Princess Bride (1987) When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Skip: North (1994) The Magic of Bell Isle (2012)

  • John Carpenter (1974-2010) Horror

With the release of Halloween, John Carpenter changed horror movies forever. Its dark atmosphere and creepy score revolutionized a stale genre, and his other masterpiece, The Thing, features some truly astounding special effects that, amazingly, weren’t accomplished with computers. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Carpenter is that he was responsible for every aspect of his films, from the brilliant music that he composed, to the writing, to, of course, the directing. After several disappointments in the 90’s, Carpenter quit the movie industry and is now currently on tour playing his iconic movie soundtracks to adoring crowds. His style also inspired Stranger Things, which is pretty cool in my book.

Check Out: Halloween (1977) Escape from New York (1981) The Thing (1982) Big Trouble In Little China (1986) Prince of Darkness (1987) They Live (1988)

Skip: Memoirs of An Invisible Man (1992) Escape from LA (1996) Vampires (1998) Ghosts of Mars (2001)

  • Francis Ford Coppola (1962-) Crime

Coppola’s Godfather trilogy is a profound and fascinating piece of cinema that is widely considered one of the greatest film series of all time. His golden age, in the 1970’s, has so far been unsurpassed in terms of sheer quality in such a concentrated time frame. Similar to Rob Reiner, his post-1970’s output has been shaky at best. 7th graders might know him for directing The Outsiders movie.

Check Out: The Godfather (1972) The Conversation (1974) The Godfather Part II (1975) Apocalypse Now (1979)

Skip: Jack (1996) The Godfather Part III (1990) Dementia 13 (1963)

  • Ridley Scott (1977-) Sci-Fi

One of the best sci-fi directors and one of the few who’s output has actually improved over the years. His work is remarkably ahead of its time, featuring strong female protagonists and amazing special effects. He’s also a notable commercial director, adding in his recognizable style into a one minute commercial!

Check Out: Alien (1979) Blade Runner (1982) Thelma and Louise (1991) Gladiator (2000) The Martian (2015)

Skip: Robin Hood (2010) 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992)

  • David Lynch (1977-)

David Lynch’s surreal style, mind-bending and disturbing visuals, and warped view of the world made him a huge influence on a generation of “weirdo” film-makers. Many have imitated him, but few have matched his genius. His work in TV is also notable, due to his work on the hugely popular Twin Peaks series.

Check Out: Really, all his films have something going for them. Except for the one sen below..

Skip: Dune (1985)