We don’t have a permit. Run!: Top 5 Directors who have never won an Academy Award.

I hope this sparks some conversation.

I am a firm believer that film is a director’s medium. There are tons of great directors that have literally made movies what they are today. People like Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz, George Cukor, and Alfred Hitchcock invented genres. Men such as Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg stretched imagination and curiosity. These are men who deserve to be honored.

This is a list of people who have been making film for a while and are perhaps past their prime. Not saying they will never receive an Academy Award for directing, but the chances are getting fewer. I will not reference people like Wes Anderson, Jason Reitman, Christopher Nolan, or Darren Aronofsky. I think they still have years of filmmaking ahead of them.

5. David Fincher – He barely makes the top 5 because he has been making movies for nearly twenty years and he has only been nominated twice. I think that since se7en his films have been flawless. Of everyone on this list, he has the likeliest chance of winning an Academy Award in the future.

In my opinion Fincher’s greatest quality is his ability to create atmosphere. He has an A-list crew that can translate his vision onto the silver screen. Just look at the sets, tone, and pacing of se7en and Fight Club and you will understand what I am talking about. When I watch Zodiac I become so immersed in the story I forget that it is nearly three hours long! He creates tense situation, witty timing, and dark emotions, and then he makes a sprawling epic like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The amazing thing is that he does so with apparent ease. 

Watch any commentary on any of his films, even Alien 3, and you will learn what the modern director really is.

4. Ridley Scott – Another guy who has been nominated a few times but never grabbed the gold. I think Scott may still have a chance to receive an Oscar, even if it is just a “we-owe-ya-one”. How did he not win for Thelma & Louise! Not even nominated for Alien! No one had made the future of humanity look so grungy and real. I will not even start on Blade Runner, Matchstick Men, and Kingdom of Heaven (this happens to be my favorite Ridley Scott film).

I do agree that Scott is not always been consistent; he did direct G.I. Jane, Hannibal, and Robin Hood. These were not bad movies, but definitely not great. I will point out that his films have won Academy Awards, but he has never won.

I think Scott is still full of massive potential, and I believe he will show that in the years to come. He can make Science Fiction realistic, and then go to quirk and mystery. He can do a period piece that resonates with a generation and he has at least three of the greatest women characters in the history of film (Ellen Ripley, Thelma Dickinson, and Louise Sawyer).

3. Rob Reiner – This may throw some for a loop. Most would probably not mention him on a list such as this. I will list some of his greatest pieces; This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, and The Bucket List. See what I mean? I understand that comedy is a hard sell for the Academy, but Woody Allen won.

I could write a significantly large article about how Reiner shaped my romantic life, how he helped me connect with my parents, how he will be a directorial legend in my house. I will not do this. I will say that Reiner understand boys, very well. Stand by Me and A Few Good Men are excellent examples of how men and boys act in intense situations. He shows how men are goofy and can be jerks in This is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally, and The Bucket List.

I do not believe Reiner is a master storyteller or anything of that nature. He is a wizard of making characters relatable and likeable. He didn’t write The Princess Bride, William Goldman did, but Reiner made you fall in love with that movie. Even when you are terrified of Kathy Bates, you are so interested in her.

I know Billy Crystal says Reiner is an actor’s director, and I agree. If he does make another movie similar to Stand by Me, he will most likely be nominated and could even win. He is in the twilight of his career, so we will just have to see.

2. George Lucas – For people who are not “film buffs” this may seem out of place. People do not realize he did more than just Star Wars (which he will never surpass). My favorite film that George Lucas directed is American Graffiti.

Lucas is stuck in his Star Wars/Indiana Jones money-making rut. Hopefully he will go back to making timeless movies like THX-1138 and Willow (I know he didn’t direct, but he mentored Ron Howard on this one). He is a great storyteller, who unfortunately does not have anyone around him who suggests he use some self-control.

Do not get me wrong. I love Lucas and I think he is vital to film history, and my own upbringing. I have hope that he will direct another movie that has no connection to things he has previously done, he had such incredible ideas and potential.

Some examples of George Lucas as a great filmmaker are Kagemusha, Body Heat, and Labyrinth. He only produced these films, but he was directly involved in them. Two of his “protégés” are Ron Howard and Lawrence Kasdan; both have surpassed Lucas as far as directing goes.

1. Alfred Hitchcock – This may be stereotypical, but there is a reason for that. He never won! He will never win. He has the most illustrious career of any of these men, he was true innovator.

The obvious films that should be recognized are Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest (which is my favorite), and Psycho. These, literally defined the way films would be made forever into the future. He was a master of showing you the bare minimum in order to make your imagination run wild. Hitchcock never received what he deserved. He created tone and atmosphere and he worked with two of my all time favorite actors; Cary Grant and James Stewart. Even with the lack of special effects, his films felt real and thrilling. He does simple things like put you in one room for an entire movie, and you believe it. He manufactures suspense in a corn field by having a plane dive bomb and gases you, and you believe it. This is what legendary filmmakers do, and he did it best.

Other films that should be more widely recognized are Rope, Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and many more. Anytime you get a chance to watch a Hitchcock film, do it.

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7 Comments on “We don’t have a permit. Run!: Top 5 Directors who have never won an Academy Award.”

  1. Jessie St. Amand says:

    Yeah! Because when I think of the people who are the most passed over for Academy Awards, I also totally think about the men, too. Can’t ever catch a break, can they? All this unrecognized effort, men.

    • Jesse Fyler says:

      Did you read the article? It is about directors. But way to make an educated comment having nothing to do with the topic.

      • Jessie St. Amand says:

        I know getting sexism called out is hard to hear, but it is worth talking about. The film industry: a history of sexism?

      • Jesse Fyler says:

        Oh I absolutely am not sexist. You don’t know me. You read one article about a singular job in the film industry. Yes woman have it rough in film, not at all.attacking them. It is simply a numbers game. More men directors. That isn’t right, it just happens to be of all the thousands of directors out there, these 5 that I think should win one award.
        You shouldn’t label people like that, jump to conclusions.
        It would be same for me to say that the nursing industry or elementary school professions are sexist because primarily women work in those fields.
        I wrote how ridley scott used women in a positive way (again read the whole article)
        I also wrote in a previous post about how natalie portman was the single greatest performance last year.
        Calling me sexist when I worked hard and put thought and effort into something that has to do with pop culture and turn it into a vehicle for your own soap box is pretty rude.

      • Jessie St. Amand says:

        My original comment was a failed attempt to disparage a sexist film industry. I don’t think you’re a contributor to the sexism, I just think comments like mine, if maybe they were more effectively written, might help start the sorts of conversations that would do some good in the world of film criticism. It didn’t work because I don’t know you well enough to get away with the sort of rudeness I usually use to talk about issues like these that really bug me. Sorry, Jesse. I made a bad call.

      • Jesse Fyler says:

        I was too sensitive. I apologize too.

        You did inspire me. Next post will be my top 5 favorite actresses.

      • Jessie St. Amand says:

        Nice! Can’t wait.


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