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The 25 Most Influential Directors of All Time, From Scorsese to Kubrick

The 25 Most Influential Directors of All Time, From Scorsese to Kubrick

Articles - Directing

14. John Cassavetes (1929 – 1989)

In his introduction to The Films of John Cassavetes: The Adventures of Insecurity,BU Film Professor and Cassavetes enthusiast Ray Carney asks: “Do any American feature films work harder to prevent viewers from reclining into their La-Z-Boys of the imagination? Cassavetes’ scenes deliberately swerve away from dependable courses and outcomes. Every time a scene is about to congeal into a predictable tone, Cassavetes will give it a stir; every time a relationship is about to stabilize, he’ll give it a push. Just when the audience thinks it’s figured out the relationship between two characters, a new piece of information or an emotional adjustment forces viewers to reevaluate everything.” Therein lies the inspiration in Cassavetes’ work, and the reason why his films never reached the wider consciousness of mainstream moviegoers: they require work.

Taking a cue from the French New Wave, Cassavetes could well be crowned the pioneer of the American independents. A successful Hollywood actor, he used the money he received from his television and film acting gigs to finance his first foray into film, 1960’s Shadows. Shot on 16mm without a script, the film touched upon many social taboos of the day, most notably that of interracial relationships.

Though seemingly chaotic, his films are meant to represent the true range of human emotions. His films require patience, just like real life. He favored actors as the rulers on set, letting their emotions get the best of them and taking the story where they wanted it to go. In doing so, he created some of the most realistic stories in contemporary cinema, and the most genuine characters—flaws and all—in the history of film.

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  1. Avatar

    R. Taylor

    January 6, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    Where the heck is David Lean?!

  2. Avatar


    February 25, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    david lean? where is andrei tarkovsky?

  3. Avatar


    March 8, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Where is Satyajit ray, the greatest indian filmmaker?

  4. Avatar

    Violet Ray

    May 5, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Where are the women?

  5. Avatar

    Roger Howerton

    May 9, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Yes, David Lean has should be here, and how ’bout William Wyler?

  6. Avatar


    July 25, 2019 at 1:30 am

    For me, it’s definitely Lars vor Trier with his impecable style and metaphors. His Melancholia drama was just astonishing with its sci-fi influences and Kirsten Dunst starring. I wrote more than 50 movie reviews on all of his films starting with The Orchid Gardener. I wonder how may times Willem Dafoe wanted to leave the projects.

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