10 incredible directors who deserve a bigger following
Ben Wheatley

Critically-acclaimed but largely unknown to Joe Public, the cinematic world is full of phenomenal directors who have yet to enter the mainstream consciousness.

You may know some of their work, but unless you’re a movie buff you might not know their name. Mark Butler picks out ten modern-day talents who deserve much greater appreciation.

Ben Wheatley
[The Talented Mr Wheatley – picture: Getty]

Ben Wheatley

One of the most exciting and uncompromising cult filmmakers to emerge in recent years, Wheatley is also perhaps the most distinctive and gifted horror director around right now.

A sensational three-year run this decade has already brought us three extraordinary works. Surreal thriller Kill List is nightmare-fuel of the highest order: a potent hammer blow of rich atmosphere, gruesome violence and deeply disturbing imagery. Civil war chiller A Field In England – filmed in just 12 days on a £300,000 budget – is equally haunting, and arguably the finest folk-horror film since The Wicker Man.

For a lighter dose of the strange there’s also sublime black comedy Sightseers to consider. Shocking and hilarious in equal measure, it collides the unlikely worlds of caravanning and serial killers to terrific effect.

Lenny Abrahamson

Something of a master when it comes to captivating, immersive character drama, the Irishman’s subjects range from down-and-out addicts to wealthy golden boys – but all are troubled and marked by their actions.

Adam and Paul’s squalid saga blends the bleak and the funny in astonishing style; Garage’s tale of a lonely misfit with learning difficulties is remarkably poignant; and What Richard Did is nothing short of astonishing, as a young rugby player with a bright future finds himself embroiled in the starkest of scenarios.

The protagonists of Abrahamson’s films couldn’t be more different from one another, but their stories and the reactions of those around them are equally potent and powerful. And they’ll stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Jeff Nichols

Since emerging onto the scene in explosive fashion with furious low-budget debut Shotgun Stories, Nichols has established himself as one of the most gifted independent directors in the US.

You may well have heard of Mud, the remarkable coming-of-age tale that jettisons sentimentality in favour of honest, thought-provoking realism – and stars the resurgent Matthew McConaughey as a mysterious drifter lying low on an island in the Mississippi River.

His finest work yet however is probably Take Shelter; a mesmerising, pulse-racing character study in which Michael Shannon delivers a powerhouse performance as an increasingly erratic family man who becomes convinced an apocalyptic storm is coming.

Jaume Balagueró

Best-known for directing nerve-shredding found footage horror REC, the masterful Spaniard memorably delivered one of the greatest horror movies of recent years, expertly building suspense before unleashing a number of genuinely terrifying, panic-inducing sequences.

But Balagueró is certainly no one-trick pony. As a case-in-point, I urge you to check out his criminally under-appreciated 2011 gem Sleep Tight (Mientras duermes), about a sociopathic apartment caretaker who endeavours to make the lives of his residents as miserable as possible.

Having homed in on one particularly care-free pet project, things take a very sinister turn indeed. I promise you, as a psychological thriller it’s almost peerless – and the ending will stay with you for days.

Lynne Ramsay

She may have only directed three feature-length films in the past 15 years, but it’s fair to say the Scottish pioneer has struck compelling gold with every single one.

Ratcatcher was the kind of starkly beautiful, hard-hitting debut that comes along only once in a blue moon; Morvern Callar entrances with its atmospheric character portrait; and best of all is remarkable, skin-crawling drama We Need To Talk About Kevin – revolving around a tormented mother’s anguished relationship with her vile, psychopathic son. It should have won at least one Oscar.

Regarded by critics as one of the best British filmmakers around – despite not always getting on with her studio bosses – perhaps her mooted Moby Dick update – apparently set in space no less – will grant her wider audience recognition.

Shane Meadows

Armed with a trademark fly-on-the-wall style that draws you deep into the action, and makes you truly feel as though you are experiencing real-life events unfold, Meadows’ knack for realistic social drama and wry black comedy makes him a true force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps best known for This Is England – a powerful portrait of vivid subculture, adolescent confusion and racist tensions in the ’80s, the director originally cut his teeth with ingenious low-budget fare such as boxing flick Twenty Four Seven and striking coming-of-age tale A Room For Romeo Brass.

Best of all is raw, brutal revenge thriller Dead Man’s Shoes, in which Paddy Considine’s furious ex-soldier toys with and then slaughters the detestable small-town thugs who bullied his brother. It flits between farcical humour and chilling oppression with remarkable flair.

John Hillcoat

An absolute genius when it comes to capturing desolate, shattered landscapes brimming with danger, dread and foreboding, the Australian music video director turned rising cinema star tells vivid tales of violence and survival against the most hellish of backdrops.

A frequent collaborator with musician and writer Nick Cave, who’s been ranting about hell-fire and damnation for decades now, the two seem ideally suited. The Proposition is an agonising story of injustice and brutality packed with unforgettable and haunting imagery; Lawless spins such a bloody saga around the prohibition era that it makes Boardwalk Empire look like Desperate Housewives.

Hillcoat also made quite an impression with his adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s unrelentingly sad post-apocalyptic novel The Road. It’s buoyed on by quite brilliant performances – but few could have captured such harrowing devastation so well.

Kim Jee-Woon

Frequently turning subject matter that could be dull and formulaic in other hands into veritable works of art, this South Korean genius works across genres and ideas to assemble a CV as diverse as it is extraordinary.

This man is responsible for such disparate greats as hypnotic, elegant crime thriller A Bittersweet Life, unflinching serial-killer revenge tale I Saw The Devil, and deliriously entertaining off-the-wall Western epic The Good, The Bad and The Weird. Not to mention muscular Schwarzenegger action flick The Last Stand.

He also created one of the greatest horror films of the past 20 years in the shape of A Tale Of Two Sisters: which features a sequence so chilling, you’ll swear it’s a sleep paralysis nightmare made flesh.

Duncan Jones

Likely to become a much more familiar face if he helms the upcoming Warcraft movie as planned, Jones served up a genuinely alternative and original blockbuster back in 2011 with time-loop thriller Source Code; a compelling slice of mystery that hinged on a tantalising premise.

It was his debut however, the brilliant Moon, that makes him such a talent to watch. Starring Sam Rockwell as a lone astronaut manning a lunar outpost, and featuring an astonishing soundtrack from Clint Mansell, it’s an intimate, emotional sci-fi drama of real invention, power and grace.

John Michael McDonagh

His upcoming movie Calvary is being tipped as a true treat with its intriguing tale of an Irish priest receiving anonymous threats. But before he sank himself into the world of complex, small-town folk, McDonagh notched up one of the films of the year back in 2011.

Ingenious crime comedy The Guard stars Brendan Gleeson as a drug-taking, politically incorrect police officer – a character who makes such an impression we crowned him one of the all-time greatest ‘dirty cops’ in cinema. Both a riotous odd-couple buddy flick and a laugh-out loud slice of outrageous humour, it’s a bona fide cult classic.

In case you were wondering, he’s also the brother of In Bruges director Martin McDonagh. How much talent can one family have?

Mark Butler

Do you agree? Which other directors deserve a bigger following?

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