Dracula 1992 dir. Coppola Starring Winona Ryder Gary Oldman Anthony Hopkins
The most recent director on this list is possibly the one most likely to be argued, especially considering the downturn of his later career. Why pick Coppola over Scorcese or the Coen Brothers or some other worthy? It's simple, really; for 10 years Francis Ford Coppola was the best director on Earth.
From the time of his Oscar win for co-writing Patton until his independent streak finally undid him with the massive misjudgment of "One From The Heart" Coppola was responsible for some of the greatest films ever made in a continuous streak no one else on even this list can match.
It's more than just the fact that he directed "The Godfather." Coppola led and epitomized the second Golden Age of Hollywood that was the 1970s. He brought European style autuerism into mainstream Hollywood and was so incredibly successful at it the other studios had to follow, not necessarily because it made for good art but because it made for good business. Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" may have started the trend but, much like D.W. Griffith, Coppola did it best and made it stick. At least for a while.
He showed how successful the auteur-director could be on all levels and the horde of true believers followed after him brought insight and depth en masse to an industry that has often stubbornly avoided both. And if the egocentrism that made him and his fellow travelers so good also made them inevitably crash and burn, the movies they made remain.
And that's the real testament of Coppola's skill. It's not just that he made potentially the greatest film of all time; if it was just one it could be argued that it was the stylism of "The Godfather" that entranced people. But he was able to keep that quality level up consistently for a decade, delivering "The Conversation" and "The Godfather Part II" in the same year and then the nervous breakdown on film that is "Apocalypse Now." Each brilliant and yet distinct from the other.
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