Directors Who Get Existential

by joesiegel | created - 1 month ago | updated - 4 weeks ago | Public

These directors have touched on existential themes in a deep way in several of their films, giving interesting results that lead to intense reflections. Which of these directors has made you reflect the most on your life with their existentialist films?

Discuss here

1. Terrence Malick

Writer | Days of Heaven

Terrence Malick was born in Ottawa, Illinois. His family subsequently lived in Oklahoma and he went to school in Austin, Texas. He did his undergraduate work at Harvard, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in philosophy in 1965.

A member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, he attended Magdalen ...

2. Lars von Trier

Writer | Dancer in the Dark

Probably the most ambitious and visually distinctive filmmaker to emerge from Denmark since Carl Theodor Dreyer over 60 years earlier, Lars von Trier studied film at the Danish Film School and attracted international attention with his very first feature, The Element of Crime (1984). A highly ...

3. Ingmar Bergman

Writer | Smultronstället

Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born July 14, 1918, the son of a priest. The film and T.V. series, The Best Intentions (1992) is biographical and shows the early marriage of his parents. The film 'Söndagsbarn' depicts a bicycle journey with his father. In the miniseries Private Confessions (1996) is the ...

4. Martin Scorsese

Director | Taxi Driver

Martin Charles Scorsese was born on November 17, 1942 in Queens, New York City, to Catherine Scorsese (née Cappa) and Charles Scorsese, who both worked in Manhattan's garment district, and whose families both came from Palermo, Sicily. He was raised in the neighborhood of Little Italy, which later ...

5. Darren Aronofsky

Director | Pi

Darren Aronofsky was born February 12, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up, Darren was always artistic: he loved classic movies and, as a teenager, he even spent time doing graffiti art. After high school, Darren went to Harvard University to study film (both live-action and animation). He won ...

6. Charlie Kaufman

Writer | Synecdoche, New York

Avid reader Charlie Kaufman wrote plays and made short films as a young student. He moved from Massapequa, New York to West Hartford, Connecticut in 1972 where he attended high school. As a comedic actor, he performed in school plays and, after graduation, he enrolled at Boston University but soon ...

7. Stanley Kubrick

Director | 2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick was born in Manhattan, New York City, to Sadie Gertrude (Perveler) and Jacob Leonard Kubrick, a physician. His family were Jewish immigrants (from Austria, Romania, and Russia). Stanley was considered intelligent, despite poor grades at school. Hoping that a change of scenery would ...

8. Richard Linklater

Director | Waking Life

Self-taught writer-director Richard Stuart Linklater was born in Houston, Texas, to Diane Margaret (Krieger), who taught at a university, and Charles W. Linklater III. Richard was among the first and most successful talents to emerge during the American independent film renaissance of the 1990s. ...

9. Béla Tarr

Producer | Werckmeister harmóniák

Béla Tarr was born on July 21, 1955 in Pécs, Hungary. He is a producer and director, known for Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), The Turin Horse (2011) and Damnation (1988). He is married to Ágnes Hranitzky.

Existentialist movies: A torinói ló (2011)

10. Woody Allen

Writer | Manhattan

Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy...

11. Christopher Nolan

Writer | Dunkirk

Best known for his cerebral, often nonlinear, storytelling, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan was born on July 30, 1970 in London, England. Over the course of 15 years of filmmaking, Nolan has gone from low-budget independent films to working on some of the biggest blockbusters ever made.

...

Existentialist movies: Memento (2000) Interstellar (2014)

12. Andrei Tarkovsky

Writer | Solyaris

The most famous Soviet film-maker since Sergei M. Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky (the son of noted poet Arseniy Tarkovsky) studied music and Arabic in Moscow before enrolling in the Soviet film school V.G.I.K. He shot to international attention with his first feature, Ivan's Childhood (1962), which ...

13. Spike Jonze

Producer | Her

Spike Jonze made up one-third (along with Andy Jenkins and Mark Lewman) of the triumvirate of genius minds behind Dirt Magazine, the brother publication of the much lamented ground-breaking Sassy Magazine. These three uncommon characters were all editors for Grand Royal Magazine as well, under the ...

14. Michel Gondry

Director | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

He grew up in Versailles with a family who was very influenced by pop music. When he was young, Gondry wanted to be a painter or an inventor. In the 80s he entered in an art school in Paris where he could develop his graphic skills and where he also met friends with whom he created a pop-rock band ...

15. Jean-Pierre Melville

Actor | À bout de souffle

The name "Melville" is not immediately associated with film. It conjures up images of white whales and crackbrained captains, of naysaying notaries and soup-spilling sailors. It is the countersign to a realm of men and their deeds, both heroic and villainous. It is the American novel, with its ...

16. David Fincher

Director | Se7en

David Fincher was born in 1962 in Denver, Colorado, and was raised in Marin County, California. When he was 18 years old he went to work for John Korty at Korty Films in Mill Valley. He subsequently worked at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) from 1981-1983. Fincher left ILM to direct TV commercials...

17. Akira Kurosawa

Writer | Kakushi-toride no san-akunin

After training as a painter (he storyboards his films as full-scale paintings), Kurosawa entered the film industry in 1936 as an assistant director, eventually making his directorial debut with Sanshiro Sugata (1943). Within a few years, Kurosawa had achieved sufficient stature to allow him greater...

18. Jim Jarmusch

Director | Broken Flowers

Moved to New York City at the age of seventeen from Akron, Ohio. Graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in English, class of '75. Without any prior film experience, he was accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts, New York.

19. Ethan Coen

Producer | The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Ethan Coen was born on September 21, 1957 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA as Ethan Jesse Coen. He is a producer and writer, known for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018), A Serious Man (2009) and Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). He has been married to Tricia Cooke since October 2, 1990. They have two ...

20. Terry Gilliam

Writer | Brazil

Terry Gilliam was born near Medicine Lake, Minnesota. When he was 12 his family moved to Los Angeles where he became a fan of MAD magazine. In his early twenties he was often stopped by the police who suspected him of being a drug addict and Gilliam had to explain that he worked in advertising. In ...

21. Alejandro Jodorowsky

Writer | La montaña sagrada

Alejandro Jodorowsky was born in Iquique, Chile on February 17, 1929. In 1942 he moved to Santiago where he attended university, was a circus clown and a puppeteer. In 1955 he went to Paris and studied mime with Marcel Marceau. He worked with Maurice Chevalier there and made a short film, La cravate...

22. Federico Fellini

Writer | Amarcord

The women who both attracted and frightened him and an Italy dominated in his youth by Mussolini and Pope Pius XII - inspired the dreams that Fellini started recording in notebooks in the 1960s. Life and dreams were raw material for his films. His native Rimini and characters like Saraghina (the ...

Existentialist movies: La dolce vita (1960) 8½ (1963)

23. Michael Haneke

Writer | Caché

A true master of his craft, Michael Haneke is one of the greatest film artists working today and one who challenges his viewers each year and work goes by, with films that reflect real portions of life in realistic, disturbing and unforgettable ways. One of the most genuine filmmakers of the world ...

24. Luis Buñuel

Writer | El ángel exterminador

The father of cinematic Surrealism and one of the most original directors in the history of the film medium, Luis Buñuel was given a strict Jesuit education (which sowed the seeds of his obsession with both religion and subversive behavior), and subsequently moved to Madrid to study at the ...

25. Sofia Coppola

Actress | The Godfather Part III

Sofia Coppola was born on May 14, 1971 in New York City, New York, USA as Sofia Carmina Coppola. She is a director, known for Somewhere (2010), Lost in Translation (2003) and Marie Antoinette (2006). She has been married to Thomas Mars since August 27, 2011. They have two children. She was ...

26. Jaco Van Dormael

Director | Mr. Nobody

Jaco Van Dormael was born on February 9, 1957 in Ixelles, Brabant, Belgium. He is a director and writer, known for Mr. Nobody (2009), The Brand New Testament (2015) and Toto the Hero (1991).

27. Mike Nichols

Director | The Graduate

He, along with the other members of the "Compass Players" including Elaine May, Paul Sills, Byrne Piven, Joyce Hiller Piven and Edward Asner helped start the famed "Second City Improv" company. They used the games taught to them by fellow cast mate, Paul Sills 's mother, Viola Spolin. He later ...

28. John Sayles

Writer | Lone Star

A bright child, John Sayles began reading novels before age 9. A Williams grad in 1972, he shunned a corporate career to work various blue-collar jobs, moving to east Boston to take a factory job. He wrote stories and submitted them to various magazines, and the Atlantic Monthly gave him the idea ...

29. Ang Lee

Director | Wo hu cang long

Born in 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Ang graduated from the National Taiwan College of Arts in 1975 and then came to the U.S. to receive a B.F.A. Degree in Theatre/Theater Direction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ...

30. Claire Denis

Director | High Life

Claire Denis was born on April 21, 1946 in Paris, France. She is a director and writer, known for High Life (2018), Beau travail (1999) and 35 Shots of Rum (2008).

31. Louis Malle

Director | Au revoir les enfants

Louis Malle, the descendant of a French nobleman who made a fortune in beet sugar during the Napoleonic Wars, created films that explored life and its meaning. Malle's family discouraged his early interest in film but, in 1950, allowed him to enter the Institute of Advanced Cinematographic Studies ...

32. Steven Soderbergh

Director | Sex, Lies, and Videotape

Steven Andrew Soderbergh was born on January 14, 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the second of six children of Mary Ann (Bernard) and Peter Soderbergh. His father was of Swedish and Irish descent, and his mother was of Italian ancestry. While he was still at a very young age, his family moved to ...

33. Sean Baker

Writer | The Florida Project

Sean Baker is a writer/director known for the Spirit Award nominated films Take Out (2004), Prince of Broadway (2008) and Starlet (2012) (winner of the Robert Altman Spirit Award). His latest film Tangerine (2015) premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and will be released by Magnolia Pictures in ...



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