When it comes to film directors, there are those that have extremely distinct styles that it makes it so easy to spot their works. These styles may be in their films’ music, motifs, mood, or even cast members. Whether they do it on purpose or not, some film directors just have their own obsessions that seem to resurface time and time again. In fact, some of the greatest directors ever are known for having a signature style. These types of directors are often referred to as auteurs. If you’ve noticed this in some of your favorite film directors, then this list would definitely interest you. Here are some of the most notable film directors and their very obvious M.O.s.
Tim Burton is well-known for his film’s distinct visual aesthetic. So what exactly makes a film so Burton-esque? Burton’s quirkiness is heavily influenced by the director’s experience as a Walt Disney Studios animator. Apart from that, he also draws inspiration from pop art styles and expressionism. His obsession with creating an alternate reality contrasts the banality of everyday life, ultimately making his signature brand of gothic, surrealist art. His most iconic works include Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Beetlejuice, Corpse Bride, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
With his style often described as whimsical, Wes Anderson’s films all have a dream-like, emotionally-honest quality to them. A typical Wes Anderson film’s signature style includes microworlds, dysfunctional families, a bright and colorful palette (pastels), child-like adults and adult-like children, 60’s and 70’s music, and a recurring cast. When it comes to cinematography, his films often use a “flat” composition. This means that his barely uses angles, so everything on camera appears to be directly in front of you. He also plays around with slow motion and stop motion animation.
A Christopher Nolan film has a nonlinear storytelling quality to it. This means the plot of his films is shown out of order. In this way, Nolan is able to create suspense and intrigue by giving audiences bits and pieces of information before revealing the climax. If you’ve seen Inception, Dunkirk, Interstellar, The Prestige, Batman Begins, or The Dark Knight Rises, you probably get what I’m talking about.
Guillermo del Toro
This Mexican-born filmmaker’s unique style tends to sway towards dark and gothic themes. His obsession with mundanely incorporating ghosts, monsters, and other fantastical creatures into his works seems to be a given. Combine this with rich visuals and spectacular production designs, del Toro’s works are sure to take you on a mystical journey. Other recurring elements in his works are an orphaned protagonist, religious imagery, an amber color palette, and collaborations with Ron Perlman and Doug Jones. Check out Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, and Hellboy to experience all these.
One of the most iconic film directors of our generation, Steven Spielberg leaves a mark in each of his works. In fact, he popularized “The Spielberg Face” when he first used it in Jaws. This refers to the cinematic technique of zooming in to the character’s face as he/she is gazing into something with a look of surprise or amazement. The character’s reaction always comes first before revealing what he/she is actually looking at. You can spot this in Jurassic Park, Close Encounters, Indiana Jones, and The Color Purple. Spielberg is also known to frequently use music from the composer John Williams.
Known to create a genre of his own, this director is famous for his obsession with violence, bloodshed, and blaring music. To be direct, his films often star almost has-beens and make sly references to bottom-of-the-barrel films. With works such as Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Django Unchained, this self-taught director definitely makes sure that he is known to be the tenacious, over-the-top filmmaker that he is.
Before becoming a filmmaker, Sofia Coppola had experience in both photography and fashion. This is probably what makes her the great visual storyteller that she is. She is able to take images and weave them into beautiful stories. Her attention to detail also sets the mood in every scene that she creates. Her use of camera movement, natural lighting, ambient musical score, and pastel color palette contribute to making a Sofia Coppola film. The Virgin Suicides, The Beguiled, Marie Antoinette, and The Godfather III are just some of her most iconic works.
Known for his eccentric and flamboyant style, Aussie director Baz Luhrmann definitely has a thing for showmanship. This is apparent in his works such as Rome + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, and The Great Gatsby. The award-winning director’s signature brand includes bright colors, extravagant costumes, and fast-paced camera cuts. Many of his films are period pieces with a modern twist, telling tales of beauty, youth, freedom, and luxury.