British Film Directors You Should Know

The cast of Gareth Edwards' "Star Wars" prequel "Rogue One" (Photo: Lucasfilm)
The cast of Gareth Edwards' "Star Wars" prequel "Rogue One" (Photo: Lucasfilm)

The 2017 awards season has just wound down and to be honest I’m still a bit knackered from watching the Oscars. If you didn’t let this year’s Best Picture debacle distract you too much, you might recall that this year La La Land’s Damien Chazelle became the youngest nominee in the history of the Academy Awards to be honored for Best Achievement in Directing.

While no British directors were nominated for an Oscar this year, there are plenty working today who are making their presence felt in the UK and around the world. Veterans like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Stephen Frears and Oscar-winner Danny Boyle are active and continue to tell important and innovate stories. For this post, however, I’d like to concentrate on a younger generation of influential British filmmakers you may want to check out. Here are five under 50 that you might see holding that golden statuette one day.

Gareth Edwards

At 41, Edwards has directed three sci-fi pictures in seven years. He started with the low budget but critically successful indie film Monsters but quickly graduated to proper Hollywood action adventure with the 2014 incarnation of Godzilla starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen. Gareth’s star continued to rise when he was tapped to helm the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One released just last December.

 

Steve McQueen

Not to be confused with the American movie star of the 60’s and 70’s, this Steve McQueen (47) has already made it to the Oscar stage. Though he lost Best Director honors to Alfonso Cuaron for Gravity, he nabbed an Academy Award for being one of the producers of the Best Picture of 2014, 12 Years a Slave. McQueen has a talent for bringing difficult subjects to the screen from a political hunger strike in prison (Hunger) to sexual addiction (Shame). All three of McQueen’s full length films have starred or featured Michael Fassbender.

 

Shane Meadows

Meadows (44) gravitates towards stories of working class, marginalized adolescents and their coming of age stories. A Room for Romeo Brass, Somers Town and This Is England (which in turn produced three TV mini-series) address the state of English society through the relationships and struggles of young people. In 2004 Meadows also wrote and directed a compelling revenge thriller called Dead Man’s Shoes starring Paddy Considine and Toby Kebbell.

 

Lynne Ramsay

At 47 Ms. Ramsay has directed three very well received feature films in her career thus far. Her debut was Ratcatcher about a poor young boy and his family waiting to be rehoused from the Glasgow slums. Her second, Movern Callar, starred Samantha Morton as a woman in mourning after the suicide of her husband. Ramsay’s most mainstream film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, examines the extremely difficult relationship between a mother played by Tilda Swinton and her son whose violent behavior escalates to an unthinkable act. Yeah, really cheerful stuff here.

 

Ben Wheatley

Probably the most diverse and inventive director of the bunch, Wheatley (45) has dipped his toes into horror, action adventure, comedy, sci-fi and period drama with aplomb. This guy’s even directed two episodes of Doctor Who.  With Ben you can marvel at the trippy horror of the English Civil War in A Field in England, experience a dystopian tale of the downfall of civilization set in a luxury apartment building in High-Rise or take a darkly funny road trip dark with Sightseers.

 

Clearly those Brits have a unique outlook on the world. Tell us about your favorite British directors past and present and perhaps who you think should be recognized with a nice bit of shiny hardware in the future.