Ranking Best Director nominees, 1980s

During the Respectable Eighties, the Academy nominated David Lynch twice, Louis Malle and Akira Kurosawa once apiece, and sneaked Martin Scorsese into the final lineup for The Last Temptation of Christ. Not bad, almost compensating for rewarding Alan Parker, writer-director of a film in which an FBI investigating the murders of black men in the South of the sixties emerges as heroic.

Juggling large casts and several plotlines with a sense of how to weigh scenes impossible to imagine in 1977, Woody Allen became a good director instead of ringmaster in the 1980s. His reductive scripts needed the direction.

The Hague

Alan Parker – Mississippi Burning
Sydney Pollack – Out of Africa
Barry Levinson – Rain Man
Mark Rydell – On Golden Pond
Adrian Lyne – Fatal Attraction


Roland Joffe – The Mission
Mike Nichols – Working Girl
Oliver Stone – Born on the Fourth of July
Sydney Lumet – The Verdict
James L. Brooks – Terms of Endearment
Kenneth Branagh – Henry V
Héctor Babenco – Kiss of the Spider Woman
Bruce Beresford – Tender Mercies
Hugh Hudson – Chariots of Fire
Martin Scorsese – Raging Bull
Robert Benton – Places in the Heart
Lasse Hallström – My Life as a Dog
Wolfgang Petersen –Das Boot

Sound, Solid Entertainments

Warren Beatty – Reds
Bernardo Bertolucci – The Last Emperor
Norman Jewison – Moonstruck
Woody Allen – Hannah and Her Sisters
Peter Yates – The Dresser
Bernardo Bertolucci – The Last Emperor
Roman Polanski – Tess
Roland Joffé – The Killing Fields
Peter Weir – Witness
David Lean – A Passage to India
Richard Rush – The Stunt Man
Woody Allen – Broadway Danny Rose
James Ivory – A Room with a View
Miloš Forman – Amadeus
Charles Crichton – A Fish Called Wanda
Mike Nichols – Silkwood
Stephen Spielberg – The Color Purple
Oliver Stone – Platoon

Good to Great

Louise Malle – Atlantic City
Akira Kurosawa – Ran
David Lynch – Blue Velvet
Ingmar Bergman – Fanny and Alexander
John Boorman – Hope and Glory
Steven Spielberg – E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Martin Scorsese – The Last Temptation of Christ
John Huston – Prizzi’s Honor
Sydney Pollack – Tootsie
Woody Allen – Crimes and Misdemeanors
Robert Redford – Ordinary People
Jim Sheridan – My Left Foot
David Lynch – The Elephant Man
Steven Spielberg – Raiders of the Lost Ark

3 thoughts on “Ranking Best Director nominees, 1980s

  1. Is it possible that Working Girl is a better picture than its direction? A secretary-Ciderella story, for sure. But the acting is superb all around and the final shot: Griffith talking over the phone as the camera pans out the building until you see she’s caged it’s really inspired. As entertainment it’s well done.
    With The Color Purple happens to me quite the opposite. The direction is better than the material. Spielberg it’s inspired in many sequences (a parallel montage between Goldberg runnin desperately as the church-choir climaxes it’s bone chilling).
    I remember those sequences vividly even though I haven’t seen those films in ages.
    Very good list.

    PS: Have you considered doing a list of best use of songs in films? I haven’t seen that. Since many songs have caught up with younger music critics when they were inicially neglected: “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous. “Across 110th Street” in Jackie Brown. There are dozens of these.
    Out of the tip of a hat: Nobody has mentioned ever how well is used “Waiting for a Friend” in Welcome to Sarajevo. The film is forgotten but I do remember re-discovering that song (and tearin up) because of that sequence.

    1. It is. The Staten Island scenes haven’t worn well, nor has Sigourney Weaver’s character, but she fights to make this cartoon interesting.

      1. “Get your bonny ass out of mi sight” is overkill. But I think that’s the intention of the film encapsulated. Overstating Weaver as a “woman” villian in a men’s world. It’s underlined to a T but it’s funny in an cartoonish way. I didn’t have the same fun with the lesbian predator in “Notes on a Scandal” by comparison. It’s also camp, but “I say this to help you” it’s one of those lines unintentionally funny. Whereas I think Nichols’ intentions are honest. That’s something.

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