From an auteurist standpoint, the great directors have the power to transform bad, lackluster, or cliched material into great art. But even the mightiest directors have had a few duds. Robert Altman’s Quintet is ignored by almost everyone; stalwart Fordians do not look kindly upon Born Reckless; even the hardcore Hawksians consider Trent’s Last Case to be without merit. (There is also some disagreement regarding A Song is Born.) Hitchcock had Juno and the Paycock, and Michael Mann probably doesn’t like to think about The Keep.
It’s quite rare, then, that a filmmaker (or, occasionally, a filmmaking team) should pitch a no-hitter, from start to finish. Here’s a list of ten. For sanity’s sake we are grading on a slight curve: feature filmmakers only, their documentary work (if any) doesn’t count, nor do their shorts, TV episodes, and “etc” work.
4. Terrence Malick
Some entries in this contest are simply unfair, for the rarified nature of their output, and Malick is the ambassador of Rarified. Everyone knows the story: his career began with two all-out masterpieces, a gap of twenty years, followed by three (rather less underwritten by an ironclad, universal consensus) masterpieces over thirteen years, with another bun in the oven as I write these words. That’s it: no episodes of Felicity, no student films, and, most of all, no turkeys.
Introduce yourself to Malick: any of them
Master Class: Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life
Deep Cuts: nothing really, unless you want to follow him back to his screenwriting credits: Drive, He Said, Deadhead Miles, Pocket Money