Top 10 Director Trademarks

Script written by Sean Harris. Sometimes, we don’t need the title credits to know who made the movie. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 director trademarks. For this list, we’ve looked at those onscreen signatures that various film directors use to make their movies their own, whether they’re visual effects, recurring themes, or specialist items that show up time and again. Special thanks to our users Andy Roehl, Norris Vaughn, oh1997, Andrew A. Dennison, Moore7guardian, nogger911, Aidan McVan, Noe Noe, aldqbigsquare and Mark Gabel for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Sean Harris.

Top 10 Director Trademarks


Sometimes, we don’t need the title credits to know who made the movie. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 director trademarks.

For this list, we’ve looked at those onscreen signatures that various film directors use to make their movies their own, whether they’re visual effects, recurring themes, or specialist items that show up time and again.

#10: J.J. Abrams
Trademark: Lens Flares

Often a lens flare will go unnoticed… It’s used to show excessive light, and to give a metallic sheen or dreamlike feel to the picture… But when J.J. Abrams gets behind the camera, you really know it! His movies can reach kaleidoscopic levels of flare, so much so that they’ve inspired drinking games! Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s usually quite effective – as a cinematic technique, as a way of showing how bright the future could be, and as a means to get drunk!

#9: Stanley Kubrick
Trademark: Bathrooms

Kubrick is all about fundamentals – he’s concerned with human character, human thought and feeling. What better place to probe primal emotion than in the privacy of a bathroom? These rooms see humankind at its most base and animalistic, but for Kubrick it’s about more than doing your daily business. He stages suicides, overdoses, and attempted murders on their tiled floors – he locks his characters away so that he can really open them up.

#8: Guillermo del Toro
Trademark: Creatures

For many, its hard to make the “monster flick” look presentable – it can very easily turn into a papier-mâché fiasco! But for del Toro, it’s an art movement. His creatures are more than monsters, they’re actual nightmares incarnate. From Nomak’s gaping gash of a mouth in “Blade II,” to “Hellboy II”’s Forest God, and the variously foul things in “Pan’s Labyrinth” – this guy has a signature… And it’s a scary one!

#7: The Wachowskis
Trademark: Bullet Time

It’s super slow motion, and it’s super stylish! Bullet time is a visual technique that allows an audience to see things that would ordinarily happen too quickly for the human eye. Perhaps it’s most famously used in the “Matrix” franchise, where time is distorted and blurred into an altogether new dimension. It has since become a staple feature to a Wachowski picture. And as far as trademarks go, this one is particularly beautiful!

#6: Sergio Leone
Trademark: Extreme Close-ups, Drawn-out Long Shots

The master of the “Spaghetti Western” genre, Leone’s trademark extreme close-ups are made all the more intense by their pairings with lengthy long shots. Used primarily during the gun-toting stand-offs, they capture the sweat-soaked forehead of many a rogue. The cowboy’s eyes are his poker face, they give nothing away – but under Leone’s ECU scrutiny, we can see clearly the good, the bad… and even the ugly!

#5: Wes Anderson
Trademark: Symmetrical Framing, Slow Motion

It’s simple, it’s central, it’s signature. Wes Anderson’s is a particular style, and very recognizable. The symmetrical technique is so his own, it’s usually possible to tell an Anderson movie within seconds of turning it on. If you need more, an emotional slow-motion ending is also almost certainly in the cards. When symmetry or slo-mo aren’t front-and-center, it’s probably a dead dog… or a cat… Anderson also has a fascination with killing off animals that appears quite hard to tame. But for now, he’s somewhat ironically placed mid-table, in fifth.

#4: Frank Capra
Trademark: Jimmy the Raven

Whilst Anderson is killing animals, Frank Capra is bringing them very much to life. He was especially keen on one bird in particular, a Raven named Jimmy. The avian actor starred in “You Can’t Take it With You,” and every Capra movie thereafter. Often paired with a simplistic character, his most famous role came alongside the hapless Uncle Billy in “It’s a Wonderful Life” – he’s the brightest birdbrain in all of Hollywood!

#3: Alfred Hitchcock
Trademark: Personal Cameos, Blondes

Alfred Hitchcock is, of course, best known for his directorial abilities… but he’s not bad as an extra either, making cameo appearances in 39 of his 52 films. Usually his part was inconsequential: he might be walking a dog in the background, or be a passenger on a train – but the delight is all in knowing he’s there! Navigating through the soft focus effects, cutthroat tension and trademark icy blonde leading ladies to locate the man who’s responsible for it all, is, appropriately, quite a thrill!

#2: M. Night Shyamalan
Trademark: Twist Endings

Wow! Did you see that one coming?? Shyamalan usually favors supernatural stories, and he’s known as a serial twister. In 1999, “The Sixth Sense” established itself as the archetype for an unexpected ending – the moment when Bruce Willis realizes exactly what he is will be forever hard to beat. Shyamalan himself has tried, and mostly failed to duplicate that success – we just know now to expect the unexpected! When surprise is your signature, it gets very tricky…

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- John Woo
Trademark: Slow Motion, Doves
- Alfonso Cuarón
Trademark: Tracking Shots
- Zack Snyder
Trademark: Action Sequence Speed-ups and Slow-downs
- James Cameron
Trademark: Strong Female Characters
- Sam Raimi
Trademark: Yellow 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88

#1: Quentin Tarantino
Trademark: Tarantino’s Shared Universe

No one signatures their movies quite like this man! Tarantino cameos, he owns the “hood and trunk shot,” he fascinates over feet. Big Kahuna Burger is “tasty,” Red Apple Cigarettes are addictive, and Teriyaki Donuts are sweet enough for Marsellus Wallace! Tarantino knows that small details can set you apart! So, he takes genre movies, he rethinks them, and he litters them with personalized visual cues. It all comes together for some seriously cool cinema, and a place atop this podium!

Do you agree with our list? Which filmmaker’s mark have we missed? For more trademark Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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