Here are my top ten favorites, in no particular order.
John Carpenter -- JC was my favorite director until I started putting together The Paul Verhoeven Fan Page. I knew more about him, and The Thing is one of my favorites of all time. I also love They Live. My appreciation (okay, obsessive affection) for Verhoeven eventually nudged JC into the number two spot, but I still hold him in high esteem. Some of his other movies I like are Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York, In the Mouth of Madness, and Vampires. Still haven't seen Ghosts of Mars. I'm kind of afraid to.
Paul Verhoeven -- Well, duh.
Sam Raimi -- Gimme some sugar, baby. The man who made the Evil Dead trilogy will forever remain in my top ten. Spiderman was good too, although I didn't find it as earth-shatteringly fantastic as others have. Hopefully Bruce Campbell will have a decent-sized part in the next one. But Sam... did you really have to do a movie with Kevin Costner? I'm still torn over whether to see that movie. Raimi, cool... Costner, ack! It's too much for my little brain to process.
Peter Jackson -- Dead Alive has been one of my favorites for a while now, as well as The Frighteners (one of the most underrated movies of all time). Bad Taste is hilarious. A few years ago I had the quote "I'm a Derek. Derek's don't run." in my .sig. That line just cracks me up. PJ started getting some respect with the excellent Heavenly Creatures, and now of course with the LOTR Trilogy everyone finally knows who he is. It's nice to see him getting the recognition and the bucks. PJ is the only director besides Verhoeven who I obsessively collect on DVD. Most other directors have a few too many stinkers to bother.
Steven Spielberg -- I'm not a total Spielberg fanatic... I liked him better when he did fun, more popcornish stuff like Close Encounters, Jaws, and E.T. But he's the guy who directed my favorite movie of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark. And those other movies I listed aren't too bad either. :-)
James Cameron -- I love the pre-1997 James Cameron. I mean, even if he made 97 crap films, he would still be on this list because of Aliens. But he also did The Terminator, The Abyss, T2, and True Lies. Unfortunately after that he made the boat movie. You know the one. I can't say the name because it pains me. I haven't quite forgiven him for that yet, but another scifi action film will make up for it. Please, Jim?
Tim Burton -- Recent ape movies aside, Tim is pretty dependable. Beetlejuice and Sleepy Hollow are both great, although the look of Sleepy Hollow probably makes it seem better than it is. In my wild youth, I saw Batman five times in the theater. And Ed Wood is on my "underwatched masterpieces" list. That movie is seriously fantastic. See it if you haven't already.
Ridley Scott -- Another no brainer. Who doesn't have Ridley Scott on their top ten list? Lately there has been a bit of a Ridley backlash happening, but I thought Gladiator was great. No kidding. Anyway, since Alien and Blade Runner are both in my top 25, I can't leave Ridley off the list.
Wes Craven -- As far as I'm concerned, Wes Craven's place as a Horror God is bulletproof. I'll watch anything Wes does, even if everyone says it sucks, and obviously I'm not the only one. The man behind the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream series, Wes is one of the only currently working directors who has built his career pretty much entirely on horror. Even his lesser known stuff, such as The People Under the Stairs and Shocker have something to offer. And I am convinced that no death scene will ever be as funny as the basketball scene in Deadly Friend.
Savage Steve Holland -- This guy only made about three movies, but still managed to direct two of the best comedies of the 80s: One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead. The latter in particular is a classic. Not a bad track record for Savage Steve. I'm still waiting for a "Where is he now" article on him.
Honorable mentions: Luc Besson (Subway, La Femme Nikita, Leon The Professional, The Fifth Element); Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy, Mallrats); Richard Donner (The Omen, Superman (and most of Superman II), Lethal Weapon, The Goonies, Scrooged); John McTiernan (Predator, Die Hard, The 13th Warrior... but watch out for Rollerball!); Terry Gilliam (pretty much everything he's done. If I was more cerebral, he would probably be my favorite director.); Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High; Johnny Dangerously; Clueless)
They make trash. I like them anyway.
Steve Miner -- Friday the 13th Parts 2 and 3, House, Soul Man, Warlock, Forever Young, Lake Placid... occasionally Steve Miner flirts with the A-list, but never quite gets there. The thing with Steve is that his good movies are really good (Warlock, for example, is in my opinion an overlooked classic of the 80s horror/fantasy genre)... and his bad movies are gigantic stinkers. Note: My Father the Hero, Halloween H20, Texas Rangers. I guess "working directors" can't be too choosy, but still it's too bad, because the guy obviously possesses the talent to make great flicks.
The Paul Verhoeven Fan Page