GUEST POST: The Flix List – Six hack directors working in Hollywood today

By Ted Saydalavong

So what is the true definition of a hack? We hear that a lot from film critics and fans alike. Well to me, a hack is someone who works on projects solely for financial reasons, rather than creative reasons. It is not about a filmmaker who is simply bad, well let me correct myself, some directors are just plain bad. However, I believe that some directors on this list do have some talents but for whatever reasons they tend to stay in their comfort zone and some just don’t have any talents at all, besides knowing how to shoot and edit action scenes together. I’ll also name a couple of directors who thinks they’re talented but in reality they’re pretty bad at what they’re doing.

Here’s my list of hack directors, in no particular order:

1. Tony Scott
Yes, Ridley’s little brother is on this list. I didn’t want to include him at first but then I tried to remember the last good film he made within the last four or five years and couldn’t think of one. In my opinion, the last good film he made was Spy Game back in 2001, after that it’s been a downhill slide for him. Again it’s hard for me to put him on this list, he made some very good films back in the 1990s, True Romance, Crimson Tide and Enemy of the States are some of my favorites from that decade. But then I looked at most of the films he made, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, The Last Boyscout (this one is one of my favorite guilty pleasure flicks), Domino, Déjà vu, The Taking of Pelham 123 and recently the awful Unstoppable. I truly believe that he made those films for just the money and I’ll admit some of them were very entertaining but they all lacked creativity. Some will ask what about Man on Fire? Well I like that film but I just thought it was too much style and not enough substance. Had they followed the original script, the film might’ve been great.

2. Paul W.S. Anderson
I think I won’t get a lot of disagreement over Mr. Anderson, let’s face it this man is the ultimate YES man to the studios. Whenever they need to get a movie out fast and earn some quick cash, they call Mr. Anderson. For example, he was brought in to rewrite the script for Alien vs. Predators because Fox wanted to be more kid friendly and of course Mr. Anderson obliged and made a PG-13 rated Alien vs. Predators flick! Of course the movie was awful and after that I refuse to watch any films from this man. I don’t think this man has any talents at all besides shooting cool action scenes and made his actors look good on screen.

3. Brett Ratner
Ah yes Mr. Brett Ratner, where I should begin? Well let’s start with him declaring himself to be as good as Steven Spielberg after X-Men: Last Stand earned some big money at the box office. News flash Brett, people went to see an X-Men film because it’s an X-Men film, not because of you. Ratner is another YES man type; in fact he was brought in to finish up X-Men: The Last Stand after Bryan Singer decided to do Superman Returns. The original director who replaced Singer was Mathew Vaughn, but he left the project because he told the studio he couldn’t finish the film in time for a summer of 2006 release, Fox insisted that the film opens before Singer’s Superman. After Vaughn left, Fox called Ratner and he was more than willing to come in and finish it up for them. The movie of course was a big hit but in my opinion Ratner ruined it. Fox should’ve waited for Singer or gave Vaughn more time to finish it.

I do give Ratner some credits for trying to go out of his comfort zone; he directed Red Dragon and After the Sunset. Both films looked promising when I first saw the trailers but the final product didn’t turn out so well, maybe Ratner just doesn’t have the talent to actually tell a good story; I guess he should just stick to finishing up a film for Hollywood executives and his crappy Rush Hour films.

4. Michael Bay
Mr. Bay is the quintessential hack director; in fact he admitted that he only make films for 14 year old boys and large sum of money. Most of the actors who worked with him said he would places more importance on the visuals than on his characters and actor themselves. He does very few takes of intimate character driven scenes, as he prefers to spend more time on action sequences and visually interesting moments. He would tell his writers on his films that they should just write the boring part and when the action scene starts, just write down action scene goes here.

He was given a great script, The Island, by Steven Spielberg but somehow he turned it into a boring chase movie. I saw both of his Transformers films but all I could remember from those films were people running and giant robots fighting, I don’t think there’s a plot in either film. But I guess that’s the point, people wants to see explosions and giant robots fight one another; Bay delivered and made quite a bit of money from it.

5. Richard Kelly
Now here’s one of the directors who I think doesn’t have much of a talent yet he kept getting money from studios to make his ridiculous films. I think Kelly is one of the most pretentious hack directors in Hollywood today, seriously I can’t stand any of his films, and luckily there are only three of them. He came up with all these high concept ideas and never delivered, for example The Box has a very cool concept and it was quite good until the second half of the film fizzled into sci-fi non-sense. Donnie Darko was a high concept idea and again Kelly made it into another sci-fi non-sense, same with Southland Tales<, probably one of the worst films of 2000s. With the box office failure of The Box, we may never get to see a new film from Mr. Kelly again ever and I’m fine with that. There are tons of great talents in Hollywood and the executives should spend their money on making films from those people than from this pretentious hack. Yeah I know I really despise this guy.

6. M. Night Shyamalan
M. Night started out great with The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable (one of my favorite films from 2000s, I lost count of how many times I’ve watched it). Then after the release of Signs in 2002, Time magazine put him on their cover and named him the next Steven Spielberg, ever since then it’s been a downhill for this man. The Village was bad and then after an ugly divorce from Disney, he made an even worse film, Lady in the Water for Warner Bros and it tanked at the box office.  I wouldn’t even dare to watch The Happening or last summer’s The Last Airbender. I would put him in the same category as Richard Kelly, he thinks he’s talented but in the end he’s just a hack with limited talents and somehow was able to trick the Hollywood executives to give him a lot of money to make his crappy films.

Honorable Mentions:


McG, Len Wiseman, Stephen Sommers, Peter Hyams (he hasn’t done a film for a while but he’s definitely a hack back in the 80s and 90s) and John McTiernan (his last good film wasHunt for Red October).

I was going to put JJ Abrams on this list but so far I only saw two of his films, one good (Star Trek), one bad (M: I-3), I’ll wait and see how his new film Super 8 turns out before I call him a hack.


So what do you think? Do you agree that these guys are a bunch of hacks or you think they’re talented? Feel free to discuss and list your own names of hack directors.