Top 10 Movie Makers Who Make Great TV

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Time was, successful movie directors wouldn’t deign to make a TV show. But all that has changed as Oscar-caliber (and often Oscar-winning) talent has signed on both in front of the camera and behind it. Here are a few directors who prove TV is as rewarding a medium as movies.

1. Amy Heckerling
After tapping into multiple generations of teenage swagger (and dialogue) in movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, Heckerling then worked the CW crowd, first directing a couple of Gossip Girl episodes and then taking on Sex and the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw in her ’80s teenage incarnation for The Carrie Diaries.

2. David Fincher
As a director and an executive producer of one of the Netflix hit House of Cards, Fincher helped change the landscape of what a TV series can be. Nominated twice for directing Oscars, for The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher also directed the cult favorite Fight Club and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

3. David Lynch
Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and The Elephant Man all earned David Lynch Oscar nominations. But one of his most unparsable, most acclaimed and, frankly, most bizarre works is the series Twin Peaks, which had discerning audiences asking, “Who killed Laura Palmer?”

4. Jane Campion
The Oscar-winning director of The Piano returned to her homeland of New Zealand for TOP OF THE LAKE. “A project like this, of this size, which I was dreaming about doing, has something with the dimension of a novel,” Campion said at the Sundance Film Festival.

5. Jon Favreau
We first got to know Favreau not behind the camera but as an actor in movies like Swingers and Rudy. As he has gained success as a director (Elf, the Iron Man series), he turned to TV as well, directing episodes of Judd Apatow’s cult favorite Undeclared, as well as one of the final episodes of the NBC comedy stalwart The Office.

6. Judd Apatow
Though Apatow comes from a TV background originally, both of his early series, Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, were canceled way too soon—and, tellingly, both have since become cult favorites. Apatow has had great success as a voice of a generation with movies like Knocked Up, Pineapple Express and Anchorman, and a champion for up-and-comers like Lena Dunham, whose wildly successful HBO series Girls he executive produces.

7. Kevin Smith
Smith shot his movie Clerks after hours at the convenience store where he was an employee, then managed to get it into the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Filmmakers Trophy. Since then he’s gone on to make cult hits like Jay And Silent Bob, Chasing Amy and Dogma among them. In 2007, he directed the delightful pilot for Reaper. You can currently catch Smith both starring in and executive-producing the unscripted series Comic Book Men on AMC.

8. Lee Daniels
Daniels started off strong—his debut production was the Monster’s Ball, which was Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay and won Halle Berry the Oscar for Best Actress—and is only getting stronger. After directing Precious (which was nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Director) and The Butler, Daniels co-created Empire.

9. Martin Scorsese
Scorsese has been nominated for 10 Oscars and created influential and celebrated movies from Raging Bull to Taxi Driver to Hugo. But with the exception of a few TV movies and documentaries, he never ventured into small-screen work until HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. Scorsese, who executive-produced the series, also directed the pilot episode—with a whopping, movie-like budget of $18 million.

10. Steve Soderbergh
In 1989, at the age of 26, Soderbergh was the youngest director to win Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for his drama Sex, Lies, and Videotape. He went on to win the Oscar for Best Director for Traffic and was nominated for the same award for Erin Brockovich. Now, he’s directing the Cinemax period drama The Knick, which has received critical praise for its second season.