In film criticism, auteur theory — the idea that a film reflects a director’s personal creative vision — has been a controversial subject since 1954, when French critic-turned-filmmaker François Truffaut first advocated that the director was a film’s primary author. For Truffaut and other critics who wrote for Paris-based Cahiers du Cinéma, a film was most reflective of its director, displaying the style and themes that would be unmistakable throughout that person’s body of work.
While auteur theory has continued to be highly influential in the film community, there’s an obvious problem: It minimizes the roles of the huge amount of people that work on a film, especially if the director is not the screenwriter. But does the director deserve author credit as the person who is responsible for directing all those different areas to shape his or her vision? That’s much harder to say, which is why the argument has shown no signs of slowing down after 60 years.
That being said, here are seven modern American directors who seem to lend credence to auteur theory with a distinctive visual style that appears throughout their bodies of work.