10 Once-Great Directors Who’ve Lost Their Touch

Rob Reiner has a new movie in theaters this Friday; it’s called The Magic of Belle Isle, it stars Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen, and it is just plain terrible. This shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point in the Reiner filmography; after a hot streak that included the likes of This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, and Stand By Me, Reiner went cold after 1995’s The American President and hasn’t made a great movie since. It happens — for every Scorsese that maintains a consistent quality for decades on end, there are plenty of filmmakers who don’t (even such greats as Hitchcock, Wilder, Chaplin, and Hawks were turning out clunkers at the end of their distinguished careers). In fact, we took an inventory, and dug up 10 more contemporary filmmakers who have gone cold; check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments.

Francis Ford Coppola
THE GOOD: The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now
THE BAD: New York Stories, The Rainmaker
THE UGLY: Jack, Youth Without Youth, Tetro

Few directors so personified the spirit of the 1970s than Francis Ford Coppola, who made a series of brilliant films that were both genre exercises and works of art. His final masterpiece, Apocalypse Now, hit just as the excesses of the era’s auteurs were becoming newsworthy, and that film’s brilliance was overshadowed (at the time, anyway) by reports of its never-ending schedule and ballooning budget. Those stories made it harder for Coppola to make the movies he wanted in the subsequent years, and his ’80s output was hit and miss, with some gems (Peggy Sue Got Married, Tucker) and some coals (One from the Heart, The Cotton Club). He finally went back to the Godfather well in 1990, with imperfect results, and there was little in his ’90s output to inspire much enthusiasm — particularly not the much-maligned Jack, his 1996 Robin Williams tearjerker comedy. That debacle kept him out of the director’s chair for over a decade, but he appears to have forgotten much of what he knew about moviemaking in that time; his first two “comeback” movies, Youth Without Youth and Tetro, were gorgeous to look at and utterly empty-headed, and when his Twixt premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, critics called it the worst one yet. (It has yet to secure domestic distribution.)