Spend a worthwhile few moments reading the source article for these thoughts here. He’s taken the time to scrape the rotten tomatoes ratings for a number of directors and plotted them over time.

  • Obviously, no one wants to have a trajectory like M. Night Shyamalan, looking backwards from today. Maybe back in the day, after seeing Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, it would be easy to get excited about what was next…but that hope seems to have faded fast.

What’s interesting is looking at greats like Coppola and Scorsese…what is going on here?

The writer suggests:

notice the alternating series of successful and not-so successful movies to the right of the charts.  Looks like after they made their masterpieces, they have struggled a bit to find good material.

Which is an interesting hypothesis…another thought is that after a blockbuster, they tried more risky projects, and overshot. Or did they get cocky? In comparing Kubrick to Friedkin, he offers:

how can the same guy that made The French Connection and The Exorcist spend the rest of his career making such inconsistent movies?  Not just unsuccessful movies, but horrible movies.  It’s as if he has no filter for taking on bad projects – he just takes whatever comes his way.  Sometimes he gets lucky – and sometimes he is stuck with garbage. Compare this to how surgically focused Kubrick was in choosing his material.

These graphs really have me thinking about focus, editing, choice and consistency. Not that consistency is a virtue in an of itself. I think Scorsese varies…but is always excellent. I certainly don’t want to be someone with one good idea and a slow decline!

A commenter offered his own “Filmmaker Credibility Graph” which doesn’t use data, but opinion, but is nevertheless interesting.


What’s good to take away here is the “hot start” seems to create an expectation gap…the sophomore slump, if you will. The real task of growth is, perhaps, how to handle success, more that how to recover from failure.

The article above has sparked some strong voices from my circle to friends. Worthwhile thoughts listed below.


Good is hard, and CONSISTENT goodness is very hard.  But do we punish intermittent failure?  Should we?

Is Kubrick a better director than Coppola because he didn’t make bad movies?  Or is Coppola known for his hits, and not misses?

– Jason M.

Rob offered this, with no comment:

This is from Roger Avery, Screenwriter and Tarrantino co conspirator:

John Milius once told me a story that went something like this (and I’m doing my best to paraphrase here): Stanley Kubrick called him up one day, wanting some advice on buying “the best handgun ever produced.” Obviously, Milius is the guy you call when you want to buy a gun. His one requirement was that the weapon must have “never been fired.” Milius thought about it, and told him that it would be a Colt .45 Special produced in 1942. He then warned Kubrick that to find this particular handgun in mint condition would be nearly impossible. “Money is no object!” Kubrick told him. Months passed and eventually Kubrick received a call from Milius: “Stanley,” he told him, “I found the gun. Not only has it never been fired, but it’s in the original box!” Kubrick was delighted, money changed hands, and the gun was shipped to England, where Kubrick lived. A few months later, Milius calls Kubrick to ask “How did you like the gun?” To which Kubrick responded, “Oh! I love it! I re-bored the barrel and realigned the bead, swapped out the Mahogany handle for Mother of Pearl, changed out the hammer, and swapped out the pins.” Milius was aghast, “You’ve — you’ve — you’ve destroyed it!” To which Kubrick responded “NO! I MADE IT BETTER!”

Peter suggested:

Good is hard. So many things have to come together for a good movie. Even an amazing director can’t always align plot with script with actors with lighting with sound with etc etc etc.

A good baseball player gets a hit only 30% of the time.

And Carl stood firm:



An amazing director makes things come together – that’s the whole point.

It’s the artist vs. the business vs. having a good producer (who tells the director they are being an idiot)

The art side of things abandons projects where the plot, actors, lighting sound, etc. don’t match up. That’s part of Kubrick’s success. If a film couldn’t match the vision – he’d walk away from it.

Though – Francis Ford – who is generally amazing – totally made a terrible film in "One from the heart" because he got so caught up in the artifice of it – it’s an amazing musical – about kind of vapid people.

Good is hard. So hard it’s nearly impossible.


There’s some other Kubrick quote about not being able to fake a rock – the need for the right rocks in a shot – and the fake ones being obviously fake and therefore wrong for being the background of a shot. Control!

Putting out a failure instead of walking away from it is a choice. Struggle! Also being delusional about the superiority of your own art.

It’s not that one is better than other the other (only highs, some highs/some lows) it’s just that you can choose to only do one type of work.

It’s not a choice people most people have the luxury or discipline to make