The greatest film directors are often defined by a style they themselves have created, and in so doing, build an expectation for what audiences think their work will be like. Maybe they work in one or two genres, or use innovative techniques to build their stories. Either way, sometimes these talents don’t go the route they most travel on and surprise fans with something new. Here are 10 unexpected movies from legendary directors.
Director: Martin Scorsese Known For: Goodfellas, Taxi Driver
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Martin Scorsese directed a number of highly-praised films that were known for their gritty realism and sometimes shocking violence. Titles such as Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), and Raging Bull (1980) led to his most well-known film, the gangster epic, Goodfellas (1990). Even while he'd dabbled in dark satire with The King Of Comedy (1982), we'd all come to know what to expect from him until 1992 when he took a sharp left turn and directed a period romance about a man in love with a woman he can never have. A gorgeous, emotional experience, there's not a single F-bomb in the whole picture!
Director: Steven Spielberg Known For: Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones
By 1989, Steven Spielberg had become one of the biggest names in the business, synonymous with epic adventures, science fiction masterpieces, and blockbuster horror. A lightweight romance movie about a dead guy who comes back to Earth to help his girlfriend find new love seemed like the last thing he would get involved with, but here it is, and you know what, it's kinda sweet. Even if there is no adorable alien.
Barry Lyndon (1975)
Director: Stanley Kubrick Known For: 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining
When you create one of the most important and celebrated films ever made, it can't be easy to stay on top, but visionary director Stanley Kubrick sure gave it a try, delivering a number of highly-acclaimed films that challenged viewers in ways films had never done before. In among them was this historical tale of an Irish rogue in 18th-century England. Deliberately slow-paced and epic in length (3 hours), it was a million miles from what fans expected. While it's often over-looked, it is a brilliant movie nonetheless, even without a monolith.
Director: Francis Ford Coppola Known For: The Godfather, Apocalypse Now
After making the definitive Mafia movie and an equally acclaimed sequel, Francis Ford Coppola went ahead and made the definitive war movie to boot. While not everything he made met with the same success, his innovative style and intriguing story choices made it a big surprise when he released this odd comedy/drama about a boy with a disorder that gives him accelerated aging. Poorly-received and critically panned, this Robin Williams-starring film still feels out of place in Coppola's filmography. It's an offer you can definitely refuse.
Director: John Carpenter Known For: The Thing, Halloween
Creating some of the scariest movies of the last thirty years using incredible practical special effects in groundbreaking films, John Carpenter has always been an innovator, especially in horror where he became a pioneer with films like Halloween and The Thing. So it was a surprise to learn he would be hanging up his horror hat for this touching romance about a peaceful alien who travels by invitation to learn about man, taking the form of a young woman's late husband and discovering our greatest capacity: Love. All from the guy who brought us spiderheads.
A Good Year (2006)
Director: Ridley Scott Known For: Alien, Blade Runner
Often cited as a director ahead of his time, Ridley Scott is if anything, a prolific talent, working steadily since he burst on the scene with 1979's Alien. Making a name for himself with big-budget, epic adventures and large-scale stories, it was a surprise for many to see his name as director of a light comedy romance starring Russell Crowe. A mixed language affair, it follows a British investment broker who inherits a vineyard in southern France filled with love, laughs, and sweeping charm. Textbook Scott.
Director: Clint Eastwood Known For: High Plains Drifter, Sudden Impact
By the late 1980s, the mere mention of Clint Eastwood conjured images of one of cinema's most memorable tough guys, from nameless cowboys to "dirty" cops. But behind all that machismo lay an avid fan of jazz, something few really knew until this film was released, telling the true story of legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker. A touching ode to a troubled man, the film was highly-acclaimed, and shifted perceptions about the man behind the camera. Go ahead and watch. Make his day.
Big Eyes (2014)
Director: Tim Burton Known For: Batman, Edward Scissorhands
Quick, describe the work of acclaimed director Tim Burton in one word. If you didn't say "quirky" then please go to the back of the room. Behind such films as Beetlejuice (1988) and Mars Attacks! (1996), he is revered for his inventive films and unique vision, so when this bio-pic about a woman whose life was stolen by her husband in the name of wealth was released with Burton as director, it was a little strange not to see Johnny Depp. Sure, it has its quirks, but it's far from the Burton standard, even if it is a pretty good movie. There's probably a Big Fish joke in here somewhere.
Director: Ang Lee Known For: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Look, we take for granted superhero movies now. They are everywhere and with advanced CGI making anything seem possible, they are very convincing. But back in 2002, while many films were still struggling with getting realistic human-like characters to look right, acclaimed director Ang Lee decided the world was ready for a CGI Hulk movie. He decided wrong. Aside from the disappointing visuals, the slow-paced melodrama, for which Lee had become famous for, was all the wrong fit for an action-oriented comic book adaptation. You won't like Hulk angry. Or mopey.
Director: James Cameron Known For: The Terminator, The Abyss
It might seem surprising to think of this as unexpected, but back when this was announced, it sure was a curious choice to have a critically-favored sci-fi action director helm a bio-pic about an actual historical sea tragedy. With titles such as The Terminator (1984) and its sequel, The Abyss (1989), and Aliens (1986) under his belt, taking on the story of the most famous sunken ship in the world seemed well out of his wheelhouse. We all know how that turned out. He's the king of the . . . well, you know.