Battle of Directors is a weekly column that pits two filmmakers against one another, sheds light on their respective filmographies, and then asks readers to state which director they prefer. Thoughtful discourse and discussion is encouraged and desired. Enjoy!

Richard Linklater and Steven Soderbergh share a rare gift that even the most talented of filmmakers don’t have: the unique ability to create wholly original and wildly different films over a single, captivating and enlightening career.

If you’ll indulge me for a moment, consider the works of Richard Linklater. A Southern-born and -raised auteur who managed to create some of the purest forms of love ever to be seen on screen with the Before Trilogy. Conversely, he then makes daffy and juvenile (though unexpectedly enjoyable) films like School of Rock and Bad News Bears. 

Steven Soderbergh has followed a similarly diverse and eclectic cinematic route. By just taking a look at Soderbergh’s recent endeavors - Contagion, Haywire, and Magic Magic - you’ll get a good sense of how ingenious and distinctive his career has been. 

The dissimilar and fascinating filmographies of Linkater and Soderbergh don’t make much of any sense. Then again, I guess we should be thankful art never quite has to.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 11.41.02 PM

Ten example films from Richard Linklater:

Before Sunset

Dazed and Confused

Waking Life

School of Rock

Before Sunrise

Slacker

Bernie

Me and Orson Welles

Bad News Bears

A Scanner Darkly

*Before Midnight

vs.

Screen Shot 2013-01-29 at 11.57.06 PM

Ten example films from Steven Soderbergh:

And Everything is Going Fine

Traffic

Magic Mike

Che

Oceans Eleven

Sex, Lies, and Videotapes

Haywire

The Informant

Out of Sight

Erin Brockovich

*Side Effects

So which filmmaker do you prefer? The choice is yours.

  • Stella Kuru

    Well, since Mr. Soderbergh has officially retired from film (see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/jan/30/steven-soderbergh-retires-from-film?CMP=twt_gu ) I guess I will go with him. ;-)

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      I’ve read that article quite a few times. But is his retirement a good enough reason to choose him over Linklater?

  • http://twitter.com/Nikhat_Z Nikhat Zahra

    Linklater. Celine and Jesse. ‘Nuff said.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      So it goes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crump/41400797 Andrew Crump

    Linklater did Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the latter of which is perfect. I’m a big Soderbergh advocate but I’ve never loved any of his films as much as I’ve loved the Jesse and Celine saga. Linklater takes it.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      That seems to be the consensus. Long live Jesse and Celine.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crump/41400797 Andrew Crump

        Not that I don’t love Soderbergh. In fact I’m super-perplexed by some of the disdain for the Ocean’s films and The Girlfriend Experience, which has all kinds of counter-cultural chutzpah.

        • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

          You’re perplexed by the disdain for Ocean 12?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crump/41400797 Andrew Crump

            And 11. 13 is the really only legitimately awful movie of that lot, but I honestly had a blast with 12.

          • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

            I actually think 13 is the best of the bunch. 12 is horrendous: self-aware faux-meta smug self-content nonsense with one fun sequence.

          • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

            You know, I’ve heard that same argument against Seven Psychopaths. Don’t agree of course.

          • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

            At least 7P commits to its meta vision. Ocean’s 12 uses buckshot approach the entire film: it’s heist! it’s meta! it’s cool! it’s breakdancing! it’s exciting! it’s a bunch of old white people sitting in a jail cell! As someone who was cool with Ocean’s 11, I was put off tremendously by Ocean’s 12. Though admittedly it’s been a couple of years since I last saw it or 13.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crump/41400797 Andrew Crump

            13 just kind of exists. It’s ultimately forgettable and indistinguishable from its siblings, which makes it kind of awful.

  • http://twitter.com/shiftingPersona Alex Withrow

    Soderbergh. Always and forever.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      I know your love for Soderbergh knows no bounds. Favorites?

      • http://twitter.com/shiftingPersona Alex Withrow

        Traffic is my tell all end all. Then Out of Sight, Sex Lies, Bubble, GF Experience, The Limey… it never ends.

  • http://armchairc.blogspot.com/ Jake Cole

    Soderbergh. Linklater has a varied, exceptional career (he certainly managed to do loafer comedies while maintaining his indie cred better than David Gordon Green), but Soderbergh has made wild far wider generic jumps, and his transition to digital rates with Michael Mann’s and David Fincher’s as the most exciting and unique mainstream use of new technologies. He, like the other two, understands that digital opens up a whole new grammar for cinema (something he alludes to in that excellent New York Magazine interview that’s been passed around) and he has shown that not only in his compositions but in the narrative structure of his recent work. I hope his retirement is short-lived.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      It seems he’s going to be focusing on playwriting and writing a novel. He’ll be back though.

  • Steven Flores

    This is tough. 2 filmmakers who are extremely talented and very diverse. From a technical standpoint, I would go Soderbergh yet Linklater is willing to do films that can be arty like Waking Life to something as accessible as School of Rock.

    I would probably say Soderbergh since I think he’s made more films that I like more than Linklater. Yet, I would concede for the fact that nothing beats the moment my little sister was dancing to the Ramones during that montage in School of Rock. it’s a rare family film that appeals to the rockers but also to kids and parents.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      It appeals to everyone – it’s a universal gem. It’s always great when films can create lovely family moments .

  • http://www.gmanreviews.com Andrew Robinson

    Soderbergh, Soderbergh, Soderbergh, Soderbergh, and some more Soderbergh. no competition… but I will admit bias.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      Bias? Why’s that?

  • Christopher Runyon

    Perhaps I’m biased because I simply haven’t seen many Soderbergh films, but I do think that Linklater is superior based on what little Soderbergh I’ve seen. If anything, he’s the winner just for doing Before Sunrise and Sunset alone, and the fact that he has Waking Life, School of Rock, and Slacker on his resume as well certainly helps.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      I still need to check out ‘Waking Life’ … that film looks like a life-changer.

      • Christopher Runyon

        I merely liked it at first, but it really grows in your head with age.

  • James Ewing

    Linklater. Not even close. I find Soderbergh consistently insufferable. While Linklater might not have the same artsy cred, he makes beautiful human films that always find a way to make me connect to them.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      Insufferable? Which films of his do you find particularly “insufferable?”

      • James Ewing

        Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Out of Sight.

        To be fair, I don’t find The Girlfriend Experience terrible, but it’s mediocre at best.

        • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

          Sasha Stone is the voice of a generation.

          • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

            Sasha Grey. Although dear God, that’s a hilarious error you just made.

          • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

            Oh my. Yes. It. Is.

  • http://twitter.com/twscritic The Warning Sign

    Linklater, hands down. I admire Soderbergh’s ability to crank out quality films so frequently, but Linklater has created so many of my personal favorites. Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise/Sunset and Slacker are all near perfect, in my opinion.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      “Hands down” … alas, earlier commenters say otherwise. I’m still not sold on ‘Dazed and Confused.’

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com Sam Fragoso

      “Hands down” … alas, earlier commenters say otherwise. I’m still not sold on ‘Dazed and Confused.’

  • http://twitter.com/NickPrigge Nick Prigge

    Can’t a man cop out and say that Soderbergh is more versatile with a more solid oeuvre but that Linklater’s “Sunrise/Sunset” are the two best movies between them?

    Yes. That’s what I’m doing. I’m copping out.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      How dare you Nick! How dare you.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com Sam Fragoso

      How dare you Nick! How dare you.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    This director battle, like many of them, comes down to which directors
    films could you not live without. While I enjoy a good Soderbergh
    thriller, I couldn’t imagine living a life without knowing Jesse and
    Celine. Those two movies are possibly my favorite films on love, also
    having Dazed and Confused in your back pocket is “All right, all right, all right” by me.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      Well articulated mate. Jesse and Celine are simply indispensable.

  • Tyler

    Linklater, through and through. One of my favourite filmmakers. Soderbergh will never come close.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      What are your favorites from Linklater?

      • Tyler

        Slacker, Waking Life, Tape and Before Sunset are probably the best Linklater films I’ve seen. Fun fact: Soderbergh makes a cameo in Waking Life.

        • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

          I need to find Waking Life ASAP.

  • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

    Linklater has three films (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, School of Rock) that are better than any Soderbergh film. Soderbergh has three films (Full Frontal, Bubble, and– sorry, Mr. Kenny– The Girlfriend Experience) worse than any Linklater film. Linklater’s films teem with humanity and heart even during his experiments, whereas Soderbergh consistently removes humanity from his proceedings, opting for a technical coolness. I really like Out of Sight and The Informant!, but Linklater wins this for me by a country mile.

    • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

      Forgot to write Dazed and Confused. Four films for Linklater.

      • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

        Dazed and Confused is alright. Still not sure what all the fuss is about.

        • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

          I don’t want this to come off as an age diss, but it’s a movie that is far better once older. I didn’t find it stellar as a teen, but enjoyed it far more as an nostalgic twenty-something.

          • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

            Perhaps so. But I find something like American Graffiti much more satisfying.

          • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

            If your high school experience is more like American Graffiti than Dazed and Confused, then we need to bring you up to LA for some better parties.

    • http://www.moviemezzanine.com/ Sam Fragoso

      Not a continent mile?

      • http://twitter.com/RussellHFilm Russell Hainline

        By all types of miles.