Filmmaker Flame Wars: 15 Feuds Between Famous Directors

Filmmaker Hateration! 15 Ugly Director On Director Feuds (Clint, Spike and Kevin Smith Stay Brawling)

While filmmakers typically let their work behind the camera do the talking for them, most are not above taking a swipe at their contemporaries. Just like in the world of hip-hop, movie goers become fascinated with these filmmaker feuds and rivalries, often picking sides and rallying behind their favorite directors as if they were a sports team. In reality, one director insulting another is typically nothing more than the immature prattling of an overblown ego as evidenced by the following list. Here are 15 instances of filmmaker-on-filmmaker hating that caused a stir with audiences.

Spike Lee

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Spike Lee’s recent criticism of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained has caused huge waves of controversy in Hollywood. In December, the Do The Right Thing director Tweeted “American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them.” Tarantino and Lee have a longstanding feud that stretches back to Pulp Fiction, where Lee attacked Tarantino for his frequent use of the “n” word in his films and claimed he wished to be an “honorary black man.”

Werner Herzog

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Werner Herzog, director of Bad Lieutenant: Port Call of New Orleans and co-star of Jack Reacher, clearly isn’t a fan of French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard. Though the Breathless filmmaker is considered by most a pioneer of the genre and a master director in general, Herzog has dismissed him in the past by saying “Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.”

David Cronenberg

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David Cronenberg has caught both fan boy praise and ire for the criticism of his contemporaries. Many movie lovers rallied behind the Eastern Promises director when he expressed his opinion on The Sixth Sense  director M. Night Shyamalan, saying “I HATE that guy! Next question.” However, fans were quick to call Cronenberg a jaded crank when he knocked Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. The Oscar-nominated director described the franchise as mere child’s play: “It’s for kids. It’s adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, you know, Dark Knight Rises is, you know, ‘supreme cinema art,’ I don’t think they know what the f— they’re talking about.”

Tyler Perry

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Tarantino isn’t the only director Lee has had beef with. Tyler Perry came under fire from Lee due to the perceived racial stereotypes Lee believes the character of Madea embodies: “We got a black president, and we going back to Mantan Moreland and Sleep ‘n’ Eat?” In a surprising move, Perry shot back at Lee in an interview, stating “Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that… Spike needs to shut the hell up!” Lee would not go back on his comments, but later made a peace offering by saying “He’s doing what he does… God bless him.”

Tim Burton

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When Kevin Smith joked that Tim Burton stole the ending to Planet of the Apes (2001) from one of his Jay and Silent Bob comic books, Burton would not take it lightly. “Anyone who knows me knows I would never read a comic book. I would especially never read anything created by Kevin Smith,” Burton struck back. On a DVD special, Smith would repeat the quote, pause, and retort “Which, to me, explains f—ing Batman.”

Clint Eastwood

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Spike Lee struck a third directorial feud with Dirty Harry himself in 2008. Lee cited the problematic racial casting of Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, both of which lacked any African American characters. “Many veterans, African-Americans, who survived that war are upset at Clint Eastwood. In his vision of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist. Simple as that.” Lee also added “I have a different version,” in reference to his own film, Miracle at St. Anna. Eastwood shot back at this criticism, calling Flags of Our Fathers basis “the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that… I mean, it’s not accurate.” To worsen the situation, the gruff actor made things personal by adding “A guy like him should shut his face.”

Kevin Smith

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Kevin Smith would sink his own claws into director Paul Thomas Anderson during the early days of his View Askew website. The Clerks director posted a hugely negative review of P.T.A,’s Magnolia that called it “a constant reminder that a bloated sense of self-importance is the most unattractive quality in a person or their work.”

John Carpenter


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Director John Carpenter has long been accused by some horror fans of taking his inspiration for Halloween from A Christmas Story director Bob Clark’s lesser-seen Canadian chiller Black Christmas. Both films employ heavy usage of first person camera tricks and feature a villain who preys on teenage girls seemingly at random. The directors had previously worked together on projects following Black Christmas’ release. according to an interview with Fangoria Magazine, Clark pitched a hypothetical sequel to Carpenter that involved the killer of Black Christmas being “caught and institutionalized, and he escapes. It’s Halloween, and he comes back to the sorority. I was going to call it Halloween.” When Carpenter cribbed the basics of the premise for his version of Halloween, Clark said “If Halloween has a little influence of Black Christmas, it flatters me. He didn’t rip me off.” In 2008, Carpenter dismissed Clark’s claims, saying “I remember seeing Black Christmas and thinking, ‘That’s how you don’t do it.’”

Abel Ferrera

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Upon receiving news that Grizzly Man filmmaker Werner Herzog was remaking his film Bad Lieutenant, notoriously vitriolic director Abel Ferrera did not react well. “I wish these [Herzog and remake producers] die in Hell. I hope they’re all in the same streetcar, and it blows up,” Ferrara said in an interview with Spout. Werner Herzog later countered the quote by saying “I have no idea who Abel Ferrara is. But let him fight the windmills, like Don Quixote.”

Vincent Gallo

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The Buffalo ’66 and Brown Bunny director isn’t known for his winning personality, a trait that extends the criticism of several of his peers. Among Gallo’s past verbal targets are Adaptation director Spike Jonze (“The biggest fraud out there”), Lost In Translation auteur Sofia Coppola (“She’s a parasite just like her fat, pig father”), and the legendary Taxi Driver filmmaker Martin Scorsese (“An egomaniac has-been”).

David Gordon Green

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Back when Pineapple Express director David Gordon Green was indie filmmaker du jour, he was running his mouth about directors Kevin Smith and David Mamet. Green accused the success of Smith’s 1994 film Clerks as having “created a Special Olympics for film.” Green also added “if you read anything derogatory about Kevin Smith or David Mamet, then I’m proud of it.”

Danny Boyle

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Though he directed the popular British zombie film 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle is not a fan of Eli Roth’s horror films. Boyle slammed Roth following the release (and subsequent financial failure) of Hostel 2: “His movies aren’t even particularly well done. They’re not even scary. They’re horrible, but that’s not scary.” Eli Roth wisely decided to take the high road and squashed the feud through his publicist, who pointed out the film was a hit with his fans.

Sylvester Stallone

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Sylvester Stallone may have taken his action hero too far with Edgar Wright. When Stallone’s The Expendables and Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Versus The World were going head-to-head in the summer of 2010, the geeky British director reached out to his favorite action hero through an Ain’t It Cool news interview. When asked if Stallone would check out Scott Pilgrim, the Italian Stallion responded in a way more befitting John Rambo: “Edgar, I promise to see SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD only if you pull your spleen out through your nose with a tractor cable,” he said, adding “If I were to grab the proverbial bag of bonbons and buttered popcorn and plop my carcass dead center preparing to enjoy the movie in all its glory, the ghosts of Charles Bronson and John Wayne would rise from their graves and snap me to death with oil soaked rat tail towels.” Perhaps marred by disappointment, Wright would not respond to the feud.

Rian Johnson

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In 2011, Looper director Rian Johnson took to Twitter looking to start a director-on-director feud to increase his “brand awareness” and “avoid writing.” Rather than take potshots at random filmmakers, Johnson lobbied for the nicest director he could find to condone to a bit insult swapping. He went looking for a director more talented than himself, as to look like the underdog in the feud, and settled on Juno director Jason Reitman. After much cheesy chiding (at one point referring to Reitman as “Wrongman”), the fabricated feud began. It concluded with a long winded, multi-hour, totally fictitious Tweeted tale of Johnson and Reitman patching things up with a wild weekend in Mexico.

Seth MacFarlane

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Seth MacFarlane has a longstanding feud with Kevin Smith, dating back to Smith’s disparaging remarks on Family Guy on an audio commentary track. This has led to what could only be described as an animated flame war between the individuals, with MacFarlane regularly making fun of Smith’s weight and failed films on American Dad, Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. Last summer, one particular gag on Family Guy had the character of Stewie mocking Smith’s experience of being kicked off a Southwest Airline flight due to his weight. Smith responded to the jab by Tweeting to Seth MacFarlane a picture of himself on a plane with his middle finger extended.

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