No movie can get off the ground without the vision of the director and a whole host of them have really outdone themselves over the last twelve months.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro González Iñárritu

We have already taken a look at some of the standout actors and actresses of 2015 and now it is time to put the directors in the spotlight - it really has been a strong year and we could have picked a whole host of directors to heap praise on.

- Alejandro González Iñárritu

Alejandro González Iñárritu has been one of the most exciting directors around for many years but really showed off his talents as a filmmaker earlier this year with Birdman, which remains one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the year.

Birdman was the first feature-length film for Iñárritu since Biutiful back in 2006 and this was the film that really did raise his profile as a quality filmmaker.

Birdman really is an ambitious film for the director and is one of the most original movies that we have been treated to this year. Not only does this film dazzle visually, but it is a multi-layered story that is packed with fantastic, vivid and sometimes wild performances from a talented cast.

Birdman showed off Iñárritu like we have never seen the director before - it really was a bold and brave film for him to bring to the big screen. But the gamble paid off as Birdman was a critical smash and went on to be a huge awards hit. The movie was nominated for nine Oscars and went on to win four, including Best Picture and Best Director and Original Screenplay for Iñárritu.

This was the second Best Director nomination of Iñárritu's career - he picked up a nod for Babel - but it was the first Oscar win of his career. And he could well be in the Oscar mix with his latest film The Revenant.

Iñárritu is back in this director's chair this January as he teams up with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy and the movie is already being met with critical acclaim. It is one of the first must-see films of the year. I guess we are going to have to wait and see if he can win Best Director two years in a row.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

- J.J. Abrams

J.J. Abrams is one of the most talked about filmmakers of the autumn as he returned to the director's chair for the little-known film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

We haven't seen a Star Wars hit the big screen since 2005 and this is the first time that Abrams has helmed one of the films in the franchise. The Force Awakens kicks off a new trilogy of films and has already been a huge critical and commercial success - box office records have been tumbling on a daily basis since its release on 17th December.

Abrams has managed to recapture the former glory of this much-loved franchise as he has driven for the story with new faces and old favourites. I have to admit, I was a little worried about the return of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill, but they are just terrific from start to finish.

Of course, Abrams has delivered visual spectacular with this latest film, but he has put the story and the characters right at the heart of the film and it is these two elements that drive this movie forward.

Abrams is no stranger to tackling big film projects - he rebooted the Star Trek franchise in recent years - and he was clearly the right man for the job. Abrams strikes the perfect balance between forging a new franchise for new fans as well as nodding back to what has gone before for the long-standing fans of the sci-fi series. He really does get that spot on.

To say that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been a monster hit would be a HUGE understatement as it has dominated the global box office for weeks and it is great to see acclaim coming its way. It is such a shame that Abrams will not be back for Episode VIII.

J.J. Abrams

- Ava Duvernay

2015 has been an exciting year for female filmmaker and Ava Duvernay is one of the directors who has been making the biggest waves. She returned to the director's chair earlier this year with Selma, which was only the third live-action feature of her career to date.

However, Selma is the movie that has been the one that has sent Duvernay's star rocketing as she chronicled Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights in the mid-sixties - the story climaxes with a march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

Selma hit the big screen at the beginning of February last year and was a critical hit - winning over audiences as well as critics. The movie went on to feature heavily on the awards circuit.

However, there was an uproar when Selma only picked up two Oscar nominations and Duvernay was overlooked for a Best Director nod. The film was nominated for Best Picture and did win Best Original Song for track Glory.

There was a lot of excitement surrounding Duvernay earlier this year as she was linked to the director's chair of upcoming Marvel film Black Panther. She would have been the first woman to direct a Marvel film. Sadly, Duvernay walked away from the project saying that she had a different idea about the story.

Duvernay has returned to television with movie For Justice and is set to work on TV series Queen Sugar as we head into 2016 - the project is currently in pre-production.

Ava Duvernay

- Alex Garland

2015 has been another wonderful year for feature film directorial debuts... but Alex Garland's debut really has been one of the best. Garland was best known for writing the scripts for 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Dredd but made the leap into the director's chair with sci-fi film Ex Machina.

For me, Ex Machina is not only one of the best directorial debut films of the year, but it is also the best science fiction film I have seen hit the big screen in 2015. I am excited about what Garland does next and I hope he continues to direct.

The movie followed a young programmer who is selected to take part in a groundbreaking experiment into artificial intelligence. Ex Machina is a movie that explored some deep and interesting themes and asked questions of the audience and their beliefs. This is a movie that leaves you with much to ponder as the credits rolled.

Ex Machina is a movie that was met with critical acclaim and is a film that just about everyone has been talking about all year.

The movie dominated the British Independent Film Awards - winning four of the five awards it was nominated for; including Best British Independent Film and Best Director & Best Screenplay for Garland.

Garland is set to return to the director's chair with Annihilation - which is in pre-production - and will hit the big screen in 2017. The movie is based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer and Garland is on writing duties once again.

Alex Garland

Other filmmakers who have had great years include Sarah Gavron, Todd Haynes, Pete Docter, and Joel Edgerton.

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