We tend to define filmmakers by their bodies of work: Terrence Malick is an artful filmmaker, Christopher Nolan is a blockbuster filmmaker, Judd Apatow makes comedies, and James Cameron makes action films. But as an auteur, David Gordon Green is nearly impossible to define.

As he kicked off his career at the turn of the century, David Gordon Green was immediately on every movie connoisseur's radar. Often billed as “the next Malick,” Green’s films were beautifully stylized and expertly crafted. Focusing mostly on modest, rural life, his films were intimate tone poems and gentle investigations of humanity. Green quickly established himself as one of the most artful filmmakers in the business.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Green made the stoner-action-comedy Pineapple Express. Despite shell-shocking the film world with his drastic transition, the film was well received and remains a beloved comedy classic to this day. Green followed Pineapple Express with two more comedies, Your Highness and The Sitter. These, well, they weren’t as beloved. Green seemed to have traded in poetic voiceovers and sublime camera movements for stoner humor and toilet jokes. He was now a comedic director—and then, all of a sudden, he wasn’t. 

Green followed up his stint in comedy with a few more artful films before making a political satire, a biographical drama, and a horror slasher. So, now… how do we define David Gordon Green as a filmmaker?

Well, to put it simply—we don’t. And we shouldn’t! Just like we watch both enthralling masterpieces and trashy, poorly-made comedies, filmmakers don’t need to have one particular course for their careers. Green idolizes Terrence Malick, but admits to enjoying big popcorn movies. So if you love all types of cinema, why not make as many styles as you can? David Gordon Green seems to know this, and he has surely made the most of it. Green proves that labeling filmmakers by genre discredits the variations that makes cinema so great.

Want to keep up the deep dives into the career trajectories of today’s most important directors? Look no further than our recent videos on How Barry Jenkins Crafts Style, How Christopher Nolan Ends a Movie, The Visceral Reality of Richard Linklater, and The Lost Boys of Gus Van Sant!