27 People Who Could (Or Should) Direct 'The Batman'

Yesterday, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing The Batman. One day, someone is going to write a book explaining exactly what was going on behind-the-scenes at Warner Bros. that led to this revolving door of filmmakers on all of their projects. We'll surely know someday. But not today.

So today is a day of speculation. As Matt Reeves and Mat Ross emerge as apparent frontrunners, it's time to do that thing where we make a list of people who should direct the next Batman movie. Some of these names are totally plausible. Some are wishful thinking. Others are here just because the thought of them directing a big-budget superhero movie makes me giggle uncontrollably. Most of all, this an excuse for us to just goof off and daydream while Warner Bros. figures everything out.

The Obvious Choices

Darren Aronofksy

Look, the director of Black Swan, The Wrestler, and Requiem For a Dream taking on a comic book movie sounds nutty until you remember that he almost made two of them. Before James Mangold took over, he was going to direct Hugh Jackman in The Wolverine. Before Christopher Nolan showed up with Batman Begins, he was going to take on Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. The wildly under-appreciated Noah showcased a blockbuster confidence that his smaller thrillers, dramas and horror movies don't always utilize. So you know what? Give Darren Aronofksy the goddamned Batman.

Shane Black

Shane Black

After the unpleasant gloominess of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, how do you go about making the Dark Knight fun again? Simple: you hire one of the most fun directors working at the moment. Shane Black proved his superhero chops with Iron Man 3, but Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and The Nice Guys showcase his ability to craft an engaging action mystery where the banter is as thrilling as the gun battles.

why Ava DuVernay turned down Black Panther

Ava DuVernay

There's a reason Ava DuVernay ends up on every single director wishlist you read on the internet these days: she's the real deal. Selma is an incredible film, a passionate and beautifully made drama about real heroes and since she's currently filming the adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, she's certainly not above genre material. However, the news that she turned down Marvel's Black Panther is a sign that she may not have an interest in capes and tights. But let's be honest here: it's about time Batman was explored by a storyteller who wasn't a white man.

F. Gary Gray

F. Gary Gray

Let's talk about a realistic choice for a moment. F. Gary Gray isn't going to top any nerd's dream wish list, but he's a realistic choice. While his earlier work (including The Italian Job and Law Abiding Citizen) aren't going to win him a big superhero gig, his more recent work certainly might. Straight Outta Compton was a critical and financial hit, which secured him the job of directing The Fate of the Furious. And the last person to take control of the Fast and Furious series got himself a job directing Aquaman. So watch this space.

Doug Liman Edge of Tomorrow

Doug Liman

Last year, we heard that Doug Liman was going to direct Justice League Dark, a movie that would assemble the DC universe's weirder characters for a more mystical adventure. We haven't heard anything since then, so why not consider him for the Batman job? While he's seen his fair share of lows (Jumper, anyone?), the director of The Bourne Identity and the excellent Edge of Tomorrow has showcased a command of action and character that a great Batman movie will require. It's hard to imagine Liman making a Batman movie that breaks the mold, but it's easy to imagine him making one that pushes all of the right buttons in the most satisfying way possible.

Doomsday

Neil Marshall

It's strange that Neil Marshall went from being a director of spirited, low-budget genre movies like Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday to one of the film industry's go-to guys for expensive, glossy genre television shows like Game of Thrones, Westworld, and Hannibal. It's time for Marshall, a director with a penchant for both atmosphere and action, to ascend to the comic book blockbuster throne.

chad Stahelski and David Leitch John Wick

Chad Stahelski and David Leitch

The directors of John Wick don't have to be considered as a pair. After all, Chad Stahelski helmed the upcoming John Wick: Chapter 2 solo and David Leitch is off to direct Deadpool 2. But we're going to group them together just in case they decided to team up again. Because let's be honest here: at his best, Batman is the John Wick of superheroes, the terrifying legend that everyone whispers about in the minutes before he bursts out of the shadows to crack some skulls. Most importantly, Stahelski and Leitch managed to infuse John Wick with humor and character on top of the marvelously choreographed action.

James Wan Leaving Aquaman

James Wan

Considering all of the behind-the-scenes drama that has seen directors shuffling on and off various DC comic book movies, it would make sense for Warner Bros. to just stick with the people they know. And when it comes to filmmakers already working in this particular stable, I'd much rather see James Wan (who is set to helm Aquaman) take on Batman than Zack Snyder or David Ayer. His horror background is ideal for a superhero who instills fear in his enemies and Furious 7 made it very clear that he knows how to blow things up really well.

gareth evans

Stepping Up

Gareth Evans

Look, someone in Hollywood is eventually going to realize that Gareth Evans is one of the best action directors of all time. When that happens, we're going to get something spectacular. If The Raid and The Raid 2 are what we get when Evans is working on the fringes, imagine what we could get if he's given the resources of a major studio? If he's given the necessary free rein, a Gareth Evans-directed Batman movie could be the superhero action movie you've always envisioned when reading an actual comic book.

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Lesli Linka Glatter

Even if you don't know her name, you probably know Lesli Linka Glatter's work. While she's directed a handful of feature films and was nominated for an Academy Award for her 1995 short Tales of Meeting and Parting, she has become one of the great modern television directors. Her small screen credits stretch back to the late '80s and early '90s with episodes of Amazing Stories and Twin Peaks, but they only grow most astonishing as you go on. A quick sampler: NYPD Blue, Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, E.R., The Good Wife, True Blood, Justified, The Leftovers, and Homeland. If you want an experienced storyteller behind the camera, you really can't do better than offering Glatter a pass out of television and into the comic book movie world.

granik

Debra Granik

Despite directing the critically lauded Best Picture nominee Winter's Bone, Debra Granik has yet to ascend to the list of in-demand directors. Despite being nominated for an Academy Award for writing that brilliant 2010 noir, she has only made one other movie, the documentary Stray Dog, in the past seven years. Despite being the filmmaker who discovered Jennifer Lawrence, she's had to stand by and watch less talented directors botch giant movies. You know what? If Warner Bros. was willing to let first-time director Seth Grahame-Smith direct The Flash at one point, they should be willing to let Debra Granik direct The Batman.

karyn kusama 2

Karyn Kusama

After breaking on to the scene with 2000's Girlfight, Karyn Kusama found herself in director's jail after helming the 2005 bomb Aeon Flux. And while director's jail is easy to escape if you're a man, it's harder if you're a woman trying to make it in the film industry. So yeah, it's time that we started taking notice of Kusama again, especially since she has also directed the cheeky horror comedy Jennifer's Body and the exceptional thriller The Invitation, which showcases a filmmaker in total control of her craft. The Karyn Kusama train is rolling again – Warner Bros. would be wise to hop on.

miguel sapochik

Miguel Sapochnik

Look, no one's going to look at Miguel Sapochnik's sole feature film, 2010's Repo Men, and decide that he's the man for The Batman. However, they will look at his Game of Thrones episodes, particularly "Hardhome" and "Battle of the Bastards," and note that he has an eye for scale and horror and tension that should be utilized early and often by studios needing a more-than-competent action filmmaker.

Jeremy Saulnier

If this was a ranked list, Jeremy Saulnier would be sitting at the very top. It's nothing short of astounding that no major studio has thrown open their doors for this guy – did they actually watch Murder Party, Blue Ruin, and Green Room? There's a David Fincher quality to Saulnier's work – precise, grimy, gritty, and unbearably intense – that makes you wonder what he could do with a proper budget. Part of me doesn't want to wish the Hollywood machine on a talent as bright and special as Saulnier. What would happen to his grim sense of humor? His attention to bizarre, human detail? And at the same time...goddamn, do I want to see the director of Green Room make The Batman.

dan trachtenberg john goodman 10 cloverfield lane

Dan Trachtenberg

Unlike many of the directors on this list, Dan Trachtenberg is a bonafide nerd and the kind of guy who may very well leap at the idea of making a Batman movie. And if the excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane is any indication, he'd be perfectly comfortable in the comic book waters. While grounded in well-drawn characters, that film has a nerdy streak a mile wide culminating in a third act that makes it perfectly clear Trachtenberg is ready to handle something enormous.

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Wishful Thinking

Ryan Coogler

With Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler made it perfectly clear that he is a director worth watching. With Creed, he made it perfectly clear that he's one of the brightest and most promising young directors working at the moment. Hell, Creed is so good that he should be allowed to do whatever he wants for a decade, minimum. Unfortunately for Batman fans, Coogler decided to take on Marvel's Black Panther, which means that he may be tied up in another comic book universe for the time being. But hey, we can dream, right?

Rich Famuyiwa Dope header

Rick Famuyiwa

Although Rick Famuyiwa has been directing since the last '90s, he truly broke though with 2015's coming-of-age film Dope. Suddenly, he was in demand! And then he was going to direct The Flash! And then he wasn't going to direct The Flash anymore and everyone kept on wondering what the heck was going on behind-the-scenes to keep directors bouncing off this particular film. Still, if Famuyiwa was ready to direct the Scarlet Speedster, he's certainly ready to direct the Dark Knight...but it's hard to imagine him returning to this particular table after those dreaded creative differences put an end to his first round of superhero ambitions.

Last-Stand-kim-jee-woon

Kim Jee-woon

After making his Hollywood debut with The Last Stand, Kim Jee-woon promptly returned to South Korea to make the very good historical thriller The Age of Shadows. Would be up for making another American movie? That's the big question. The Last Stand, while pretty fun, was a box office bomb that showcases very little of what makes Kim's Korean work so special. If you want to daydream about a Batman film directed by one of Korea's slickest and most exciting filmmaking, you have to watch The Good, the Bad, the Weird and I Saw the Devil, films so deliriously entertaining and bombastic that they make the head spin. Could a Batman movie lure him back to Hollywood? Do we even want him to potentially waste his valuable time outside of a foreign film industry that knows how to properly utilize his talents?

Michelle MacLaren and Andrew Lincoln - The Walking Dead

Michelle MacLaren

Like Rick Famuyiwa, Michelle MacLaren was going to be a member of the DC comic book movie director club. Then she left Wonder Woman over creative differences and went back to being only one of the best filmmakers currently toiling away on television. If Warner Bros. could tempt her back to the fold (and that's a huge if), it's easy to imagine MacLaren rocking a Batman movie. Her work on Breaking Bad was nothing short of extraordinary and her episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Westworld have been exceptional as well. Someday, Michelle MacLaren is going to make a feature film and blow our brains out the back of our heads. Maybe Warner Bros. could send her a nice fruit basket and it could be The Batman?

James Mangold directing The Wolverine

James Mangold

If James Mangold wasn't already the director of The Wolverine and Logan, he'd be an excellent choice to helm The Batman. Hell, he'd still be an excellent choice to helm The Batman, but like with Ryan Coogler, it's hard to imagine everyone muddying the waters of these various cinematic universes too much. And that's a shame, because Mangold is the kind of working director who stands head and shoulders above the rest – he's capable and smart and makes the exact kind of studio fare you hope to see when you settle in for an evening at your local multiplex.

ezra edelman

Out of Left Field

Ezra Edelman

Many documentary filmmakers have managed to break into the fictional realm, so here's the question I'll shout at the heavens: why not Ezra Edelman? Why not let the director of O.J.: Made in America, one of the best movies released in 2016, direct The Batman? You just know that he'll have opinions on Batman and you just know that his take would be unlike anything we've ever seen before and you just know that this is never going to happen, but oh, man...why not?

Pablo Larraín

If you want a chuckle, imagine Pablo Larraín's face when Warner Bros. gives him a call to offer him The Batman. It's hard to imagine the director of No and The Club having any interest in a comic book movie. Impossible, even. And yet, he undoubtedly has the chops – his films are as technically precise and assembled as any others being made today and if he had the desire, he'd make one of the most visually arresting superhero movies of all time. Plus, I'd love to see the director of Jackie get into Bruce Wayne's head and really rummage through his inner demons for 120 minutes.

na hong-jin

Na Hong-jin

Like Kim Jee-woon, it's not clear if Na Hong-jin has any desire to leave South Korea and muddle around Hollywood. At the same time, the director of The Chaser, The Yellow Sea, and The Wailing is the kind of oddball choice that could lead to something truly spectacular. Na has an eye for action (there are knife fights in The Yellow Sea that take my breath away), but he also has an eye for misery and the human capacity for suffering. In other words, he's...kind of perfect for Batman? Did I just write that?

the-autopsy-of-jane-doe-brian-cox

André Øvredal

It blows my mind that it took André Øvredal six years to make his second movie happen. His 2010 found footage adventure film Trollhunter is one of the best films of its kind, using a familiar format to tell an unfamiliar story that continuously tops itself in terms of scale, spectacle, scares, and laughs. It's a brilliant (and brilliantly accessible) movie. His second film, the claustrophobic horror movie The Autopsy of Jane Doe, may be even better. While a Batman movie will benefit from someone who knows how to stage action, it will also benefit from someone well-rehearsed in crafting entertaining dread. Øvredal would be a left field, but astonishing, choice.

lynne ramsay

Lynne Ramsay

After what went down on the set of Jane Got a Gun, it's hard to imagine Warner Bros. entrusting its cornerstone character to Lynne Ramsay. But we're just having fun here, right? I have no idea what a Batman movie directed by the woman behind We Need to Talk About Kevin and Ratcatcher looks like, but  I would pay evening prices at my local theater to find out.

ben wheatley

Ben Wheatley

I wonder if Ben Wheatley would even say yes if the Batman directing job passed his desk. I wonder if the eclectic and divisive director behind divisive masterpieces like Kill List, Sightseers, and High-Rise would be interested in this material at all. And then I remember that he directed two episodes of Doctor Who and I wonder "Maybe. Just maybe."