Who’s the Better Director? Richard Donner or John McTiernan

Welcome to round two of Face/Off! For the next 12 weeks we will be pitting two directors who won their round one fight against each other and letting YOU, the commenters, decide on who reigns supreme!

You have to decide which director is better than the other? Various factors could play into your decision from who takes the biggest risks to who has the more distinctive style. Remember, it isn’t so much about which director has made the most money at the box office or won the most awards, but, in your mind, which director simply makes better films.

Let’s analyze the filmography of today’s challengers.


Richard Donner

1960s, 1970s & 1980s Directorial Features: X-15 (1961), Salt and Pepper (1968), Lola (1969), The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), Superman II (1980; uncredited), Inside Moves (1980), The Toy (1982), The Goonies (1985), Ladyhawke (1985), Lethal Weapon (1987), Scrooged (1988), Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

1990s & 2000s Directorial Features: Radio Flyer (1992), Lethal Weapon 3 (1992), Maverick (1994), Assassins (1995), Conspiracy Theory (1997), Lethal Weapon 4 (1998), Timeline (2003), 16 Blocks (2006), Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)


John McTiernan

1980s to 2000s Directorial Features: Nomads (1986), Predator (1987), Die Hard (1988), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Medicine Man (1992), Last Action Hero (1993), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), The 13th Warrior (1999), The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), Rollerball (2002), Basic (2003)


Only one can move on to the Battle Royale. Let the Face/Off begin!

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Face/Off: Donner vs. McTiernan

Who's the better director?


Discuss in the comments below your favorite films from each director and who should advance to the next round.

Author: Marmaduke Karlston

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute Doc, uh, are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?"

23 thoughts

  1. DAMN another really hard one.

    I went with John because Die Hard, Hunt for Red October and 13th Warrior are some of my most re watched movies ever. I think my dad and I watched our VHS copies of Hunt for Red October and 13th Warrior about 100 times each while I grew up. I will never tire of those movies. Especially 13th Warrior. It never gets enough love.

      1. I think so. A medieval horror/thriller of sorts. I love it. Mostly unknown Scandinavian cast besides Antonio who plays a Muslim who was exiled.

      2. It’s not perfect as there was a big imbroglio behind the scenes, but it’s a definite good time and worth watching when you’re in the mood for an adventurous film. I’ve always been real curious to see McTiernan’s cut, though.

  2. Donner has a lot more hits/good movies under his belt than I thought. I really want to see his cut of Superman 2. I had forgotten he did Ladyhawke. And Scrooged is one of my favorite Christmas movies now.

    1. Ladyhawke is great. Definitely a cheesy product of its time but I love it. Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfieffer were great casting.

      1. Hear, hear! (Or is it here, here?)

        Yeah, I do really dig that movie. I remember as a youngster thinking the concept was very cool. The lovers fated to never meet.

        I had always heard it was based on a medieval folk tale, but recently learned that it, in fact, was not. It’s a modern invention.

    2. Donner has made a good film every decade since the 60s. Well since he retired

  3. I love Die Hard 1 & 3 but went with Donner for Superman, LW’s, The Omen, Maverick, and 16 Blocks.

  4. This was really tough. You have SUPERMAN/Lethal Weapon versus Die Hard/Last Action Hero. In the end I went with McTiernan bc I like LAH more than SUPERMAN, and Scrooged did absolutely nothing for me.

    Edit: though SUPERMAN did have that bullet catching scene. Hmmmm

    1. I fk’n love Last Action Hero but it’s frankly not a good film. It’s crazy and buffoonishly over the top. I’d call it Arnold’s wackiest film.

      Superman: TM is a transcendent film that brought up the superhero on screen formula for better or worse. Donner hired Brando and Hackman to give the film panache. The effects are all outdated but it’s influence remains widespread.

      It’s a tough matchup but I give it to Donner because he was consistently great for so long. The man directed films across nearly fifty fucking years. He had to be old as dirt when he directed 16 blocks as his last film, and it’s still pretty damn good. Not even Coppola could do that.

      1. I disagree, I think Last Action Hero is a damn good action comedy and pretty ahead of its time. With all the meta referential stuff, I think it would’ve done gangbusters had it been released in the last ten years.

    2. Scrooged did nothing for me when I first saw it, but man it really is a fucking grower and it gets watched every year now.

      1. It hits differently when one has grown into a grumpy adult, that’s for sure.

  5. Man, this might just be the hardest one of these in my opinion. I don’t know if I can make a choice. My favorite Donner films have an almost mystical quality about them that we’ve all seen other directors try to replicate over the years and not quite achieve. On the other hand, McTiernan is easily one of the greatest action movie directors of all time. Hell, even most of his “bad” movies are still well done and rewatchable.

  6. this is a very very very hard poll. so hard that I refuse to vote.
    Both are legends that made so many classical movies.

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