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Is Retirement Ever Truly Retirement For Directors?

Do great directors ever truly retire?

Miyazaki Has Retired 4 Times

Hayao Miyazaki first announced his retirement in 1997, claiming he was done making films after the release of Princess Mononoke. This didn’t end up happening, as he made Spirited Away only four years later. Once again, while promoting Spirited Away, he claimed he was going to retire, saying he could no longer work on feature-length animated films.

Of course, this retirement was even more short-lived as he came back in 2004 with Howl’s Moving Castle. After that, he directed Ponyo in 2008. It wasn’t until 2013 that the legendary director claimed he was going to retire again. While promoting The Wind Rises, Miyazaki, to the shock of nobody, announced he was done with filmmaking.

“If I said I wanted to [make another feature film], I would sound like an old man saying something foolish.”

Miyazaki in 2013
10 years with Hayao Miyazaki / Image Courtesy of Gkids

This did feel final for a while—he stepped away for a long time. This ended up being his longest break from the start of his career before he started to work on The Boy and the Heron.

Luckily, when he came back, he didn’t sound like an old man saying something foolish. Instead, he sounded like an auteur who still had something poignant to say. He still had that creative brilliance and that hunger to create something masterful.

He claimed that The Boy and the Heron would indeed be his last. This ended up being smoke and mirrors, as now it seems he’s going to direct another feature film. It’s been revealed to be a nostalgic adventure drama, according to Hayao’s son, Goro.

It’s clear that once Miyazaki’s creative juices flowed, he realized he had so much more left in the tank. He still had more to give to cinema.

Many directors like him have been on the same wavelength. The global film industry has an epidemic of old directors who are so deeply in love with the art of filmmaking, to the point where they don’t want to give it up. 

James L. Brooks has been out of the director’s chair since 2010. He’s 84 years old, but he came back to direct another film. Set to release in 2025 is Ella McCay, a comedy starring Emma Mackey, Woody Harrelson, and Ayo Edebiri.

Retirement? What is that?

George Miller promoting Furiosa / Image Courtesy of ALBERTO E. RODRIGUEZ

Retirement might just be the one word that filmmakers around the world detest. Here are some directors working today who are older than 75. 

Steven Spielberg (77)

Wim Wenders (78)

George Miller (79)

Martin Scorsese (81)

Michael Mann (81)

Barry Levinson (82)

Hayao Miyazaki (83)

James L. Brooks (84)

Francis Ford Coppola (85)

Paul Verhoeven (85)

Ridley Scott (86)

Clint Eastwood (94)

These directors want to keep on giving the world their magic until they physically can’t anymore, and it’s beautiful to see.

This list is just a small part of a pretty expansive list of the older filmmakers still working today. These are just some of the directors with feature films either in very recent or upcoming years. There are others, like Werner Herzog, who still makes documentaries, or David Lynch, who still makes music videos and short films.

That goes for filmmakers of the past as well, like Sidney Lumet, who was still working in the industry in his 80s until he passed. The same applies to Akira Kurosawa, John Huston, and Jean-Luc Godard. Stanley Kubrick was also 70 years old and still wanted to make more films before his untimely demise.

Older Directors Still Dominating

Clint Eastwood / Image Courtesy of PARAS GRIFFIN/GETTY

Clint Eastwood is directing his 44th feature film, Juror No. 2, at 94 years old, with no indication of retirement in sight. While this is a truly incredible feat, it’s just as incredible how many other directors who are in their late 70s and 80s aren’t just dipping their feet in the water-–they’re swimming with the sharks.

George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga was just released earlier this month, and he’s not close to done yet as he wants to get another film in the Mad Max saga. Michael Mann recently got heated up with Ferrari before he takes his talents to do the sequel to a classic, Heat 2. 

Ridley Scott’s work ethic is unmatched. He’s made 11 films in the last 12 years, and he’s 86 years old and still has multiple films in development. Francis Ford Coppola finally made his longtime dream project set to release this year, Megalopolis, and he plans to make even more films.

Spielberg and Scorsese

Coppola, Spielberg, Scorsese, and George Lucas / Image Courtesy of  Francis Specker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Two of the greatest directors in the history of film, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, have both reiterated many times that they want to continue to make films.

Spielberg only recently released his most personal film, The Fabelmans, which is arguably his best in a long time. He has another film set up at Universal Studios, set to release on May 15, 2026. He’s going to go back to his roots as a blockbuster director, as this one is described as an original event film.

Martin Scorsese has five films in active development that he plans to direct. He’s coming off Killers of the Flower Moon, which critics and audiences were in love with. There seems to be no intention to stop making cinematic masterpieces for the 81-year-old director.

Marty is the definition of a fine wine director. He keeps getting better and better with age. It’s debatable what his best film is and when it was made—what isn’t is how incredibly consistent Scorsese has been as a director.

Martin Scorsese promoting Killers of the Flower Moon / Image Courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Scorsese has continually delivered quality films. You would think the wine would stop getting finer and finer—that it would reach its peak—but Scorsese defies the notion that a director loses a step as they age. I’d argue he’s gained more steps than he’s lost.

I’m old. I read stuff. I see things. I want to tell stories, and there’s no more time. [Filmmaker Akira] Kurosawa, when he got his Oscar when George [Lucas] and Steven [Spielberg] gave it to him, he said, ‘I’m only now beginning to see the possibility of what cinema could be, and it’s too late.’ He was 83. At the time, I said, ‘What does he mean?’ Now I know what he means.

Scorsese while speaking to Vanity Fair.

Scorsese’s passion for film is awe-inspiring. He’s dedicated his entire being to the craft. That’s why this quote is so heartbreaking to hear. He wants to tell these stories forever, but life doesn’t permit eternality. 

The world we live in does, however, permit the eternality of a legacy, which Scorsese undeniably has as one of the greatest to ever do it.

The Creativity of Film

Perfect Days dir. Wim Wenders / Image Courtesy of Neon

The aspect of filmmaking that triumphs over everything else is the creativity involved. Ideas have to be flowing, and that only comes with love and commitment to the craft. All these directors have one thing in common: they’re film lovers, and it shows in everything they produce. 

There’s so much imagination and artistry that goes into every scene in a script, every shot, every action, and every set piece. Good or bad, it requires a lot of work and thought. You can’t create something without that level of ingenuity. 

That never truly goes away once you feel it. No matter what, you have to create that thing that’s in your head. It’s going to haunt you if you don’t try. It’s both a gift and a curse for these directors. How can you truly retire while your thoughts are tormented by those aspirations of story-telling?

It’s like Field of Dreams, but instead of a dead baseball player telling Kevin Costner to build a field, it’s characters telling you to craft another story—direct another tale.

In a way, it’s like Inception, where your mind is implanted with ideas to the point where you peel back each layer only to reveal that idea growing like a tumor. At least that’s just my perception of it on a bigger scale.

The Tarantino of It All

Quentin Tarantino / Image Courtesy of Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

That’s why I find it so hard to believe that Quentin Tarantino will truly retire from directing films after his next. Tarantino is not only a massive student of cinema. He’s devoted his life to the craft. That desire to make cinema doesn’t just end—especially when you’re in the position Tarantino is in. 

Tarantino is a rare director in a position to get any film he wants made, so he’s never going to be forced into retirement or made to do a film he doesn’t want to do. He has full creative control to steer the ship. He can steer it however he pleases, and wherever he pleases. That’s a lot of power. 

For example, athletes never really lose their competitive drive if they have one. They retire because their bodies force them to. It’s rare to see an athlete go out on top—usually, it’s only after their body gives them signals, whether that be injuries or losing certain athletic qualities. 

Filmmaking is the opposite. They usually only retire if they can’t get a film made, or a physical life issue prevents them from doing so. Until they hit that roadblock, they are completely free to do what they desire through their art, if they so please.

Tarantino has that power, and he’s only 61, which is so young in director terms. It’s not him losing that desire or that creativity. His goal is to retire because he’s putting an arbitrary limit on himself in order to preserve his legacy in his eyes. 

So the question is, is that arbitrary goal stronger than the ideas that will populate his mind? They’ll ask to be made. Can Tarantino withstand that? 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood / Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures

In his defense, Tarantino has already canceled his most recent film that was set in place in order to hit that goal of 10 films. So maybe he does have that willpower, especially since he says he’ll stick to writing books and TV.

Maybe that will keep Tarantino at bay, but if I were a betting man and the choice was to bet if Tarantino would end his career with over 10 films or not, I’d take the over every single time. 

There’s no way to be certain, but if Miyazaki, Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and all these vintage directors have shown us anything, it’s that the creative mind never truly leaves you.

Thank you for reading this article! For more reviews, feel free to check out some more articles here at Feature First.

An aspiring screenwriter based in California obsessed with the inner and outer workings of Film and TV. Vishu serves as an editorial writer for Film, Music and TV.