Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969): Anguished cinephiles have had to wait 12 years between Stanley Kubrick outings, and two decades for a third Terrence Malick. Abraham Polonsky took 21 years between his debut, the John Garfield noir Force of Evil (1947), and this grim anti-western. But he had a good excuse. Right as he was breaking through, this Young Turk—and card-carrying Communist—ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. By the time he was able to direct again, the result was a weary, cynical tale, with Robert Redford’s deputy sheriff forced to hunt down righteously angry Native-American Robert Blake.
Castle of Otranto (1977): Like most Czech filmmakers of the ’60s and ’70s, the pioneering, playful stop-motion animator Jan Švankmajer erred toward the political. When 1970’s Leonardo’s Diary proved too blunt, officials banned him from filmmaking, a block that lasted seven years.
The Big Red One (1980): Samuel Fuller was a survivor. He eked out a living as a boy reporter, survived the infantry in WWII and, when Hollywood work dried up, directed Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss for low-rent companies. By the ’60s and ’70s his luck ran dry, but he managed a brief almost-resurgence by mounting this long-gestating WWII chronicle, then falling once again on hard times.
Bad Biology (2008): As the grindhouse world in which he thrived perished, Frank Henenlotter, the sleaze merchant behind three Basket Cases and Frankenhooker , disappeared. He returned, 16 years later and with an even smaller budget, to tell of a man with an enormous, self-aware penis and a woman with 16 clitorises. More, please.
Road to Nowhere (2010): Until his cult favorites Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Cockfighter (1974) were exhumed in the late ’90s, the only Monte Hellman film you could rent was Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! , which for 21 years was the world’s last Hellman.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011): You can thank Peter Jackson for sidelining Lynne Ramsay’s career for nine years. After Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar , the freakishly talented director was set to tackle Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones . Then Jackson swooped in and turned it into one of the worst films ever made by a talented filmmaker.