Age: 34
Notable films: Shotgun Stories (2007), Take Shelter (2011), Mud (2013)

Jeff Nichols has proven himself a master of taking small town stories and making them larger than life. The ticking time bomb that is Shotgun Stories follows a nasty family feud that gets violent after the death of the patriarch. Take Shelter tracks the struggles of a rural father who begins having hallucinations of the apocalypse. And, told from the point of view of a couple of young boys, Mud is about their quest to help a fugitive escape the bounty hunters after his head. 

In addition to the original elements of his stories, what makes them all distinctly Jeff Nichols is the musky and dour look of his scenes. He's proven a knack for having his films embody the messages they convey. Oh, and they always feature Michael Shannon.TA