Age: 27
Notable films: Fruitvale Station (2013)

Remember when John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers broke into the Hollywood system with eye-opening and critically adored looks at the struggles of young black men in and around Los Angeles? With Fruitvale Station, first-time filmmaker and Bay Area native, Ryan Coogler recaptured the revelatory vibes of Boyz N the Hood and Menace II Society, except with one major difference: Coogler's film is based on a real-life American tragedy, and, because of that, it's that much more emotionally devastating.

Deeply affected by the wrongful death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant at the hands of a police officer in 2009, Coogler took it upon himself to turn a statistic into a human being, an ex-con who just wanted to finally do right by his young daughter and her mother. As of now, it's one of the year's best films, hands down, and in the months ahead, both Coogler and his film's star, Michael B. Jordan, could find themselves walking red carpets and sitting alongside A-listers at prestigious awards ceremonies. Which should only fuel interest in Coogler's next collaboration with Jordan, Creed, a Rocky franchise addition, co-starring Sly Stallone, in which Jordan will play Apollo Creed's grandson.

As long as its better than Abduction (*ahem* John Singleton *ahem*) and The Book of Eli (*cough* Albert and Allen Hughes *cough*), we'll be happy. —MB