His films certainly divide modern critics and audiences alike, which is perhaps no surprise. In a Hollywood saturated with formulaic product for multiplex audiences, his films are an anomaly, breaking from a conventional narrative and featuring extended, languid shots of the natural world that often serve to emphasise his character's - and therefore Man's - insignificance in the face of events.
Malick belongs to that celebrated group of film-making young turks who invaded Hollywood in the early 70's - best chronicled in Peter Biskind's 1998 book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls - that included Scorcese, Spielberg and Polanski. They became the new establishment but Malick has travelled a path much less well trodden. Retiring from film-making altogether following 1978's Days of Heaven it was twenty years before he returned to the director's chair for The Thin Red Line, in 1998.
Malick's films are certainly influential - his creative DNA is visible in such diverse creative works as Bruce Springsteen's Nebraksa, and Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful - and Hollywood's acting royalty slash fees like a frenzied Michael Myers in order to appear in his films, though where his work sits in the Venn diagram of art and entertainment we can continue to debate on...
If you want to find out more, here's some interesting further reading