We all know that Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, and Ron Howard are active both in front and behind the camera, but most of us don’t think of the talented faces we see in front of the camera also pulling the strings. So, you might be surprised that these 20 films were directed by some very famous faces.
Antwone Fisher (2002) – Denzel Washington
We all know that Denzel Washington is a talented actor who effortlessly seems to embody some of the most compelling characters on film. This film, a biographical story about the ex-military man Fisher who is now in Hollywood himself, was Washington’s directorial debut, in which he also stars. Since then he has also directed the films The Great Debaters (2007) and Fences (2016).
Booksmart (2019) – Olivia Wilde
If you have Amazon Prime you can watch this coming of age drama which is also Olivia Wild’s directorial debut. Wilde does not star in the film which is about two young women who have worked hard throughout high school. Now that they are finally graduating, it is time to let their hair down and break all the rules in one intense night.
Braveheart (1995) – Mel Gibson
Met Gibson was pretty unforgettable in Braveheart, the story about the Scottish rebel and hero but did you know that he also directed the film? It is not his only turn behind the camera. He famously directed the gruesome Biblical tale The Passion of the Christ (2004) as well as Apocalypto (2006), Hacksaw Ridge (2016), and The Man Without A Face (1993).
A Bronx Tale (1993) – Robert De Niro
Supremely talented actor Robert De Niro directed as well as starred in this story about a young boy who is tempted into the crime world of the Italian-American mafia. While this film was a great success, De Niro did not try his hand at directing again until the 2006 film The Good Shepherd. Probably too busy in front of the cameras.
Charlie’s Angels (2019) – Elizabeth Banks
There was quite a lot of attention given to girl power favorite Charlie’s Angels that was directed by Elizabeth Banks, and also features her in the traditionally masculine role of Bosley. But this was not her first turn behind the camera. She also directed Movie 43 (2013) and Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) before embarking on the pet project.
Dead Man Walking (1995) – Tim Robbins
Tim Robbins, best known for starring in The Shawshank Redemption directed this very different prison film about a woman who becomes the spiritual advisor of a man on death row. While this was his most successful film, he also directed Bob Roberts (1992), in which he also starred, and The Cradle Will Rock (1999).
Hope Floats (1998) – Forest Whitaker
Best known as the gentle giant in The Green Mile, Whitaker went behind the camera to tell this story about a woman who manages to find love for a second time after being burnt. Whitaker actually has quite a penchant for romantic stories, also directing first Daughter (2004) and Waiting to Exhale (1995), as well as the movie Strapped (1993).
Into the Wild (2007) – Sean Penn
In an adventure film about the Alaskan wilderness that helped make Kristen Stewart a household name, talented character actor Sean Penn went behind the camera, writing the screenplay, directing, and producing. He also directed The Crossing Guard (1995), The Indian Runner (1991), The Last Face (2016), and The Pledge (2001).
Iron Man (2008) – Jon Favreau
The movie that started the modern Marvel universe was directed by none other than Jon Favreau, who also makes a memorable turn as Happy. A pretty prolific director, he also directed Iron Man 2 (2010), Chef (2014), Cowboys and Aliens (2011), Elf (2003), The Jungle Book (2016), The Lion King (2019), Made (2001), and Zathura (2005).
Keeping the Faith (2000) – Edward Norton
Edward Norton, known for darker roles, made his directorial debut with this romantic comedy, which he dedicated to his late mother. It is about a close childhood friendship between three people that is challenged when love emerges. More recently he directed the more familiarly dark film Motherless Brooklyn (2019).
The Monuments Men (2014) – George Clooney
George Clooney stars in, directed, produced, and co-wrote the screenplay for this war film about a group of men charged with saving the precious artworks hoarded by the Nazis. He managed to gather an all-star cast including Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and John Goodman. Clooney has directed quite a few good films that are worth watching including Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Good Night and Good Luck (2005), The Ides of March (2011), Leatherheads (2008), and Suburbicon (2017).
The Prince of Tides (1991) – Barbara Streisand
Barbara Streisand brought one of her pet projects to life, directing and producing as well as starring in this romantic drama about overcoming the psychological damage of childhood. She also decided to take charge with her film The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) and Yentl (1983).
A Quiet Place (2018) – John Krasinski
John Krasinski went behind the camera to make this thriller that he also stars in with his wife Emily Blunt. There is already a sequel in the works. He had already tested his directing chops with Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2009) and The Hollars (2016). Interestingly, his films are very different from the comedy that he is known for.
A River Runs Through It (1992) – Robert Redford
We may best remember this film for starring Brad Pitt, and telling the epic story of life in the American south. But not everyone knows that the talented actor Robert Redford was behind the camera. His career as an actor is beginning to rival his career as a director. His credits include The Company You Keep (2012), The Conspirator (2010), The House Whisperer (1998), The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), Lions for Lambs (2007), The Milagro Beanfield War (1998), Ordinary People (1980), and Quiz Show (1994).
Sling Blade (1996) – Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton gives one of his most memorable performances in this film about an intellectually disabled man in a psychiatric institution for killing his abusive. But Thornton also directed, which may be why his performance was so nuanced and compelling. He also directed All The Pretty Hoses (2002), Daddy and Them (2001), and Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012).
That Thing You Do! (1996) – Tom Hanks
Undisputed as one of the best actors ever, clearly you want to see him in something that he wrote directed and starred in, such as this comedy about a fictional one-hit wonder band in the 1960s. Despite being a staple of Hollywood, this is one of only two films that he has directed, the other being Larry Crowne (2011).
The Town (2010) – Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck, who co-wrote his first film Good Will Hunting, also co-wrote, directed and starred in this compelling crime drama set in Boston. Learning young that the best way to get juicy roles is to make the film yourself, he has directed in several films, all of which he also stars in, including Argo (2012), Gone Baby Gone (2007), and Live by Night (2016).
Tropic Thunder (2008) – Ben Stiller
This hilarious war comedy starring Ben Stiller was also directed and co-written by the comedian. This is not the first time he has gone behind the camera to bring his vision to reality. He also directed the comedies Zoolander (2001) and Zoolander 2 (2016), The Cable Guy (1996), and The Secret Life of Walter Minty (2013). Less expectedly, he also directed Reality Bites (1994).
Unbroken (2014) – Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie produced and directed this war film that was written by the Coen Brothers and tells the story of an Olympian and Army Man that survived on a raft for 47 days. She has directed many poignant and notable films including By the Sea (2015), First They Killed My Father (2017), In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011), and A Place in Time (2007).
The War of the Roses (1989) – Danny DeVito
This popular black comedy that stars Danny DeVito alongside Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner was also directed by DeVito. This is only one of many popular movies directed by the diminutive actor. He was behind the camera for Curmudgeons (2016), Death to Smoochy (2002), Duplex (2003), Hoffa (1992), Matilda (1996), The Ratings Games (1984), and Throw Mamma from the Train (1987).