Top Ten: Actor-Directors



Editors Notes: Don Jon opens theatrically Friday September 27th.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the latest in a long string of high-profile actors to opt for working behind the camera instead of in front of it, with his scriptural and directorial debut Don Jon hitting theatres September 27th. Ryan Gosling, currently working on his own project of the same nature, will shortly join him in the transition from actor to writer/director in 2014 with his offering, How To Catch a Monster. With Ben Affleck’s recent success at the 2013 Academy Awards, the road from actor to director is without a doubt a rocky one, but with rewards aplenty at the end when done right.

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10. Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes is fairly new on the scene in the world of actor-directors with only two directorial feats under his belt thus far, an adaptation set in modern times of Shakespeare’s bloody Coriolanus and Charles Dickens biopic The Invisible Woman. Even so, he has proven himself as a thoroughly focused and committed director, simultaneously performing in front of the camera as well as behind it. Aside from his recent transition, Fiennes is also a skillful and respected actor, having starred in such greats as Schindler’s List, The English Patient and The Hurt Locker and impressed audiences all around the world on both the screen and the stage. A long and prosperous career in directing looks sure to be ahead for this screen veteran.

9. Kenneth Branagh

With three Oscar nominations to his name, Kenneth Branagh is an accomplished actor-director with a love for Shakespeare, as proven by his devotion to adapting the mammoth Shakespearean play, Hamlet, and the battle epic Henry V. Despite his love for the classics, Branagh has recently endeavored into the mainstream, taking on Marvel’s asguardian demigod, Thor (2011) to the delight of many a superhero fan. His versatility as a director is matched by his versatility as an actor, having appeared in such films as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and My Week with Marilyn and he has deservedly so received recognition for his dramatic work, as well as directorial.

8. Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola has very few acting credits to her name, with her most prominent role being that of Mary Corleone in the truly abysmal Godfather: Part III. Following this substantial flop, Coppola slowly retreated behind the camera, besides a part as an extra bodyguard in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and lived up to her legendary surname, proving that perhaps directing talent runs in the family. Her directorial back catalogue includes Lost In Translation, The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette, with her more recent effort, The Bling Ring, being met with raucous approval. Despite her acting career forever in question thanks to the concluding film of the Godfather trilogy, Coppola’s antics behind the camera show her to be a capable and talented director.

7. Ben Stiller

Ben Stiller is the face of comedy; he’s most well known for his comedic performances, notably the Meet the Parents trilogy, but is as artistically comedic behind the camera as he is in front of it. He has directed certain comedies in the last two decades that have reached cult status in modern times, including Zoolander and The Cable Guy, proving himself worthy of the highly coveted director’s chair time after time. Despite the fact that he doesn’t branch out of what he knows best, he is a master of his genre, a genre he has ultimately helped shape with his unique and unequalled take on comedy.

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6. Ben Affleck

Unbeknownst to most, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut was a 1993 short named I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her On a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney. Who knew that four years later, he’d have an Academy Award statuette on his mantelpiece for Good Will Hunting? Despite his directorial and dramatic inconsistences (let’s not discuss Daredevil) Ben Affleck is a proven talent behind the camera; his recent efforts include The Town and Argo, with the latter going on to win the Best Picture Oscar at the 2013 Academy Awards. Despite the lack of any Best Director Oscar recognition thus far, there are great things on the horizon for this actor-director.

5. Rob Reiner

It is likely that many are aware of Rob Reiner’s acting career, epitomized by his role as Meathead in the popular 1970s sitcom All in the Family. Luckily for film fans, Reiner opted to experiment behind the camera and the 80s were dashed with hints of his greatest achievements including the likes of When Harry Met Sally, Stand By Me and The Princess Bride. Despite his modern offerings lacking the flair of his earlier work, Reiner has had an impressive career and spawned some of the greatest works of art cinema has ever seen.

4. Ron Howard

A young Ron Howard was first brought to the public eye by a starring role on the 1960s Andy Griffith Show, then going on to claim fame as Richie Cunningham in Happy Days in the 1970s. Following his steady but successful acting career, Ron Howard moved almost entirely to directing and has contributed some of the most critically acclaimed films of his time to cinema, including Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind and The Paper. Despite his inconsistencies in filmic quality, as proven by the likes of The Da Vinci Code and How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Howard looks set to redeem himself at the 2014 Academy Awards where the acclaimed Formula 1 biopic and most recent directorial endeavour, Rush, is sure to go down a treat.

3. Woody Allen

Woody Allen is somewhat a triple threat; an accomplished actor, writer and director, he has over 44 acting credits to his name, 49 directing credits and a whopping 71 writing credits under his belt. But before he picked up the pen or camera, his illustrious career began in front of the camera in the 1960s. Despite awarding himself parts in his own films occasionally, Allen has no trouble finding roles on his own merit. One wonders how he has so much time on his hands, seeing as he has directed at least one film a year since 1982 but aside from his methods, his films rarely disappoint. With his most recent offering, Blue Jasmine, Allen remains to this day a force to be reckoned with in the realm of directing.

2. Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino rarely gets recognition for his dramatic roles, despite having several Oscar nominations (and wins) for his directorial and scriptural endeavours. He is undeniably one of the best directors of our time, but his films wouldn’t be the same without the dash of himself that he persistently adds to them; whether an arrogantly narcissistic touch or merely a lack of a supporting cast member, QT ensures a part for himself in the majority of his own films but never under-delivers. On top of this, he has proven himself capable of taking on leads roles across the board, notably opposite George Clooney in the Robert Rodriguez-helmed From Dusk Till Dawn. All in all, Quentin Tarantino is a proven, yet surprisingly under-appreciated, actor-director.


1. Clint Eastwood

With two Best Picture and Best Director Oscars under his belt, Clint Eastwood is the epitome of the Actor-Director.  Due to his tendency for high quality and artistic filmmaking, as well as his versatility in the craft, a Clint Eastwood-helmed film is never a dull experience. From Million Dollar Baby to Unforgiven to Invictus, he ensures an engaging picture from start to finish through his meticulous attention to detail. A bad Clint Eastwood film is as unheard of as a good Raja Gosnell film and even Eastwood on his worst day is better than most directors on their best days. He’s an undeniable legend and the pinnacle that all actor-directors ultimately aspire to.


About Author

Having been raised on a steady diet of 'Star Wars' and 'The Lord of the Rings', I learned from a very young age that film was a form of escapism, as well as entertainment. I see film as a true form of art, not only because it evokes emotions within a person, but it allows people to learn something about themselves merely by watching. My love for film is intrinsic to who I am and teaches me new things everyday.

  • Gregarius

    I question the inclusion of Coppola and Tarantino as “actors,” especially at the expense of other actor/directors such as John Favreau and Mel Gibson.

  • Zoe De Pasquale

    To answer, I’ve never been particularly keen on Favreau or Gibson. Each to their own I guess.