With billions of dollars of grosses to their names, here are the highest grossing directors at the box office.
As the international box office becomes more high stakes than ever, it's no longer a rarity for movies to pass a billion dollars at the box office. Blockbuster budgets have gotten bigger, as have studio expectations. Previously, the go-to plan for Hollywood would have been to hire a big name with proven money making experience to shepherd that wannabe franchise to major profits. Nowadays, it’s more common practice for studios like Marvel and Warner Bros. to hire up-and-coming talents, often fresh from the festival scene or their very first movie, and have them direct the latest addition to the series.
That said, the true power remains with those familiar names who have decades of hits behind them. To celebrate that, we’re taking a look at the fifteen highest grossing directors of all time.
15. Gore Verbinski
- Top Movies Directed: MouseHunt (1997), The Mexican (2001), The Ring (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007), Rango (2011), The Lone Ranger (2013), A Cure for Wellness (2016).
- Domestic: $1,529,314,174
- International: $2,136,281,835
- Worldwide Total: $3,665,596,009
- Average: $305,466,334 (from 12 films)
Gore Verbinski had built a respectable reputation as a director long before he took on the risky endeavour of helming the first Pirates of the Caribbean film. At a time when adapting a Disney theme park ride was considered beyond foolish, Verbinski managed to craft a hugely enjoyable action-adventure genre mish-mash that brought Walt Disney Studios to the forefront of the blockbuster field at a time when it had few real players in that game. Combined, the first three films in the Pirates series have made around $2.7 billion worldwide.
14. Pierre Coffin
French animator and director Pierre Coffin holds the illustrious honor of being the director on this list with the highest per-average gross. From only four films, all part of the same franchise, Coffin has become one of the biggest directorial successes of recent years. The Despicable Me franchise is already the 15th highest grossing franchise ever, just ahead of Mission: Impossible. Coffin could easily be credited as the man who made Illumination Entertainment what it is today. It is the first and only animated franchise with two films grossing over $1 billion worldwide. Even Pixar haven’t managed that. On top of that, Coffin is also the voice actor for several of the Minions.
13. ROLAND EMMERICH
- Top Movies Directed: Universal Soldier (1992), Stargate (1994), Independence Day(1996), Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 10,000 BC (2008), 2012(2009), White House Down (2013), Independence Day: Resurgence (2016).
- Domestic: $1,292,215,661
- International: $2,568,866,193
- Worldwide Total: $3,861,081,854
- Average: $241,317,616 (from 16 films)
The German film-maker behind so very American disaster movies like Independence Day and White House Down has always been criticized for his focus on style over substance, but that hasn’t slowed down the box office grosses. In 1996, Independence Day made over $320 million more at the box office than its closest competitor, Twister.
12. Joe and Anthony Russo
- Top Movies Directed: Welcome to Collinwood (2002), You, Me and Dupree (2006), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
- Domestic: $1,422,448,799
- International: $2,571,651,731
- Worldwide Total: $3,994,100,530
- Average: $798,820,106 (from 5 films)
The Russo Brothers were best known for their work on television shows like Community and their Owen Wilson comedy You, Me and Dupree when they signed on to direct the second Captain America film. Yet in an incredibly short amount of time, the pair have become the go-to directors of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and have arguably influenced its direction more than any other contributor to the franchise. Avengers: Infinity War is the undisputed champion of the 2018 box office and has already become the 3rd highest grossing film ever made. Will lightning strike twice when Avengers 4 premieres next year?
11. Tim Burton
- Top Movies Directed: Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), Dark Shadows (2012), Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016).
- Domestic: $1,837,026,476
- International: $2,222,021,663
- Worldwide Total: $4,059,048,139
- Average: $213,634,113 (from 19 films)
Of the top 15 highest grossing directors, Tim Burton may be the one with the most distinctive visual style. His gothic inspired flair – part Hammer Horror, part Victorian ghost stories, part Elvira – is so familiar to audiences that the word “Burtonesque” exists to describe such fare. After bringing Batman to the big screen for the first time in 1989, Burton went on to make a series of crowd pleasers before helping to birth Disney’s current age of live-action remakes with the billion dollar hit Alice in Wonderland. Up next is another return to Disney with Dumbo in 2019.