There must be a flame that is ignited in an actor when they stand in front of the camera. A sort of bug that bites them. I don’t think every actor gets the “bug”, but the ones who do want to also know what it is like behind the camera. What it is like to be the guy framing the angles and calling the shots. While it could be said that many actors have tried directing and failed, there are a handful who have gone on to make some really solid movies. Here is a list of those actors, in no particular order.
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Tom Hanks: That Thing You Do
Here is the thing about Tom Hanks. Every movie he has been in has been a solid movie, and every one he has made has been a solid movie. He is just one of those guys who just must be good at everything he does. Speaking of everything he does, That Thing You Do was a great movie about the music industry with some great young talent on board. Want to really have your mind blown? Tom Hanks also wrote the main song and theme from that movie. Jeez Hanks. Way to make us all look bad.
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Ben Affleck: Argo
While we are actually more fans of The Town than Argo, all the movies Ben Affleck has directed so far have been surprisingly good. But we would be foolish not to mention Argo. Argo was the movie that really got him the accolades as a film maker. Many thought this meant he would be staying behind the camera…then we found out he was playing Batman. We will keep our mouths shut and reserve judgement for now.
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Peter Berg: Hancock and Friday Night Lights
Peter Berg may have started out as an actor (I used to call him the D-level Bill Paxton. Boy was I off), but he has actually gone on to direct quite a few solid movies. Lone Survivor was great, but his best cinematic ride so far has to be Hancock. A great, original super hero movie. By the way, if you liked Hancock, you should read the original script before Will Smith had it all re-written. All I will say is this, the original far surpasses what you ended up seeing. Still a great flick from an actor turned director. P.S. he also directed Friday Night Lights.
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Warren Beatty: Dick Tracy
Warren Beatty is renowned in cinema for a lot of reasons. One, he has starred in some true classics. Two, the man is said to be womanizer of unbelievable proportions. Last, the fact that has transitioned from actor to director and made some really solid films. While Bulworth was fun, few can argue that Dick Tracy was his best work. Bright, colorful, and perfectly capturing the feel of the old comic. Plus it had Al Pacino. Everything is a little better with Pacino.
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Tim Robbins: Dead Man Walking
It is funny, out of all the actors on the list, Tim Robbins is the one the least amount of people seem to know has turned to directing on a few occasions. Quite successfully, too. The best and most memorable example of this being Dead Man Walking. The brilliant Sean Penn starring (more on him later) film that was inspired by true events and asks the question of morality about the death sentence. His lovely ex-wife, Susan Sarandon was also a big part of what helped make that movie so memorable.
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Sylvester Stallone: Rocky
Though we really enjoyed the most recent Rambo film (which he directed), we had to give it up to Stallone for Rocky. a movie he wrote, directed, and starred in. A movie people quote to this very day, decades later. A movie that still inspires people to push themselves further. And if you knew how many studios turned him down first, you would be even more impressed. Stallone still directs, but nothing has had the impact (like a punch to the gut) like Rocky has.
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Ben Stiller: Tropic Thunder
Ben Stiller had directed quite a few movies by the time he directed Tropic Thunder, but they pale in comparison to that brilliant movie. From perfect casting to perfect dialogue, the movie is just an epic, twisted, hilarious look at the movie industry (and the horrors of war, kind of). Though his recent Walter Mitty movie threw some people off, Stiller has a good eye behind the camera, and we are sure we can expect some more gems from him.
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Sean Penn: Milk
Sean Penn is an uber-serious guy. He always seems like he is pushing causes and slightly upset about something. And when he puts that angst on screen, magic happens. But as we have seen from what happens when he puts that angst behind the scenes, magic also happens. Milk is a perfect example of him being behind the camera and in front of it, and the end result is a wickedly powerful movie that will stay with you for a long time. Note he is good friends with Both Ben Stiller and Tim Robbins. Seems that ambition runs in that group.
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George Clooney: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
George Clooney is one of those guys who just seems that (besides his one turn as Batman), he can do no wrong. Though he has directed quite a few memorable movies, we think his first is the one that sits most with us. Maybe because Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was one of the first movies to put Sam Rockwell as the lead, and Sam Rockwell might be the best actor of our generation. Outside of that, the movie was fun, irreverent, a little dark at times, and thoroughly enjoyable. Showing us George Clooney was much more than just a good actor and a handsome face.
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Danny DeVito: Death to Smoochy
Alright, we may catch some heat for this one. Though Danny DeVito may be best known now for his role as Frank on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, he has been in some truly classic cinema (One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) and has done some directing, too. It may have been too dark for some, but Death To Smoochy was a brilliant satire about the world of kid’s TV and the weirdos who probably inhabit it. The cast of that movie alone shows you how good it is. The world is just slow to catch on with this one.
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Kevin Costner: Dances With Wolves
We know what many of you must be thinking right now. Yes, Dances with Wolves was a solid movie, but what about some of his epic bombs? Like, for example, Waterworld? One of the most expensive failures ever committed to film? Okay, true. But the title of the list says solid movies by well known actors, and Dances won Oscars and stuff, so we stand behind our choice to include him. Granted, dictatorially he has gone downhill since.
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Clint Eastwood: Unforgiven
Though we almost went with Mystic River (one of the most depressing movies ever made), we had to go with Unforgiven when bringing up Clint Eastwood as a director. The man who was known for acting in westerns goes on to make one of the greatest westerns of all time. And he casts himself in it, which makes it work even better. Million Dollar Baby should be mentioned, too. Wow, it just hit us all his movies are devastatingly depressing.
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Jon Favreau: Iron Man
Yes, this man was awesome in Swingers (among others), but once we saw Elf and Iron Man, it was pretty clear what his true calling was. Heck, he was even smart enough to cast Kristen Stewart in Zathura and then freeze her in a block of ice for 90% of the movie. If that is not genius directing, I don’t know what is. But we all need to be honest. As fun as Elf is, and as cool as his new movie, Chef, is, nothing can top Iron Man. It might be one of the best comic book movies of all time, with nary a flaw in site. Pretty impressive if you consider comic book movies up to that point.
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Mel Gibson: Braveheart
Yes, everyone may hate him now because he has shown his bipolar nature and scared a lot of people off with some hateful words. But anyone who wants to argue that Braveheart is not an epic and moving (and exaggerated) story can meet me in a field in Scotland, we will battle with swords. Also remember, Braveheart comes from a time before Game of Thrones. Epic battles and real castles and brutal gore may be cool and mainstream now, but it wasn’t back when he did it. That is the very definition of a solid movie.
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Dennis Hopper: Colors
Though many may not know it, the gritty urban gang war movie, Colors, was directed by Dennis Hopper. Note, Sean Penn is in that movie. If you go through the whole list, you will realize a lot of these actors were close friends and confidants who spent much time working together. Dennis Hooper was an unbelievable actor, and with movies like Colors under his belt, he showed he had some real skills behind the camera, too. So there you have it. 15 solid movies directed by well known actors. Who did we miss? Take to our comments and let us know!
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