Actors Who Make Better Directors

You know the maxim, “Those who can’t do, teach”? Well, a variation of that phrase can be applied to movie making. Sometimes, actors of limited range and ability in front of the camera find surprising depth, sensitivity, and taste behind it. So here are our picks for actors who are better off calling the shots than taking them.

Ben Affleck

Breakout Directorial Effort: Gone Baby Gone
Other Highlights: Um, Gone Baby Gone
Crimes Against Acting: Why is Ben Affleck on the list after only directing one movie? Have you seen his acting reel? The fact that Gone Baby Gone is a smart, engaging thriller more than enough to overshadow the likes of Daredevil, Paycheck, and, Gigli.

Jon Favreau

Breakout Directorial Effort: Iron Man
Other Highlights: Iron Man 2, Zathura, Made
Crimes Against Acting: It’s not that Favreau is “bad” in anything, he’s just pretty much one-note. Putting aside sensitive Mikey from Swingers, he usually pops up as the boorish loudmouth in stuff like I Love You, Man and Couples Retreat. As a director, however, he’s only helmed one of the most successful (commercially and critically) superhero franchises ever.

Kevin Costner

Breakout Directorial Effort: Dances with Wolves
Other Highlights: Open Range (we’ll leave The Postman out of this)
Crimes Against Acting: Winning the Best Director Oscar your first time out is a pretty big seal of approval, especially when your acting “style” had pretty much settled on “stiff, stiffer, and/or miscast” (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Bodyguard, Wyatt Earp, Tin Cup, Dragonfly)

Peter Berg

Breakout Directorial Effort: The Rundown
Other Highlights: Friday Night Lights, The Kingdom, Hancock
Crimes Against Acting: Quick, can you even name a movie Berg acted in? Exactly. The Rundown was a better action movie than it had any right to be, and it certainly did more for Berg’s profile than Corky Romano.

Ron Howard

Breakout Directorial Effort: Splash
Other Highlights: Gung Ho, Willow, Night Shift, Parenthood, Backdraft, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, Cinderella Man, Frost/Nixon
Crimes Against Acting: As a director, Howard has proven he can jump around from comedy to drama to historical epic with aplomb. As an actor, he was always either “Opie” or “Richie Cunningham.”

Sophia Coppola

Breakout Directorial Effort: The Virgin Suicides
Other Highlights: Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette
Crimes Against Acting: This is slightly unfair, since it was clear Sophia had no real ambition to be an actress. In The Godfather Part III, she appeared as anxious to get off screen as we were to get out of the theater. As a director, though, she has proven thoughtful and inventive.

Mel Gibson

Breakout Directorial Effort: Braveheart
Other Highlights: The Man Without a Face, The Passion of the Christ, Apocalypto
Crimes Against Acting: Let’s put it this way – no one was giving him Oscars for his starring roles. Not only did he make one of the most profitable movies of all time (The Passion of the Christ) but also one of the most divisive. Love him or hate him, you can’t say he’s dull. Remember when the most controversial move he made was daring to do Hamlet?

Rob Reiner

Breakout Directorial Effort: This is Spinal Tap
Other Highlights: Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, A Few Good Men, The American President
Crimes Against Acting: Like Ron Howard, Reiner’s most iconic role was a TV punch line (“Meathead” on All in the Family). He pops up now and again on camera, but even a few well-delivered quips don’t add up to the sheer iconic nature of his directorial efforts. Just try going through a day without quoting one of his movies, we dare you: “I’ll have what she’s having,” “Have fun storming the castle,” “You can’t handle the truth!,” “These go to 11”…

Nick Cassavetes

Breakout Directorial Effort: Unhook the Stars
Other Highlights: She’s So Lovely, The Notebook, Alpha Dog, John Q
Crimes Against Acting: The son of the godfather of American indie film does his dad proud behind the camera, and fills the clearance bin at Best Buy in front of it. The Wraith? Delta Force 3: The Killing Game? At least four or five movies with titles that are some variation on “Sins” “Body” and “Death”? Yeesh.

Spike Jonze

Breakout Directorial Effort: Being John Malkovich
Other Highlights: Adaptation, Where the Wild Things Are
Crimes Against Acting: Seeing as his only major acting role was as a clueless redneck soldier in Three Kings, it’s doubtful anyone is asking: “Why doesn’t Spike act more?” He was funny as hell in Kings, but his filmmaking work is what has people….wait for it…jonesing for his next endeavor.

Quentin Tarantino

Breakout Directorial Effort: Reservoir Dogs
Other Highlights: Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1& 2, Inglorious Basterds
Crimes Against Acting: There’s only one person on earth who thinks he has genuine talent an actor: Quentin Tarantino. Every time Q shows up on screen (Destiny Turns of the Radio, Desperado, Planet Terror, almost all his movies) we’re reminded why we like his writing and directing. Behind the lens, he’s cool, iconic, and taboo-shattering. In front of it, he’s irritating, obnoxious, and won’t go away fast enough.

Penny Marshall

Breakout Directorial Effort: Big
Other Highlights: Awakenings, A League of Their Own, Renaissance Man, The Preacher’s Wife
Crimes Against Acting: We’re sorry, Laverne, but you can take a seat next to Ron Howard and Rob Reiner. Is it any wonder that not only has Marshall completely ditched acting, she’s completely quit speaking? Watching the movies she’s directed is great, listening to her talking about her movies is like listening to Tom Waits after recent jaw surgery.

Clint Eastwood

Breakout Directorial Effort: Play Misty for Me
Other Highlights: The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Pale Rider, Bird, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County, Mystic River, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby, Invictus

Crimes Against Acting: Before you fire bomb the comments section, take a deep breath and hold it. Let’s not revise history--because of the iconic nature of some of his acting roles, it’s easy to think that Clint was revered as a thespian. He wasn’t. Most people dismissed him as a squinty, gravelly-throated precursor to Stallone and Schwarzenegger. But as a director, he is effortlessly classy, jaw-droppingly productive, and nearly infallible.

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