Whether blockbuster superhero movies or iconic sci-fi classics or even genre-bending horror films, filmmakers find new ways to entertain their audiences every day. The film industry is complex, and it can be hard to predict which films will set records and which will flop, but these 9 directors have have found a way to create incredible films and make millions in the process.

9 Jordan Peele

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Jordan Peele was already well known as a sketch comedian when his film Get Out, which only cost $4.5 million to make, earned over $255 million at the box office. His film Us, went on to shatter box office records by having the largest debut for an original horror film ever, and even took the top box office spot from “Captain Marvel.”

You hear it said time and time again by successful directors: You have to make a movie for yourself. Don’t make it for anyone else. – Jordan Peele

8 M. Night Shyamalan

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M. Night Shyamalan is a director who also writes and produces his own films – and when they are successful, he reaps the benefits.

Movies will end up being an esoteric art form, where only singular people will put out films in a small group of theaters. – M. Night Shyamalan

Shyamalan’s 1999 film The Sixth Sense made over $670 million at box office, and his 2002 film Signs made over $400 million. Reports say that Shyamalan made $20 million and 20% of the box office at the height of his career.

RELATED: M. Night Shyamalan’s Old Trailer Premieres During Super Bowl

7 J.J. Abrams

As co-creator of Lost, director of Cloverfield, Star Trek (2009) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams has his hands in most of the major Hollywood franchises.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out in 2015, and is still one of the highest grossing films ever made (it brought in over $2 billion at box office.)

“What’s a bigger mystery box than a movie theater?” J.J. Abrams said, “You go to the theater, you’re just so excited to see anything – the moment the lights go down is often the best part.”  

6 Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

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The Russo Brothers are famous for everything from shows like Arrested Development and Community to Sundance indie films – but it’s Marvel’s epic films Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame that made them some of the biggest money-makers in Hollywood. The films had a combined box office of over $4.7 billion.

“We have a lot of respect for the fact that you can’t make movies without money and that when money comes to the table, that money deserves to have a place in the process as much as anything else in the film-making equation,” Anthony Russo said.

5 Peter Jackson

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was probably Peter Jackson’s biggest success, financially and critically. The third installment, Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture and brought in over a billion at the box office. The trilogy reportedly earned Jackson $180 million.

“Filmmaking for me is always aiming for the imaginary movie and never achieving it,” said Peter Jackson.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong paid him $20 million, plus 20% of the box office – which would have been a significant amount, considering it made over $560 million.

4 Tyler Perry

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Tyler Perry has built up a film empire that has made him into a billionaire.

He who has the gold makes the rules. – Tyler Perry

His Madea comedies cost approximately $20 million in production costs each, and when distributed by Lionsgate, they collectively brought in over $1 billion.

3 Steven Spielberg

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Spielberg started out as the youngest director to sign a long term contract with a major studio, and has gone on to become a three-time Oscar winner, and the director of some of the biggest films in Hollywood – including E.T., Jurassic Park, and Jaws. Collectively, his films have earned over $9 billion at the box office.

“I always like to think of the audience when I am directing,” said Spielberg, “Because I am the audience.” 

“There’s nobody else who has the track record like Steven Spielberg,” one insider said of the filmmaker, “… he is the only one.”

2 James Cameron

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James Cameron had directed numerous blockbuster films, including Aliens, Terminator, and Avatar. At $2.8 billion, some consider Avatar to be the highest grossing film of all time (though others argue that with inflation, it’s still Gone with the Wind!)

Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee. – James Cameron

His iconic 1997  film Titanic also grossed over $2 billion, making him the only director to have two films in the top five of all time.

1 George Lucas

George Lucas has had tremendous success at the box office thanks to one of the biggest franchises of all time – Star Wars.

The 1977 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (the movie which started the series) had a box office of over $775 million, but adjusted for inflation, it’s considered one of the top five highest grossing films of all time.

“Learning to make films is very easy,” George Lucas said, “Learning what to make films about is very hard.”

His personal net worth skyrocketed in 2012 when the director sold his company, Lucasfilm, to Disney for $4 billion.

Sources: Insider, Wealthy Gorilla, Games Radar, Vanity Fair, IndieWire, NBC, Industrial Scripts



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