RANKED! 10 Greatest Director-Actor Duos
Film is a collaborative art form, arguably more so than any other. It takes dozens to hundreds to even thousands to make a movie work. “Filmmaker” is often used as a shorthand for “writer/director” but in reality, many people are filmmakers. Editors are filmmakers, sound designers are filmmakers, as are special effects artists and so on. Even production assistants contribute to making the film in their own specific way.
But few relationships between these varying types of filmmakers are as key as that of a director and an actor. Effective communication between them is key if the latter is to help the former bring their vision to the silver screen. Here are our 10 favorite directors and actors who were or are frequent collaborators.
10. Ryan Coogler/Michael B. Jordan
Shared movies: Fruitvale Station, Creed, Black Panther
Though they are still in the early stages of their collaboration, Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan show a lot of promise. Fruitvale Station was brutal and beautiful in a way that hangs over the audience. Creed was one of the most satisfying blockbusters of 2015. Black Panther shattered records left and right. Audiences wait in anticipation for what they will do together next.
9. Michael Mann/Jamie Foxx
Shared movies: Ali, Collateral, Miami Vice
Michael Mann is a quintessential hyper-masculine filmmaker and his trio of collaborations with Jamie Foxx contains some of his best work. Ali paints a portrait of the greatest boxer to ever live. Collateral is a tense and thrilling film and unmistakably Mann. Miami Vice is one of the best example of auteurist digital cinema. Foxx deeply affects each of these films with his performances.
8. Steven Soderbergh/George Clooney
Shared movies: Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Solaris, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen
Steven Soderbergh is well-known for constantly experimenting with the medium of film. He retired from film for years and lately he has taken to shooting exclusively on iPhone. George Clooney has always seemed to welcome this experimentation, from his work in Soderbergh’s broadly comedic Ocean’s movies to his deeply dramatic remake of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris.
7. Christopher McQuarrie/Tom Cruise
Shared movies: Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Mummy, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, Top Gun: Maverick, Mission: Impossible 7, Mission: Impossible 8
Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise appear to be a match made in blockbuster heaven. With eight movies under their belt together—the best of which have been widely lauded—and at least two more in Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 (presumably the end of the franchise), we can only hope they continue this partnership for years to come.
6. Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio
Shared movies: Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street
As Martin Scorsese enters his twilight years, it is unclear how many more movies he will make. After two or so decades of phenomenal work with Robert De Niro, the two went their separate ways in film and Scorsese began teaming up with Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio, for his part, has given his best, most transformative performances in Scorsese’s films, especially The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street.
5. David Lynch/Kyle MacLachlan
Shared movies: Dune, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Twin Peaks: The Return
Since David Lynch’s doomed blockbuster debut Dune—which he has since disowned—Lynch has teamed up with Kyle MacLachlan a great many times. Lynch has gone as far as to say that he has often felt MacLachlan to be his proxy, but especially in Blue Velvet, one of the best films of his career and of avant garde American film in general.
4. Paul Thomas Anderson/Philip Seymour Hoffman
Shared movies: Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, The Master
A hard-fought battle with drugs ripped Philip Seymour Hoffman from this world too soon. Many mourn that he will never again be able to collaborate with Paul Thomas Anderson, for whom he gave some of his most interesting and unique performances. The Master in particular remains one of Hoffman’s most beloved, with no small part due to the brilliant directing of Anderson.
3. Akira Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune
Shared movies: Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, High and Low, Red Beard
For the best years of his career, Akira Kurosawa found his ideal filmmaking partner in Toshiro Mifune. The latter was a fascinating and committed actor who lit up every film he was in, but especially the work of Kurosawa. Perhaps most importantly, his samurai pictures would not be the groundbreaking, still-vital films they were without Mifune.
2. Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro
Shared movies: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro are both icons of the New Hollywood era, in large part due to their work together. It was clear to audiences that something clicked between these two men, even as early as Mean Streets and certainly by the time Taxi Driver and Raging Bull came around. The two played off each other in a memorable way, and today’s audiences are rightfully amped for The Irishman, their first feature-length collaboration in almost two and half decades.
1. Jean-Luc Godard/Anna Karina
Shared movies: Le Petit Soldat, A Woman is a Woman, Vivre Sa Vie, Band of Outsiders, Pierrot Le Fou, Made in the U.S.A.
No one would say that the relationship between Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina was perfect. Like all couples, they had their struggles, perhaps even more than usual. But for a time, Karina was Godard’s muse. Together they contributed to the New Wave in French cinema and reshaped how all of us think of film. Her radiant performances helped make much of his early work what it was and fans of film the world over are forever grateful.