Everyone has a favorite movie and many people may even have a particular director that they adore. But when it comes down to the raw numbers, you begin to flesh out who is really effective at delivering smash hits at the box office who’s just a “point and shoot” director. As of 2015, these are the top 10 highest paid directors based on the ticket sales of their movies over the course of their careers. Having a long string of hits behind you means that you can call huge salaries from the people who want to have you help turn their screenplays into works of art on the silver screen.
10. Tim Burton: 3.65 billion dollars
This California native attended the California Institute of the Arts to get his film direction education and has been active in film since about 1982. This is when he made his first stop-motion short entitled ‘Vincent’.
Tim Burton has a reputation for making movies people find to be an interesting mix of fascinating, cute, and creepy. Currently working on ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ Tim Burton has helped create some true classics in the world of film including Beetle-juice, Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Corpse Bride.
9. Gore Verbinski: $3.73 billion dollars
This Tennessean when to UCLA Film School. He started his directing career helping to make music videos for bands such as Bad Religion, Monster Magnet, and Vicious Rumors.
Gore Verbinski doesn’t have nearly as many movies under his belt as Tim Burton, so to actually be creating more revenue says quite a bit about his talent and how much he can call to do a film. Gore Verbinski has made headlines with movies such as The Mexican, The Ring, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Weather Man, and Rango.
8. Chris Columbus: 3.82 billion dollars
In his mid-fifties, Chris Columbus was born in Spangler, Pennsylvania and attended New York University to learn about film. He started his career working as a screenwriter under Steven Spieldberg at Amblin Entertainment.
Chris Columbus has a long and varied history in directing stretching all the way back into the late 1980s. Currently working on “Pixels,” Chris Columbus has helped create various movie classics such as ‘Adventures in Babysitting,’ ‘Home Alone,’ and ‘Mrs. Doubtfire.’
7. Robert Zemeckis: 4.06 billion dollars
At 63 years old, Robert Zemeckis has been active in film since about 1972. At this point, he was about to graduate from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts and was given an award for a film he had made then entitled A Field of Honor. Using this film as an introductory tool, he persuaded Stephen Speilberg to become his mentor.
Robert Zemeckis has had his share of cult favorites as well. He was responsible for ‘Back to the Future,’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Cast Away’, ‘The Polar Express’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, and ‘Flight.’
6. David Yates: 4.18 billion dollars
Born in England, he made his first film in 1988. It was called When I Was a Girl and it helped him get accepted into the National Film and Television school for study.
David Yates has J.K. Rowling to thank for about 90% of his directing career. He directed ‘Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,’ ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ Parts 1 and 2.
5. Christopher Nolan: 4.22 billion dollars
Hailing from London, he went to University College London and began his film career in 1989. His first 8mm film back then was entitled Tarantella.
Christopher Nolan has had his biggest successes with the Batman franchise, directing the blockbusters ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight,’ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.
4. Micheal Bay: 5.78 billion dollars
Born in Los Angeles, he attended Wesleyan University and graduated in 1986, which is when his career in film began with Propaganda Films working to direct music videos and commercials.
Michael Bay has had a head in a lot of action-packed thrillers throughout his career. He directed ‘Bad Boys,’ ‘Pearl Harbor,’ and ‘Transformers’ (Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon, and Age of Extinction).
3. James Cameron: 6.139 billion dollars
The lone Canadian on the list, James Cameron started directing in 1981 when he was unexpectedly given direction over Piranha II: The Spawning.
James Cameron is nothing short of an iconic film director. He was the brains behind movies such as ‘Aliens,’ ‘The Terminator,’ ‘True Lies,’ ‘Titanic,’ and ‘Avatar’.
2. Peter Jackson: 6.52 billion dollars
Hailing from Wellington, New Zealand, Peter Jackson has a net worth of well over $397 million. His first film as Bad Taste-which he directed in 1987.
Even though it took him many more movies in order to do it, Peter Jackson does technically surpass James Cameron when it comes to pay. Some of his most notable films include ‘The Lord of the Rings (The Follow-ship of the Ring, The Two Towards, and The Return of the King), ‘King Kong,’ and ‘The Hobbit’ (The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies).
1. Steven Spielberg: 9.02 billion dollars
Not that it’s any major shock, but Steven Spielberg is the ranking champion when it comes to directing films. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, he was educated at California State University. He directed a pilot of the television show Night Gallery back in 1969. His first full-length film for Universal was entitled Duel.
‘Munich,’ ‘War of the Worlds,’ ‘War Horse,’ ‘The Terminal,’ ‘Minority Report,’ ‘A.I.,’ ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ‘Amistad,’ ‘The Color Purple,’ ‘Indiana Jones’ (The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade), ‘E.T.,’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ ‘Jaws,’ and ‘Schindler’s List’ are all on his massively impressive resume.
So there you have it! These directors are the best in their field and have the vision, management skills, and executive drive to help produce movies that scare us to death, touch our hearts, make us cheer, and (most notably) make us keep coming back to the box office for more!