The Best Movies That Were Directed by Actors

Gone Baby Gone FTW.

Jodie Foster directs the new film Money Monster, which hits theaters on May 13. The white-knuckle thriller stars Julia Roberts and George Clooney and is Foster’s eighth directing endeavor. It’s exciting to see such a seasoned actress switch things up and direct a picture. Given her past stabs at it–which include 2011’s The Beaver and two episodes of House of Cards–we’re certain this film will be entertaining as hell.

But Foster is not the only actor to get behind the camera and slap on the metaphorical director’s cap. Many screen stars have done it–some to great success. These nine are prime examples of it. Sometimes playing double-duty really pays off.

  • Don Jon (2013)

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    Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote and directoed this razor-sharp comedy about a muscled stud with a hush-hush porn addiction. However, when his penchant for dirty pictures wrecks his relationship with a beautiful new lady (Scarlett Johansson), things get interesting. Julianne Moore and Brie Larson also star in the film, which benefits from terrific writing, a clear vision and knockout performances from the entire cast. It’s the kind of flick that knows exactly what it is, and that’s a great thing.

  • Good Night, and Good Luck (2005)

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    George Clooney leads the ship in this film, a historical drama about newsman Edward R. Murrow’s investigation of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt in the 1950s. Told with respect and intrigue, it’s no wonder this film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including a Best Director nomination for Clooney.

  • Gone Baby Gone (2007)

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    This film is so good, it hurts. Ben Affleck directs this neo-noir mystery about two detectives searching for an abducted four-year-old girl in Boston. Led by a harrowing performance by Affleck’s brother Casey, Gone Baby Gone stays true to its Beantown roots and is never short of twists and turns. The ending will blow your mind.

  • Trees Lounge (1996)

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    Steve Buscemi’s writing and directing debut is definitely one for the books. He plays Tommy Basilio, an alcoholic and regular at the Trees Lounge bar, who must deal with the realities of his girlfriend passing and losing his job. What makes Trees Lounge work is its unwavering look at the psyche of a bar dweller. It’s not pretty all the time, but it is certainly memorable.

  • Looking for Richard (1996)

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    Pacino plays himself, the titular character and directs this documentary, which is both an exploration of Shakespeare’s Richard III and a reenactment of some of its scenes. It’s a smart deep-dive that any Shakespeare nerd should check out.

  • Sling Blade (1996)

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    This gripping drama stars Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers, a disabled Arkansas man who is released from a psychiatric hospital after serving time for murdering his mother and her lover. Thornton also directs the picture, which has a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

  • Reds (1981)

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    Warren Beatty directs (and writes) this drama about journalist John Reed. It racked up nine Academy Award nominations and remains one of the most poignant looks into an historic figure that the screen has ever seen.

  • Garden State (2004)

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    This cult classic is both written and directed by Zach Braff, who manages to create a world that is equal parts zany and endearing. If you’re looking for proof of good romantic comedies, look no further than Garden State.

  • “In a World…” (2013)

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    Lake Bell’s baby about a woman who wants to break into the movie trailer voiceover industry is a satirical romp, stuffed with humor and twinkling performances from the main actors. Delightful is an understatement.

  • Citizen Kane (1941)

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    The greatest movie of all time was directed by Orson Welles, who was a seasoned actor before going behind the lens.

  • High Plains Drifter (1973)

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    Clint Eastwood starred in more than 20 films before trying his hand at directing. He’s crafted a slew of incredible films, but his best is still High Plains Drifter. The gritty Western flick is a clear homage to the kinds of movies that made Eastwood a star, and that brand of meta realness still resonates 43 years later.

  • Ordinary People (1980)

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    Robert Redford was in the industry for 20 years before making the director’s leap. And he hit Oscar gold on his first try. The amazing drama swept the 53rd Academy Awards, winning four out of its six nominations.