The Highest Grossing Film Director of All Time

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Directors are important enough to the success of films that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives an Academy Award for Best Director. There is a range of how much directors contribute to their films. Perhaps that is why some directors of movies are obscure and others, like Steven Spielberg, are so well known.

Beyond the quality of films that is another important yardstick which is how well a film does financially, both in terms of total box office sales, and the profit a film makes against production costs. The directors who top this revenue list are often those who oversee movies that are parts of wildly successful franchises, which include Marvel characters, Star Wars, and superheroes like Batman.

To determine the most bankable director working in English-language cinema, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on box office and production budget from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. Directors we considered were ranked based on the average return-on-investment ratio of worldwide box office to production budget for their body of work.

We considered only directors with at least three films with available ROI data and who has directed a film in 2018 or later were included. Average user ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, are weighted according to the number of reviews and are current as of November 2021.

Some directors we considered for our list can all boast a track record of success. For some, it has come through earning a reputation for memorable movies in a particular genre. Eli Roth and William Brent Bell have made their mark in horror films, and James Wan is credited with inventing the torture porn genre with his “Saw” film series. Directors Spike Lee and Steve McQueen have built their careers on movies that demand moviegoers understand the plight of minorities in America.

Other directors have made bankable films in multiple genres, like Steven Spielberg, whose triumphs have ranged from action films like the Indiana Jones franchise to historically based movies like “Lincoln” and “Schindler’s List” to the sci-fi classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.

To determine the most bankable director, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on box office and production budget from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. Directors were ranked based on the average return-on-investment ratio of worldwide box office to production budget for their body of work. Only directors with at least three films with available ROI data and who has directed a film in 2018 or later were included. Average user ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, are weighted according to the number of reviews and are current as of November 2021.

The most bankable director is Alex Kendrick. Here are the details:

> Avg. box office to production budget ratio: +$43.85
> Movie with highest ROI: Facing the Giants (2006)
> Avg. IMDb user rating: 6.7/10
> Avg. Tomatometer score: 34.6%

Alex Kendrick, known for “Facing the Giants,” “War Room,” and “Flywheel,” among other films, doesn’t lead this list in terms of average Tomatometer score or average IMDb user rating. However, his average box-office-to-production-budget ratio of +$43.85 blows away all other directors on the list.

Click here to read The 50 Highest Grossing Film Directors of All Time

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