The Most Talented Action Filmmakers. They're all great.

by Harlem_Nights | created - 28 Jun 2014 | updated - 17 Apr 2015 | Public

Blake.

1. Michael Bay

Producer | Armageddon

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Michael Bay spent his 20s working on advertisements and music videos. His first projects after film school were in the music video business. He created music videos for Tina Turner, Meat Loaf, Lionel Richie, Wilson Phillips, Donny Osmond and Divinyls. His work won...

"Blockbusters may come and go, but the Michael Bay films stand the test of time. He’s made heroes out of everyday actors, and somehow, along the way, he became one himself."

  • Hollywood Reporter, 2013.

2. Tony Scott

Producer | Domino

Tony Scott was a British-born film director and producer. He was the youngest of three brothers, one of whom is fellow film director Ridley Scott. He was born in North Shields, Northumberland, England to parents Jean and Colonel Francis Percy Scott. As a result of his father's career in the British...

I miss the man. I really, really do. Wish he was still around working his magic. The world of cinema, especially action cinema, is not the same without Tony Scott.

Nothing but respect and admiration for him!

3. John McTiernan

Director | Die Hard

John McTiernan was born on January 8, 1951 in Albany, New York, USA as John Campbell McTiernan Jr. He is a director and producer, known for Die Hard (1988), Predator (1987) and Last Action Hero (1993). He has been married to Gail Sistrunk since 2012. He was previously married to Kate Harrington, ...

4. Steven Spielberg

Producer | Schindler's List

One of the most influential personalities in the history of cinema, Steven Spielberg is Hollywood's best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. He has an extraordinary number of commercially successful and critically acclaimed credits to his name, either as a director, ...

5. James Cameron

Writer | Avatar

James Francis Cameron was born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada. He moved to the United States in 1971. The son of an engineer, he majored in physics at California State University before switching to English, and eventually dropping out. He then drove a truck to support his ...

6. Peter Jackson

Producer | The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Peter Jackson was born as an only child in a small coast-side town in New Zealand in 1961. When a friend of his parents bought him a super 8 movie camera (because she saw how much he enjoyed taking photos), the then eight-year-old Peter instantly grabbed the thing to start recording his own movies,...

7. Lilly Wachowski

Writer | The Matrix

Director, writer and producer Lilly Wachowski was born in 1967 in Chicago as Andrew Wachowski, the son of Lynne, a nurse and painter and Ron, a businessman. Lilly was educated at Kellogg Elementary School in Chicago, before moving on to Whitney Young High School. After graduating from high school, ...

8. Sam Peckinpah

Writer | The Wild Bunch

"If they move", commands stern-eyed William Holden, "kill 'em". So begins The Wild Bunch (1969), Sam Peckinpah's bloody, high-body-count eulogy to the mythologized Old West. "Pouring new wine into the bottle of the Western, Peckinpah explodes the bottle", observed critic Pauline Kael. That ...

9. Hark Tsui

Producer | Wong Fei Hung

Tsui Hark recently became the fourth Chinese film director to join the board of judges for the 57th Cannes Film Festival in the feature films category this year.

An internationally acclaimed visionary director, Hark started making experimental movies with 8mm film when he was only 13. After ...

10. Antoine Fuqua

Producer | The Magnificent Seven

Antoine Fuqua is an American film director, known for his work in the film Training Day as well as The Replacement Killers, Tears of the Sun, King Arthur, Shooter, Brooklyn's Finest, Olympus Has Fallen and The Equalizer.

He has directed music videos for such artists as Arrested Development, Prince, ...

11. John Woo

Director | Ying hung boon sik

Born in southern China, John Woo grew up in Hong Kong, where he began his film career as an assistant director in 1969, working for Shaw Brothers Studios. He directed his first feature in 1973 and has been a prolific director ever since, working in a wide variety of genres before A Better Tomorrow ...

12. Ridley Scott

Producer | The Martian

Described by film producer Michael Deeley as "the very best eye in the business", director Ridley Scott was born on November 30, 1937 in South Shields, Tyne and Wear (then County Durham). His father was an officer in the Royal Engineers and the family followed him as his career posted him ...

13. Jan Kounen

Director | Blueberry

Jan Kounen was born on May 2, 1964 in Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands as Jan Coenen. He is a director, known for Renegade (2004), Vibroboy (1994) and Dobermann (1997).

14. Martin Campbell

Director | Casino Royale

Martin Campbell knows how to entertain an audience when he steps behind the camera. When he directed The Mask of Zorro (1998), the movie earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations and launched the international careers of Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Next, when he helmed ...

15. Stephen Hopkins

Producer | Lost in Space

Stephen Hopkins was born in 1958 in Jamaica. He is a producer and director, known for Lost in Space (1998), A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child (1989) and Predator 2 (1990).

16. Richard Donner

Director | Superman

Richard Donner was born on April 24, 1930 in New York City, New York, USA as Richard D. Schwartzberg. He is a director and producer, known for Superman (1978), Ladyhawke (1985) and Lethal Weapon (1987). He has been married to Lauren Shuler Donner since November 27, 1986.

17. Paul Greengrass

Director | United 93

Paul Greengrass started his filmmaking career with a super 8 camera he found in his art room in secondary school. Those short movies were animation horror films he made using old dolls, artist dummies, and the general art room clutter.

After studying in Cambridge University he got into Granada ...

18. Dominic Sena

Director | Kalifornia

Dominic Sena was born on April 26, 1949 in Niles, Ohio, USA. He is a director and cinematographer, known for Kalifornia (1993), Whiteout (2009) and Swordfish (2001).

19. D.J. Caruso

Director | I Am Number Four

Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, Caruso came west to play tennis and study Television Production at Pepperdine University. Interned at Disney Studios in the Product Placement department and later hooked up with Director John Badham, who mentored him into a second-unit director, after Badham lost his ...

20. Michael Mann

Producer | The Insider

A student of London's International Film School, Michael Mann began his career in the late 70s, writing for TV shows like Starsky and Hutch (1975). He directed his first film, the award-winning prison drama The Jericho Mile (1979), in 1979. He followed that in 1981 with his first theatrical release,...

21. Rob Cohen

Director | DragonHeart

Rob Cohen is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. One of the 1970's "baby moguls", he built a thriving career as a producer, before concentrating full time on directing from the 1990's, with high adrenaline action blockbusters such as xXx (2002) and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (...

22. Prachya Pinkaew

Producer | Ong-bak

Prachya Pinkaew was born on September 2, 1962. He is a producer and director, known for Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003), The Protector (2005) and Chocolate (2008).

23. Benny Chan

Director | Bo chi tung wah

Benny Chan Muk-Sing had worked for RTV and then for TVB as assistant director to Johnnie To Kay-Fung. He was later promoted to director. He served as the executive director for Raymond Wong Pak-Ming's "Goodbye Darling" in 1987 and then returned to ATV as producer and director. In 1990, he directed ...

24. Kathryn Bigelow

Director | The Hurt Locker

A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be ...

25. Mimi Leder

Director | On the Basis of Sex

Mimi Leder was born on January 26, 1952 in New York City, New York, USA as Miriam Leder. She is a producer and director, known for On the Basis of Sex (2018), The Leftovers (2014) and Deep Impact (1998). She is married to Gary Werntz. They have one child.

26. Kenneth Branagh

Actor | Henry V

Kenneth Charles Branagh was born on December 10, 1960, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to parents William Branagh, a plumber and carpenter, and Frances (Harper), both born in 1930. He has two siblings, William Branagh, Jr. (born 1955) and Joyce Branagh (born 1970). When he was nine, his family ...

Not only a great actor, but a talented action director too. See Thor and Jack Ryan.

27. Michael Apted

Director | Enigma

Michael Apted was born on February 10, 1941 in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England as Michael David Apted. He is a director and producer, known for Enigma (2001), Rome (2005) and Unlocked (2017). He has been married to Paige Simpson since January 8, 2014. He was previously married to Dana Stevens ...

28. Terence Young

Director | Dr. No

Born in Shanghai and Cambridge-educated, Terence Young began in the industry as a scriptwriter. In the 1940s he worked on a variety of subjects, including the hugely popular wartime romance Suicide Squadron (1941), set to Richard Addinsell's rousing "Warsaw Concerto". His original story was devised...

29. Ringo Lam

Director | Go do gaai bei

Ringo Lam was born on December 8, 1955 in Hong Kong as Lin Lingdong. He was a director and writer, known for Full Alert (1997), City on Fire (1987) and Wild City (2015). He died on December 29, 2018 in Hong Kong.

30. Guy Ritchie

Director | Sherlock Holmes

Guy Ritchie was born in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK on September 10, 1968. After watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) as a child, Guy realized that what he wanted to do was make films. He never attended film school, saying that the work of film school graduates was boring and ...

31. Edward Zwick

Producer | Thirtysomething

Edward Zwick is well-known for his heroic movies that include Glory (1989), and the breathtaking works of art that include Legends of the Fall (1994). Zwick has also been known for his thoughtfulness as a director, and for his record of working with television series and other films as a producer.

...

32. Joe Carnahan

Writer | Narc

Joe Carnahan is an American film director and screenwriter. He was born in Michigan in 1969, and was raised in California. He attended Fairfield High School in Fairfield, California. He graduated in 1987, at the age of 18. He first attended the San Francisco State University, and later transferred ...

33. Wolfgang Petersen

Director | Das Boot

This director seems to shine most when making movies that can best be described as part action movies/part disaster movies.

Beginning with Outbreak (1995) about the outbreak of a killer virus. This film had shades of an Irwin Allen disaster movie, The Swarm (1978), about the outbreak of killer bees....

34. Peter Berg

Writer | Very Bad Things

Peter Berg is an American actor, director, writer, and producer. His first role was in the Adam Rifkin road movie Never on Tuesday (1989). He went on to star in the World War 2 film A Midnight Clear (1992). Roles in Fire in the Sky (1993) and Cop Land (1997) followed, and the Tom Cruise films ...

35. Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Director | Un long dimanche de fiançailles

Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a self-taught director who was very quickly interested by cinema, with a predilection for a fantastic cinema where form is as important as the subject. Thus he started directing TV commercials and video clips (such as Julien Clerc in 1984). At the same time he met designer/...

36. John Ford

Director | The Quiet Man

John Ford came to Hollywood following one of his brothers, an actor. Asked what brought him to Hollywood, he replied "The train". He became one of the most respected directors in the business, in spite of being known for his westerns, which were not considered "serious" film. He won six Oscars, ...

37. John Frankenheimer

Director | The Manchurian Candidate

Born in New York and raised in Queens, John Frankenheimer wanted to become a professional tennis player. He loved movies and his favorite actor was Robert Mitchum. He decided he wanted to be an actor but then he applied for and was accepted in the Motion Picture Squadron of the Air Force where he ...

38. Paul Verhoeven

Director | Zwartboek

Paul Verhoeven graduated from the University of Leiden, with a degree in math and physics. He entered the Royal Netherlands Navy, where he began his film career by making documentaries for the Navy and later for TV. In 1969, he directed the popular Dutch TV series, Floris (1969), about a medieval ...

39. George Lucas

Writer | Star Wars

George Walton Lucas, Jr. was raised on a walnut ranch in Modesto, California. His father was a stationery store owner and he had three siblings. During his late teen years, he went to Thomas Downey High School and was very much interested in drag racing. He planned to become a professional racecar ...

40. F. Gary Gray

Director | Set It Off

F. Gary Gray was born on July 17, 1969 in New York City, New York, USA as Felix Gary Gray. He is a director and producer, known for Set It Off (1996), The Italian Job (2003) and The Negotiator (1998).

41. Stanley Tong

Director | Hung fan kui

Stanley Tong began his career in the film industry as a stunt man, but got his first crack at directing in 1983. About six years later he founded his own film company, Golden Gate. He wrote, directed, produced, and stunt-directed "Stone Age Warriors", which was so successful that Tong was given the...

42. Andrew Davis

Director | The Fugitive

Director/Producer/Writer) Andrew Davis is a filmmaker with a reputation for directing intelligent thrillers, most notably the Academy Award-nominated box-office hit The Fugitive (1993), starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. The film received seven Academy Award nominations including Best ...

43. Craig R. Baxley

Director | Action Jackson

Craig Baxley is a third-generation filmmaker. After starting his career in front of the camera, working his way up as a successful stunt coordinator and second unit director on films like Predator (1987), Reds (1981), The Long Riders (1980) and The Warriors (1979) (with such talented directors as ...

44. Yimou Zhang

Director | Ying xiong

Yimou Zhang was born on November 14, 1951 in Xi'an, Shaanxi, China. He is a director and writer, known for Hero (2002), House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Curse of the Golden Flower (2006).

45. Ang Lee

Director | Wo hu cang long

Born in 1954 in Pingtung, Taiwan, Ang Lee has become one of today's greatest contemporary filmmakers. Ang graduated from the National Taiwan College of Arts in 1975 and then came to the U.S. to receive a B.F.A. Degree in Theatre/Theater Direction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ...

46. Roger Donaldson

Director | The World's Fastest Indian

Roger Donaldson was born on November 15, 1945 in Ballarat, Australia. He is a director and producer, known for The World's Fastest Indian (2005), Species (1995) and Cocktail (1988). He is married to Marliese Schneider. He was previously married to Susan Hockley.

47. Takeshi Kitano

Actor | Zatôichi

Takeshi Kitano originally studied to become an engineer, but was thrown out of school for rebellious behavior. He learned comedy, singing and dancing from famed comedian Senzaburô Fukami. Working as a lift boy on a nightclub with such features as comic sketches and striptease dancing, Kitano saw ...

48. Joe Johnston

Director | Captain America: The First Avenger

Joe Johnston was born on May 13, 1950 in Austin, Texas, USA as Joseph Eggleston Johnston II. He is a director, known for Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and The Rocketeer (1991).

49. John Stockwell

Actor | Top Gun

John Stockwell is an American actor, director, producer and writer who is probably best known - as an actor - for his roles in the Tom Cruise vehicles Losin' It (1983) and Top Gun (1986), and the Stephen King - John Carpenter film Christine (1983).

John has since moved from acting into the ...

He can direct 'water action' like no other.

50. Wes Ball

Director | Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Wes Ball was born on October 28, 1980 in the USA. He is known for his work on Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015), Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018) and The Maze Runner (2014).

His amazing short RUIN is enough to put him on here. Of course the action in Maze Runner was well-staged as well. The guy has a bright future ahead of him.

51. Kirk Wong

Director | The Big Hit

Kirk Wong was born in 1949 in Hong Kong. He is an actor and director, known for The Big Hit (1998), Health Warning (1983) and Gunmen (1988).

52. John Glen

Director | Licence to Kill

John Glen was born on May 15, 1932 in Sunbury-on-Thames, England. He is an editor and assistant director, known for Licence to Kill (1989), Octopussy (1983) and For Your Eyes Only (1981).

53. Phillip Noyce

Producer | Rabbit-Proof Fence

Born in the Australian outback town of Griffith, New South Wales, Phillip Noyce moved to Sydney with his family at the age of 12. As a teenager, he was introduced to underground films produced on shoestring budgets as well as mainstream American movies. He was 18 when he made his first film, the 15...

54. Lee Tamahori

Director | Once Were Warriors

Beginning as a commercial artist and photographer, he joined the New Zealand film industry in the late 1970s as a boom operator. He became an assistant director a decade later. Making international award-winning commercials for 10 years, he has also directed several TV series. His first feature ...

55. Miguel Sapochnik

Director | Game of Thrones

Miguel Sapochnik was born in July 1974 in Hammersmith, London, England as Miguel Vicente Rosenberg-Sapochnik. He is a director and producer, known for Game of Thrones (2011), Repo Men (2010) and Altered Carbon (2018). He has been married to Alexis Raben since 2006.

56. George Miller

Producer | Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller is an Australian film director, screenwriter, producer, and former medical doctor. He is best known for his Mad Max franchise, with The Road Warrior (1981) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) being hailed as amongst the greatest action films of all time. Aside from the Mad Max films, Miller...

57. Robert Rodriguez

Producer | El mariachi

Robert Anthony Rodriguez was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, USA, to Rebecca (Villegas), a nurse, and Cecilio G. Rodríguez, a salesman. His family is of Mexican descent.

Of all the people to be amazed by the images of John Carpenter's 1981 sci-fi parable, Escape from New York (1981), none ...

58. George P. Cosmatos

Director | Rambo: First Blood Part II

George P. Cosmatos was born on January 4, 1941 in Florence, Tuscany, Italy as Yorgo Pan Cosmatos. He was a director and writer, known for Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Cobra (1986) and Tombstone (1993). He was married to Birgitta Ljungberg. He died on April 19, 2005 in Victoria, British ...

59. Ted Kotcheff

Director | Weekend at Bernie's

William Theodore Kotcheff was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Bulgarian parents from Plovdiv. He graduated with a degree in English Literature from the University of Toronto. He began his professional career directing TV drama at age 24 at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, at the time ...

60. Russell Mulcahy

Director | Highlander

Dynamic film/video director Russell Mulcahy was born June 23, 1953, in Melbourne, Australia. He first gained fame directing visually striking music video clips for such artists as Elton John, Duran Duran, The Buggles and Bonnie Tyler. He is also well known for feature films, starting off with the ...

Really underrated...

61. David Lean

Director | Lawrence of Arabia

An important British filmmaker, David Lean was born in Croydon on March 25, 1908 and brought up in a strict Quaker family (ironically, as a child he wasn't allowed to go to the movies). During the 1920s, he briefly considered the possibility of becoming an accountant like his father before finding ...

62. Gary Fleder

Director | Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead

Gary Fleder was born on December 19, 1965 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA. He is a producer and director, known for Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995), Runaway Jury (2003) and Impostor (2001).

63. David Ayer

Writer | End of Watch

David Ayer is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. David Ayer was born in Champaign, Illinois and grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Bethesda, Maryland, where he was kicked out of his house by his parents as a teenager. Ayer then lived with his cousin in Los Angeles, ...

64. Jon Amiel

Director | Copycat

After studies in English literature, Jon Amiel graduated from Cambridge University and ran the Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company, which often toured the USA. He became the Hampstead Theatre Company's literary manager and began directing there, relocating to the Royal Shakespeare Company.

...

65. Chuck Russell

Director | The Blob

Chuck Russell was born on May 9, 1958 in Park Ridge, Illinois, USA. He is a director and producer, known for The Blob (1988), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and The Mask (1994). He has been married to Ania Zeyne since November 29, 2007.

66. Francis Lawrence

Director | The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Francis Lawrence was born on March 26, 1971 in Vienna, Austria. He is a director and producer, known for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Constantine (2005) and I Am Legend (2007).

67. Spiro Razatos

Stunts | Venom

Spiro Razatos was born in 1960. He is known for his work on Venom (2018), The Fate of the Furious (2017) and Captain America: Civil War (2016).

68. Alex Proyas

Director | Dark City

Alex Proyas has moved effortlessly between helming TV commercials and music videos to feature films. Born to Greek parents in Egypt, Proyas relocated to Australia with his family when he was three years old. He began making films at age ten and went on to attend the Australian Film Television and ...

69. Jonathan Mostow

Director | Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Jonathan Mostow was born on November 28, 1961 in Woodbridge, Connecticut, USA. He is a director and producer, known for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Breakdown (1997) and U-571 (2000). He has been married to Laurie Sandell since October 7, 2018.

70. Stuart Baird

Editor | Skyfall

Stuart Baird was born on January 14, 1947 in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England. He is known for his work on Skyfall (2012), Superman (1978) and Casino Royale (2006).

71. Dean Israelite

Director | Acholiland

Dean Israelite was born on September 20, 1984 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a director and writer, known for Acholiland (2009), Project Almanac (2015) and Power Rangers (2017).

72. James DeMonaco

Writer | The Purge: Anarchy

James DeMonaco was born in 1969 in Brooklyn, New York, USA. He is a writer and producer, known for The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016) and The First Purge (2018).



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