Being a director naturally puts a person in a position of authority, when it comes to making a movie. It tends to be the case that their vision will ultimately be the one that everyone else needs to work to capture, and therefore any film will live or die based on the strength of its director. They may not have any official title beyond “director,” but it’s safe to assume that they have to at least understand how all the other roles and departments operate to get their film as consistent as possible.
Some directors opt to have even more control, however, and therefore will be designated additional titles throughout the filmmaking process. Sometimes a director will also be involved in writing the film, and sometimes they’ll be one of its main producers. Occasionally, they’ll do all three, with the following people – and their respective movies – being examples of times when well-known filmmakers pulled triple duty.
10 Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971)
The controversial, thought-provoking, and interestingly scored A Clockwork Orange was initially published as a novel in 1962, written by Anthony Burgess. As such, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick can’t be credited with developing the film’s story – which centers on crime, corruption, and the tortured pursuit of justice in a dystopian future – but otherwise, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange is undoubtedly his movie.
He was the sole person credited with adapting the novel into the film’s screenplay, was its primary producer, and directed it in his typically precise and visually bold style. It’s clear he had a vision and executed it brilliantly in this film adaptation, in the process crafting something that’s still provocative and disturbing more than 50 years on from release.
9 Tommy Wiseau’s ‘The Room’ (2003)
It’s fair to call Tommy Wiseau a perfectionist, given some of what came to light through The Disaster Artist. The non-fiction book (which was adapted into a 2017 film) chronicled the making of Wiseau’s The Room, a romantic melodrama/tragedy that centers on one man’s best friend and “future wife” betraying him by having an affair behind his back.
While it’s not known how Wiseau funded the movie himself, what is known is that he did indeed secure most of the $6 million that became the film’s budget. He also wrote and directed the film, and played its main character, Johnny, going one step further than the majority of other filmmakers who perform several roles all at once.
8 Neil Breen’s ‘Double Down’ (2005)
In the realm of so-bad-they’re-good cult classics from the 21st century, Neil Breen’s movies honestly rival Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. He’s been more prolific than Wiseau, too, with a total of six feature films to his name since his first, Double Down, which was gifted to the world in 2005.
It’s low-budget and bizarre, but in the best way possible, and has a plot revolving around a genius hacker who fights terrorists while living in the desert, surrounded by laptops and living off of copious amounts of canned tuna. For Double Down, not only did Breen write, direct, produce, and star in it, but he was also in charge of things like editing, production design, music, and even casting. What else can be said beyond stating the obvious fact that Breen is a true visionary?
7 Terrence Malick’s ‘Badlands’ (1973)
Terrence Malick has always been great at making poetic, character-focused stories, and he demonstrated that right from the start of his filmmaking career, with 1973’s Badlands. It’s a movie about two young people in love, traveling across America… only one of them’s on the run for a series of murders, and the other’s just along for the ride.
Malick’s certainly an auteur filmmaker with a particularly distinctive style, and maybe his films get to feel that way because he’s in such control of them, and handles various roles during production. It’s notable that he wrote, directed, and produced what was his first – and one of his best – feature film, and he even had a small uncredited acting role in Badlands to boot.
6 M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’ (2019)
Some people love the films of M. Night Shyamalan, some people don’t, and others may fall somewhere in the middle, enjoying certain films of his while not liking others. He’s an uncompromising filmmaker who’s nevertheless found a good deal of success from doing his own thing, and it’s hard not to admire that, even if he doesn’t always execute his ambitious ideas flawlessly.
That’s honestly the case for Glass, which feels both wildly ambitious and unusually small in scale at the same time, serving as a finale to the story begun in Unbreakable, and continued (rather surprisingly) in Split. It’s unambiguously a Shyamalan film from beginning to end, and that makes it unsurprising to learn that he wrote, directed, and largely produced it.
5 Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Fabelmans’ (2022)
Though Steven Spielberg is known for directing and producing a host of great films since the 1970s, he’s not typically someone who writes his own movies. Being the director does require knowledge of how to tell a story and communicate the narrative visually of course, but it’s rarer to see Spielberg credited with actually writing his films’ screenplays in the first place.
That makes The Fabelmans stand out, as on top of producing and directing, he was also one of the film’s credited screenwriters. It makes sense, though, given how personal the movie is to Spielberg, and the way the story about a young boy dealing with family issues while discovering his passion for filmmaking reflects Spielberg’s own upbringing.
4 Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Kagemusha’ (1980)
It’s fair to call Akira Kurosawa a legendary and visionary director, because even his lesser-known movies are frequently great. His career spanned a good 50 years or so, but while he frequently directed and at least co-wrote many of his films, it was less common to see him credited with being a producer.
This makes the historical war/epic Kagemusha stand out. It’s a film that lives in the shadow of 1985’s Ran, but it remains a compelling and ambitious epic in its own way, telling the story of a thief who’s the doppelganger of a fearsome warlord, and finds himself required to become a leader after the warlord’s death. Kurosawa’s influence is felt over the entire film, making it a very good entry in his filmography that deserves more love.
3 Chloé Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ (2020)
Given how intimate and personal Nomadland feels, it’s not too surprising to learn that Chloé Zhao was involved in producing, writing, and directing it. The film follows a year in the life of a woman in her 60s who lives as a modern-day nomad, primarily due to the effects of the Great Recession.
Zhao previously has success with 2017’s The Rider, but the reception to Nomadland was on a whole other level entirely, with it also being a huge Oscars success. And while she was far from the film’s sole producer, she was credited as one, and more notably was the only person credited with directing and writing the film.
2 Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’ (2017)
Like many other filmmakers who take on producing, directing, and writing credits all at once, Guillermo del Toro has an unmistakable style when it comes to how his movies look and feel. It’s brought him a great deal of success in the past couple of decades, as he’s one of the most acclaimed and beloved filmmakers working today.
Even if the dark fairytale that is The Shape of Water isn’t quite his best movie, it’s the one that received the most success come Awards Season, with it winning Best Picture in 2017. It’s hard to imagine very many other people executing such a strange yet emotional fantasy/romance film like this, making it clear to anyone who sees it that del Toro had a hand in multiple departments during the film’s production.
1 Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite’ (2019)
Parasite is many things. It’s a dark comedy, it’s a thriller, it’s a tragedy, and it’s also a scathing indictment of capitalism and what it does to the human beings that have to live under it. It’s also unmistakably a Bong Joon Ho film, featuring many of his trademarks and various themes that he likes to explore in most of his movies.
Though he’s not the only credited screenwriter or producer, Parasite is a film that feels as though it could only have been made by Bong Joon Ho. It potentially shows that the more creative freedom he has, the better, and the film’s success has made anticipation skyrocket for whatever he makes next.
NEXT: ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’: 15 Best Picture Wins at the Oscars That Impacted Movie History