Who would've thought, when he was starring in a slate of hit-or-miss list action flicks like "Reindeer Games," "Daredevil" and "Armageddon," that Ben Affleck would emerge as one of the most respected actors-turned-directors in Hollywood. With his '70s CIA thriller "Argo," Affleck has decidedly nailed a trifecta of fabulously acted, intelligently directed dramas that have won over critics and audiences alike.
But Affleck is far from the first actor to try his hand behind the camera. Here are the 13 best actors (with established careers) who've seamlessly transitioned into filmmakers – some commercial, some visionary, all noteworthy.
Notable Films: "The Great Debaters" (2007); "Antwone Fisher" (2002)
Directorial Style: The two-time Academy Award winner's forays into filmmaking have both centered around young African Americans overcoming personal and societal obstacles. Washington has an eye for talent, casting such rising stars as Derek Luke, Nate Parker and Jurnee Smollett, all of whom gave nuanced performances for Denzel.
Notable Films: "Hancock" (2008); "The Kingdom" (2007); "Friday Night Lights" (2004)
Directorial Style: Berg is definitely a specialist in testosterone-fueled stories; even his less-than-stellar offerings like "Battleship" and "Very Bad Things" skew solidly toward guy audiences. The former "Chicago Hope" star has made six feature films and is responsible for developing one of the greatest television dramas of all time, "Friday Night Lights."
Notable Films: "The Ides of March" (2011); "Good Night, and Good Luck" (2005); "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2002)
Directorial Style: Clooney isn't just a dashing leading man or Hollywood's most eligible bachelor; he's also a Serious Filmmaker. The Oscar-winning "Syriana" star has made four features, all of which capture the historical (whether it's the golden days of broadcast news or the early years of pro football), the political, or both.
Notable Films: "Apocalypto" (2006); "The Passion of the Christ," (2004); "Braveheart" (1995)
Directorial Style: Regardless of what we think about Gibson personally, the controversial action star-turned-director has (or at least had) an impressive track record as a filmmaker. It takes a fair amount of courage (and not to mention ego) to take on "the greatest story ever told," but Jesus' story is in keeping with Gibson's obsession with sacrificial, singular men.
Notable Films: "Iron Man" (2008); "Elf" (2003); "Made" (2001)
Directorial Style: Favreau seems to have as much fun making movies as he does starring in them. All of his films are perfect popcorn fare and show off his penchant for comedy. That's why Iron Man is the funniest superheroes and the upcoming "Jersey Boys" couldn't be in better hands than this "money" director.
Notable Films: "Dead Man Walking" (1995); "Cradle Will Rock" (1999); "Bob Roberts" (1992)
Directorial Style: We're not sure why Robbins hasn't done more than direct a few television episodes in the past few years, but in the '90s, he was a filmmaking force to be reckoned with in the indie sphere. His three feature films, particularly the death-penalty drama starring his then-partner Susan Sarandon, are all evocative political commentaries.
Notable Films: "A League of Their Own" (1992); "Awakenings" (1990); "Big" (1988)
Directorial Style: It's been more than a decade since Marshall directed a film, but in the '80s and '90s the former "Laverne & Shirley" star was responsible for several touching dramedies that catapulted her to the top of Hollywood's list of female directors. Nowadays that number multiplied, but today's mainstream women in film owe a debt to the pioneering Marshall.
Notable Films: "Ordinary People" (1980); "A River Runs Through It" (1992); "The Conspirator" (2010)
Directorial Style: Hollywood's favorite son scored the ultimate accolade – an Academy Award -- for his directorial debut. And while we don't necessarily agree that his family drama "Ordinary People" deserved to win over the legendary "Raging Bull," Redford established himself as a major filmmaker from his first release. Ever since he's been known for substantive dramas with great performances.
Notable Films: "Thor" (2011); "Hamlet" (1996); "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993)
Directorial Style: Branagh combines the Shakespearean pedigree of Kevin Kline with the prodigious output of Clint Eastwood. The distinguished Englishman is serious about his craft and tends to make period dramas and interpretations of the Bard, but he still surprises us every now and then – like with last year's superhero blockbuster "Thor."
Notable Films: "Argo" (2012); "The Town" (2010); "Gone Baby Gone" (2007)
Directorial Style: "Gone Baby Gone" was so good, it earned supporting actress Amy Ryan an Oscar nod and Affleck a ton of praise from blown away critics. His follow-up "The Town" featured Ben in front and in back of the camera and proved he was no one-hit wonder. Now "Argo" has garnered so much buzz, it's just a matter of time before Affleck wins an Academy Award for directing.
Notable Films: "When Harry Met Sally" (1989); "The Princess Bride" (1987); "Stand By Me" (1986)
Directorial Style: Reiner is best known for a slew of funny date-night romantic comedies, but his filmography includes some timeless, unforgettable films too, including the standard bearer for all rom-coms ("When Harry Met Sally"); arguably the best coming-of-age film of all time ("Stand By Me"); and one epically quotable princess tale.
Notable Films: "Frost/Nixon" (2008); "A Beautiful Mind" (2001); "Parenthood" (1989)
Directorial Style: Few people working in showbiz have had as successful a career transitioning from (childhood!) actor to director to producer. In addition to being considered one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, Howard's 50-year career peaked in 2002 when he won both Best Director and Best Picture for the psychological drama "A Beautiful Mind."
Notable Films: "Mystic River" (2004); "Million Dollar Baby" (2003); "Unforgiven" (1992)
Directorial Style: Eastwood's career as a director started late -- he was already 41 when he helmed his first film… in 1971. Forty-one years, four Oscars, and 35 films later, and Eastwood just won't back down. The legendary Western star churns out award-winning films at a breathtaking pace (consider, by contrast, that in the same amount of time Terrence Malick has made six films), and there's no evidence he's slowing down.