Top 10 Greatest Actor/Director Collaborations

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Aside from the casting director, producers and studio executives, film directors often have a say as to which actors they’d prefer to work with. If the film and relationship between the actor and director — on and off set — both prove to be a success, there’s a good chance you’ll see them partner up again for another project in the future. Collaborations between actors and directors can sometimes jumpstart both their careers, or last for decades, resulting in some of the most memorable films ever made. Here’s a list mentioning some of the greatest actor/director collaborations of all time.

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1. Robert De Niro & Martin Scorsese

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Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese first collaborated in 1973 with the low-budget indie classic Mean Streets. After the film’s success, the two would later team up again to make classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull (for which De Niro won an Academy Award for Best Actor), Goodfellas, and Casino. De Niro’s method acting and commitment to playing dark characters with psychological problems was perfect for the realism and themes in Scorsese’s films.

2. Christian Bale & Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale and Christopher Nolan have been working together since 2005’s Batman Begins in which Bale took on the lead role of the Caped Crusader. After the film’s blockbuster success, the two paired up again to work on two Batman sequels (The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises), and The Prestige. Bale’s ability to literally transform his body from skinny to muscular (or vice versa), proved he had the endurance along with the acting skills necessary to take on any role Nolan needed.

3. Bill Paxton & James Cameron

James Cameron, who’s known for directing some of the highest grossing, technologically advanced films of our time, almost always found a way to use his right-hand man, actor Bill Paxton. The two first worked together in the 1984 film Terminator in which Paxton played a small role as a punk. They later teamed up again in the films Aliens, True Lies, and Titanic for which Cameron won an Academy Award for Best Picture, among many others.

4. Tom Hanks & Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have both had many successes outside of their collaborations with each other, though when they come together, we know we’re always in for a special treat. Their notable team efforts include Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, and the upcoming historical drama thriller Bridge of Spies.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio & Martin Scorsese

Director Martin Scorsese makes our list for a second time due to his recent collaborations with famed actor Leonardo DiCaprio. It seems as if DiCaprio took Robert De Niro’s place as Scorsese’s go-to guy, working together on critically acclaimed films such as Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and The Wolf of Wall Street. In an interview at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Scorsese mentioned he’d first met DiCaprio on the set of his film Bringing Out the Dead. After hearing of DiCaprio’s admiration for his work, he went on to say, “It’s great to have an actor who wants to work with you,” which led to their first collaboration on Gangs of New York.

6. Johnny Depp & Tim Burton

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have both been integral in each other’s success (and weirdness). The two first came together for the film Edward Scissorhands which went on to become a massive hit. They later made a habit out of collaborating over the years, teaming up again to make films such as Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland.

7. Denzel Washington & Spike Lee

Spike Lee and Denzel Washington have worked together since 1990, making numerous successful films that explore race relations, urban crime and wealth inequality. Some of their most notable collaborations include Mo’ Better Blues, Malcom X, and Inside Man. Spike Lee spoke about their relationship in an interview with Washington, saying, “I would just like to say, it’s been a pleasure for us really, for me, and I’m really proud of the four films we’ve done.” Washington joked by saying, “We’re getting old, Spike.”

8. Samuel L. Jackson & Quentin Tarantino

Film aficionado and director Quentin Tarantino has made some the most realistic/fantastical films of the last quarter century. He’s frequently collaborated with actor Samuel L. Jackson in roles, big and small, including Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained.

9. Jimmy Stewart & Alfred Hitchcock

The “Master of Cinema”, Alfred Hitchcock was one of the first directors to make a habit out of collaborating with an actor, picking Jimmy Stewart as the lead in films such as Rope, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo.

10. Russell Crowe & Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe have teamed up for a handful of blockbusters since their first collaboration in 2000’s Gladiator (which won an Academy Award for Best Picture). They later worked together in Body of Lies and American Gangster. Actress Cate Blanchett, who has worked with them on Robin Hood, commented on their relationship saying that “they wrestle one another and sometimes one wins and the other will say, ’I’ll win next time’.”

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Directors and actors constantly rely on each other’s feedback, and when a successful relationship occurs between the two, it frequently shows in their work. What do you think of the list? Did we leave out a more important partnership? Did we get it right? Let us know in the comments below!

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