7 Actors Who Directed and Starred in Big Movies

There are plenty of talented actors gracing the Hollywood screen. But it takes a special sort of actor to not only act in a movie, but film it, as well. Even better? When a movie that an actor has starred in and directed also manages to do exceptionally well. Here are seven outstanding films that were directed by their stars. These movies were all given high Metascore ratings, which are compiled by curating critics’ reviews and assigning scores to their reviews, in addition to capturing the attention of critics everywhere.

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1. Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (1989)

Do the Right Thing is a film that centers around the hottest day of the year in a Brooklyn neighborhood where tension and hate continue to grow, eventually erupting in violence. At the center of all the action is Mookie, a Sal’s Pizzeria Delivery boy. Mookie is played by Spike Lee, who also directed the film. The film was given an outstanding Metascore of 91 and was the right thing for many critics.

“With Do the Right Thing, which he wrote, produced, directed and stars in, Mr. Lee emerges as the most distinctive American multi-threat man since Woody Allen,” writes Vincent Canby in a New York Times review.

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2. Woody Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

A film about a problematic and somewhat strange family, Hannah and Her Sisters tells the story of three sisters: Lee, Holly, and Hannah. Things start to get complicated when Hannah’s husband, Elliot, falls in love with Lee. Holly, on the other hand, ends up meeting Mickey, who is Hannah’s former husband, a TV producer. The affairs continue to evolve, making for a somewhat strange and intense Thanksgiving.

Mickey is played by Woody Allen, who also directed the film. It received a Metascore of 90 and an even higher Rotten Tomatoes score of 93 percent. A New York Times review reads, “From the first, soaring notes of Harry James’s trumpet playing ‘You Made Me Love You,’ which is heard behind the opening credits, until the series of reconciliation scenes that bring the film to a close, Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters is virtually nonstop exhilaration — a dramatic comedy not quite like any other, and one that sets new standards for Mr. Allen as well as for all American movie makers.”

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3. Ben Affleck, Argo (2012)

With a Metascore of 86, Argo gives viewers an in-depth look at the CIA’s attempt to rescue six Americans, an event which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis. Based on true events, the film focuses on militants storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, taking 52 Americans hostage. Six managed to get away, which is when Tony Mendez, a CIA exfiltration specialist, comes up with a plan to get them out.

Mendez was played by Ben Affleck, who also directed the film. Not only did the movie receive a Metascore of 86, but it did amazingly well in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter writes that during Argo’s 18th week in release it was still playing in 1,405 theaters and had grossed $200 million in worldwide ticket sales. It also won an Oscar in 2013 for Best Picture.

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4. Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider (1969)

Wyatt and Billy, who are headed to Mardis Gras from Los Angeles, encounter hitchhikers, a drunk lawyer, a jail cell, and experience the death of a friend. Dennis Hopper directed the film and also played one of the bikers, Billy.

The film received a Metascore of 86 and received positive reviews from multiple critics. “And someday it was inevitable that a great film would come along, utilizing the motorcycle genre, the same way the great Westerns suddenly made everyone realize they were a legitimate American art form, Easy Rider is the picture,” the now-deceased Roger Ebert said in his review of the movie.

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5. Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Directed by Clint Eastwood, he also plays Frankie Dunn in the sports drama. Dunn is a trainer who has managed some of the best fighters. Maggie Fitzgerald, who is a poor waitress from a dysfunctional family, convinces Dunn to train her. Her determination impresses him, and the two forge a tight-knit relationship.

Eastwood’s film earned a Metascore of 86, and the movie grossed $100.4 million at the domestic box office, per The Washington Post. Additionally, according to a Variety review: “Staying at the top of his game when most of his contemporaries have long since hung up their gloves, Clint Eastwood delivers another knockout punch with Million Dollar Baby. As if Unforgiven and Mystic River weren’t grave enough, this endlessly resourceful filmmaker goes just as dark and deep in this slow-burning drama of a determined female boxer and her hard-shelled trainer.”

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6. Billy Bob Thornton, Sling Blade (1996)

Billy Bob Thornton directed this film while also starring as Karl Childers, a partially handicapped man who is released from a mental hospital about 20 years after murdering his mother and another person. Once released, he settles in his small hometown and befriends a young boy, Frank. Karl is invited to stay with Frank and his mother Linda, where he encounters her abusive boyfriend, Doyle. As Karl grows attached to the family, he begins to keep an eye on Doyle and his harmful actions.

Sling Blade received a Metascore of 84, along with a 96 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes. The Independent Critic writes, “Sling Blade is, without a doubt, one of the best independent films ever made with a near perfect combination of strong script, focused direction, solid performances down to the smallest role, and beautiful cinematography.”

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7. Robert Duvall, The Apostle (1997)

A preacher from Texas who’s living the dream, Eulis “Sonny” Dewey’s world comes to a halt when he discovers his wife Jessica is having an affair with a young minister named Horace. Sonny is furious and ends up hitting Horace with a bat, putting him in a coma. Sonny leaves town and takes a new name, Apostle E.F., and heads to Louisiana, where he works as a mechanic for a local radio station owner, Elmo. E.F. begins preaching on the radio, and then starts to preach everywhere he can. Eventually E.F., along with a new friend, Rev. Blackwell, begin a campaign to renovate a church.

Robert Duvall not only directed the film but also played Apostle E.F. The movie received a Metascore of 83, and Duvall was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

“Robert Duvall is the writer, director, executive producer, and star of this commanding 1997 portrait of a southern Pentecostal preacher, but far from being any sort of one-man show, this feature is powerful mainly for what it has to say about a community and a way of life,” said the Chicago Reader.

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