The original question:
"Who is the best director today in commercial terms?
Spielberg and Cameron obviously. Then probably Nolan. It's hard to tell exactly how big he will be without Batman but if Inception is any indicator he is pretty huge. Tarantino has had two big hits in a row. I think he might be top 5."
Nonetheless, for someone like Tarantino, whose films don't have wide appeal to the kinds of people who don't frequent this message board, $161 million is pretty impressive.
Films with nuanced dialogue dont do well over seas, but then again the world is a little smaller since then, and I'm convinced that if anyone has a chance of selling their films to a distant market like Southeast Asia or Europe, Tarantino might be able to do it. But, a straight-up action director like Roland Emmerich, Wolfgang Petersen, or
The top commercial directors isn't something that's as debatable as one might think because numbers don't lie. The ones who draw the biggest are, off the top of my head, Spielberg, Michael Bay, McG, Roland Emmerich, Ron Howard, Gore Verbinski, Jon Favreau, Wolfgang Petersen (although some of his films like Troy and Poseidon did fall short of $200 million which is what I would define as a bonafide hit). Some of the names on this list like
On the other end of the spectrum, Spielberg is critically acclaimed and successful and is pretty much the Michael Jordan of dominance in the box office. Don't forget that Lincoln grossed $155 million and it's not full of actions or explosions, but rather a thinky piece about whether to ask congress to back the 13th Amendment. It's essentially a 19th Century version of C-Span with the world's greatest method actor that would be
If I'm not mistaken, I think the two people who stand behind him on the all-time list last I checked were Ron Howard and Rob Zemeckis. Zemeckis is a protege of Spielberg and has aimed some films like the Polar Express or Christmas Carroll directly to the children's demographic while two of his most famous films Roger Rabbit and Back to the Future are films that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike which is a great recipe for success. No one is going to say that Howard is one of the greatest auteurs but he balances quality with commercial success very well.
I would agree that Nolan is doing very well for himself. I think the biggest measure of his success is when venturing outside of the Batman franchise because it's relatively easy to make a Batman film gross high. Inception had $292 million which is pretty solid. It's somewhat a marvel that it got that high because it's such a confusing film. I think he's riding the coattails off his batman reputation and when that wears off, I think he'll still be a genius, but not sure if he'll have populist appeal.
I think that if you're going to go with the most prominent and bankable director who's name isn't Spielberg, it might be J.J. Abrams. He made Star Trek a success, Super 8 did pretty well and was well-received and I think Star Trek 2 is gonna gross a lot. He also just took over Star Wars. Similarly, Joss Weedon has followed a similar path and Avengers had a spectacularly high gross but it's hard to say whether that's the film or him. He wasn't able to get eyeballs on his TV shows.
James Cameron is a crap shoot because he goes long breaks without making a film. For all we know, in ten years, the public appetite might have changed completely. If you don't make films frequently, it's hard to keep the public appetite up for your next film.
To some degree, it's the properties and not the directors that make big hits. Verbinski lucked out by getting the reigns to Pirates of the
Lastly, Ben Stiller (a sometimes director of his own material) also has some good commercial instincts. Series of his such as Night at the Museum and Meet the Fockers are seemingly ordinary but they both had incredibly high grosses.