Movies are now a multi-billion dollar industry, meaning there’s tons of money to be made for those who come out on top and know how to stay there. That’s the case of the world’s most financially successful film directors. While some of them are living legends and icons who have made movies that generations will continue to talk about and love, others are more known for their blockbusters that rake in money without being critical successes.
Whether these directors are critically acclaimed or not, two things are certain: they know how to make hits and they’ve been rewarded with the net worths to prove it. The names on this list probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone, as the number of BAFTA, Academy Awards, and other accolades between them is enormous. Here are the five wealthiest movie directors in the world.
5. Michael Bay Net Worth – $430 million
The interesting thing about Michael Bay’s career is how many movie lovers have an aversion to him. When Michael Bay decides to touch your favorite 80s cartoon franchise, you have cause to worry — people will talk for years to come about what he’s done with Transformers. He’s most famous for going over the top in a not-so-great way, his slow motion action scenes, and having all of the components to make a hugely successful film but missing out on a great story.
That aside, Michael Bay is still one of the richest directors in Hollywood with a net worth that climbs each year. In all his films have grossed over $5 billion around the world, which is a notable achievement. Before getting into the action genre, Michael Bay remade many horror classics including A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), and Friday the 13th (2009). Bay is co-owner of production house Platinum Dunes and digital effects powerhouse Digital Domain, which also contributes to his income.
4. Peter Jackson Net Worth $450 million
What propelled Peter Jackson into this list is his association with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises, which have earned nearly $3 billion alone. These days the New Zealand native is busy making features about Middle-earth, but before getting hold of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classics Peter Jackson directed films such as 1994’s Heavenly Creatures, The Frighteners, District 9, and documentary West of Memphis.
Jackson’s first movie was the 1987 horror comedy Bad Taste, and he moved on to Meet the Feebles in 1989 and Braindead in 1992. The films that he works on today have come a long way from his slapstick horror beginnings, but that’s definitely a good thing. The director started his own production studio called Wingnut Films, and he often works with Philippa Boyens through that venture. Because of his long and successful career and the impact that he’s had on the film industry, Peter Jackson was knighted in 2010 and received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in 2014.
3. James Cameron Net Worth $700 million
If you want to know how to make a film that will produce excellent numbers at the box office, look to James Cameron. Seriously, where would film lovers be without some of his most notable features, such as The Terminator franchise, Aliens, Avatar, and Titanic? James Cameron was behind the two highest grossing movies in the history of the cinema, Avatar and Titanic, and he’s won all manner of Academy Awards from Best Director to Best Film Editing and Best Picture.
He doesn’t come out with a ton of movies each year and he’s not Hollywood’s most prolific director, but when James Cameron is directing a film there are hoards of people who will go see it just because it’s expected to be top notch entertainment that’s superbly crafted. Worldwide Cameron’s films have grossed over $8 billion, and he’s been one of the top earning directors in the world for years.
How popular is this director? So much so that when a new species of frog was discovered in 2013 in Venezuela, it was named after him: Pristimantis jamescameroni. In addition to being an epic filmmaker, James Cameron has become known for his green lifestyle, being a proponent of veganism, and supporting conservation and environmental awareness efforts. The Canadian native is also an experienced deep sea adventurer, engineer, inventor, and screenwriter.
2. Steven Spielberg Net Worth $3.7 billion
Steven Spielberg is among the top directors on the planet, and he’s held that distinction for decades. The New Hollywood era of movies is considered to have started with him, and he’s also one of the most popular, highly acclaimed, and well regarded filmmakers in the history of cinema. Spielberg is basically a living icon and one of the most creative minds that the film industry has ever seen. He’s so known around the world and adored by his fans that he received an honorary knighthood from Great Britain in 2001.
He’s a man whose work truly needs no introduction — who hasn’t seen or at least head of the Jurassic Park franchise? Steven Spielberg was behind that, but he’s also the man to thank for Schindler’s List, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Saving Private Ryan, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Minority Report, Jaws, E.T., Hook, The Color Purple, and Amistad are just a few more of the many remarkable films that he’s created.
1. George Lucas net Worth – $4.9 billion
Topping the list of movie directors by wealth is George Lucas. We all know who he is: the creator of the Star Wars franchise that has been insanely financially successful as well as an iconic fixture in pop culture. George Lucas is also the man who came up with the Indiana Jones franchise, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. It’s true that the bulk of the money that Lucasfilm has made involves Star Wars and its many licensing deals and movies. However, there are two other cult favorites that George Lucas created that shouldn’t be forgotten: American Graffiti and 1971’s THX 1138.
Both were made with small budgets and are well worth watching decades after their premiers, but the latter is the first movie that Lucas ever made for the big screen. THX 1138 is where he first explored the ideas that would become the Star Wars universe, and that alone has earned it a significant place in history.