While being a movie director might pay well, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job.

They don’t just sit in a chair yelling “Action!” From script to casting to budget, a movie director is one who is responsible for overseeing the technical aspects of a film as well as maintaining a film’s artistic vision. The following have made a huge impact on Hollywood, fans and critics and are some of the highest paid directors in history.

Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg
Estimated Net Worth $3.7 Billion

Steven Spielberg is not only the richest of film directors but he’s the most recognized as well.

His movies have spanned decades and are responsible for an estimated $9.2 billion in box office profits. Some of his major works include Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws and Schindler’s List.

Of course, those are only a few of his film masterpieces. He’s also been a part of television history having directed episodes of Night Gallery, Marcus Welby M.D., Columbo and a quite popular cartoon series titled Pinky and the Brain. As the director credited for inventing the “New Hollywood Era,” he’s well respected within the industry.

He’s won several Best Director Awards and was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.

James Cameron

James Cameron
Estimated Net Worth $700 Million

James Cameron went to college to study physics then became a truck driver but it was his love of films that inspired his eventual course in life.

He self-educated and worked diligently for sometimes no credit, to become one of Hollywood’s most well-known directors. A few of his works include The Terminator, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar. Interestingly, Cameron’s movie Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time until he broke his own record with Avatar.

Not only is he a director but he’s a screenwriter, producer, inventor, philanthropist, engineer and deep sea explorer. He may have a reputation for being somewhat difficult to work with but that certainly has not hindered his success.

Michael Bay

Michael Bay
Estimated Net Worth $430 Million

With a taste for action-packed motion pictures, Michael Bay has directed several big-budget films such as Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and The Transformers. He’s also responsible for re-makes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. While not generally well-liked by critics, his fans love him and his movies.

He’s earned during his career and awarded for Outstanding Translated Foreign Film, Best Action Sequence, Best Director and Best Science Fiction Film.

Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan
Estimated Net Worth $135-150 Million

One of the most successful directors and filmmakers in history, Christopher Nolan has certainly directed some true blockbuster hits. The film Following is the first film he directed and after that, it was a continuous series of high-grossing movies.

It was his second film Memento that truly brought his skills to light with critics. He then went on to direct Insomnia, Prestige, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar. He’s been awarded both AFI Screenwriter of the Year and Movies of the Year in addition to Best Screenplay, Best Action Movie and Best Director awards. He’s considered a trailblazer among his peers and also owns his own production company.

Tim Burton

Tim Burton
Estimated Net Worth $140 Million

Dark, gothic and eccentric are good words to describe Tim Burton’s work. His works – to name but a few – include PeeWee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Sweeny Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. He’s collaborated several times with actor Johnny Depp and composer Danny Elfman.

His artwork is featured in several books, including a poetry book he both write and illustrated titled The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. He’s won awards for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program, Best Motion Picture, Best Producer and Best Director.

Gore Verbinski

Gore Verbinski
Estimated Net Worth $100 Million

Best known for his work directing the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Gore Verbinski is a director, producer, screen writer and musician.

The film Rango won him the Academy Award for Best Feature Film. Some of his other films include MouseHunt, The Mexican, The Time Machine, The Ring and The Lone Ranger. He also directed one of the most famous Budweiser commercials to date – the ad where the frogs croak the brand name. For his commercial endeavors he’s won one Cannes Advertising Silver Lion and four Clio Awards.

Robert Zemeckis

Robert Zemeckis
Estimated Net Worth $50 Million

Robert Zemeckis has been dubbed the creator of special effects. His talent for that shines through in Romancing the Stone, Back to the Future I, II and III, Who Frame Roger Rabbit?, Polar Express and Beowulf. 

For his film Forrest Gump which was a hit with both critics and fans, he won an Academy Award for Best Director along with awards for Best Picture and Best Actor going to Tom Hanks for his portrayal of the title character. He has the ability to create films that reach all audiences – kids and adults alike. He’s also directed television shows, most notably Tales from the Crypt.

Chris Columbus

Chris Columbus
Estimated Net Worth $50 Million

Chris Columbus began his career as a screenwriter working with Steven Spielberg. His directorial debut came in 1987 with Adventures in Babysitting and Heartbreak Hotel the following year.

His other works include Home Alone I and II, Mrs. Doubtfire, Nine Months, Stepmom and three Harry Potter films. In total, he’s directed thirty-six films that have grossed over $4 Billion in box office profits. He’s won awards for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Feature Film and Movie of the Year.

David Yates

David Yates
Estimated Net Worth $22 Million

David Yates got his start as a director with short films and television. It was in 2007 when he began directing the Harry Potter series that he rose to fame as a mainstream director. He also directed The Legend of Tarzan and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

His box office profits are an estimated $4.3 billion. Yates’ accolades include Best European Short, Best Film, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a TV Movie/Serial, Outstanding Made for Television Movie and Best Director. He was also given an honorary degree from University of Essex in 2012.

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson
Estimated Net Worth $5 Million

While not the richest director on our list, Peter Jackson deserves a mention as his work is important. Not only is he a director but he’s a screenwriter, producer, and actor as well. Some of his most notable works include The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, and The Lovely Bones.

His films lean towards dark humor type themes that audiences can’t seem to get enough of. He has his own gaming studio called Wingnut Interactive and he’s involved in several charities. Some of his accolades include Best Film, Best Director and Best Foreign Film.

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