14 directors who have made completely unexpected films

  • 10 directors who have made completely unexpected films

When making a film, directors tend to stick to what they know, Quentin Tarantino throws in as much blood and feet as possible, while Terrance Malik makes sprawling, philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

But what happens when a director tries something completely different to what they're used to making? Well, you get films such as...

Horror legend Wes Craven directs Meryl Streep in heart-warming teacher drama Music of the Heart

The film

Music of the Heart stars Meryl Streep as a violinist who is left by her US Navy husband, which prompts her to take up teaching, and attempts to get skeptical inner-city school kids to learn violin.

The director

One of the most influential horror directors of all time, the man behind Freddy Krueger and reinventing the slasher flick for '90s audiences with the genre-savvy Scream series.

The result

Music of the Heart - Craven's only non-horror/thriller film - fared quite well with critics and Meryl Streep's performance was praised.

Streep was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar, just one of her record-breaking 19 Oscar nominations, and it is Wes Craven's only film to receive an Academy Award nod.

Ang Lee, the creator of deep, incredible-looking films directs the biggest, angriest superhero

The film

Before the comic book movie boom and Marvel's own cinematic universe, Eric Bana's Hulk provides the origins story for The Incredible Hulk, as the ferocious green monster who transforms from Bruce Banner's hissy fits.

The director

With his purposefully slow-paced films, Ang Lee has forged an Oscar-winning career with thought-out characters and sumptuous visuals in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain and The Life of Pi.

The result

Forgetting that Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk is a daft comic book character, Lee took his usual approach, giving Bruce Banner all the character depth that we're used to from an Ang Lee films; critics remarked: "the film is more thoughtful and pleasing to the eye than any blockbuster in recent memory".

Despite that, the film was seen as humourless and lacking fun, but still managed to double its budget, grossing over $245 million.

Lee realised that he should have made an action-packed superhero blockbuster, telling Vulture: "I took the whole thing too seriously. I should have had more fun with it, instead of all the psychodrama!"

See also | 10 much-loved movie characters that were supposed to die 

Robert Rodriguez moves away from gun-slinging Mexican westerns with creature horror The Faculty

The film

The Faculty - another movie to come from the '90s horror movie boom - sees a group of students who are convinced that their teachers have been replaced with aliens who want to kill them - and they turn out to be right.

Features a cast that includes Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Jordana Brewster, Usher, Salma Hayek, and Jon Stewart, The Faculty brings some of the most '90s CGI creatures film has ever seen onto screens.

The director

Robert Rodriguez rose to fame with his blood-soaked Mexican western 'Mariachi Trilogy', consisting of El Mariachi, Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Since then, he has brought us onscreen violence from Sin City, From Dusk till Dawn and Machete, as well as the successful and highly-rated Spy Kids film series.

The result

Unlike most of Rodriguez's other films, The Faculty hasn't become a classic and is largely forgotten; at the time of its release, critics labelled it a low-quality rip-off of sci-fi thrillers like The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Surreal, meta director Spike Jonze takes on the classic children’s tale Where the Wild Things Are

The film

Maurice Sendak's much-loved fantasy children's tale gets a big screen adaptation, as a young boy named Max runs away from home and sails to an island inhabited by large, monstrous creatures who take him in as their king.

The director

Rising to fame for directing music videos for the likes of Beastie Boys, Weezer, and Fatboy Slim, in 12 years, Spike Jonze has only directed four films.

The ground-breaking Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are renowned for their surrealism and 'meta' nature and bagged many award statuettes and nominations.

While 2013's Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his phone's operating system, bagged Jonze an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.

The result

Initially, Jonze wanted to do everything in animatronics and costumes, but David Fincher, who was working on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the time, convinced him to incorporate CGI into the faces of the Wild Things.

The film wasn't marketed for children, as 70 per cent of the advertising was promoted to adults and the finished film is viewed by many as Jonze's finest movie and one of the best of 2009.

See also | The 10 craziest Hollywood directors of all time

Anchorman and Stepbrothers director Adam McKay takes on the 2007 financial meltdown with The Big Short

The film

Based on Michael Lewis' 2010 book, an all-star cast, including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt feature in a wry, sideways and humorous look at the events that led up to the 2007 financial crisis which was triggered by the collapse of the US housing market.

The director

Former head writer of Saturday Night Live, Adam McKay teamed up with SNL performer Will Ferrell to write and direct some of the funniest and daftest comedies of the 2000s including Anchorman, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers, and The Other Guys.

The result

While not totally departing from his comedy roots, McKay was able to masterfully craft an engrossing tale, while explaining complicated financial practices to the general public.

The Big Short was a massive success, grossing over $130 million and earning five Oscar nominations, including  Best Picture and Best Director, with McKay and writing partner Charles Randolph bagging the Best Adapted Screenplay statuette.

The director of The Hangover trilogy is set to release a film about gun-running in Afghanistan

The film

Starting off as a Rolling Stone article, War Dogs is the story of 20-somethings Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz who landed a $200 million government contract to supply weapons for Afghanistan-based US troops, and arrives in cinemas this month starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill.

The director

Todd Phillips is best known for directing The Hangover and its two sequels but has also written and directed other frat comedies, including Road Trip and Old School.

The result

Much like Adam McKay, Phillips isn't totally working against his experience, as, despite its heavy story, the heavily fictionalised tale of the young arms dealers features a lot of comedy throughout.

So far, the film has received a mixed reception, with critics stating that Phillips doesn't venture too far away from "men behaving badly, with dirty jokes and wacky hijinks galore."

Clint Eastwood directed and starred opposite Meryl Streep in '90s romance The Bridges of Madison County

The film

Adapted from Robert James Waller's bestseller of the same name, romantic drama The Bridges of Madison County stars Meryl Streep as a recently-deceased housewife, whose children go through her letters and diaries to discover that she had a four-day affair with a photographer.

The director

Clint Eastwood has been a Hollywood mainstay for the past 50 years, starring in the legendary Dollars Trilogy and Dirty Harry series.

Despite having directed films since the early '70s, Eastwood's directorial efforts have stood out in the past decade, with Oscar nominations for Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima and American Sniper.

The result

Who knew that one of Hollywood's toughest old men could direct, and star in, a touching romantic drama as the "sentimental, slow, schmaltzy, and very satisfying" Bridges of Madison County was a hit with critics and audiences, grossing over $180 million.

It also earned Meryl Streep one of her many Best Actress Oscar nominations and won other awards, the ones that no-one is really that bothered with.

See also | 8 directors who disowned their own films

Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy directed one of the '80s most-loved comedies

The film

Huge stars of the '80s, Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson teamed up for Three Men and a Baby, playing a trio bachelors whose fun lifestyle is disturbed when they are forced to take care of a baby that is left at their luxurious New York apartment.

The director

Most famous for his portrayal of the iconic half-Vulcan, half-human Spock in Star Trek, he played the character from the first episode in 1964, all the way up to cameos in the J.J. Abrams 2013 and 2016 reboots.

As well as that, he lent his iconic voice to many films including voicing Optimus Prime's mentor, Sentinel Prime, in 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The result

The heart-warming tale was praised thanks to the performances of its talented three lead actors; a great success, Three Men and a Baby became the biggest American box office hit of 1987, grossing over $160 million and spawning a disappointing sequel.

Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst directed a 2007 coming-of-age drama starring Jesse Eisenberg

The film

In The Education of Charlie Banks, Jesse Eisenberg plays the titular Charlie Banks in the drama about a college student who has to face old problems when his high school bully shows up on campus.

The director

One of the most successful men of the year 2000, Fred Durst and his nu-metal band Limp Bizkit sold over 8 million copies of their album Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water.

Since then however, Durst has released largely unnoticed songs and albums with Limp Bizkit, appeared in a couple of independent films and episodes of House M.D. and become a cultural punchline.

The result

Premiering at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, The Education of Charlie Banks received a limited release and then went to DVD three months later.

Overall, the film received mixed reviews, with the consensus being: "Unevenness and earnestness mire this otherwise sweet, surprising coming of age drama."

Dazed and Confused and Boyhood director Richard Linklater made Jack Black's finest film, School Of Rock

The film

Launching Jack Black into leading man status by pretty much playing himself, School Of Rock starred Black as a slacker aspiring rock star who impersonates his flatmate as a substitute teacher.

Once assigned his class, he uses their musical ability to turn them into a rock band for an upcoming battle of the bands - all with hilarity along the way.

The director

Writing and directing such coming-of-age classics such as Dazed and Confused, Boyhood and the Before series (Before Sunrise, Sunset and Midnight), Linklater's films are tales full of philosophical ideas and broad-thinking.

The result

Giving Jack Black the freedom to bring his real-life energy and love for music worked out for Linklater, as the film grossed over $130 million and brought in a few award nominations too.

Linklater was able to go out of his usual filmmaking with School of Rock, and it stands up alongside some of his more traditional, 'deep' films like Dazed and Confused and Boyhood.

James Cameron started out his career with dismal horror B-movie Piranha Part Two: The Spawning

The film

The satirical horror B-movie sequel sees a scuba diving instructor, her biochemist boyfriend, and her police chief ex-husband attempting to link a series of bizarre deaths to a lively and blood-thirsty mutant strain of piranha fish.

The director

One of the greatest (and maddest) directors in the business, James Cameron has written and directed such iconic films as The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day (but not the third one), The Abyss, Titanic, and Aliens, as well as Avatar - the highest-grossing film of all time.

The result

Giving Cameron a bit of a let-off on this one as it is his first directorial debut, and when you're a fledgling director, you'll take any work that you can get.

Unsurprisingly for a B-movie, Piranha II: The Spawning's budget was probably next to nothing, which showed with the piranha props.

The film has gone down as one of the biggest horror turkeys of all time. Better luck next time James - considering the next film he directed was The Terminator.

See also | 10 planned sequels that need to be made

Apocalypse Now and The Godfather's Francis Ford Coppola made touching Robin Williams film Jack

The film

A touching comedy-drama about a boy whose unusual aging disorder causes him to age four times faster than a normal human, Jack enters school as a 10-year-old in the body of a 40-year-old man.

Having lived a secluded life up until that point, he gets used to making friends with children his age while looking (and sometimes acting) like an adult.

The director

Undoubtedly the most famous movies of Francis Ford Coppola's career are the Godfather trilogy, which he adapted from Mario Puzo's novel, and earned him Oscars, Golden Globes and Directors Guild of America awards for his portrayal of the Corleone mob family.

In his award-laden career, Coppola has also written and directed films like 1974 thriller The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, Peggy Sue Got Married and Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The result

Coming off the back of films like Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin, Robin Williams was one of the biggest comedy actors in film and Coppola has admitted that the reason he took on a children's movie is so he could work with Williams.

Jack performed nowhere near as successfully as the likes of Jumanji and Mrs. Doubtfire as it ultimately flopped.

Coppola has admitted: "the worst film I made was Jack. But to this day, when I get checks from old movies I've made, Jack is one of the biggest ones." So well done him.

Gravity and Children of Men director Alfonso Cuarón made the best Harry Potter film

The film

The Prisoner Of Azkaban - The third instalment in the Harry Potter series - sees the boy wizard embarking on his third year at Hogwarts while being informed that prisoner Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban and wants to kill him.

The director

Back in his native Mexico, acclaimed director Cuarón directed award-winning drama Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too) before heading to the English-speaking film world with beloved, staggering sci-fi epics Children of Men and Gravity.

The result

Expectedly, The Prisoner of Azkaban bagged close to $800m and broke some box office records along the way; Cuarón's vision of a darker, more complex characterisation of Potter stands alone as a fantasy flick of its own.

On Rotten Tomatoes, Prisoner of Azkaban is the second highest-rated Harry Potter film, just behind the last movie, Deathly Hallows - Part 2.

See also | Can you guess the actor/actress from three of their films

Mad Max creator George Miller brought you one of the most-loved children's movies of the '90s

The film

The screen adaptation of Dick King-Smith's novel, Babe is about a pig that is raised by sheepdogs and learns to herd sheep in a humorous and heart-warming manner.

The director

Australian Miller's first film as writer and director was the 1979 post-apocalyptic Mad Max starring Mel Gibson, and its runaway success spawned two more sequels in the '80s and another, Oscar-nominated movie, Mad Max: Fury Road, which was regarded as possibly the best film of 2015.

The result

Babe - the children's farmyard story with talking animals - grossed over $250 million worldwide to overwhelming praise, beat Apollo 13 to the Best Visual Effects Oscar and spawned a lower-quality sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, also directed by Miller.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, after the success of Babe, Miller took on the directing of penguin-tastic CGI animation Happy Feet, which won him his first Oscar, and now his children's movie pedigree is almost as well-known as being the man behind Mad Max.

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