Joseph Gordon-Levitt had a huge breakout year in 2012. While anyone who pays close attention to the industry recognizes that Gordon-Levitt demonstrated some serious talent way before then, having major roles in hits such as Lincoln, Looper and The Dark Knight Rises made him a household name. And speaking of that serious talent I just mentioned, now he's stepped behind the camera and into the directors chair for the upcoming indie comedy Don Jon. Yet, Gordon-Levitt is far from the only ambitious actor in Hollywood. In fact, it's been a longtime trend for major stars to take a shot at directing. September's Movie List of the Month focuses on the greatest films where the director was also a prominent actor. And seeing that this has been going on for a very long time, I'm just going to focus on the last 20 years.
*** View August's Movie List of the Month HERE
Honorable Mention: Braveheart (Mel Gibson - 1995), That Thing You Do! (Tom Hanks - 1996) and Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton - 1996)
#5. Zoolander (Ben Stiller - 2001)
I decided to throw a little bit of a curve-ball right off the bat. Although I may be ostracized for placing Ben Stiller's Zoolander above highly regarded films such as Braveheart and Sling Blade, but the absurd comedy has its place in my heart. The jokes are endless and the the outlandish portrayal of the model industry is hilarious. Stiller made magic as not only the film's title character, but as the man behind the camera as well.
#4. The Ides of March (George Clooney - 2011)
One of my favorite political thrillers was directed by and co-starring the great George Clooney. The Ides of March is a suspenseful ride built firmly on an intriguing story and superb dialogue. While the flaws become difficult to point out, Clooney himself proves to be the visionary master behind the film. But in the end, the megastar's brilliant turn ultimately plays second fiddle to his top-notch direction.
#3. A Bronx Tale (Robert De Niro - 1993)
Just to be clear, there's a reason I decided to make this list cover the last 20 years. Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale had to be on it. Despite making a career out of amazing performances in films such as The Godfather: Part II, Raging Bull and The Deer Hunter, De Niro proved his artistic versatility with his directorial debut, A Bronx Tale. The feature remains one of the most quotable movies in history and an absolute slam dunk for this list.
#2. Argo (Ben Affleck - 2012)
Last year's Academy Award Winner for Best Picture was Ben Affleck's Argo. Ironically, Affleck himself was left out and snubbed in the Best Director category, marking only the fourth time in 85 years that's ever happened. As the film's leading star as well, Affleck showed he may be a phenomenal director, but he's still quite a performer. Argo has all the elements you want in a movie and we should be thankful that Affleck could put it all together so well.
#1. Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood - 2008)
2008 was such an awesome year for movies. Crowd-pleasing hits like Slumdog Millionaire and The Dark Knight headlined a long list of solid films. However, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino wasn't only near the top of its year, it was one of the best of its decade ... even if the Academy Awards doesn't agree. Eastwood was beyond spectacular as the hard-nosed but big-hearted Walk Kowalski, and his directing job wasn't too shabby either. Gran Torino is a fantastic film that Clint Eastwood helped bring to life.