The Hollywood film industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Many are predicting that J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens is destined to become the highest grossing film of all-time, surpassing the $2.8 billion benchmark set by James Cameron’s Avator. With 14 Academy Awards and billions of dollars in box office sales between them, most of the names on this list should come as no surprise.
10. Christopher Nolan – $135 million
Unlike many famous directors, Christopher Nolan plays an active role not only in the production of his films, but also the creation of the stories, as he writes with his brother/writing partner Jonathan Nolan. And on top of being a director, he helped to write and produce the financially successful, yet critically polarizing, Man of Steel.
Before hitting it big with the critically acclaimed Memento, Nolan wrote and directed his first film, Following, a neo-noir thriller, on a scarce $6,000 budget (for comparison, Interstellar cost $165 million to make).
9. Ridley Scott – $180 million
8. The Wachowskis – $250 million
7. Francis Ford Coppola – $250 million
6. Tyler Perry – $400 million
5. Michael Bay – $430 million
4. Peter Jackson – $450 million
Before immersing himself in Middle-earth, Jackson directed smaller films like Heavenly Creatures, which stars a young Kate Winslet.
3. James Cameron – $700 million
Three of his next five films are to be sequels to Avatar.
2. Steven Spielberg – $3.6 billion
1. George Lucas – $5.2 billion
Outside of Star Wars, Lucas directed two films, THX 1138, a sci-fi made for less than $1 million, and American Graffiti, a comedy set in the early 1960s in California that earned $140 million on a $770,000 budget.
Lucas’s wealth is due in large part to his production company, Lucasfilm, which, on top of producing the Star Wars films, produced the Indiana Jones films.