19 Actors You Didn't Realize Directed Movies

Voting Rules
Vote up the most surprising turns behind the camera.

They say that every actor secretly wants to direct. Many of them have tried over the years. A few have found massive success. Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Clint Eastwood have all won Oscars in the best director category. Barbra Streisand, Greta Gerwig, and Jon Favreau are others who have famously worked on both sides of the camera. 

Other actors have tried, yet failed to get the same kind of recognition. These famous names, which are among the biggest in Hollywood, only did it once or twice, tops. In fact, many of their fans may not even realize they directed a movie. That's how unfamiliar these films are to the general public. Some of their efforts are good, others not so much. Regardless of outcome, their directorial debuts are definitely on the obscure side. Vote up the most surprising movies you didn't know were directed by famous actors.

  • Keanu Reeves ('Man of Tai Chi')
    Photo: RADIUS-TWC

    Keanu Reeves has more than proven his action credentials. From Point Break to The Matrix to the John Wick series, he has firmly established himself as one of the genre's most gifted - and, just as importantly, most popular - stars. Offscreen, he is a learned student in the martial arts, having studied Judo, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, and Krav Maga. He knows his stuff.

    Those skills came in handy when he decided to direct 2013's Man of Tai Chi. The story follows a preternaturally talented young fighter in desperate need of money. To earn some, he joins an underground fighting ring, where he must take on a series of opponents. Reeves not only directed, he also has a supporting role as the film's resident bad guy. Man of Tai Chi oddly didn't get a wide theatrical release, despite its director-star's involvement and largely positive reviews. Nevertheless, it contains more than enough stylish fighting sequences to satisfy fans of martial arts movies.

    66 votes
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger ('Christmas In Connecticut')
    Photo: TNT

    Nothing could be more unexpected than Arnold Schwarzenegger directing a made-for-television Christmas rom-com. And yet, that's exactly what he did with Christmas in Connecticut. This 1992 film, which aired on the TNT cable channel, stars Dyan Cannon as Elizabeth Blane, the star of a popular televised cooking show. Her producer, Alexander (Tony Curtis), gets the bright idea to have her do a live episode in which she cooks a meal for forest ranger Jefferson (Kris Kristofferson) as a thank-you for his heroic actions. The problem is that Elizabeth can't actually cook, a fact she must hide from both Jefferson and the viewing audience. 

    Christmas in Connecticut is a loose remake of a 1945 Barbara Stanwyk/Dennis Morgan comedy bearing the same name. Schwarzenegger was apparently a fan and figured doing something seemingly outside his wheelhouse would make a great kickoff to a directorial career. He may have been the biggest star in the world at the time, but he didn't fare as well behind the camera. The movie got poor reviews, although it garnered decent-enough ratings for TNT. An ambitious romantic-comedy with farcical elements was simply a pretty big reach for his first - and thus far only - time out as director.

    51 votes
  • Ryan Gosling has come a long way in his career. Starting off on The Mickey Mouse Club, he got out of that Disney Channel trap to establish himself as an A-list actor with an ability to do comedy, drama, and action equally well. He's a two-time Oscar nominee for Half Nelson and La La Land. What's most admirable is that he goes back and forth between big studio blockbuster fare and smaller independent projects. He steadfastly refuses to be pigeonholed. 

    In 2014, Gosling took a stab at directing, and if the result didn't exactly overwhelm everyone, Lost River at least stayed true to the spirit of his eclectic career. Christina Hendricks plays a single mom who, desperate to get by, ventures into a shadowy underworld of weird burlesque shows. Meanwhile, her son discovers a road leading to an underwater town. If that sounds a bit odd and disjointed, you're not alone in thinking so. Reviews of Lost River were poor when it debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, leading Warner Bros. to bury it in just a few North American theaters with minimal promotion or publicity.

    33 votes
  • Brie Larson ('Unicorn Store')
    Photo: Netflix

    Brie Larson has one of those dream careers. On one hand, she's a widely respected actress, having won an Oscar for Room. On the other, she's a bankable star, having fronted the MCU smash Captain Marvel. She's done lots of other things in her career too, including a short-lived attempt to establish herself as a pop star when she was a teen. Given her talent and penchant for diversity, it was only a matter of time before she tackled directing. 

    To do that, she turned to Netflix. The 2017 fantasy Unicorn Store casts her as Kit, a woman who receives an invitation to a mysterious store that claims to be able to sell customers whatever it is they really need in life. Kit decides she needs a unicorn, and the story follows her efforts to purchase one. This whimsical tale is the kind of thing people either really click with or really do not. Regardless, Unicorn Store feels very much like an extension of Larson's personality, which makes it a respectable directorial debut.

    23 votes
  • Drew Barrymore rose to fame thanks to her role in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. It would seem she must have paid great attention to director Steven Spielberg, learning a few things about filmmaking. Her one and only movie as a director, 2009's Whip It, is a slick, consistently entertaining comedy that plunges viewers into the world of a unique sport.

    Elliot Page stars as Bliss, a young Texan bored with small-town life and craving excitement. That wish is granted in the form of an invitation to join a local roller derby team. Aside from giving Whip It a lively pace and a sharp comedic edge, Barrymore takes roller derby seriously, allowing viewers to feel as though they understand and appreciate the skills that go into playing the game, as well as the colorful personalities of the athletes. She hasn't directed another film since, which is a real shame, because the movie shows great promise. 

    13 votes
  • Gary Oldman finally won an Oscar in 2018 for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, but he'd been giving acclaimed performances for many years prior. He is, of course, known for disappearing into characters. One wouldn't necessarily know that the guy playing Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy is the same guy playing Drexl Spivey in True Romance or Zorg in The Fifth Element. The quintessential quality of Oldman is that you never know what you're going to get, you just know that whatever it is will be spectacular.

    In 1997, he took on the task of storyteller with Nil by Mouth. This low-budget British drama focuses on the trials and tribulations of a family living in a working class London neighborhood. It's powered by Ray Winstone's forceful performance as an abusive alcoholic. Oldman based the movie on his own childhood in South East London. Drawing on the locals for inspiration proved a good choice, as the movie was praised for its air of authenticity. Nil by Mouth may have struggled to catch on at the box office, but the critical consensus was that it's a solid directorial effort.

    34 votes