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Hollywood's Greatest One-Hit Wonder Movie Directors

September 23, 2020 22 votes 8 voters13 items

List RulesVote up the film directors who are memorable even if they created only one hit film.

The movie business is fickle. One day you're up; the next, you're down. A well-received, financially profitable project is no guarantee of future success, leading to Hollywood one-hit wonders. Film history is littered with talents, including directors and actors, who burst onto the scene only to disappear from the public eye for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes, directors in particular produce a work so brilliant and beloved that this one work overshadows everything else they'll ever make. Although the directors listed here are not currently on the A-list, they always have one movie that will forever be remembered by film fans around the world.

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    Paul Brickman

    Hit Movie: Risky Business

    Non-Hit Movies: Men Don't Leave

    Paul Brickman helped create the legacy of Tom Cruise by directing his pantless dancing scene in Risky Business. Brickman likely could have made just about anything after that movie's stunning success in 1983. Instead, he disappeared from Hollywood. Brickman told Salon:

    The success of Risky Business was strange because I had Hollywood coming at me full throttle. I found it very uncomfortable. I moved out of LA immediately. Studio heads sent me wine goblets and food baskets. And people threw material at me right and left, and lined up to meet me. It gets uncomfortable. Some people like the visibility. I don’t. I’m more from the J.D. Salinger school.

    In the same interview, Brickman revealed he was offered movies like Rain Man and Forrest Gump, which both went on to be major hits and Oscar winners. Seven years after Risky Business, Brickman returned to direct the drama Men Don't Leave, but that movie flopped, leaving him with a lot of what-ifs. Brickman has subsequently said he "squandered a really good career" by avoiding the spotlight after Risky Business.

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  • Hit Movie: Remember the Titans

    Non-Hit Movies: Death in Love, Max, Safe, Uptown Girls

    Boaz Yakin got his start in Hollywood adapting the popular Marvel comic book The Punisher into a feature film in 1989. Although that movie didn't become a box office smash, it did allow Yakin to continue pursuing his dream. Smaller directorial efforts Fresh and A Price Above Rubies led to the hit football movie Remember the Titans. That put Yakin in the running for a variety of big projects, including a thwarted Batman reboot based on beloved animated series Batman Beyond. Yakin never got that big-budget spectacle on his resume. Instead, he went back to smaller films. His most recent work is the little-seen horror movie Boarding School, which sits at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes

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  • Hit Movie: Rookie of the Year

    Non-Hit Movies: N/A

    Daniel Stern was a well-established movie star by the time he got to direct Rookie of the Year thanks to his work in the Home Alone and City Slickers franchises. Stern used that newfound industry clout to direct a family film, the baseball fantasy Rookie of the Year. The film was a minor hit that became one of numerous kids baseball films (Little Big League, Angels in the Outfield, The Sandlot) of that era to become a cult favorite with millennials.

    Stern even resurrected his pitching coach character, Phil Brickma, to inspire the Chicago Cubs team that won the World Series in 2016. But Stern never directed another movie in his long career.

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  • Hit Movie: V for Vendetta

    Non-Hit Movies: Ninja Assassin, The Raven, Survivor

    For James McTeigue, an accomplished assistant director, his big Hollywood break came through a longtime association with the Wachowskis, the directors behind the Matrix trilogy. McTeigue was the first AD for both Matrix sequels, which made him a natural choice to direct an adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel V for Vendetta when the Wachowskis purchased the film rights to the book. 

    V for Vendetta was a solid box office hit when it came out in 2005, but almost immediately, rumors spread that McTeigue didn't direct the film at all and was used as a front to allow the Wachowskis to helm the film without any pressure. That rumor persists, because McTeigue hasn't directed a successful or critically appreciated film since.

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