Recently, the eighth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, #TheFateoftheFurious, roared into theaters and set the record for the highest-grossing opening of all time, narrowly edging Star Wars: The Force Awakens from the top spot with a $532 million global opening weekend. With a second consecutive weekend win under its belt, propelling it to $908 million worldwide and placing as the 43rd highest-grossing film of all time, the franchise has also helped set a new record for its director, F. Gary Gray, establishing him as the highest-grossing black director in history.
In his first film in the Fast franchise, Gray worked closely with producer and star Vin Diesel to bring the action-packed story to life with style and heart, earning generally positive reviews and many of them pointed toward the director and his skillful handling of the big-budget thrills. Gray has been a very celebrated director in the years since his debut in 1995 with the first Friday movie with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, continuing to find success with hit action thrillers The Negotiator and The Italian Job remake before adding to his already-impressive resume with 2015's Oscar-nominated Straight Outta Compton.
News of milestones for directors is always a treat for hardcore fans who have followed the directors through their careers, but in today's age, an emphasis is put on that director's race if they are not white. We should stop treating it like a novelty when a black or minority director finds great success. It's not a novelty; it's long-running Hollywood history. And there are other directors who have come before who prove it.
1. Tim Story
- Films: 23
- Highest Grossing Movie: Fantastic Four - $158 million
- Overall Domestic Gross: $782 million
Gray joins the ranks of other high-profile POC directors who've been in the industry as long as him, including fellow African-American director Tim Story, who previously held the title of the highest-grossing black director in Hollywood. Story is well-known for bringing the Barbershop franchise to life in 2002, as well as the first "successful" live-action adaptation of Fantastic Four in 2005 and the Think Like a Man films.
2. Tyler Perry
- Films: 16
- Highest Grossing Movie: Madea Goes to Jail - $110 million
- Overall Gross: $935 million
While it may be difficult to believe that the writer, director and star of the equally loved and hated Madea franchise has made nearly a billion dollars at the box office in his 12 years in the film industry, it's true. Perry has had an impressive career in the industry by connecting to the audience with both humor and a lot of heart in his movies, helping him to solidify his spot as one of the top directors in the film industry.
3. Guillermo Del Toro
- Films: 12
- Highest Grossing Movie: Pacific Rim - $411 million
- Overall Gross: $990.1 million
Guillermo del Toro has often been cited as one of the most influential directors of the modern fantasy tale, with many of his films receiving strong reviews from critics ranging all the way back to his first film, Cronos, in 1994. Even the big-budget action films del Toro has directed have all featured elements of gothic fantasy, especially the Hellboy franchise and the recent period horror-romance Crimson Peak. Del Toro's unique vision for storytelling and visual effects has made him one of the most noteworthy names in Hollywood.
4. Antoine Fuqua
- Films: 11
- Highest Grossing Movie: Training Day - $119.7 million
- Overall Gross: $776 million
Though initially associated with box office bombs at the start of his career, Fuqua was able to make a name for himself in 2001 with Training Day, which not only helped propel his talent as a director into the spotlight, but also helped star Denzel Washington win his first Oscar for Best Actor after having won for Best Supporting Actor in Glory nearly a decade prior. Fuqua has since gone on to direct a variety of films that, while receiving mixed reviews from critics, have been box office hits and strong fan-favorites, including The Equalizer, Shooter and Southpaw.
5. Alejandro González Iñárritu
- Films: 10
- Highest Grossing Movie: The Revenant - $533 million
- Overall Gross: $878 million
Alejandro Inarritu has been a major name in the international movie industry, getting his start early in 2001 with the widely acclaimed Amores perros, which launched him into the Hollywood scene to make more critically acclaimed hits that would also go on to become major box office hits, including Best Picture winner Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which grossed $103.2 million at the box office and The Revenant, which (finally) won Leonardo DiCaprio his Oscar.
6. James Wan
- Films: 9
- Highest Grossing Movie: Furious 7 - $1.5 billion
- Overall Gross: $2.6 billion
Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, James Wan is not only well-known for helping bring the Saw franchise to life, but also reinvigorating the horror genre and ghost story subgenre. Wan has always had an eye for delivering major scares to the audiences with effective use of camerawork and editing, while not letting up on character development. In addition to co-creating the first Saw film, he also co-created the Insidious series and helped bring The Conjuring franchise to the big screen. Wan has also shown a strong talent in the action genre, employing his unique directorial style to the seventh entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, as well as the upcoming Aquaman film.
7. John Singleton
- Films: 9
- Highest Grossing Movie: 2 Fast 2 Furious - $186.4 million
- Overall Gross: $763 million
Making his debut in 1991, John Singleton hit the movie scene with the teen drama Boyz n the Hood, in which Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut made their film debuts and earned rave reviews, as well as becoming a critical success upon release. It also earned Singleton his first Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay, which made the young director the youngest person and first African-American to ever be nominated in those categories. Singleton went on to direct many films well-loved by audiences and big earners at the box office, including the second entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, as well as the final entry into the Shaft franchise with Samuel L. Jackson, and Four Brothers.
8. John Woo
- Films: 32
- Highest Grossing Movie: Mission: Impossible II - $546.4 million
- Overall Gross: $1.2 billion
Widely known for his major influence on the action genre, especially the "gun-foo" fighting style well-associated with Chow-Yun Fat in their multiple collaborations together. While Woo's movies have received a range of reviews, he was a major hit maker in both America and oversees in China during the '90s and early 2000s with big films including Face/Off and Hard Boiled, establishing himself early as one of the strongest Asian directors in Hollywood.
9. Alfonso Cuarón
- Films: 8
- Highest Grossing Movie: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - $796.7 million
- Overall Gross: $1.7 billion
Alfonso Cuaron has also made a name for himself in the international film industry for his deep, character-driven pictures while also combining it with big-budget blockbuster effects. Cuaron began in the industry with Love in the Time of Hysteria (Sólo con tu pareja), an independent film that received very positive reviews in its time at film festivals and is considered culturally important by Criterion, who remastered the picture and released it through their collection. Cuaron has since gone on to direct major critical hits, including the third entry into the Harry Potter franchise, as well as the sci-fi action thriller Gravity.
10. Jordan Peele
- Film: 1
- Highest Grossing Movie: Get Out - $193 million
- Overall Gross: $193 million
I know you're probably wondering why Jordan Peele has landed on this list, seeing as how he's only directed one film so far, #GetOut, but the major success of this one film is why he landed on this list. The actor, known for his comedy work on Key & Peele and Keanu, used his writing and directorial debut to deliver a genre shift for him into the horror realm, and it turned out to be a massive success. The film held a rare "Certified Fresh" rating of 100% on the review aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes, until one lone negative review dropped it to a still impressive 99% "Certified Fresh" rating. It has earned over $170 million in the U.S. since release, making it the highest-grossing debut film based on an original screenplay in Hollywood history. Even after the release of Fast 8, Peele holds the record for the first black writer-director to pass the $100 million domestic mark with their debut movie.
Have you seen Fate of the Furious yet? Do you think F. Gary Gray should continue in the Fast franchise? Are you looking forward to future projects from the other directors on this list? Let us know in the comments below!