There are several ways in which one can estimate or gauge a director's influence and success in the film industry. You could look at critical acclaim and check to see who has the highest average IMDB/Rotten Tomatoes rating (Cheap Plug!), you could check the awards cabinet, to see how many golden statues sit proudly on their shelf.
Or, alternatively, as I have done, you can look at it from a purely business perspective. After all, Hollywood is a business, and a huge one at that, and as far as critical acclaim is always very nice and helpful, it's the turn around in dollar that the big-wigs are particularly interested in. So, with that in mind, and our parameters set, let's have a look at who the most bankable directors in Hollywood have been since the year 2000.
Notes: Only films directed by and released after 2000 are considered within the totals. Works on which the director was a producer/writer but did not direct themselves do not count. (Otherwise Spielberg's figure would be absolutely ludicrous.)
So, without further ado, here's the list;
In at Number Ten is...
Tim Burton, Filmography since 2000: Planet of The Apes (2001) $362 mil, Big Fish (2003) $122.9 million, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (2005) $475 mil, Corpse Bride (2005) $117 mil, Sweeney Todd (2008) $152 mil, Alice In Wonderland (2010) $1 bil, Dark Shadows (2012) $250 mil, Frankenweenie (2012) $81 mil, Big Eyes (2014) $29 mil
Total Accumulation: $2.3 billion.
After launching to prominence in the '90s through his 'unique' blend of gothic imagery and heart-felt family stories, Burton continued his success throughout the new millennium.
While critical acclaim for his films way have waned recently, and there are a lot of valid criticisms to be made about his almost lazy 'let's just paint everything black' approach to film-making, his box office appeal seemingly cannot be ignored. However, it is worth noting that almost half his entire income came through Alice in Wonderland (2010), and the figures for the rest of his works, whilst still very decent, simply pale in comparison. The question will always linger thus; was it Burton's name that made the film such a mega hit, or was it the fact that it was based on a timeless classic beloved worldwide? The truth, as often in life, likely lies somewhere in between. Either way, Burton makes the list, in at number ten.
In at number 9...
James Cameron, Filmography since 2000: Ghosts of The Sea (2003) $28 million, Avatar (2009) $2.78 billion
Total Acc: $2.98 billion
Anyone familiar with box office charts would tell you that seeing the man that currently holds places one AND two on the all-time charts simultaneously, for Avatar (2009) and Titanic (2007) on this list is absolutely no surprise. What is a surprise, perhaps, is that he has managed it despite releasing just two films in the last sixteen years. Let that sink in for minute; everybody else on this list has, at the very least, five or more films under their belt that led to their grand totals. James Cameron has two. One of these two just happens to be the most successful film of all time, so huge that even Star Wars failed to beat it. I think it's safe to assume that when Cameron makes his next release, we could see him fly a lot higher up this list.
In at number 8...
Joss Whedon, Filmography since 2000: Serenity (2005) $40.1 million, The Cabin In The Woods (2012) $66 million, The Avengers (2012) $1.5 bil, Much Ado About Nothing (2013) $28 mil, Avengers:Age of Ultron (2015) $1.4 bil.
Total Acc: $3.1 billion
Like Abrams, Whedon originally began in Television and carved a huge reputation for himself as a 'Nerd's favorite' for his work on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly. Eventually Whedon wound up in the director's chair for Marvel/Disney's incredibly huge Avengers project, and the rest is both cinematic and monetary history. Known for his polarizing witty and humorous screenplays, and for an ability to know and deliver exactly what the fans want, the future looks very bright for Mr. Whedon, even if difficulties during Avengers: Age of Ultron have caused his relationship with Marvel/Disney to sour somewhat.
In at number 7 is...
Francis Lawrence , Filmography since 2000: - Constantine (2005) $230.9 mil, I am Legend (2007) $585.3 mil, Water for Elephants (2011) $117 mil, The Hunger Games:Catching Fire (2013) $865 million, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One (2013) $755 mil, The Hunger Games: MockingJay Part Two (2015) $651 million
Total Acc: $3.2 billion
Arguably the least well-known figure among the higher pantheon of commercial juggernauts that compile this list, a majority of Lawrence's success came alongside his name-sake throughout The Hunger Games franchise, though Constantine and I Am Legend are relatively big hits in their own rights, and by proving he can successfully helm a major saga, Lawrence has placed himself firmly in Hollywood's good books.
In at number 6 is...
J.J. Abrams, Filmography since 2000: Mission Impossible 2 (2006) $397 million, Star Trek (2009) $385 mil, Super 8 (2011) $260 mil, Star Trek Into Darkness (2012) $467 mil, Star Wars:The Force Awakens (2015) $1.9 billion
Total Acc: $3.2 billion
Apparently, being given the honor of helming two of sci-fi/sci-fantasies two biggest properties, Star Trek and Star Wars, leads to a man making some serious money. Who would have thought it? Seriously though, J.J. was effectively handed the keys to Hollywood and rode it with respect, thought and consideration. As a result, J.J. has become one of Hollywood's most sought-after directors as he (usually) manages the rare act of balancing critical appraise with commercial profit.
In at number 5 is...
Stephen Spielberg, Filmography since 2000: A.I: Artificial Intelligence (2001) $235.9 mil, Minority Report (2002) $358.4 million, Catch me If You Can (2002) $352 mil, The Terminal (2004) $219.4 mil, War of The Worlds (2005) - $591. 7 mil, Munich (2005) - $130.4 mil, Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull (2011) - $1.104 bil, The Adventures of Tintin: Secrets of The Unicorn (2011) $374 mil, Lincoln (2012) $275.3 mil, Bridge of Spies (2015) $160 mil.
Total Acc: $3.89 billion
Originally emerging as a member of the iconic '70s brat pack, Spielberg would, alongside George Lucas, spawn the blockbuster in the late '70s/early '80s, and change the face of cinema forever. Despite being active for five decades, Spielberg continues to deliver, and, when one considers the sheer mindbogglingly large filmography the man has, he deserves praise for being so prolific yet (mostly) retaining his quality. And when you consider that this list omits movies that the man produced as opposed to direct, and that if we'd added the productions as credits also he'd have been much higher, and it's quite obvious to anybody that Spielberg is one of the biggest names in cinematic history.
In at number 4...
Christopher Nolan, Filmography since 2000: Memento (2000) $39.7 million, Insomnia (2002) $113 million, Batman Begins (2005) $374 million, The Prestige (2006) $109 million, The Dark Knight (2008) $1 billion, Inception (2010) $825 million, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) $1 billion, Interstellar (2014) $675 million
Total Acc: $4 billion
Since the turn of the century, perhaps no bigger 'new name' has emerged in world cinema than Christopher Nolan. Rising meteorically after his critically lauded debut Memento (2000) , Nolan would the prove himself both talented and commercially viable via his now iconic Dark Knight trilogy, as he restored legitimacy to a character who was, in cinematic terms at least, deep in the depths of hell. Nolan is a cerebral master who brings you intelligently thought out blockbusters that are also just accessible enough to be universal mega hits. Perhaps the best of the new generation, Nolan currently holds the keys to Hollywood, and one would imagine he would hold them for as long as he pleases.
In at number 3...
David Yates, Filmography since 2000: Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix (2007) $939 mil, Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince (2009) $934 mil, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One (2010) $960 million, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part Two (2011) $1.34 bil.
Total accumulated - $4.1 billion
All it takes is a very quick glance at Yates's filmography to gauge an idea of how he became so commercially viable so quickly. Making your debut, cinematically, with one of the biggest sagas in cinematic history isn't exactly the worst place to start. Honestly, considering you could have put a blind monkey in the director's chair and the franchise still would have turned astronomical figures, it's very difficult to truly figure out how successful Yates' future will be. But, hey, if we're talking purely in terms of objective figures, he's off to a hell of a start.
In at number 2...
Michael Bay, Filmography since 2000: Pearl Harbor (2001) $449 mil, Bad Boys 2 (2003) $273.3 mil, The Island (2005) $162.9 mil, Transformers (2007) $709.7 mil, Transformers:Revenge of The Fallen (2009) $836.3 mil, Transformers:Dark of The Moon (2011) $1.124 billion, Pain and Gain (2013) $86.2 mil, 13 Hours (2015) $36.6 mil (at time of writing), Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) $1.140 billion
Total Acc: $4.62 billion
One of those questions I never quite seem to hear the end of is this; 'Why does a hack like Michael Bay keep getting to make huge blockbusters?'. The answer is simple, Michael Bay makes money. He himself once admitted that he made 'movies for teenage boys', and luckily for him, those same teenage boys keep turning up. With the storytelling ability of a drunk E.L. James, Bay's films resemble a prolonged set-piece that never quite knows when enough is enough. Despite this, the man keeps taking profit, and that is one thing we can never take away from him. Unfortunately...
And, in at number 1, and the most commercially viable director of the millennium is...
Peter Jackson, Filmography since 2000: Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring (2001) $871.5 mil, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers (2002) $926 mil, The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King (2003) $1.12 billion, King Kong (2005) $550, The Lovely Bones (2009) $93.6 mil, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), $1bil, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (2013) $958 mil, The Hobbit: Battle of The Five Armies (2014) $956 million
Total Acc: $6.2 billion
In the 1990s Peter Jackson was a low-budget director most famed for his tiny splatter/horror-comedies. Fast forward twenty six years, and the man stands proud as the commercially viable director in Hollywood right now. Perhaps a cynical man could claim that his success is owed almost entirely to the fanbase of his source texts (and they'd have a damn good point) but $6 billion is hard to argue with. Now he's claimed to have finished his love affair with Middle-Earth, it will be fascinating to see where he ends up next. One thing we do know is this; no producer in Hollywood is going to be afraid to let this man do whatever he sees fit next.