Joe Eszterhas was, in the early '90s, the most powerful screenwriter in Hollywood. He received record amounts of money for his screenplays, which included hits such as Flashdance and Basic Instinct. His career took a couple of hits in 1995. The first was the ill-advised Showgirls, but that received a significant cult and ironic following. The second was Jade, which was one of two movies that permanently derailed David Caruso's attempt at being a movie star and got Eszterhas picked apart by Gene Siskel at the end of the year. In 1998, Eszterhas wrote, produced, and acted in An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, which was such an unmitigated disaster and complete flop that it all but ensured he would never sell a script to Hollywood ever again. Since then, his only output worth mentioning is the 2006 Hungarian film called Children of Glory. Of course, that's not to say he hasn't tried writing another Hollywood script; he wrote one about Judas Maccabeus that went into turnaround, to say the least.note It was going to be directed by Mel Gibson, who during pre-production continued the erratic behavior that nearly destroyed his career, including his anti-Semitism. Eszterhas, a longtime contributor of Jewish Anti-Defamation organizations, was greatly disturbed by this ordeal enough to write an entire autobiography about it in 2012, entitled Hotter Than Mel.
The film also killed the career of respected director Arthur Hiller, who was known for making Love Story and being one of the hardest-working directors in the industry (to the point that he had at least one project being released every single year until 1997). Just before Burn was released, Hiller had his name removed from the credits, which resulted in the unintended irony of "Alan Smithee" (the alias used for an anonymous director) directing a film that starred a character named Alan Smithee. Hiller's career was left in shambles. The only thing he directed afterward until he died of natural causes in 2016, was the 2006 film Pucked (starring Jon Bon Jovi), which ended up being rebranded under the National Lampoon banner and released Direct to Video.
It even managed to kill the "career" of Alan Smithee! The "Alan Smithee" pseudonym for embarrassed/discontented directors had been in use for over 30 years, but the bad publicity given to the name by this film caused the DGA to retire the pseudonym in 2000.
David Atkins tried to make his directorial debut with the movie Novocaine. When the movie flopped, he's had trouble finding work, with his only job since then being an internet series he made called The Horrible Terrible Misadventures Of David Atkins.
Composer Klaus Badelt's career was abruptly halted by the failures of Catwoman (2004) and Poseidon, along with Hans Zimmer revealing that he was responsible for composing the first four Pirates of the Caribbean films. Nowadays, Badelt is scoring little-seen indies and straight-to-DVD films.
John Badham was one of the top successful filmmakers throughout the late 70s and 1980s with hit films as Saturday Night Fever, WarGames, Short Circuit and Stakeout. But by the time the 1990s rolled around, he endured a string of disappointments which culminated in Nick of Time flopping at the box office in 1995. After his last theatrical feature Incognito was barely acknowledged, Badham turned into helming TV movies and directing here-and-there episodes of numerous TV shows; he has since focused on his teaching career at Chapman University in California.
Ralph Bakshi has had brushes with this. He pioneered American adult animation with Fritz the Cat (the first and, so far, only X-rated animated featurenote the X rating back then didn't mean pornography—it was intended to denote any sort of content that would be unsuitable to viewers under 17. However, the porn industry took the rating over by default, and the MPAA tried again with "NC-17" in the '90s.) and Heavy Traffic. Then his satire Coonskin caused an uproar (mostly due to bad marketing and people claiming it was racist and completely missing the point of the movie), which led to another movie he was making at the time, Hey Good Lookin', getting pushed back over this controversy. Luckily, he bounced back with his fantasy films, like Wizards, his version of The Lord of the Rings and Fire and Ice, and later went on to work on TV shows like Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (which was John Kricfalusi's first job before The Ren & Stimpy Show) and the TV version of The Butter Battle Book...
Steve Barron was one of the most prolific and acclaimed music video directors of the 1980s, and helmed iconic clips such as a-ha's "Take On Me", Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing", The Human League's "Don't You Want Me", Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean", and Toto's "Africa". His first feature film, Electric Dreams, was a no-show at the box office, but it became a minor Cult Classic in later years, and he was able to recover from that due to his video resume. Six years later, he directed the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, which was a financial, if not critical, success. He then directed Coneheads, which was another box office bomb, though it also later became a Cult Classic. But then he made The Adventures of Pinocchio, which bombed even harder, only making $15 million at the box office. He never made another major studio film after that, and his once prolific music video career also dried up too. Instead, he pivoted to a much lower-profile career directing television movies and miniseries, where he remains to this day. His only other theatrical release of much note since has been Mike Bassett: England Manager, which was at least a cult hit in its native UK — though this wasn't enough to prevent an attempt at crowdfunding a sequel in 2014 from crashing and burning.
The critical and commercial disappointments of both Mercury Rising and Domestic Disturbance prompted director Harold Becker to retire from the film industry and focus on producing.
Roberto Benigni's life hasn't been so beautiful since the 40-million-euro failure that was his Pinocchio in 2002. Benigni has had success in another field since however, stand-up comedy that is, with his Dante Alighieri-inspired show Tutto Dante. His role as Gepetto in the 2019 version of Pinocchio was also much more warmly received than his 2002 effort on the same story.
Adam Bernstein has had a distinguished career as a TV director, directing the pilot episodes of Scrubs and 30 Rock, as well as several episodes of Breaking Bad, among other shows. His film directing career, on the other hand, started with and was effectively ended by the massive critical and commercial failure of It's Pat!, with his only other theatrical credit to date being on the indie film Six Ways to Sunday.
The double whammy of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and Anna bombing put the company of French director and producer Luc Besson, EuropaCorp, deeply in the red, specially the catastrophic failure of Valerian. Besson has lost control of his company, and it doesn't seem like he will be able to direct anything in the foreseeable future.
While the 1995 cyberpunk film Strange Days got good reviews (especially from science fiction fans, who gave it the Saturn Award for Best Director, though more mainstream critics were put off by it) and has since been Vindicated by History, at the time of its release it bombed at the box office, sinking the career of its director Kathryn Bigelow. Her next film five years later, The Weight of Water, was a French-American co-production that never got a wide release in the US, and her return to Hollywood in 2002 with K-19: The Widowmaker was another bomb, after which it would be seven years before she directed another feature film. Fortunately, that film, The Hurt Locker, provided a Career Resurrection that earned her a historic Academy Award victory.
Australian horror director Jamie Blanks suffered this twice. He made his Hollywood debut in 1998 with Urban Legend, which was maligned by critics but proved to be a solid hit. His 2001 follow-up Valentine, however, was so bad that even he views it as an Old Shame, and it took him six years to make another film — and even then, he had to return to Australia to do so. While that film, 2006's Storm Warning, was well-received on the indie circuit, his next film the following year, a remake of the Ozsploitation Gaia's Vengeance film Long Weekend, was another bomb, and seems to have killed his directing career for good. He still works as a composer, though.
Darren Lynn Bousman's career rose quickly with the first three Saw sequels, which immediately made him a popular horror director who had his pick of future projects to choose from. While Repo! The Genetic Opera wasn't a financial success, it quickly became a Cult Classic and established him as more than just a one-trick pony. Then he made 11-11-11, which was a critical and commercial flop. Bousman had been reduced to directing films exclusively for the Direct to Video market until his return to the Saw franchise with Spiral (2021) proved to be a decent return to form his career and a much-needed kick-in-the-ass for the beloved horror series creatively and financially.
Matthew Bright (a former musician and founding member of Oingo Boingo) first came to light as a director after helming the micro-thriller Freeway in 1996, starring Reese Witherspoon and Kiefer Sutherland. Though the film was a critical and commercial underperformer, it did well enough on home media to warrant a sequel, Freeway 2: Confessions of a Trickbaby three years later, along with another project, Bundy, based on the life of the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. Bright was respected enough that he was brought onboard to direct Tiny Tiptoes, a 2003 drama that starred Matthew McConaughey, Gary Oldman, Kate Beckinsale, Patricia Arquette and Peter Dinklage... in a film about dwarfism. The resulting shoot was so fraught with behind-the-scenes problems that Bright was fired at the end of it, and the film was completely re-edited behind his back. Subplots were excised, the focus of the movie was changed around and the resulting cut was laughed out of the Sundance Film Festival. As a result, Bright's career was torpedoed instantly, and he hasn't directed any film or worked in any significant capacity in the film industry since then. He even stated the same thing in an interview conducted years after the fact.
The massive box office failure of the multimillion-dollar historical epic The Fall of the Roman Empire effectively killed the career of Madrid-based Hollywood film producer Samuel Bronston, who could not match the success of his masterpiece, El Cid. He ultimately filed for bankruptcy and his lavish studio folded thereafter. It also might have cost a 28-year Paramount executive his job. Bronston would produce only a few more films before dying of pneumonia in 1994.
Mel Brooks enjoyed a long string of successful films for several decades, putting out beloved classic comedies such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and his stint in television with Get Smart. He was hit with a brief setback in Spaceballs, which received a tepid critical reception at its initial release yet managed to be Vindicated by Cable. But following that, Life Stinks became the death knell for Brooks as a leading man and started a string of unsuccessful films, ultimately leading to him retiring from feature films after Dracula: Dead and Loving It received critical and commercial savaging. He found better success on Broadway with his musical version of The Producers, which won 11 Tonys (the musical version was made - or, rather, remade - into a feature film in 2005, but Brooks himself didn't direct it). While a comeback in movies seems uncertain as this point, he is currently set to write for the long-awaited Sequel Series to his 1981 film History of the World Part I for Hulu.
Tod Browning's directorial career was halted by the controversy surrounding Freaks during its initial release. He would direct only a few more films before retiring in 1939 and eventually dying of cancer in 1962.
J. S. Cardone had a career going back to The '80s writing and sometimes directing low-budget thrillers, horror films, and action films, many of which went Direct to Video. That ended in 2009 when he wrote the remake of The Stepfather, whose scathing critical reception and box-office failure ensured that he wouldn't write or direct another movie again.
The critical failure of The Vintner's Luck halted Niki Caro's directing career, as she has had trouble trying to get anything produced since (despite having had two acclaimed films, Whale Rider and North Country, before). However, Caro has been experiencing a bit of a Career Resurrection as of late with McFarland U.S.A. and The Zookeeper's Wife both being moderate successes, along with being tapped to direct the live-action version of Mulan.
Dana Carvey's career was never really going great distances before he made The Master of Disguise. The film was actually an abortive comeback attempt, made five years after a botched heart surgery forced him to put his career on hold due to the resulting medical issues and malpractice lawsuit. Afterwards, however, his career went straight down the crapper at Warp 9. It was six years before he did anything again, eight years before another film role (reprising his portrayal of George H. W. Bush from Saturday Night Live), and nine to do another feature film — and even that was a cameo appearance in the Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill (which was itself ending a few careers).
While many may know him as the first actor to play Michael Myers, Nick Castle directed several successful films during the 1980s and 1990s, including The Last Starfighter, The Boy Who Could Fly and Dennis the Menace. His career was brought to a screeching halt by the severe critical and commercial failure of Mr. Wrong, after which he only has a couple of obscure flicks to his name. At one point he was tapped to direct a remake of Escape from New York, but it ultimately went nowhere.
Diablo Cody broke into Hollywood with the highly-acclaimed film Juno, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Her follow-up, Jennifer's Body, however, did not garner nearly as much praise. While the film would eventually be reevaluated as a cult classic, critics at the time picked apart the performance by Megan Fox and, more damning for the creator, began to question Cody's over-reliance on Totally Radical dialogue — a problem numerous critics had with Juno, and which was already turning her into a punchline. While her next film, Young Adult, was seen by critics as a return to form and landed on many "Best of 2011" lists, it underperformed at the box office. Most of her subsequent films have either received mixed-to-negative reviews (Paradise, Ricki and the Flash) or gone similarly ignored by viewers (Tully), a far cry from her days as one of the hottest writers in Hollywood. She's had more success outside film, though, creating the acclaimed Showtime series United States of Tara and writing the book for the Broadway show Jagged Little Pill, though her involvement with the Troubled Production of the now-infamous CW pilot for a Darker and Edgier live-action take on The Powerpuff Girls might have put her career in jeopardy once again.
Writer/director Kerry Conran started and ended his career with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He had been set to follow it up by directing the film adaptation of John Carter of Mars, but apparently got fired within hours of the opening weekend numbers for Sky Captain coming in. The film was very popular with critics (and big names in Hollywood including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, who invited Kerry and his brother Kevin, Sky Captain's co-creator, who helped to design and produce the film, to Skywalker Ranch to praise them for their accomplishments in special effects) but the audiences were more lukewarm. Years after the fact, the Conran brothers admitted in interviews that they were disillusioned by the schmoozing and elbow-rubbing which they thought seemed necessary to succeed in Hollywood, which neither of them were interested in or enjoyed doing. Kevin Conran even claimed that he and his brother could have made the film for a tenth of what it ended up costing, but the studio wanted big-name stars and the budget quickly ballooned; he did praise Jude Law for really believing in the project, but says that neither he nor Kerry - who directed the film, keep in mind! - have any idea where most of the money actually went.
Sofia Coppola had a solid debut with The Virgin Suicides, and after Lost in Translation proved a major hit, many predicted that she would equal, if not surpass the career of her father, Francis Ford Coppola. Unfortunately, her career instead flamed out even faster than his did, as her next film, Marie Antoinette was a poorly-reviewed Box Office Bomb, and she hasn't worked on another major studio picture since. The next project of hers to get any real notice was the Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas, nine years after Marie Antoinette, and while that actually did get decent reviews, many critics commented on how she'd failed to live up to the promise shown by her first two films. 2017's acclaimed The Beguiled restored Coppola's critical status, but it was only a minor box office hit.
Alex Cox, best known for Repo Man, had his feature career destroyed by the avant-garde film Walker. Since then, he's spent his life barely scraping together funds to make direct-to-DVD films.
Over the course of the '00s, Cameron Crowe saw his reputation as an acclaimed countercultural auteur slowly erode, with his films after Almost Famous receiving mixed receptions and a growing number of critics feeling that he was coasting on his past glories. (Notably, his 2005 film Elizabethtown wound up being, by way ofNathan Rabin's criticism of it, the Trope Namer for Manic Pixie Dream Girl.) The final straw was Aloha in 2015, which was criticized right out of the gate for its WTH casting of Emma Stoneas a part-Asian woman (a casting decision that Crowe and Stone themselves later apologized for), and those who actually saw the film weren't any kinder about the rest of it. Tellingly, he had to turn to television (specifically Showtime) to get his next project, Roadies, made at all, and that show got middling reviews and only lasted a single season before it was canceled.
After Gremlins, it seemed like Joe Dante was going to have a promising career in Hollywood. But after his other movies underperformed at the box office and he clashed with studios like Warner Brothers and Universal over many of his films, his career as a mainstream film director was finally killed by the flop that was Looney Tunes: Back in Action. After that movie, he's done mostly TV work with only The Hole as an exception, a movie that only received a limited release.
Deadline, a British comics magazine, sunk in quite a bit of money and interest into the production of a film based on their most popular strip, Tank Girl. The film was released in April 1995 and flopped hard. Deadline's sales suffered as a result, and it released its last issue in August of that year. The failure of the movie also killed off the Tank Girl comic until co-creator Alan Martin revived it for a clutch of mini-series that began in 2007 (the other creator, artist Jamie Hewlett, was busy with his other project at the time).
Fred Dekker (director of the cult classics Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad) was brought on by Orion Pictures to write and direct RoboCop 3. Given the negative critical and box office reaction to the film, it's not exactly surprising that he hasn't directed anything since then. Aside from a gig as a consulting producer on Star Trek: Enterprise (itself nearly a Franchise Killer, and that was way back in 2002), he hasn't made anything for the last twenty years. Better yet, it was delayed for two years as Orion went bankrupt (although it wasn't the sole reason). His only writing credits since Robocop 3 are Edge (2015), a TV pilot that wasn't picked up, and the poorly received The Predator (2018).
Tom Dey, who directed a pair of decent box office performers in Shanghai Noon and Failure to Launch, had his career destroyed by the flop that was Marmaduke in 2010, and he hasn't directed anything else since.
Stanley Donen was a Hollywood legend known for directing musical classics like On the Town, Singin' in the Rain, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. However, his career ended abruptly with the 1984 flop Blame It on Rio, the last feature he ever directed. The film being savaged by critics upon release was one thing; seriously Troubled Production (lots and lots and lots of paperwork required, terrible weather on location in Brazil and logistical troubles (the goods, food, services arrived late - if at all) was another. Donen retired as the film ended its theatrical run and, if that was not enough, a year later he and his wife divorced. Donen died in 2019, having never directed another feature film (his last directing credits after that were for the Lionel Richie video for "Dancing on the Ceiling," a musical number on Moonlighting, and the 2003 TV movie Love Letters).
Richard Donner was one of the most successful filmmakers during the late 1970s through the '90s with hits like the first two Superman films, the Lethal Weapon franchise, The Omen, The Goonies, Scrooged, Maverick, and Conspiracy Theory. After Lethal Weapon 4, Donner took a five-year hiatus from directing and came back with Timeline in 2003, which flopped with critics and audiences alike. He returned to directing/writing one last time with 16 Blocks in 2006, which received mixed reviews and tepid box office numbers. Afterwards, Donner left his involvement in film to the production company he and his wife founded; and focused on smaller projects (such as writing various Superman comic books, he also approved the biography about him written by James Christie) until his death in 2021. This also killed the long-anticipated Goonies sequel, as none of the cast wanted to do it with another director. Prior to Timeline, Donner barely averted this in the early '90s with Radio Flyer, a horrific Troubled Production that was dumped to a February 1992 release and bombed instantly, and his reputation was only rescued by the box office success of Lethal Weapon 3 seven months later.
Troy Duffy hoped that The Boondock Saints would be his big break in Hollywood, and indeed, that film would go on to become a Cult Classic despite poor reviews and a botched release. However, Duffy would not reap the rewards, as his massive ego saw him burn virtually all the bridges he made in Hollywood during the film's production. The documentary Overnight, made by some of his friends originally intending to chronicle his rise to fame, instead became a record of how it all went wrong. It took him ten years to get a sequel made despite the cult status that the original film developed during that time, and he has barely done anything of note since.
Dennis Dugan's movies were never critical darlings but he managed to make a few hits like Problem Child and Happy Gilmore. The latter movie, though, started his relationship with Adam Sandler which ended up being his downfall as two of the Sandler films he worked on, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, killed his career. Ever since those movies gained toxic reputations from critics and audiences, he has hardly directed since except for an online Trump Boot Camp skit on Funny or Die, and the 2020 comedy Love, Weddings & Other Disasters, which was critically mauled upon release and putting any further attempts at directing in doubt.
Scottish writer-director Bill Forsyth was one of the bigger names in U.K. cinema in the 1980s thanks to Gregory's Girl, Local Hero, and other comedies, but after 1994's Robin Williams vehicle Being Human bombed he stopped making films altogether save for a sequel to Gregory's Girl in 1999.
While none of Jonathan Frakes's cinematic directorial efforts quite matched the success he experienced with his debut on Star Trek: First Contact, his film directing career was well and truly torpedoed by the critical and commercial flop that was the live-action Thunderbirds movie - though it wasn't his fault, but rather a collision of several factors: corporate mergers, uncertain marketing, and long development time. Since then, he's had to return to television directing.
In addition to effectively negating his star power onscreen, the consecutive critical and commercial failures of Future World, The Pretenders, and Zeroville between 2018 and 2019 destroyed any credibility James Franco had as a director (ironically, just after he was coming off some career-best work on and off camera with The Disaster Artist in 2017). Zeroville was a particularly bitter case, as that film had initially finished filming in 2014, but was shelved and forgotten about for a couple of years after the original distributors filed for bankruptcy. Franco has had no projects announced since then except for directing and starring in an adaptation of William Gay's novel The Long Home, a project which he had also finished filming years prior (in this film's case, it wrapped in 2015). It too has been consigned to the shelf and left unreleased, and with Franco having come under fire for numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault, looks like it will remain there and so for a while.
John Frankenheimer was probably considered one of the best dramatic directors of the 1960s and '70s, with a track record featuring Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, The Train, Grand Prix, and Black Sunday. He had a few duds, such as The Extraordinary Seaman, but he was able to recover from those. But his career seemed to hit a major decline in 1979 with the critical failure of Prophecy (the box office, however, was decent, if somewhat of a disappointment for the studio), which coincided with a mild Creator Breakdown (Frankenheimer's alcoholism hit its peak while that film was in production). Frankenheimer continued to work up until his death in 2002 (his 1998 film Rōnin got solid reviews, but his next film, Reindeer Games, bombed horribly, and at the time of his death he was attached to direct what would become Exorcist: The Beginning), but he was never able to reach the heights of his earlier work.
Robert Fuest had a very promising career following the Dr. Phibes films and The Final Programme. Then he did The Devil's Rain, which was such a critical misfire it took a huge blow on Fuest. After that, it was nothing but TV projects and the softcore porno Aphrodite for most of the 1980s.
Acclaimed controversial filmmaker Samuel Fuller never directed or wrote another major motion picture following the Executive Meddling and absolute flop of White Dog, an anti-racism film where a white dogattacks and mauls innocent African-American people. (Long story short: Paramount never gave the movie a wide release over fears of a massive uproar from civil rights groups.) Following its wide release on DVD by The Criterion Collection, many critics and audiences denounced Paramount's decision to suppress its release.
Furry Vengeance killed the careers of its director Roger Kumble and its writers Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert.
Kumble directed Cruel Intentions which, despite mixed reviews, was a box office hit. However, his subsequent films (The Sweetest Thing, Just Friends, College Road Trip) did not do as well at the box office or with critics. Furry Vengeance was the last straw, as it bombed so badly he's stuck to only directing television shows since.
Before Furry Vengeance came out, Carnes and Gilbert had written the show Mega Babies and Mr. Woodcock, neither of which was particularly well-received either. However, this movie was the last straw as they haven't written anything since.
Steve Gomer was an up-and-coming filmmaker who earned accolades for his indies Sweet Lorraine and Fly By Night. In the mid-'90s, he went to Hollywood and made his first studio film, Sunset Park (produced by Danny DeVito and starring his wife, Rhea Perlman). As his previous outings were R-rated dramas in urban settings, Gomer decided to do something different for his next movie. That movie in question was Barney's Great Adventure. Naturally, it turned out to have been a critical and box office disaster, and Gomer's film hopes were all but dead. He got stuck doing TV projects for the next decade before falling off the radar. Gomer resurfaced in 2017 with the Christian film All Saints, his first theatrical effort in almost two decades.
The failure of Monster Trucks was the final straw for Paramount Chairman and CEO Brad Grey, who was asked by Viacom to resign on February 22, 2017, only one month after its release. The movie was notorious for being a foregone financial failure, getting a $115 million write-down by Paramount four months prior to its release. Then, on May 14, three months after his withdrawal, Grey died of cancer, depriving Hollywood of a potential comeback.
John Gulager got his start on Project Greenlight, where he, along with writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, made their debut with Feast. While the sequels to Feast got worse reviews, it wasn't until the critical and financial flop that was Piranha 3DD. He would go on to direct TV/direct-to-video movies and has since become a cinematographer.
Lawrence Guterman directed the hit comedy Cats & Dogs, which didn't do so well with critics but was still a modest box office success. His next film was the extremely abysmal flop Son of the Mask. Guterman hasn't directed another film since.
After directing several films that were major critical and commercial hits, including L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, and 8 Mile, Curtis Hanson's career was sunk by the poker drama Lucky You, which got scathing reviews and scraped back just $8 million of its $60 million budget. Hanson didn't direct another film for six years, and when he did eventually get the chance to make Chasing Mavericks, he ended up having to drop out halfway through filming after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia (Michael Apted stepped in to direct the rest of the film), and he ultimately passed away in 2016.
Stephen Herek's career died after four consecutive box office flops in a row: Holy Man, Rock Star, Life or Something Like It, and Man of the House, the latter turning out to be the last straw. After that movie, he's been relegated to Direct-to-DVD and TV movies.
Jared Hess was expected to be one of the next great comedic directors after having box office hits in Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre. Then he released Gentlemen Broncos, a movie that was such a disaster with critics (it was one of the ten worst reviewed films of 2009) that it did not receive a national release. The film grossed just $110,000, about 1% of its budget. Since then, it's been nothing but failures. His Animated AdaptationNapoleon Dynamite was canceled after one season of six episodes. His next film Don Verdean also failed to acquire a national release. In an attempt to bounce back, he served as a director-for-hire on Masterminds, which received a national release but bombed. Meanwhile, his creative partner wife Jerusha made her directorial debut with Austenland, which also failed.
Oliver Hirschbiegel's follow-up to the highly acclaimed Downfall was The Invasion, a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was a Troubled Production; he was kicked off of during production after a poor rough cut and replaced with James McTeigue to finish the film. His next major project Diana, a biopic of Princess Diana starring Naomi Watts, was so lambasted by the British press that it forewent a full theatrical release in America and was quietly released straight-to-DVD.
And even his rise was a stroke of luck. He tried to pull out of Downfall to do another film but was forced to stay on for contractual reasons. The film he almost did? Blade: Trinity, which ended that franchise.
Red Planet was Antony Hoffman's first film as a director. It looks like it will also be his last.
Australian director P.J. Hogan came to international attention with Muriel's Wedding, and his first Hollywood project, My Best Friend's Wedding, was a major hit. After a few more years of working steadily, his career was stopped dead in its tracks by the 2003 live-action adaptation of Peter Pan, which proved to be an expensive failure that grossed a little over $100m worldwide, but fell a long way short of covering its budget and marketing costs. He didn't direct another film for six years when he came back with Confessions of a Shopaholic, which got middling reviews and an okayish box-office response, but his career was torpedoed altogether three years after that when he wrote and directed Mental, which got scathing reviews and failed to even be theatrically released in most countries — in the U.S. it was given a token release on one screen for a single weekend, giving it a grand box-office total of just $750. Hogan hasn't directed anything since then.
Lifeforce was the last big-budget movie that Tobe Hooper did. A Troubled Production that led to middling reviews and eventually to a box office bomb ensured that he would stick to the indie movie-making scene for the rest of his career. The fact Hooper's detractors saw this as proof that his work on Poltergeist was minimal and that Steven Spielberg did all the heavy lifting didn't help matters.
Dennis Hopper was a rising star during the 1960s, but the massive success of Easy Rider in 1969 (which he co-wrote, directed, and starred in) catapulted him onto the A-list and left him carte blanche to pursue his choice of projects. With his newfound freedom, he wrote, directed, and starred in a bizarre, nearly incomprehensible film-within-a-film called The Last Movie. It was such a critical and commercial disaster that Hopper couldn't even get another acting job in Hollywood until 1976 when Francis Ford Coppola offered him what would turn out to be a career-reviving role in Apocalypse Now, released three years later. Meanwhile, it completely killed his writing and directing careers; 1988's Colors was the only significant movie that he directed after that, and he never wrote another screenplay.
The massive box-office failure of Revolution, in addition to nearly wrecking the UK film industry for the better part of a decade, destroyed the career of director Hugh Hudson, who had earned a Best Director nomination just four years prior with Chariots of Fire, and directed the fairly successful Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes the previous year. It didn't much help that his next major project of note was helping to run the Labour Party's campaign in the 1987 UK General Election... which resulted in Labour being completely annihilated by the Conservative Party for the third election in a row. Since then he's only worked on a small handful of films, none of which have gotten a wide theatrical release.
Throughout the '80s, John Hughes was a popular screenwriter and director who made hit films like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In the '90s, however, his movies started getting negative reviews and more of his movies started underperforming, if not flopping altogether (though 101 Dalmatians and Flubber, while they didn't get good reviews, did manage to turn in a profit). Then he made Home Alone 3, which also underperformed at the box office and caused him to not get another mainstream job for at least four years. After that, he only did two other movies, Just Visiting and Maid in Manhattan, before retiring from writing altogether—in fact, the last movie to have his name on it as credit before his death, Drillbit Taylor, was only a story credit.
In 1973, Columbia Pictures backed a lavish, star-studded remake of Capra's classic Lost Horizon. It was a Sound of Music-esque musical, made at a time when movie musicals like these were out of style. Naturally, it flopped hard. A-list producer Ross Hunter never made another feature film (he spent the rest of his career in television).
Howard the Duck, in addition to costing several Universal executives their jobs and getting disowned by George Lucas (as well as being an Old Shame on the part of just about everyone involved), was a blow to husband-and-wife writing team Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz's career; he hasn't directed and she hasn't produced a movie since. Huyck and Katz later co-wrote the obscure TV movie Mothers, Daughters and Lovers and The Radioland Murders before Katz died of ovarian cancer in 2018.
Roland Joffé directed The Killing Fields (1984), a huge critical and commercial success which earned nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. His follow-up, The Mission (1986), did middling box office but earned solid critical reviews, including a second Best Director nod. Though Joffé never recaptured the acclaim from these pictures, he worked steadily for the next decade. Then he produced the starting point of the Video Game Movies Suck trope, Super Mario Bros., and then directed the universally-panned The Scarlet Letter (1995), effectively destroying his career. Joffé's only made a few movies since, including the widely-hated horror flick Captivity (2007) and the historical epic There Be Dragons (2010), a colossal flop which made only $4 million against a $36 million budget.
The Josie and the PussycatsLive-Action Adaptation pulled a triple on directors/writers Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan and executive producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds. Elfont and Kaplan, who had previously had success with Can't Hardly Wait, never directed another movie and would not write another film until 2004, while Babyface returned to music and never produced another film. (His music career would fizzle out about five months later with the failure of his album Face2Face, which received mixed reviews and had the misfortune of being released on September 11, 2001, but that had little to do with this film.)
The 2017 theatrical cut of the Justice League movie served as one for some of the creatives involved:
Geoff Johns and Jon Berg had time to greenlight Aquaman, SHAZAM!, and Wonder Woman 1984, but the critical and financial failure of Justice League got them removed from the head of DC Films. Johns' career as a comic book creator has remained unaffected, however, and he went on to showrun Stargirl to better success while Berg went on to be the head of the production company Stampede Ventures.
In general, Justice League and the fallout from its infamously and deeply Troubled Production left a dark stain on Joss Whedon's career that he has yet to recover from. He was initially brought on as a co-writer and was then appointed to replace the original director Zack Snyder after Snyder left shortly into post-production due to a family tragedy that left him unable to deal with the studio heads anymore. Whedon oversaw rewrites and reshoots meant to incorporate a lighter tone and more humor into the movie, only for the resulting final product to be a critical and financial disappointment and an all-around embarrassment for everyone involved in its making, Whedon especially. This was further exacerbated by the "#ReleaseTheSnyderCut" movement from fans wanting to see the film closer to Snyder's original vision and stars Ray Fisher and Gal Gadot accusing Whedon of being abusive to the cast and crew members, which snowballed into actors from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (especially Charisma Carpenter) speaking out about their own negative experiences with Whedon. He has not written or directed a film since. He did produce and write the first season of The Nevers for HBO, but dropped out in November 2020 amidst WarnerMedia's investigation into the allegations surrounding Justice League, and a show that he developed for Freeform, Pippa Smith: Grown-Up Detective, ended up being scrapped at the same time. For many, the final nail in the coffin came with the 2021 release of the "Snyder Cut", otherwise known as Zack Snyder's Justice League, which received much more positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, making Whedon's work on the 2017 theatrical cut (which has earned the derisive nickname "Josstice League") look even worse in retrospect.
Music video director Joseph Kahn, once expected to emerge as the next Michael Bay, wouldn't make another feature film for seven years after the flop of the 2004 action movie Torque. (And for good measure, that next film of his, the 2011 teen slasher parody Detention, features a strong Take That! to Torque.) Intended as a Spiritual Successor to The Fast and the Furious (only on motorcycles!) and produced by the same guy, Neal H. Moritz, the film was shelved for a year before release and was universally trashed by the time it was released. The careers of its stars (apart from Ice Cube) were also derailed by the film.
David Kellogg is a director mostly known for directing music videos, commercials, and Playboy Playmate videos. He's only directed two movies so far —Cool as Ice and Inspector Gadget. Both movies got a terrible reception, but while Inspector Gadget did do decently at the box office, it killed his career because he hasn't directed anything except for two music videos after it.
Richard Kelly first earned notice for Donnie Darko, which received only a limited release due to 9/11 but was quickly Vindicated by Home Video and became a Cult Classic. His follow-up six years later, The War on Terror satire Southland Tales, was an incomprehensible mess that was booed at the Cannes Film Festival and divided virtually everybody who saw it. His only film since then has been The Box (based on the Richard Matheson short story "Button, Button"), which received a mixed critical reception and failed at the box office, all but finishing his career for good.
Beeban Kidron directed several cult comedies in the 1990s, a couple of which were also successes with mainstream audiences. However, the Troubled Production of the second Bridget Jones film, The Edge of Reason, which saw her repeatedly clash with lead actress Renée Zellweger, executive producer Richard Curtis stepping in and essentially taking over creative control, and the film ultimately getting a considerably worse reception than the first, saw her largely give up directing in favor of producing, and even then generally only on TV documentaries.
Randal Kleiser was a successful television director in the 1970s, but the huge success from Grease in 1978 catapulted him onto the A-list and left him with carte blanche to pursue his choice of projects. However, his follow-up as a film director, the Troubled Production of an adaptation of Henry De Vere Stacpoole's bestselling novel The Blue Lagoon, a project that languished for almost two decades under Development Hell, was a critical and box-office disappointment, not helped by the controversy over Brooke Shields, who, according to some film buffs, was atrociously miscast as Emmeline, instead of a more mature actress that could handle the role. Meanwhile, the critics' tepid reception for The Blue Lagoon completely killed his aspirations to become a top-flight director; 1986's Flight of the Navigator was the only significant movie that he directed after that, before retiring in 2005, as he was never able to replicate the success of Grease.
Chris Koch was a TV director mostly known for directing episodes of The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Then he tried to become a film director with Snow Day, which wasn't a huge hit but did make its budget back. Then he followed it up with A Guy Thing, which bombed at the box office. He has stuck to directing TV ever since.
Fran Rubel Kuzui started her career as a director with the 1988 film Tokyo Pop and ended it four years later with her follow-up, the film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which was plagued by fights between her and writer Joss Whedon over the film's tone. Since then, she's become better known as a producer with her husband Kaz, most notably with the Buffy TV series and handling the Japanese rights to South Park.
The career of Neil LaBute surprisingly did NOT end with The Wicker Man (2006) despite how critically reviled it was but rather with the remake of Death at a Funeral a few years later. Since he made that movie he has not made a mainstream film again.
Tom Laughlin became one of the biggest independent filmmakers of The '70s on the strength of Billy Jack, a series of action films that he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in... until 1977's Billy Jack Goes to Washington, which never got a theatrical release. After that, Laughlin spent the rest of his life trying to get a fifth film made, coming closest in 1985 when he started production on The Return of Billy Jack, only for him to suffer a head injury on set that forced him to put the film on hold (permanently, as it turned out) with only an hour completed.
Tony Leondis never really took off in the animation world despite having a decent track record as a story artist in DreamWorks Animation and having a couple of direct-to-video Disney credits in his name. But any hope of him ever getting his career off the ground was torpedoed by The Emoji Movie, which went on to become one of the most critically-reviled animated films in recent memory (to the point where it won the Razzie Award for Worst Picture, the only animated film in Razzie history to win such an award). He has no other works in the pipeline since then, and a project he was working on at DreamWorks, B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, remains indefinitely shelved.
Sergio Leone was once renowned for his works in the Spaghetti Western genre, with his most notable achievement being the Dollars Trilogy starring Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately, his later works ended up becoming the victim of excessive Executive Meddling, with the editors removing sequences deemed to be too controversial or insensitive, and the quality of his works began to deteriorate as a result. The final straw of this was Once Upon a Time in America, which was stripped down to 139 minutes from its original 246 minute-long cut and ended up receiving initially trashing reviews and abysmal box office receipts. According to writer Christopher Frayling, the film's failure left Leone so devastated and disillusioned by the persistent intervention from studio executives in America that he never directed or wrote another movie again. He had several projects laid out as possible comebacks, but he died before any of them could come to fruition.
While Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping was praised by those who saw it, it flopped at the box office and ended the run of mainstream success enjoyed by The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, and Jorma Taccone). Since then, the group has kept a lower profile, with Samberg starring on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the three of them producing the Freeform comedy series Alone Together, which they had no creative involvement in. Their next major project, 2019's The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience, was directed at their pre-existing fanbase instead of the general public like their previous efforts were.
The financial and critical failure of Johnny Mnemonic ended the directorial career of Robert Longo. Already internationally famous as a painter and sculptor, Mnemonic was the first film that Longo had directed, although he had experience making music videos before then. The film was a Troubled Production, and had changed from the $1.5 million arthouse film he had signed up to make into a $30 million action blockbuster because the studio wanted to cash in on the cyberpunk movement while it was hot and wouldn't bankroll a smaller movie. Longo was later quoted as saying "Making a painting is one thing, but making a film kicks your ass." Mnemonic turned out to be Longo's only feature film and he returned to the art scene after it flopped.
Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch, got hired as writer/director of Boxing Helena based largely on her dad's name recognition. The film was such a disaster that it took Lynch fifteen years to get another feature film directing job. While Lynch had a steady career as a television director since Boxing Helena's failure, it wasn't until 2012's Chained that she started to get paid serious notice as a filmmaker.
Jason Mann was an obscure filmmaker until he entered and won Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's Project Greenlight contest. As detailed on the documentary series, Mann was set to direct a broad comedy Not Another Pretty Woman, but when it became apparent that his somewhat cynical sensibilities would be a poor fit for the script, he convinced HBO Films to instead produce a feature-length version of Mann's short film The Leisure Class (it should be noted that Mann wrote and produced the short but did not direct it). What followed was a domino effect of production woes, including Mann insisting that he wanted to shoot on film over digital at the cost of two extra shooting days, difficulties in choosing the right mansion before principal photography, clashes between Mann and producer Effie Brown, scenes having to be reworked after concerns brought up by executives and test audiences and attempting to salvage a car crash stunt in editing after Mann couldn't get it right during a short reshooting period.note This is apparent in the final film as there's a quick cut once a car makes impact with another. Mann was seen as an uncompromising and difficult director throughout the season and it was clear that the resulting film would suffer from the turbulent production. The Leisure Class was panned by both critics and viewers, and Mann has not helmed another project since.
Marilyn Manson just can't catch a break, with his Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death) film never getting made due to publisher problems, followed by the book not getting released (at least the album did). What really put the brakes on his filmmaking hopes, however, was Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll, a psychological horror movie based on Alice in Wonderland and the life of Lewis Carroll, with writer-director Manson as the lead role and his then-girlfriend Evan Rachel Wood as Alice. The trailer was leaked and ruled too violent. It's extremely not safe for work, but less for the limited violence, and more for the sex.
This trope's title has literally been used to describe Hearts of Fire to director Richard Marquand. A critically acclaimed director who had previously worked on Return of the Jedi, Jagged Edge and Eye of the Needle, he passed away only two months before the film's release, which ended up being a commercial and critical flop.
Les Mayfield never made a critically acclaimed movie, but some of his movies, like Flubber and Blue Streak, did well at the box office. Then he made Code Name: The Cleaner, which did so badly it didn't even crack the Top 10 on opening weekend! He hasn't directed a film since, nor has he worked on one in any capacity.
The successful career of Die Hard director John McTiernan was initially damaged by the box office failure of Last Action Hero, and eventually finished off by the back-to-back failures of the Rollerball remake and Basic. After that, his career was killed for good when he went to prison for his connection to the Anthony Pellicano case. While McTiernan would be released in 2014 and is trying to make a comeback, none of the projects he was attached to have left Development Hell.
John Milius moved from a successful screenwriting career to directing successful films like The Wind and the Lion, Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn (1984). Then in the late '80s, he released two high-profile flops — Farewell to the King and Flight of the Intruder — which destroyed his directorial career. Milius's only directing credit since was the made-for-TV film The Rough Riders, though he's continued with writing and producing work, most notably HBO's Rome.
Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (who co-created Max Headroom and whose only other feature film directing gig was the 1988 remake of the thriller D.O.A.) haven't directed a feature film together since the 1993 critical and box office disaster that was the film adaptation of Super Mario Bros. The film, in general, had a very Troubled Production with numerous rewrites, running behind schedule, and budget restraints. Mario was also one of two films, the other being Scarlet Letter, that sent Roland Joffé's career into the underground, where it's been since. It would be a whole 25 years before Jankel directed another film, by which time she had divorced and stopped working with Morton (who is still yet to work another film in any capacity), and begun working as a solo director.
Leonard Nimoy's first three directorial efforts - Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Three Men and a Baby - were all box office hits, with the latter being the highest grossing film of 1987. Due to the success of Three Men, Nimoy looked like he was going to build a solid directorial career independent of the Star Trek franchise, but then his next movie The Good Mother flopped with both critics and at the box office and ended his hot streak for good. His last two features, Funny About Love and Holy Matrimony, were also both negatively received flops.
The film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was such a bad experience for director Stephen Norrington that after its release he announced he would never direct another film. To date, he hasn't. Even worse, Sean Connery also became disenchanted with the moviemaking process as a result and retired.
Unlike Thunderbirds director Jonathan Frakes (mentioned above), the movie's primary writer William Osborne hasn't had another credit to this day. (It can't have helped that Fat Slags, which he also penned, came out the same year.)
Frank Oz, in addition to being a classic Muppeteer crewmember, was also renowned as an in-demand comedy director, before he took on the directing job of the 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives. The bad publicity from the film's Troubled Production, followed by the film's severe critical and box office trashing, resulted in Oz seeing his Hollywood offers dry up. He had to go to Britain to make his next film, 2007's Death at a Funeral, and while that was a modest success, it wasn't enough to make Hollywood forget his prior stinker (it didn't help that the film flopped in America). To date, his only directing credits since have been on an episode of Leverage and the well-received documentary Muppet Guys Talking.
Nick Palumbo hasn't been able to get anything off of the ground since 2004's Murder-Set-Pieces; every subsequent project that his name has been attached to invariably falls off of the face of the Earth.
Alan Parker never directed another major film following the critical and commercial bashing of his 2003 legal drama The Life of David Gale, and he eventually passed away in 2020.
Mariano Peralta made many films before 2007's Snuff 102, but none after, the controversy surrounding it having apparently killed his career. That the controversy caused every last distributor to balk at the very thought of distributing the film obviously didn't help matters.
Donald Petrie has made a number of films that mostly weren't very well received critically but did well to okay at the box office. Then he released two flops, Welcome to Mooseport and Just My Luck, in a row, and the following movies he's made have all been independent films.
Wally Pfister was a popular cinematographer and worked with Christopher Nolan on many of his films. Then he directed Transcendence, which was a critical and box office flop. Since then, he has only directed TV shows, like the Amazon series The Tick (2016).
The Number 23 was the first and last film written by Fernley Phillips. He was attached to the British film U Want Me 2 Kill Him? sometime afterward, but his script was eventually discarded.
Michael Pressman started off in the 1970s and mostly did television directing with occasional forays into films with mixed results - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze did reasonably well but Doctor Detroit and To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday both bombed. However, his film directing career went into permanent oblivion with his 2003 effort Frankie and Johnny Are Married which took a woeful $22,900 at the USA box office - this probably wouldn't have even covered the cost of the film stock used in production. Since then Pressman has stuck to television.
Stewart Raffill's films were never beloved by critics or moviegoers. However, Mac and Me and Mannequin Two: On the Move were the last straw. After both films flopped at the box office, he has stuck to directing independent and direct-to-DVD films and has not directed another mainstream film since.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, actor-turned-director Rob Reiner had one of the greatest hot streaks in Hollywood history, directing a series of commercial and critical successes in many different genres, from This is Spın̈al Tap to The Princess Bride to Misery to A Few Good Men. Then came North, which was not only his first box-office failure but one of the worst-reviewed movies of all time, best known for inspiring Roger Ebert to write "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it." While Reiner has had successes since then, he never recovered the critical standing or box-office clout he had before North.
The failure of Bless the Child didn't do any favors for writer Tom Rickman, who was relegated with doing only writing TV movies after this.
Christian Rivers (a longtime associate of Peter Jackson), finally got a chance in the big chair in 2018 after a long career as a storyboard artist, special effects supervisor, splinter and second unit director. Unfortunately this was with Mortal Engines, which catastrophically crashed and burned in cinemas and became the biggest confirmed box office failure of all time, losing Universal $175 million dollars. While he's currently listed as the director of an upcoming remake of The Dambusters, it's very unlikely any studio would agree to finance any film with him in charge after this debacle and his directing career is most likely going to start and end with Engines.
Brian Robbins' films have always alternated between being successes and failures, critically, financially, or both. Some had scathing critical reviews but still did well enough in the box office, such as Good Burger, The Shaggy Dog, and Norbit. The straw that broke the camel's back was the 2012 Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words, which had been shelved for four years and, when it finally did come out, got ridiculously negative reviews and bombed the box office, getting its release in the UK canceled (despite trailers advertising it) and even received a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Since then, Robbins has stuck to his TV movie roots and only producing features. Luckily for him, his extensive background at producing television shows at Nickelodeon during The '90s gave him enough clout to take on the role of CEO at the network in the late 2010s, as well as succeeding Jim Gianopulos as Paramount's chairman and CEO in 2021.
Despite his legendary reputation among sci-fi fandom, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry found his career as a film producer cut short with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, whose legendarily Troubled Production resulted in it just barely breaking even despite earning a then-sizeable $82 million at the box-office. Despite this, he still had just enough clout with Paramount that they were willing to let him produce another film subject to him accepting strict budgetary and creative controls. Unfortunately, Roddenberry (likely spurred on by his infamous lawyer, Leonard Maizlish) overplayed his hand and refused Paramount's conditions, thinking his status among Star Trek fandom would render him bulletproof, only for Paramount to call his bluff and kick him upstairs for the remainder of the film series. The only other thing he worked on at all prior to his death in 1991 was Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even there he had to give up showrunning duties midway through the first season.
South African director Darrell Roodt, while never directing anything that was a particularly big hit financially, nonetheless had several well-regarded indie flicks under his belt, including The Stick, Cry, The Beloved Country, and Yesterday, the latter of which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. However, in the same year that he directed Yesterday, he also directed the critically-excoriated Dracula 3000. Since then, Roodt's credits have been limited to TV shows and No Budget horror films, with his only comparatively successful work since then being a Winnie Mandela biopic that at least got So Okay, It's Average reviews.
Paul Rudnick had a promising film career as a writer with hits like Addams Family Values and In & Out. That ended thanks to the downright horrid critical and commercial performance of Marci X, along with the following year's almost-as-poorly reviewed and barely profitable The Stepford Wivesremake. While he's maintained a prolific career as a playwright, and also supposedly stayed fairly active as an uncredited script doctor, he hasn't had an actual credit on a theatrically-released movie since The Stepford Wives.
Michael Sarne's big career as a film director began and ended with the disastrous Myra Breckinridge. Directing such a terrible film would likely have put a quick end to anyone's career, but his alleged deliberately turning the film into an absurd, incomprehensible mess as a way of getting back at the studio for not giving him enough of a say in casting certainly helped ensure it.
Critically speaking, Daddy Day Camp convinced Fred Savage and everyone else that his behind-the-camera techniques on television didn't belong in film. (Although it could be worse — Savage's career as a TV director hasn't missed a beat.)
The career of director Franklin J. Schaffner, which included the likes of Planet of the Apes (1968) and Patton, was torpedoed by the massive critical and commercial failure of the Luciano Pavarotti vehicle Yes, Giorgio. His next film, Lionheart ended up sitting on The Shelf of Movie Languishment for two years and failed to get a theatrical release in the US, and his final film, Welcome Home, wasn't released until after Schaffner's death in 1989.
John Schultz started off his career directing the independent film Bandwagon. Then he directed the Melissa Joan Hart vehicle Drive Me Crazy, which barely made its money back. However, he followed it up with Like Mike, which was a modest success. Yet he then followed it up with a film adaptation of The Honeymooners and Aliens in the Attic, which both bombed at the box office. Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer ended up being the final straw, as after that movie bombed, he didn't direct another movie for four years and is now slated to be directing a TV movie version of Adventures in Babysitting.
Joel Schumacher was a constant presence in the film industry since he began his career in 1970. While Batman & Robin did have a toxic reputation, flopped at the box office, and killed the franchise for eight years, Schumacher's career was unaffected. After the failure of The Number 23, however, Schumacher would direct only four more films before retiring in 2017.
Unlike many other action stars, Steven Seagal had an anomalous career of appearing in hits right from the start (compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, who had several bad films under his belt before he starred as the Terminator). Following the success of Under Siege, his ego got the better of him and he demanded that Warner Bros. finance his pet project On Deadly Ground, an environmental action pic in which he was the star and director. Its critical and financial failure ended his directorial career, and his acting career took a tremendous hit with it. Since then, his films made less and less money until he had a brief resurrection with Exit Wounds. An attempt to follow up on that success with Half Past Dead effectively killed his career as an A-list leading man.
Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg never worked on a movie that had good reviews but movies like Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Meet the Spartans, did well enough to keep them working in Hollywood despite scathing reviews from both critics and audiences. But then the backlash towards their work caused Disaster Movie to flop. Their next effort, Vampires Suck, didn't completely flop but was a box office disappointment. It seems the latter has been the movie that killed their career as their next three movies, The Starving Games, Best Night Ever and Superfast!, only received limited theatrical releases and went into near-obscurity afterward.
Dean Semler followed in the footsteps of many cinematographers by making the move into directing. His first effort was Firestorm, a forgettable action flick that got middling reviews and did little business at the box-office, but proved profitable overall thanks to its low budget and decent VHS rentals. His next film, however, was the Steven Seagal vehicle The Patriot (no relation to the Mel Gibson film of the same name), which was heavily derided by critics and failed to get a theatrical release in the U.S., with Seagal rumored to have wrestled the director's chair away from Semler during the shoot. After that, Semler decided to go back to doing what he knew best and resumed his cinematography career, which is still going strong to this day.
William Shatner had directed a lot of TV episodes during the 80s, and with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, he hoped to follow fellow castmember Leonard Nimoy into a successful directing career. While the film wasn't a complete disaster at the box office, making a little over double its budget, the reviews were a different story, as Shatner's co-writing credit and infamous ego resulted in his work on the film being utterly savaged by critics. Since then, Shatner has only directed live-action adaptations of his novels and self-produced documentaries.
Ron Shelton gained success either writing or directing sports films like Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, and Tin Cup. Then Hollywood Homicide came around, and after the movie bombed with critics and audiences, he quickly dropped off the map. He didn't work on another theatrically-released film in any capacity until 14 years later when he wrote and directed Just Getting Started... which got terrible reviews and was unceremoniously dumped into cinemas the weekend before the release of The Last Jedi, where it finished in tenth place.
M. Night Shyamalan's films had been steadily declining in critical acclaim since The Village, bottoming out with The Last Airbender - which has a 6% on Rotten Tomatoes. What really killed his career as a creator of big-budget blockbusters was his next film, After Earth, on which he was essentially a director-for-hire for the first and only time in his career. It not only got scathing reviews but was a big Box Office Bomb. After that, he switched to making low-budget, independent thrillers, which have been more successful, with The Visit earning decent reviews and a solid $65 million domestic total, and Split being well-reviewed and becoming a breakout box office hit to the tune of nearly $140 million domestic and $278 million worldwide on a $9 million budget, outgrossing even The Conjuring. And while the sequel to Split, Glass, ended up being widely considered a case of Sequelitis, it still made $246 million worldwide on a $20 million budget, and he has at least two more movies planned with Universal in the future, including Old.
Brad Silberling had directed supernatural family films like Casper and A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) which were modest successes. Then he directed Land of the Lost, a film that flopped so bad, that not much has heard of him since, though Silberling's still got a few unannounced films in development.
Andrew Sipes directed 1995's critically-savaged box-office flop Fair Game, and has done nothing in Hollywood since.
Chris Sivertson was an independent film director who got a chance at directing his first mainstream film with I Know Who Killed Me. However, the movie bombed with both critics and moviegoers. Since then, he has gone back to directing independent films. It was also the first and last film written by Jeffrey Hammond.
After enjoying 15 years of Critic-Proof status, the film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks' work collapsed from 2014 to 2016 with the release of The Best Of Me, The Longest Ride and The Choice, the first of which was an outright Box Office Bomb while the others underperformed in spite of their low budgets. Following The Choice (the lowest-grossing Sparks film to date, though its budget was low enough to avoid bomb status), his production office shut down and no further Sparks adaptations have been produced.
Penelope Spheeris, maker of Suburbia, Wayne's World, and the documentary trilogy The Decline of Western Civilization, saw her career as a mainstream director come to a halt in 1998 with the failure of Senseless. Not only did the film receive a critical lashing and fail at the box office, but the Executive Meddling Spheeris faced while making it drove her to abandon Hollywood out of spite. (Her quote: "[W]orking with the Weinsteins was probably the moment where I said to myself, 'How the fuck did I get here? What am I doing?'") Her subsequent work has all been in the indie scene.
Jacques Tati's 1967 film Playtime took three years to film and cost 17 million francs, principally because Tati built a set so huge it was called "Tativille"—streets, buildings, the whole works. Tati went deep into debt to get the film completed. It bombed, and when Tati defaulted on his loans he lost his production company, the rights to his old films, and even his house. He only made one more theatrical film, 1971's Trafic, before he died in 1982.
The little-seen 1988 comedy The Telephone, starring a then-career fledgling Whoopi Goldberg, was a contrasting one-two punch of a chaotic conundrum of clashing visions during development, only for the final release to slip through the box-office cracks without anyone's awareness. The fallout was bad enough to kill off three careers (and arguably contribute to the death of two of those creators). Veteran screenwriter Terry Southern and his friend, singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson, tried using this film to get into filmmaking, only for Nilsson to die a few years after the film's release without ever returning to screenwriting or music, and for Southern to follow him to the grave in 1995 without ever being able to sell another screenplay. Rip Torn, who they brought in to make his directorial debut for this movie, never helmed another film for the rest of his life as well. The film's production company folded, and to top it all off with a bonus of sorts, Goldberg afterwards divorced her then-husband (who she got to replace the film's original cinematographer).
The stories of the production made the rounds within Hollywood, causing Trank to be removed from a Star Wars Anthology film because Simon Kinberg (Fant4stic's producer) was extremely apprehensive about working with Trank again after the experience. (It's worth noting that Kinberg was the person who got Trank involved in with a Star Wars movie in the first place.) There was a notable lack of sympathy from Trank's co-workers after it was announced that he would be "leaving" the Star Wars movie. The movie itself being a critical and commercial failure served to only further dig Trank deeper — especially after a number of Fox employees repeatedly advertised the movie as "Trank's vision" in order to distance themselves from it. The final nail in the coffin came when, just a day before release, he took to Twitter to complain about how Fox botched his vision as a director. While he quickly took the tweet down, the damage was done, Fox was under scrutiny from comic book fans, and he had effectively blacklisted himself from working on a major film production again. It's also telling that despite both Fantastic Four and Fifty Shades of Grey being tied for Worst Picture at that year's Golden Raspberry Awards, it was Trank who was awarded Worst Director. Though some held out hope that Capone, an Al Capone biopic starring Tom Hardy would pave the way for a Career Resurrection, its release being scheduled during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to any such hopes, causing it to be quietly dumped to video-on-demand (though it got mediocre reviews in any event).
Ron Underwood has directed successful and award-winning films such as Tremors and City Slickers. His next film Mighty Joe Young got positive reviews, but was somewhat of a box office disappointment. Unfortunately, after the horrendous failures of The Adventures of Pluto Nash and In the Mix, Underwood has since stayed to directing TV movies.
Kinka Usher was a commercial director who tried to become a film director by directing Mystery Men. However, while it got mixed to positive reviews from critics, it bombed at the box office. Since then, he has stuck to directing commercials.
The Wachowskis secured a solid debut in Bound, and struck it hot with The Matrix. While the sequels to The Matrix were not nearly as well-received, they were still profitable. However, it was 2008's Speed Racer that marked the point where their careers crashed and burned. Their output since then has been one bomb after another, including the failures of Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending. Despite some of the films getting cult followings (as Speed Racer has been Vindicated by History), the Wachowskis actually stated that they'll probably never be able to make another big-budget film again. Yikes. They've gotten a good career in television, however, with Sense8. But then their own personal issues being brought to the forefront, the Troubled Production it became and the show going over budget (it cost 30 million dollars per episode!), it was canceled. Suffice it to say, their careers could very well be dead. All but confirmed with the closing of their studio and having no new projects lined up. Eventually, Lana Wachowski was confirmed to be working onThe Matrix: Resurrections, sans her sister; only time will tell if this manages to revive her career.
Stephen Wallace said the failure of Turtle Beach, partly due to Executive Meddling, killed his directing career.
Despite its lateracclaim as one of the greatest films of all time, Citizen Kane effectively killed Orson Welles' standing in Hollywood. Prior to the film, Welles was a young hotshot director on the rise. He was given full creative control over Kane, a mock biography of media mogul William Randolph Hearst — something that Hearst noticed and was infuriated by, causing him to pour great effort into crushing the film. It failed at the box office, and Welles' subsequent studio films all suffered heavy Executive Meddling thanks to Kane killing his credibility. His next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, went unreleased on DVD for many years due to the heavy butchering it received, and composer Bernard Herrmann also suffered the consequences of Hearst's campaign: he actually went so far as to try to get his credit removed because the studio had dared to edit his score as roughly as they did the film itself. As for Welles himself, The Magnificent Ambersons was the straw that broke the camel's back, and he quit RKO Pictures after finishing that picture. At least he didn't have it as bad with the other studios, both in Hollywood and abroad...
Gene Wilder blames his fall from fame on Haunted Honeymoon, a horror-comedy he co-wrote, directed, and starred in along with his wife, Gilda Radner (in her final film role before dying of ovarian cancer). The film was a disaster to both critics and audiences alike, with much of the complaining going toward co-star Dom DeLuise's Drag Queen performance, which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. Wilder never fully recovered from the flop of this film, and went on to star in See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Funny About Love, and Another You, the latter two of which proved to be the last straw. A comeback attempt on television titled Something Wilder lasted only one season; the last time audiences from anywhere saw him was in two episodes of Will & Grace and one episode of Yo Gabba Gabba!. He spent the rest of his life trying his hand at writing novels before he succumbed to Alzheimer's disease in 2016.
As a cinematographer, Gordon Willis's credits include Klute, The Godfather (all three movies) and numerous Woody Allen movies in the '70s and '80s. His directorial career began and ended with 1980's Windows, a five-Razzie nominee which he admitted was a mistake — and given it's a movie about a lesbian (Elizabeth Ashley) who hires a man to rape the woman she fancies (Talia Shire) thereby putting her off men so she can swoop in... let's just say the Unfortunate Implications alone were enough to submarine both the movie and Willis' career.
After making Equilibrium in 2002, Kurt Wimmer was hyped up as the next great action director for his signature Gun Kata fight and shootout scenes. Then came his 2006 follow-up Ultraviolet and the Executive Meddling he experienced. He and star Milla Jovovich both said that they were not allowed any input on post-production and editing, and that his disappointment with the final product caused him to not direct another film for fifteen years. He continued to find work as a screenwriter, however.
Michael Winner never directed another film after the mega-flop that was Parting Shots. It was also the first and only time English singer Chris Rea ever acted in a major motion picture.
Alex Winter was an up-and-coming talent after co-starring in the Bill & Ted films and co-creating the influential sketch comedy show The Idiot Box on MTV. He parlayed his success into co-writing, co-directing and starring in the 1993 madcap black comedy film Freaked. During filming, there was a regime change at Fox, and the new studio head hated the film. In spite of its $13 million budget, it got dumped into only two theaters and earned less than $30,000, making it a financial disaster. Until the third Bill and Ted film began shooting in 2019, Winter has been a virtual nonentity in Hollywood, relegated to minor directing work, mostly for TV.
The critical and commercial disappointment of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, not to mention its Troubled Production that plagued it, didn't do Oscar-winning director Robert Wise any favors; it took him a decade to direct another film, and it turned out to be Rooftops, a film that did so poorly that Wise never directed a feature film again. He did direct one made-for-TV movie before his death in 2005.
John Woo attempted to reconstruct his reputation, tarnished by the divisive reception of Mission: Impossible II, with the Ben Affleck film Paycheck. It instead received negative reviews, failed domestically at the box office, and helped Affleck make his chance of winning the Razzie Award for Worst Actor certain (thanks to two other films, Gigli and Daredevil, in which his performances were savagely criticized). After Paycheck failed, Woo declared he would never work in Hollywood again. It should be noted that his loss of faith in Hollywood started just a decade before, during post-production of Hard Target. There were several allegations and accounts (one of them here) that Woo was locked out from the editing room by star Jean-Claude Van Damme by order of the Universal executives after both Van Damme and the executives were skeptical toward Woo's cut of the film, and decided to take things to their own hands. Some have also claimed the same thing happened between star Tom Cruise and Woo during post-production of Mission Impossible II as well.
The war film disaster that was Inchon killed the respected career of screenwriter and director Terence Young, known for directing three of the first four James Bond movies, excluding Goldfinger. Aside from a couple more films in his home country, he never directed a film that received an international release again.
Acclaimed comedy screenwriter David Zucker had his career take a screeching halt with An American Carol, a political satire film that was criticized for its lame jokes and failed at the box office. He tried to make a comeback with Scary Movie 5, but it ended up being a critical bomb instead.
Joel Zwick started off directing hit TV shows like Full House and Webster. In 2002, he directed the smash romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding. His next film Fat Albert got negative reviews and although it didn't really bomb that much, it was still a bit of a box office disappointment. Except for the direct-to-video Elvis Has Left the Building, Zwick has since gone back to the small screen.