Back to IndieWire

The Top Grossing Directorial Debuts of All-Time

The Top Grossing Directorial Debuts of All-Time

indieWIRE has a new weekend feature: A retrospective box office chart, based on one of the top indie titles opening this weekend. Today, we’re taking a look at the track record of directorial debuts, in honor of a trio of opening films: Rashaad Ernesto Green’s “Gun Hill Road,” Larysa Kondracki’s “The Whistleblower,” and Evan Glodell’s “Bellflower.”

Listed below are the top 10 grossing live-action directorial debuts of all time, without adjusting for inflation. Clearly, the three noted indie openers don’t have the $100 million+ ambitions of the 10 films listed, but it remains an interesting exercise to see the rather bizarrely eclectic mix of films that ended up making the list.

Thirty-three years after its release, “Grease” – the directorial debut of Randal Kleiser (who knew?) – remains the top grossing directorial debut of all time, whether one adjusts for inflation or not. Kleiser – who had previously directed TV Movies “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” (1976), ‘The Gathering” (1977) and “Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway” (1976) – went on to direct numerous other feature films after “Grease,” including “The Blue Lagoon,” “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid” and “It’s My Party.”

Beyond “Grease,” the list includes everything from Oscar winners like Kevin Costner’s “Dances With Wolves” and Rob Marshall’s “Chicago” (he has some previous TV director credits) two “Santa Clause” movies, and Phyllida Lloyd’s “Mamma Mia!” (one of three musicals that made the cut).

More recent entries include Michael Patrick King’s “Sex and the City” movie, and last December’s “TRON: Legacy,” which was directed by Joseph Kosinski. Kosinski’s previous work has primarily been with CGI related television commercials including the “Starry Night” commercial for “Halo 3,” and the award-winning “Mad World” commercial for “Gears of War.”

Here’s the overall top ten; figures are for North America only and not adjusted for inflation. Animated films were not included due to their tendency to have multiple directors and the fact that they would have dominated the list. If you notice any oversights, do let us know.

1. Grease (Randal Kleiser, 1978) – $188,389,888
2. Dances With Wolves (Kevin Costner, 1990) – $184,208,848
3. Crocodile Dundee (Peter Faiman, 1986) – $174,803,506
4. TRON: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski, 2010) – $172,062,763
5. Chicago (Rob Marshall, 2002) – $170,687,518
6. Sex and the City (Michael Patrick King, 2008) – $152,647,258
7. The Santa Clause (John Pasquin, 1994) – $144,833,357
8. Mamma Mia! (Phyllida Lloyd, 2008) – $144,130,063
9. The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999) – $140,539,099
10. The Santa Clause 2 (Michael Lembeck, 2002) – $139,236,327

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: News and tagged

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox