Great Films Written By Directors?

Richard Brooks is a great example of a writer turned director. John Huston, too… John Cassavetes wrote a handful of his movies, “A Woman Under The Influence”

Not sure if this quite fits: James L Brooks is primarily a writer, but has directed some memorable films (some of my favorites):
Broadcast News
As Good As It Gets
Terms of Endearment

John Sayles, of course. Stanley Kubrick co-wrote many of his films. John Huston has almost as many writer credits as director credits, including The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo.
Of course, the fact that there are lots of talented writer-directors doesn’t mean that it’s a rule. A lot of directors have written incredibly bad scripts, but are great at directing.

James Cameron wrote the screenplays for two films he DIDN’T direct – Piranha II and Rambo: First Blood Part II, but I don’t think most people would list them as “Great” films (YMMV). Still, it’s pretty good if you’re primarily a director, but still write screenplays that someone else directs.

Weren’t most of Kubrick’s co-credits adaptations?

I think you’ll find some big ones from early careers and a bunch of independents.

Chasing Amy - Kevin Smith
Star Wars - George Lucas
Ex Machina - Alex Garland
The Sixth Sense - M. Night Shyamalan

There’s a lot more if you allow the director a co-writing credit and not a solo credit.

Seven Samurai - Akira Kurosawa
Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino

Charlie Chaplin (City Lights et al.)
Orson Welles (Citizen Kane et al.)
Preston Sturges (Miracle of Morgan’s Creek et al.)
Woody Allen (Annie Hall et al.)
Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles et al.)
Ingmar Bergman (Persona, Smiles of a Summer Night et al.)
Luis Bunuel (El et al.)
Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot et al., though he usually collaborated)

Would the Coen Brothers count? I was thinking one usually got the writing credit and the other got the director credit, but that both were collaborative efforts.

Alfred Hitchcock can’t be overlooked. True, though he wrote 16 movies and plays, none of them are the ones he is famous for like, “Psycho”. However, there is one that I think qualifies as “great”, and that is, “Notorious”.

In 2006, Notorious was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Heck, most of the films were adaptations, but what’s your point? In all the cases, Kubrick co-wrote with another screenwriter (or, as in Dr. Strangelove, more than one). It’s not as if the co-written screenplay was Kubrick writing the screenplay by himself of someone else’s work.

Both Joel and Ethan Coen have dozens of writing and directing credits, mostly on their own movies but also on others. Before 2003 I believe rules required only one person to be listed as director, so Joel took the director credit and Ethan the producer. Since then they seem to share credit for both. (On IMDB, on movies before 2003 Ethan is listed as a director but “uncredited,” while the same goes fo Joel as producer.) On their movies based on an original story, they usually share writing, directing, and producing credits.

Well, Hitch rarely took writing credit and usually directed the writer to write what he wanted. Many directors of his era did the same thing – told the writer what they wanted, added some dialog, dropped scenes – and didn’t take credit. Filmmaking is always collaborative, but it’s different from actually writing or co-writing the script.

Orson Welles wrote The Magnificent Ambersons and a Touch of Evil among others, although a lot of his work was either adaptations or collaborations.

Preston Sturges might even be a better example. He was knowns as a writer and essentially gave Paramount the screenplay for The Great McGinty in exchange for a chance to direct it. He won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, and followed that up with Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, both of which earned him Oscar nominations in the same year.

There are directors who make a movie from scratch, writing everything themselves without taking a best-seller and re-wording it for a movie.

I just had a thought – were you suggesting that, if it’s an adaptation, that it’s not really as if the director wrote it, because the story and characters are already there, and the author even wrote a bunch of dialogue? Because if so, it’s not much of an argument. One might even argue that it’s harder to adapt a good book into a good film. If you want proof, look at the first movie version of the Maltese Falcon, and compare it with Huston’s version. (Don’t even think about the second version – there’s no comparison there.)

Adaptation is difficult, and it’s hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Lana and Lilly Wachowski (formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers) co-wrote and co-directed The Matrix. They’ve held both roles on a number of other films, as well, but I think that The Matrix is probably the one which could be argued to be a great (or, at least, a really good) film.

Why not Wachovski sisters now?

Apparently, they now simply go by “The Wachowskis” as a collective term for their team.