Ranking 10 Most Prolific Actor-Director Duos Of All Time

A muse is only as good as his.

Robert De Niro Martin Scorsese Raging Bull
United Artists

Making a movie is the ultimate team endeavor. Even the best in the business have to rely on more than just their individual wits and expertise to get something worthwhile up on the screen. Because although it might only takes one person to ruin a movie, it takes a collective effort to make it great.

That's why it's no guarantee that a film created by someone with a sparkling track record will be a success. It's also why so many directors like to work with the same actors over and over. They know, no matter what else happens, at least they can count on that familiarity.

Of course, actors appreciate that closeness, too, because they know exactly what the director wants from them. It's just more comfortable for everyone involved.

Those types of relationships often produce excellent results, partly because their mutual appreciation and respect allows them to take risks without all the nauseating "what ifs" clouding their judgment, and partly because you don't choose to work together repeatedly unless you like how everything turned out.

These actor/director partnerships brought out the absolute best in each other.

10. Ethan Hawke & Richard Linklater

Robert De Niro Martin Scorsese Raging Bull
Columbia Pictures

Collaborations: Before Sunrise, The Newton Boys, Tape, Waking Life, Before Sunset, Fast Food Nation, Before Midnight, Boyhood

The professional relationship between Hawke and Linklater is unlike any others on this list. Their movies -- experimental Sundance fodder at its best -- feel more like a string of well-choreographed meet-ups between college friends than an actual filmography. There's a looseness to their collaborations that never looks messy. It just feels natural. And right.

Along with Julie Deply, Hawke and Linklater embraced their reckless romantic sides with the "Before" series, a trio of films that have perfectly signposted the duo's unpredictable careers.

When Hawke appeared in Before Sunrise, he was a semi-recognizeable quantity known for his roles in Dead Poets Society and Reality Bites. When he finished Before Midnight, he'd become a mega-star, undergone several career makeovers, and endured large spates of irrelevance.

But whenever he's come back to Linklater -- whether in an intense psychodrama like Tape, or in an overtly political ensemble drama like Fast Food Nation -- things have, at the very least, gotten interesting again. As their most recent liaison, Boyhood, proves, you'll never get a throwaway movie when Hawke and Linklater are involved.


Jacob is a part-time contributor for WhatCulture, specializing in music, movies, and really, really dumb humor.