With Friday’s release of Dark Shadows, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton team up for their eighth project together, making them one of film’s most prolific pairs.
That got us wondering: What other star-director combos can’t seem to get enough of each other? What other actors do directors turn to time and again when they’re rolling out new movies?
The results were bountiful, so we decided to make the cutoff five films. That left out a number of formidable teams, including Denzel Washington and Tony Scott (who’ve teamed together on four movies), Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar (also four films) and a handful of other great screen pairs. Keep going, guys! Poptropolis will recognize you someday!
With that, here’s a look at some of the top star-director combos in Hollywood. Surely we’ve missed some, so feel free to drop them in the comments.
Team: Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott
Number of collaborations: 5 (Gladiator, A Good Year, American Gangster, Body of Lies, Robin Hood)
Trademark: After partnering on Gladiator, this pair kicked off a serious bromance. They liked making movies together so much that they even made A Good Year, which honestly just seemed like an excuse for them to go hang out in France together for a summer.
Box office clout: Powerful. Three of their films — Gladiator, American Gangster and Robin Hood — grossed more than $100 million.
Best of the bunch: Gladiator, which won five Oscars, including Best Actor for Crowe and Best Picture. (But if the Academy knew it would lead to A Good Year, would they have taken the Best Picture Oscar back?)
Team: Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson
Number of collaborations: 5 (Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox)
Trademark: Owen Wilson was there with Wes Anderson in the beginning, with 1996′s Bottle Rocket, and he remains a constant in his films. If Bill Murray represents Anderson’s older side, Wilson is closer to his true self.
Box office clout: Middling, though Anderson’s films enjoy a cult status on DVD.
Best of the bunch: Bottle Rocket perfectly captures Wilson’s Texas boy charm, but his role as Eli Cash in Tenenbaums is Wilson at his heartbreaking best.
Team: Jack Nance and David Lynch
Number of collaborations: 5 (Eraserhead, Dune, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway)
Trademark: Nance, who starred in Lynch’s Eraserhead, went on to become a staple of Lynch’s weirdo nightmare visions. Sadly, Nance passed away in 1996 at age 53.
Box office clout: If you tried to talk box office figures with Lynch he’d probably blow smoke in your face.
Best of the bunch: Eraserhead: Quintessential Lynch, quintessential Nance.
Team: Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese
Number of collaborations: 5 (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013))
Trademark: Scorsese found his new DeNiro — and possibly the fountain of youth — in DiCaprio, and their string of films together extends to next year’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Box office clout: Big. DiCaprio helped turn The Aviator and Shutter Island into unlikely $100 million grossers.
Best of the bunch: DiCaprio does some of his best-ever work in the underappreciated Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator.
Team: Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino
Number of collaborations: 5 (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained)
Trademark: Samuel L. Jackson was a character actor before Tarantino gave him big screen immortality in Pulp Fiction. Jackson is now the biggest box office star in history — thanks to roles in The Avengers franchise and the Star Wars prequels — and he can thank Tarantino for that. (And he has, by doing bit roles in Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Inglorious Basterds.)
Box office clout: Tarantino doesn’t make blockbusters, but both Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds — the latter of which was narrated partially by Jackson — both crossed the $100 million mark.
Best of the bunch: Pulp Fiction. But who would have ever guessed that Jackson’s wallet — the one that says Bad MFer on it — would now be so thick?
Team: Chow Yun-Fat and John Woo
Number of collaborations: 5 (A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow 2, The Killer, Once a Thief, Hard Boiled)
Trademark: Chow Yun-Fat was the (super cool) face of Woo’s violent “bullet ballets,” the over-the-top action extravaganzas which paved the way for Woo to come to Hollywood and make a whole bunch of slick action shlock. Yun-Fat eventually came to Hollywood too, but the two have drifted apart, and haven’t teamed up since 1992′s Hard Boiled.
Box office clout: Their collaborations did well at the Hong Kong box office, and earned cult status in the U.S..
Best of the bunch: It’s a toss-up between The Killer and Hard Boiled. Hard Boiled’s action sequences are crazier, but The Killer — which deals with themes of honor and loyalty on both sides of the law — is a better-told story.
Team: Matt Damon and Steven Soderbergh
Number of collaborations: 5 (Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen, The Informant!, Contagion)
Trademark: Damon came on to Team Soderbergh for the Oceans films, and he hung around as a lying liar in The Informant! and as husband to a disease-carrying Gwyneth Paltrow in Contagion (which did not have an exclamation point in its title, but could have used one).
Box office clout: The Ocean’s films, which Damon’s star wattage helped bolster, did gangbusters; Contagion — sort of the Ocean’s Eleven of disease films — brought in a robust $75 million.
Best of the bunch: The Informant!, the one true Damon star vehicle of the bunch, kept running circles around itself until viewers stopped caring. You’re better off with Ocean’s Eleven, which still works as plain old fun.
Team: John Goodman and the Coen Brothers
Number of collaborations: 5 (Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?)
Trademark: John Goodman was once a staple of the Coen Brothers’ films, playing larger than life figures in some of their best-loved movies.
Box office clout: Miniscule. Coen Brothers movies didn’t start making big bucks until recent years, and Goodman hasn’t worked with them in a decade. (They’re overdue for a reunion.)
Best of the bunch: The Big Lebowski, for which Goodman’s hot-headed Vietnam vet deserves a retroactive Oscar.
Team: Diane Keaton and Woody Allen
Number of collaborations: 6 (Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Radio Days, Manhattan Murder Mystery)
Trademark: Woody Allen finds an actress he likes and sticks with her — see also Mia Farrow (13 films with Allen) and Scarlett Johansson (3) — and for a run of films in the 70s and 80s, his go-to (and his equal) was Diane Keaton.
Box office clout: Not much to speak of; Woody Allen films have never made much cash at the box office.
Best of the bunch: Annie Hall, which nabbed writing and directing Oscars for Allen, a Best Actress trophy for Keaton and the Oscar for Best Picture. Not bad at all.
Team: Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater
Number of collaborations: 6 (Before Sunrise, The Newton Boys, Waking Life, Tape, Before Sunset, Fast Food Nation)
Trademark: Hawke gives voice to Linklater’s talky Gen-X characters, and no other director uses Hawke as effectively.
Box office clout: Linklater’s films don’t make much money, and even the ones that do — School of Rock made $80 million — don’t use Hawke. These two deserve a hit together!
Best of the bunch: Sunrise and Sunset, the pair of films that star Hawke and Julie Delpy and perfectly bookend one another.
Team: Bill Murray and Wes Anderson
Number of collaborations: 6 (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom)
Trademark: Anderson gets Bill Murray, and uses the lines in his face to express the wear on a life spent snarking.
Box office clout: Anderson’s films only post so-so returns; their collabs were topped by Tenenbaum’s $50 million gross.
Best of the bunch: Rushmore, which in 1998 kicked off Murray’s second act.
Team: George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh
Number of collaborations: 6 (Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, Solaris, Ocean’s Twelve, The Good German, Ocean’s Thirteen)
Trademark: Soderberg brought the actor out of Clooney — he got him to stop doing that thing where he talked with his chin tucked into his neck — and immortalized his suaveness in the easygoing Oceans films.
Box office clout: Big when they go big — the Oceans films each pulled down more than $100 million — and small when they don’t (The Good German barely ticked past the $1 million mark).
Best of the bunch: Out of Sight, which has been on HBO a lot lately, and which holds up extremely well. You should watch it again.
Team: Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton
Number of collaborations: 7 (Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows)
Trademark: Bonham Carter replaced Lisa Marie as Burton’s muse, both on-screen and in his private life.
Box office clout: Strong. Bonham Carter has been present in Burton’s biggest hits with Johnny Depp.
Best of the bunch: Burton’s quality control started to slip right around the time he started making movies with Bonham Carter, but let’s just say our hopes are high for Dark Shadows.
Team: Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese
Number of collaborations: 7 (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, New York New York, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino)
Trademark: Scorsese cast DeNiro in several of his most iconic roles, including three Oscar-nominated performances (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Cape Fear) and one Oscar winner (Raging Bull). Their partnership is one of the most storied in film history.
Box office clout: Cape Fear, their top-grossing collaboration, took in $79 million.
Best of the bunch: Deciding between Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas is impossible, but for argument’s sake, let’s jsut say Goodfellas takes the cake. Or Raging Bull. Just kidding, it’s totally Taxi Driver. Or maybe…
Team: Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi
Number of collaborations: 7 (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, The Quick and the Dead, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3)
Trademark: Raimi cast his Michigan pal Campbell as the star in his early-career no-budget horror films, and though he couldn’t cast him as the lead in his Spider-Man movies, he kept him around in fan-favorite cameo roles.
Box office clout: The combined gross of the Evil Dead trilogy couldn’t pay for the CG effects for one of Spider-Man’s webs. But who’s counting?
Best of the bunch: Evil Dead II, which is pure insanity start to finish.
Team: Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith
Number of collaborations: 7 (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks II, Zack and Miri Make a Porno)
Trademark: Jay and Silent Bob are the conscience of Smith’s universe, if there is a conscience in Smith’s universe.
Box office clout: Kevin Smith famously can’t crack the $40 million mark at the box office, but his films have a strong following on DVD.
Best of the bunch: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back requires Mewes to do a lot of heavy lifting, and he’s surprisingly up to the task.
Team: Antonio Banderas and Robert Rodriguez
Number of collaborations: 7 (Desperado, Four Rooms, Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids 3, Spy Kids 4)
Trademark: Rodriguez is known for keeping a close-knit crew — he’s worked with Danny Trejo eight times and with Salma Hayek and Cheech Marin seven times each — but he’s made Banderas his leading man the most, and given him some of his coolest roles.
Box office clout: The Spy Kids movies were big earners, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico pulled in a decent $56 million.
Best of the bunch: Desperado, which didn’t live up to its potential but did have a handful of excellent action sequences.
Team: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton
Number of collaborations: 8 (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows)
Trademark: Depp and Burton specialize in sympathetic portrayals of outsiders and/or weirdos with pasty skin.
Box office clout: Mighty. Alice in Wonderland earned $334.1 million and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory took in $206.4 million.
Best of the bunch: The little-seen but highly respected Ed Wood was the last truly great Tim Burton film.
Team: Stephen Rea and Neil Jordan
Number of collaborations: 10 (Angel, The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game, Interview With the Vampire, Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, In Dreams, The End of the Affair, Breakfast on Pluto, Ondine)
Trademark: The two Irishmen clearly have each other’s back, and Rea has appeared in more than half of Jordan’s films in a variety of roles. Clearly the two just enjoy each other’s company.
Box office clout: None to speak of, unless you want to ignore that Cruise guy and that Pitt fella and credit Rea with the success of Interview With the Vampire.
Best of the bunch: The Crying Game, which gave Hollywood one of the most famous twist endings in history.
Team: Clint Eastwood and Clint Eastwood
Number of collaborations: 23 (Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter, Breezy, The Eiger Sanction, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Gauntlet, Bronco Billy, Firefox, Honkytonk Man, Sudden Impact, Pale Rider, Heartbreak Ridge, White Hunter Black Heart, The Rookie, Unforgiven, A Perfect World, The Bridges of Madison County, Absolute Power, True Crime, Space Cowboys, Blood Work, Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino)
Trademark: Eastwood the director really captures the essence of Eastwood the actor, right down to his gritty, grizzled American core. Perhaps only Woody Allen has cast himself in more films.
Box office clout: Powerful — Eastwood has directed himself in three $100 million hits (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino).
Best of the bunch: Space Cowboys! Definitely Space Cowboys. So many classic lines in Space Cowboys!