Best Director/ Actor Pairings

This is inspired by a Watch Mojo list that I had a strong reaction too.

My thoughts on the choices.

10. Wes Anderson/ Bill Murray- They’ve made some good movies together, but not enough to justify inclusion.

9. John Wayne/ John Ford- Their pairing is way too low. Stagecoach and The Searchers are considered two of the best movies ever. The Quiet Man won Ford a Oscar. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is also pretty damn iconic. And they made ten other movies together.

8. Elia Kazan/ Marlon Brando- The double punch of A Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront probably justifies the position on a top ten, although they only made one other movie together, so it’s not as prolific as many of the other pairings.

7. Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski- They had interesting collaborations in different genres. Aguierre: Wrath of God and Nosferatu are my favorites.

6. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder- They did make three of the funniest movies ever.

5. Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune- They made some great movies together in a variety of strong roles.

4. Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart- I have no problem with the duo behind Rear Window and Vertigo rating so high. Rope and the Doris Day remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much were also pretty good.

Tarantino Jackson

3. Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L Jackson- This pairing is way too high on the list. It’s primarily for three supporting roles, even if Samuel L Jackson were really good in all three films. The list came out before The Hateful Eight, although that’s still not enough to make them a better duo than Hitchcock/ Stewart.

2. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp- I like their movies, but there’s nothing on the level of the best of Wayne/ Ford, Kazan/ Brando, Herzog/ Kinski, Kurosawa/ Mifune or Hitchcock/ Stewart. I’m not even sure I’d rate them higher than Tarantino and Uma Thurman’s partnership.

And #1: Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro – Fair Enough

I get the idea that there have been numerous great collaborations, so there are a lot of options for a list like this, where John Wayne (or Cary Grant) and Howard Hawk might not even make the honorable mentions. Joe Pesci delivered great performances in three Scorcese/ De Niro films. And then there’s Scorcese/ De Caprio. David O Russell really likes spending time with Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro. Phillip Seymour Hoffman had made memorable supporting appearances in three Paul Thomas Anderson films before his Oscar nomination in The Master.

Honorable mentions in the video were David Fincher and Brad Pitt (Fight Club, Seven, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood (The Man With No Name trilogy), and David Lean/ Alec Guiness.

But they completely neglected the following…

Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra: Stewart’s most memorable performances were with Capra, with the immortal Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life, one of my ten favorite films. And then there’s You Can’t Take It With You, which won Best Picture.

Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant: For the combination of Notorious, North by Northwest and To Catch a Thief.

John Huston and Humphrey Bogart: The Maltese Falcon turned Bogie into a star. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre keeps popping up on best of lists. The African Queen got Bogie an Oscar, and one of his most iconic later roles.

Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder: If you’ve got The Apartment and Some Like It Hot, it doesn’t matter if other collaborations like The Fortune Cookie don’t quite reach that level.

KEaton Allen

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton: Collaborated together on Sleeper, Manhattan, Annie Hall and others.

George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn: Cukor fought to have Hepburn, who is arguably the best film actress ever in her screen debur A Bill of Divorcement. Later collaborations included Little Women (nominated for Best Picture and Best Director), and Holiday. When Hepburn was considered box office poison, Cukor fought to have her in The Philadelphia Story, which revived her reputation. They later worked together on Adam’s Rib, the best reviewed of the Spencer/ Tracy films.

My personal ranking. I’m only using numbers for the original top ten…

10: Wes Anderson and Bill Murray

9: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp

Paul Thomas Anderson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

8: Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L Jackson

Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart

Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

7: Elia Kazan and Marlon Brando

Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant

6: Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder

5: Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski

George Cukor and Katherine Hepburn

John Huston and Humprey Bogart

Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder

4: Akira Kurosawa and  Toshiro Mifune

3: Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart

2: John Wayne and John Ford

1: Martin Scorcese and Robert De Niro

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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