As the creatives responsible for determining the style, tone, and progression of a movie, directors tend to develop noticeable little trademarks which prove to be consistent throughout their careers, making their work easily identifiable to the masses. However, it is not uncommon for movies to emulate a specific director’s style to appeal to audiences, leading many to believe that said filmmaker was behind the picture in question when that simply was not the case.
In many of these cases, such as viewers thinking Steven Spielberg had directed The Goonies, the filmmaker was actively involved in the production and/or creation of the movie, while other examples see the wrongly attributed director having no involvement with the picture whatsoever. No matter the cause, these films exist within a rare company of movies which have been incorrectly attributed to filmmakers who did not direct them.
10 ‘Rocky’ (1976)
Directed by John G. Avildsen not Sylvester Stallone
A rousing sports drama which is among the most iconic movies ever made, Rocky proved to be a pivotal turning point in the context of Sylvester Stallone‘s career in Hollywood. In addition to portraying the plucky protagonist who gets an unlikely shot at the boxing heavyweight title, Stallone also wrote the screenplay and would receive Oscar nominations for both of his contributions to the film; just two of 10 nominations Rocky earned in total, with it eventually going on to win three.
Given how synonymous Stallone is with the franchise, and the fact that Stallone directed four of the ensuing five Rocky movies, there are understandably many who assume that he directed the first film as well. However, it was John G. Avildsen who directed the Best Picture winner, and he did go on to win Best Director at the Academy Awards for his efforts as well, and eventually returned to the franchise to helm the much-maligned Rocky V in 1990.
- Release Date
- November 21, 1976
9 ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ (1996)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez not Quentin Tarantino
Ultra-violent with an array of twisted characters and quite clearly inspired by schlock horror movies of yesteryear, From Dusk Till Dawn boasts many trademarks consistent within Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. Additionally, the film also features Tarantino in a co-starring role, appearing as one of two criminal brothers who take a vacationing family hostage and use their RV to flee to Mexico where they wind up in a strip club which proves to be a den for bloodthirsty vampires.
Furthermore, Tarantino wrote the film’s screenplay, something which naturally led many viewers to presume he directed the movie as well. However, it was actually helmed by Robert Rogriguez, a good friend and frequent collaborator of Tarantino. The duo would work together again in 2007 with Grindhouse, with Rodriguez making Planet Terror while Tarantino directed Death Proof.
From Dusk Till Dawn
- Release Date
- January 19, 1996
8 ‘Battleship’ (2012)
Directed by Peter Berg not Michael Bay
Set during a series of ceremonial Navy war games, Battleship follows an international fleet of ships as they are forced to band together to fight off an extra-terrestrial armada with ambitions to destroy Earth. With its impressive visual effects which realized the mechanical alien vessels quite well and a comedic ability to not take itself too seriously, the action flick drew comparisons to the Transformers movies, leading many to believe Michael Bay had been involved in the making of the movie.
Not only did Bay not direct the movie, however, he also had no involvement with it in any capacity. Peter Berg served as the film’s director, which was intended to see him transition into action blockbuster entertainment after films such as The Kingdom, The Losers, and Friday Night Lights. Berg has remained active in the years following Battleship, directing five movies since, including Patriots’ Day and Deepwater Horizon.
- Release Date
- April 11, 2012
7 ‘Nobody’ (2021)
Directed by Ilya Naishuller not David Leitch
Ever since John Wick became a surprise sensation in 2014, the resurgence of ultra-violent, hyper-stylized action films has continued to grow and evolve. Central to the subgenre’s drastic expansion has been Hollywood stuntman-turned-director David Leitch who, in addition to making his directorial debut with his uncredited work on John Wick, has also served as the director on such films as Bullet Train, Atomic Blonde, and Fast & Furious Presented: Hobbs & Shaw.
With its visually striking display and a sharp comedic inflection added to many of the astonishing action sequences, many pundits came to the conclusion that Nobody was another impressive and highly entertaining action film in Leitch’s directorial career. However, while Leitch did serve as the producer of the film, it was Ilya Naishuller who occupied the role, making a fantastically ridiculous spectacle defined by Bob Odenkirk‘s unconventional though compelling outing as an action hero. Naishuller also directed Hardcore Henry in 2015.
- Release Date
- March 18, 2021
6 ‘V For Vendetta’ (2005)
Directed by James McTeigue not the Wachowskis
A bold and ambitious superhero movie based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name, V For Vendetta famously follows a dangerous vigilante who plots to inspire resistance against the tyrannical English government in a dystopian future landscape. Given their involvement in the film as producers and screenwriters, and the strong stylistic choices the film employs, many assumed that the film was directed by the Wachowskis.
However, the movie was actually directed by Australian film and television director James McTeigue. While the 2005 action film served as McTeigue’s directorial debut, he had been heavily involved in many major Hollywood pictures before as an assistant director, including on The Matrix films where he first met the Wachowskis. McTeigue would later direct for the Wachowskis again when he took the helm for five episodes of their hit Netflix series Sense8 across the shows’ two seasons.
V For Vendetta
- Release Date
- February 23, 2006
5 ‘Poltergeist’ (1982)
Directed by Tobe Hooper not Steven Spielberg
Poltergeist may well be an example where, despite many fans being technically wrong in their belief that Steven Spielberg directed the film, they are actually correct. The famous 80s horror film was officially directed by Tobe Hooper, but Spielberg served as a producer on the film, which led to many making claims that he was actually the creative behind the lens, a fun conspiracy which The Independent revealed may have been true back in 2017.
The 1982 horror movie follows a family who, upon moving into their dream home, are horrified to learn it is haunted by evil spirits who develop an attachment to their young daughter. Hooper went on to enjoy a career defined by cult classic horror movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and a range of so-bad-its-good horror flicks through the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.
- Release Date
- June 4, 1982
- Craig T. Nelson , JoBeth Williams , Beatrice Straight , Dominique Dunne , Oliver Robins , Heather O’Rourke
4 ‘The Goonies’ (1985)
Directed by Richard Donner not Steven Spielberg
Another film which many believe to be part of Steven Spielberg’s immaculate filmography, The Goonies is an adventure classic which coasts by on its lovable characters and its comedic instincts. Directed by Richard Donner, the iconic film follows a group of misfits from a soon-to-be demolished neighborhood who discover an old map and set out to find a lost stash of pirate treasure.
The basic story of the film was actually conceived by Spielberg, and produced by his production company, Amblin Entertainment, with Christopher Columbus penning the screenplay. Initially starting as a television director, Donner made his cinematic breakthrough with The Omen before working on 1978’s Superman. Following The Goonies, he directed the Lethal Weapon films and the Christmas comedy Scrooged among many other movies.
- Release Date
- June 7, 1985
- 114 minutes
3 ‘Charade’ (1963)
Directed by Stanley Donen not Alfred Hitchcock
Starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, Charade follows a recent widow as she is relentlessly pursued by several men who claim her late husband was in possession of a large sum of money which belonged to them, leading to many tense confrontations as she co-operates with the CIA to bring them undone. Part romantic-comedy, part con artist caper, and part mystery thriller, the film has been described as “the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made,” and many are still under the impression that Hitchcock made it.
The funny thing is that the film’s actual director, Stanley Donen, was quite the successful filmmaker himself, with such movies as Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers among his other cinematic achievements. Charade has become an enduring classic of the 1960s and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2022.
- Release Date
- December 25, 1963
- 1 hr 53 min
2 ‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’ (1980)
Directed by Irvin Kershner not George Lucas
As the creator of one of the most celebrated and wondrous film franchises of all time, George Lucas is practically synonymous with the Star Wars brand, which makes it all the more surprising that he actually didn’t direct all the films in the original trilogy. Irvin Kershner took the mantle for the acclaimed second installment of the saga in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, with Lucas wanting to step back from the directorial responsibilities.
Naturally, the film was still an extension of Lucas’ story idea with Kershner largely following orders, but that didn’t prevent Kershner from imbuing the film with a deepened sense of character and drama than any other installment in the franchise has been able to muster. Today, The Empire Strikes Back is widely viewed not only as the best Star Wars movie, but as one of the greatest and most important films ever made.
1 ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993)
Directed by Henry Selick not Tim Burton
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the best Christmas movies ever made, with millions of fans under the impression that Tim Burton was the filmmaker behind it. It is easy to see why the misconception is so common, with the film exuding Burton’s trademark Gothic aesthetic, dark comic sensitivity, and oddball story as it follows the king of Halloween Town who becomes entranced by Christmas and seeks to take over the holiday.
While Burton contributed to the writing of the story and served as the film’s producer, it was actually Henry Selick who directed the movie, which served as his directorial debut. Selick was an animator for Walt Disney Studios at the time, and has since gone on to direct animated classics like James and the Giant Peach and Coraline.
KEEP READING: 10 Successful Movies Hated by Their Director
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