How Bad Is It for Black Directors in Hollywood: The 10 Highest Grossing African American Directors of All Time
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The 10 Highest Grossing Black Directors of All Time, and the Little-Known Highest Grossing Black Female Director

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | November 18, 2013 | Comments ()


The number one film at the box office this weekend was no real surprise: Thor: The Dark World held on to the spot in its second week, adding another $38 million, bringing its total to $138 million, so far. Look for it to have a precipitous drop next weekend facing Hunger Games: Catching Fire. The real surprise of the weekend, however, was the showing of Best Man’s Holiday, which racked up a tidy $31 million, despite the 15 year gap between sequels (in fact, it nearly surpassed the entire box-office haul of the original The Best Man ($34 million) in its opening weekend alone).

That’s a big win for Malcolm D. Lee, sadly one of the few successful African American directors in Hollywood. In fact, with the success of The Best Man Holiday, Lee leaps to number seven all time among African American directors in terms of total lifetime box office. Here’s the top 10.

10. Carl Franklin — $145 million

9. Lee Daniels — $164 million

8. Allan and Albert Hughes — $178 million

7. Malcom D. Lee — $208 million (and growing)

5. F. Gary Gray — $370 million

6. Antoine Fuqua — $380 million

5. Spike Lee - $374 million

4. Keenan Ivory Wayans — $400 million

3. John Singleton — $465 million

2. Tim Story — $490 million

1. Tyler Perry — $674 million

That’s it. A black director today could make one (1) $145 million grossing film and break the top 10 all time. In the top 307 directors of all time, based on lifetime box office gross, these are the only 10 black directors represented.

How about black female directors? Can you name the highest grossing female black director of all time? Think about it. Think about it really hard. Can you even think of one black female director?

I’ll give you a second


The highest grossing black female director of all time is Angela Robinson, who has amassed a whopping $66 million over her career. Ninety-nine percent of that gross came from one movie, Herbie: Fully Loaded. The only other black female director to even have $60 million lifetime gross over her entire career is Gina Prince-Blythwood, who directed (the awesome) Love and Basketball. What does that say about Hollywood? It sucks to be a black director. But it sucks even worse to be a female black director.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • James Woods

    But look at the type of Movies they make. Basketball, Loud LOL comedies, gangsta movies, ect...

    Will Tyler Perry or Spike Lee or...any black Director make a big epic movie?

    Something on the scale of 300, Avatar, Lord of the Rings, heck even Blade.

    I mean really, a new movie in 2013, directed by an "African American" is about slavery....again. No really. A true story about a guy who gets freed from slavery only to be kidnapped and re-sold into slavery for 12 years. And the main antagonist is the drunken, demented and crazed "white devil" type of owner.

    Its almost 2014. Do we really need another slave movie depicting the "evil white man"? How about a movie showing the "good white" people who helped slaves get away? Or even some of the white people who were kind, gentle and, when not in public, had slaves as their friends?
    Better yet, remind people that whites were also used as slaves, ie, indentured servants who tried to bail out on their agreements, criminals ect..

    If you make low budget/low quality/low interest films, then don't complain when you don't have high income.

  • e jerry powell

    Kasi Lemmons's pic with J.Hud is only a few days off. It should be interesting to see how it performs. For me, not so much interesting just to see, unfortunately.

  • van1968

    I didn't care much about Black Nativity until I learned it was directed by Kasi Lemmons. She's terrific. I was hoping she was the answer to this page's trivia question, in fact. Ah well.

  • e jerry powell

    My sincerest desire since Eve's Bayou has been that Kasi Lemmons could make a movie without any involvement from either Samuel L. Jackson or her husband, Vondie-Curtis Hall. I think she's the kind of vision that shouldn't have to be shelved unless someone else can back her (I'm still bummed that Eve's Bayou would never have gotten made without Jackson signing on as a producer and forgoing his salary).

  • blacksred

    The Best Man Holiday making money is only a surprise to white people.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I saw it opening night and there wasn't a seat empty in the house. I'm only surprised it didn't take the top spot at the box office.

  • e jerry powell

    The fanboys were having more Thor-gasms.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I'm surprised Oprah hasn't jumped behind the camera.

    Love & Basketball is excellent - it's a shame not to have seen more from Gina Prince-Blythwood, though imdb indicates that she's got a movie coming out. (btw, IMDB also has a different spelling for her name than above)

    I wonder how long before Steve McQueen is on the list.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Love & Basketball was one of my favorite love stories of all time. I watch that movie probably more than I should.

  • We could check movies out from our dorms' front desks. My first year dorm had Love & Basketball. I think my roommate and I checked it out three times that year. Two teenage white girls going to a small Lutheran school on the Minnesota/North Dakota border.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Yup, my lily white ass rented that movie from Blockbuster like 8 times before my mother just bought it for me.
    It's one of the few love stories I can think of where the girl gets to chase her dreams AND get a boy, yet it all seems realistic.

  • Steve McQueen will never be on that particular list. They're African American directors and Steve McQueen is British. It would have to be a list of the most successful black directors.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Oh - the header and almost everywhere else "black" is used; I hadn't even noticed the African American right above the actual list.

    I actually just learned he was black last week.

  • Ben

    It was only at this post that I realized that the dude from The Great Escape didn't direct 12 years as a slave.

    Also he's at 28 million according to box office mojo, so he's still got a way to go.

    It's kind of ridiculous to write an article about black directors and only include African Americans though. There are other black people in the world.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I must admit, I always visualized the director of this film in a leather jacket jumping a fence in a motorcycle, but I knew that actor Steve McQueen is dead and that it must be someone else.

  • e jerry powell

    I am of two minds.

    I kind of prefer Whoopi's take: whenever we make "American" a hyphenate, we're suggesting "less-than."

    Neither side of my family has seen Africa for more than six generations. One branch of my mother's side of the family is back in Scotland in less than five. "African-American," for me, is kind of a compromise. If white Afrikaners in Johannesburg are considered to be African (as opposed to Dutch-Africans)...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    that is an interesting etymological point. I prefer "black" because so many African Americans don't trace themselves back to Africa, but I am white so...I tend to follow the style-guide of wherever the conversation is taking place, if you know what I mean.

  • e jerry powell

    And the funny thing is that so many American blacks have issues with black people who speak anything other than English (such as it is) and would be absolutely confounded if they paid visits to Senegal or Congo, where all the black Africans are native French speakers.

    It's all a big muddled mess.

  • Sara_Tonin00


    Btw, if you didn't see Steve McQueen on Colbert the other day, it's very worth watching. He clearly was not aware of Colbert's shtick, and it made for some amazingly honest reactions.

  • e jerry powell

    I did!

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    other noticeable trend - you need to have "Lee" in your name:

    9. Lee Daniels — $164 million

    7. Malcom D. Lee — $208 million (and growing)

    5. Spike Lee - $374 million

  • Pawesl

    Malcolm and Spike are cousins just an interesting tidbit

  • e jerry powell

    All of Spike's siblings are in the business, too, so not that surprising. Joie and Cinque co-wrote Crooklyn; in fact, fitting, since it's basically an episode from Joie's life.

  • Arran

    Spike Lee and Antoine Fuqua appear to be in the wrong positions.

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