The TOP 20 One-Hit Wonders of the Movie World - Film Directors

by Moe V. Houlihan

If there's one way the exponential growth of the Web has influenced our culture, it has at the very least increased the number of obnoxious magazine covers.  The change is not so obvious in the stalwart mainstays like 'Time' and 'Newsweek', or even in the tabloids at the other side of the spectrum, but in the publications of less limited scope like, say, health magazines that scream '10 things you need to do RIGHT NOW to stay alive'.  Or take the tech magazines that talk about the 'Top 500 web sites that will SAVE YOUR LIFE', or 'November 2002's Coolest New Gadgets'.  Or the money magazines that go on and on with exposés about 'The 50 richest people under age 12', that kind of thing.  You get the idea.  

And of course television is getting into it as well.  Take CBS and its AFI programs of the top 100 films: comedies, dramas, etc.  Could it be a little dig at the web?  Their way of saying 'Well, we like the list idea of the web, but you still can't beat the picture quality of the TV.  Besides, the web site was made by some guy in his undershorts.  We've got Drew Barrymore in a lovely Mizrahi evening gown.  CBS rests its case.'  The age of the web as a source of information is but in its infancy, but has thus far proven itself invaluable for compiling annoying lists of all sizes and types.  We are in the midst of a List Renaissance.  So, this particular thing started when I was watching a special on VH1 about pop music's one-hit wonders, and it got me to thinking: there's really no such list for the film world.

Until now.

Heh heh.  Well, it's neither a precise nor a complete list, as you shall see.  In fact I'm sure some will find it biased to the point of rage inducement, so turn the web page now if there's any doubt in your mind that you can continue.  (And stop emailing me, Mr. Cimino!)  For that matter, there's probably already a similar list out there someplace, but I'm lazy and didn't want to look through all the 5,000 possibilities that came up, and that was AFTER I narrowed the search.  Besides, I'm fairly satisfied with my own list if I may be so bold.  Take that, Entertainment Weekly!

Anyway, as stated above, the list is about film directors who were, or are, in my opinion, one-hit wonders.   Each has a brief, or not-so-brief, explanation of why they are on the list.  I've found that each has a unique reason for making the list.  So, get ready to feel your blood boil as we count down the Top 20 One-Hit Wonders of the Film Directors world.  And remember, it's all for charity, and it's always better to make the list than to not.  Enjoy!


20.    Peter Jackson

I actually don't want to put him on the list because I like him, but what the hell, he'll never know.  I'm counting all three Lord of the Rings movies as one since they were all filmed simultaneously, and I suppose I'm a little steamed since we have to wait so long to see the others.  Okay, that's unfair, I know, but I mean let's face it.  We haven't yet seen an American re-issue of 'Bad Taste' or 'Braindead'.  Or even 'The Frighteners', for example.  Jackson's career before the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy makes him out to be the New Zealand Sam Raimi.  I'm concerned that, career wise, he's painted himself into a corner: LOTR may end up being the best thing he'll ever do.  However, the waters show many things...

(He's still considering many projects, but rumor has it he'll spearhead another famous trilogy: he's going to re-film portions of the three Naked Gun pictures, completely replacing O.J. Simpson with Robert Guillaume.)

19.    Myles Berkowitz

Coming in at number 19, bumping Penelope Spheeris from the list is the one and only Myles Berkowitz, mega-actor slash mega-director of the painfully compelling (or is it compellingly painful?) 20 Dates.  How he was unable to use this 'film' on his resumé to show network executives he's qualified to, at least produce, one of those AFI specials, about the top 100 date movies for example, I'll never know, because this film is only 87 minutes long, so figuring 7 minutes for beginning and end credits, that's only 4 minutes a date.  Good bargain!  It's a contrived movie, with shots of lobster dinners and the sound of a cash register for stylistics.  But the most contrived moment of all is when he finds his true love, and the 60s music swells and suddenly we're walking on the beach and rollerblading in the park.  I wonder if they're still together.  Oh ouell, c'est l'amour dans l'Hollywood, n'est ce pas?  Maybe his agent finally had enough. 

18.    Jim Sharman

Seriously, though, what film director wouldn't want a film like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' on their resumé?  The ultimate cult perennial still plays most Saturday nights at midnight at only the hippest of movie theaters, and the devotion of the crowds is of course the stuff of legend.  Mr. Sharman had one previous directing credit, a couple after, and seemed to retire after 1981's 'Shock Treatment', also a comedy-musical with some of the original 'Rocky' cast.  You'd think they would at least have the occasional double feature with it and 'Rocky Horror' just on g.p.  Maybe not, perhaps because of Ruby Wax.

17.    H.B. Halicki 

The Buster Keaton of the car chase movie.  You gotta give him credit, because "Gone in 60 Seconds" is a pretty good movie title.  That's more than most folks have these days.  The actor/writer/director/stuntman scored a hit in Sweden with this 1974 film.  He made a sequel in 1982, and unfortunately died while making another sequel in 1989.  His legacy lives on in the 2000 remake.  I wonder if he'd like it.

16.    Edward Burns

Edward Burns - He's like a mean angry Woody Allen for our time and I think that's wonderful because it's brave and it's new. I count him because he's basically made the same movie over and over.  He's always the most important person in the movie, the alpha brother, whatever.  I first saw some of 'She's the One' on Comedy Central, and was surprised to find how little like a comedy it was.  Just give him the watch back so he'll shut up!  'The Brothers McMullen', made on a shoestring budget, was a surprise hit and gave wind to the neo-bachelor movement because of the following galvanizing line of dialogue used in countless films since: bachelor Barry (Burns) says to his brother Patrick who is debating whether to get married: "This is the one woman you're going to have sex with the rest of your life?  Think of it.  This is the last woman you'll ever see naked."  Stop him before he directs the same movie again!

As near as I can tell, 'No Looking Back' replaces the brother-of-Ed Burns character with Jon Bon Jovi.  Then-Burns-girlfriend Lauren Holly said the movie was a remarkable achievement because it was shot in, like 6 days, that Burns knew exactly what he wanted.  Well, sh-yeah!  He's made this movie before!  He could direct it in his sleep.  But, he's always got the acting to fall back on if the directing peters out, and he's always got Spielberg on the ol' resumé with 'Saving Private Ryan'.  Now, that's the REAL Kevin Bacon name game you want to play in Hollywood!

15.    Kevin Smith

I count him because he's basically made one movie five times, no single manifestation of which cleared the $100 million barrier.  Where's our Fletch prequel, Kevin?  Like Ed Burns above, his shoestring debut scored big, so it was virtually all profit.  'Dogma' is a good movie in theory, but there's 4 bad things for every good thing in the movie.  And 'Jay and Silent Bob' is one of those movies you have to like - I mean, to not like it means you're a humorless right-wing Christian, right?  You're not that, are you?   The tabloids are all over the whole J. Lo and Ben thing which should help bolster the pre-release publicity for 'Jersey Girl'.  We're seeing a transition in Kevin's career, but I find myself particularly indifferent.  

14.    Mussef Sibay would have an immaculate resumé were it not for the acting gig after "A Woman, Her Men and Her Futon".  It was the go-go '90s and filmgoers were ready to experiment, and reach out to the independent film scene they did.  And with a title like "...Futon", you'd think that even the Futon people would get on board too, in a potential marketing coup as potent and as catchy as Paul Simon's song 'Kodachrome'.  Now, flash forward - it's ten years later and the fire of the futon revolution has all but died down to a few glowing embers.  And with the occasional cable appearance, 'Futon' has all but disappeared into legend, and so we're left to wander in the desert for another 40 years, wondering whatever became of... I still can't find anything on the web, is it Mr. or Mrs. Sibay?

13.    Rod Daniel

Starting out directing TV sitcoms, Teen Wolf was the big project for Mr. Daniel that kick-started his major motion picture career, and more or less carried him through the rest of the 80s.  'Like Father, Like Son', as far as I know, is still considered the worst of the Invasion of the Body Switcher movies (Big, 18 Again, and Vice Versa being the others, for those keeping score).  I won't badmouth K-9 since I haven't seen it, but how come all the big stars Daniel's worked with haven't worked with him since?  Or at least recommended him for a project?  Or how come we haven't seen an Encore Channel documentary about him?  (It's on the to-do list!!!)

The Super must've been the last straw.  You take Joe Pesci, hot off Lethal Weapon 2 and his Oscar win for GoodFellas, not to mention one of the biggest box-office hits of all time, 'Home Alone'.  So he's got major name recognition and FACE recognition, and so you'd think that his next movie would be a sure thing, right?  Not necessarily the case.  The Super wasn't the one; we'd have to wait for My Cousin Vinny for the Joe Pesci Sure Thing to kick in.  Beethoven's 2nd was Daniel's One More Chance project, where someone must have told him: "Okay, we're giving you the benefit of the doubt here.  You can do the Beethoven sequel, but if it doesn't make money it's back to TV Sitcom Hell with ya!"  Well, I don't need to tell you how that one turned out.  And even after the movie's Oscar nomination and everything!

But I say where there's life, there's hope.  And here's hoping Home Alone 4 turns things around for him.

12.    Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz 

George Lucas must've decided that 'Radioland Murders' was the last straw for the 'American Graffiti' scriptsmiths.  Reminds me of the one monster team in 'Monsters Inc.' where the assistant keeps screaming '2319!  We've got a 2319!' and the CDA comes in and shaves the Scarer monster.  So their life story would go:

Best Defense - We've got a 2319!

Howard the Duck - 2319!! We've got a 2319!

And so, the monster, shaking, trembling, ever so gingerly sticks his toe in the water, holding a script called "Radioland Murders", and...

11.    Jeffrey Hornaday

'Tango and Cash' was a landmark movie for a lot of people.  Everyone's career went into orbit.  Producer Jon Avnet would go on to direct the breakthrough hit Fried Green Tomatoes, co-director Andrei Konchalovsky would go on to make his personal movie Blizhnij krug (Great Stalin!) and Jeffrey Hornaday would make the transition from choreographer to full-time director, right?  Just like FosseNot necessarily.  'Shout' was his big chance but it didn't quite work out.  Most of the cast survived, however.  And more importantly, Mr. Hornaday went back to the day job.

 10.    Ted Lichtenfeld

Well, anyway, it was nice to see Rockford in a movie.

9.    Brett Leonard is borderline.  Perhaps he belongs on the list of 'Directors that Got Lost in the Wilderness.'  Hot off of Virtuosity, he was certainly one of the booster rockets that launched Russell Crowe into orbit, but what happened?  He did an IMAX dinosaur flick, and a Siegfried & Roy flick.  Nothing on his resumé since.  Perhaps he's made enough money to retire comfortably and spend his days writing his memoirs, perfecting the feng shui of his home in the Valley, and working on his part of the Human Genome project.  But for all you Hollywood producers out there: if you ever need a 'Lawnmower Man' clone, give him a call.  He's your man.

8.    E. Max Frye

Hot screenwriter of 'Something Wild', his next project was 'Amos & Andrew'.  

Well, the main thing is he learned his lesson and just stuck to the screenwriting.

7.    Mark Herrier & Alan Ormsby
directed 'Popcorn', 1991's high-profile horror flick.  This was the big chance for Billy of the 'Porky' franchise to switch gears and become a director, but for whatever reason it just didn't work out.  I don't see why: the movie didn't bomb as badly as anything else out there.  And so back to the trenches with Mr. Herrier, in some notable TV guest appearances.

    Alan Ormsby, co-writer of 'Popcorn', is uncredited as the film's co-director, but his career, while discontinued in the directing department since 1974's "Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile" (2 1/2 stars, Maltin guide!) has been relatively robust in the screenwriting department.  You have to give credit to someone who spawns three sequels from a movie like "The Substitute", even if you'd never watch them.  A working man's Joe Eszterhas, if you will.

6.    Bob Logan

According to the Internet Movie Database he made three projects with Linda Blair.  The third was the proverbial Baked Potato: a movie with Leslie Nielsen, hot off the success of the first Naked Gun.  A sure thing at the box office, right?  Wrong!  Very wrong.  It was 'Repossessed', a third-rate ZAZ clone, trying to copy the 'Naked Gun' formula but failing so completely it's almost interesting for that reason, until it just gets boring.  It seems to be the closest thing to a hit Mr. Logan has had.  After directing Meatballs 4 the resumé goes blank.  I suppose the guy's agent dropped him because he didn't get Linda into the movie.

5.    Michael Cimino 

But, of course!  Where did William Friedkin succeed where Michael Cimino failed?  Most people remember where they were when Mr. Cimino's career went completely into the toilet.  Hot off 'The Deer Hunter', 'Heaven's Gate' was his next project, a big budget disaster about the Johnson County wars in Montana in the 19th Century.  The budget has been reported to be anywhere from 30 to 44 million dollars, and that was 1980 dollars!  It was surely ahead of its time; these days it takes a $150 million plus movie to raise eyebrows, if that.  ($200 million thanks to James Cameron)  None of his directorial efforts since were as successful as "The Deer Hunter", or as disastrous a flop as "Heaven's Gate".

However, the story does have a happy ending.  Mr. Cimino's gathering his forces and plans to emerge with a new film project.  Rumor has it he's going to work with Hollywood producer Robert Evans, but no one can tell them apart!

4.    Troy Beyer

For some reason I seem to recall 'B*A*P*S' being number 1 at the box office the week it opened, but checking the IMDb I guess not.  I mean, even in the most anemic week at the box office during a Republican presidency (May 12th, 1991), the number one film makes more than $2.7 million.  When I happened upon the knowledge that Ms. Beyer is a director in her own right I immediately thought "How dare you give Robert Townsend a bomb like that!"  On IFC I saw some of her own film "Let's Talk About Sex", which you would think that if a woman's directing a movie with that kind of title, it will not be an exploitation picture.  I mean, Golan-Globus didn't make the movie, right?  As it turns out, they might as well have.  Even student films have more merit than this turkey.

But Beyer's story does have a happy ending, unlike most in Hollywood.  While the directing gig doesn't work out, she's still got the acting and the writing to fall back on.  Otherwise, it's back to mapping the Human Genome and curing lung cancer for her.  (Update: she does have a directing project lined up for 2003, so she may not be on the list for long after all!)

3.    Manny Coto

I actually remember the Dr. Giggles publicity blitz.  College flyers, wall-to-wall TV advertising, he was out there.  Dr. Giggles may be the best example of what's wrong with Hollywood: a disproportionately large amount of advertising for an inferior product.  But, things have changed since, and Coto has found more directorial work since, but none of his projects ever took hold quite like Dr. Giggles did.  He's settled into a stable career now and eagerly awaits the film director's retirement package.

2.    Jennifer Chambers Lynch

She's kept quiet since her directorial debut 'Boxing Helena', which is a rare act of selflessness in the movie world (You might do the same, number one!).  'Boxing Helena', based on the scene from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' where the knight loses limb after limb but keeps fighting, takes that scene and stretches it out to 107 minutes.  This is the movie that updates the old saying from 'A pig like that you don't eat all at once' to 'A woman like that you don't cut up all at once'.  Highly publicized when it was initially released, the unanimous reaction was unprecedented as the whole world ultimately drew the line of tastefulness, turned its back and said 'No thank you'.

Not that it's any worse than, say, Body of Evidence.  And the film did make some money: $8.9 million, but Kim Basinger had to pay it for backing out of the film.

And finally, we get to number one...

1.    Albert Pyun

Could be a modern day Ed Wood.  I'm sure if you were to interview this guy, he would tell you that he's living the American dream, that he's got the greatest job in the world, making movies, the dream factory, meeting movie stars, going to premieres, etc.  In looking at the man's film credentials I can't even tell which of his films was a hit!

He's nothing if not prolific.  His films seem like there's something good trying to get out.  Maybe there should be a documentary about the making of an Albert Pyun film.  The only reason it hasn't happened yet is because it'd be better than the film being made.  Much better.  But who knows, maybe his luck will change.  Maybe a coalition of big-time Hollywood producer types will get together, pool some money and say "Mr. Pyun, here's 100 million dollars.  You can use it to direct the film you've always wanted to make, but up 'til now haven't had the budget to."  A bunch of them so they wouldn't lose so much, say like if Ned Tanen, Jerry Weintraub, William Aldrich, Arnon Milchan, Arnold Kopelson, Anne Kopelson, Frank Capra III, Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff, Jean Doumanian, George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Joel Silver, David Giler, Walter Hill, Robert Zemeckis, Richard Mirisch, Barrie Osborne, Morgan O'Sullivan, Robert Shaye, George Schlatter, Bill Badalato, Roger Birnbaum, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer, Chris Moore, Kevin Smith, James Cameron, Rae Sanchini, Mario Kassar, Andrew Vajna, Buzz Feitshans, Frank Yablans, Steven Reuther, Bruce Davey, Stephen McEveety, Alan Ladd Jr., Robert W. Cort, Ted Field, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald, Howard Kazanjian, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Mark Johnson, William W. Wilson III, Gale Ann Hurd, James Schamus, Larry Franco, Steve Tisch, Steve Starkey, Wendy Finerman, a De Laurentiis or two, Art Linson, Peter MacGregor-Scott, Joe Caracciolo, Laura Ziskin, Debra Hill, Lynda Obst, Stacey Sher, Michael Shamberg, Harvey Weinstein, Mace Neufeld, Robert Rehme, Larry Brezner, Bruce Helford, Terry Botwick, Ameake Owens, Dan Philips, Phil Vischer, Brian Grazer, Pat Kehoe, Charles Joffe, Robert Greenhut, Neal Moritz, Paul Junger Witt, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Hanks, Charles Newirth, A. Kitman Ho, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, Paula DuPré Pesman, Peter Guber, Jon Peters, Jennie Lew Tugend, Steve Perry, Jan Harlan, George Lucas, Michael Peyser, Robert Lawrence, Lawrence Turman, Lawrence Kasanoff, Lawrence Gordon, Lawrence Bender, Michael Eisner, and Steven Spielberg all got together and pitched in a million apiece.  It could be done, it could be done.

I noticed a remarkable thing in my Leonard Maltin movie guide.  It is either the truth, or the stuff of a personal vendetta.  Of Pyun's films that are in the guide:


The Sword and the Sorcerer(1982) - 2 stars - Strictly second-rate in scripting, acting, and production, with just enough bloodletting to please undemanding fans of this kind of stuff.

Radioactive Dreams (1986) - 2 stars - 'So-so post-apocalyptic drama ... Nicely filmed, but it doesn't hold up.'

Dangerously Close (1986) - 1 1/2 stars- albeit 'slickly edited and photographed'

Down Twisted(1987) - 1 1/2 stars - Unremittingly complicated, and unsatisfying, caper yarn ... Echoes of other (better) movies abound.

Alien From L.A. (1987) - 1 1/2 stars - As silly as it sounds.

Journey to the Center of the Earth(1989) - no review in Maltin.  Poor Emo Philips!

Captain America (1991) - 1 1/2 stars - 'clumsy, synthetic direction'

Dollman(1991) - BOMB - 'underproduced trifle with poor FX and a deadly slow pace'

Brain Smasher: A Love Story (1993) - 1 1/2 stars - Failed attempt to turn Dice Clay into a Stallone-like action star is a slow, foggy bore

Nemesis (1993) - 1 1/2 stars - Just another amalgam of ideas borrowed from better movies.  (Olivier) Gruner has some appeal, though.


Of those movies, except Journey to the Center of the Earth, the star average is 1.55 stars per movie.  (BOMB counts as 1 star)  

As of November 2002, the following movies of his have made the IMDb's other infamous list, the BOTTOM 100: Crazy Six, The Wrecking Crew, Urban MenaceNemesis 4: Death Angel.  Again, is it a conspiracy?  Are all the Pyun-atics out there being encouraged by someone, or something (probably a cyborg), to get out and vote on the IMDb and embrace the image?  Or do people really just dislike his movies that much?

Despite all this, he's still unstoppable.  Why just last year he did a picture called Ticker with Steven Seagal and Dennis Hopper.  Now, you would think a movie with Steven Seagal and Dennis Hopper would be a sure thing.  (At least, you would expect to see some trailers on TV, like for Seagal's latest turkey, "Half Past Dead").  Not necessarily the case, as proven by Pyun.  But the fact that he got the gig at all is a living testament to the power of perseverance, giving hope to all those who have no hope in this world, let alone a floundering film career.  God bless you, Mr. Pyun, may you go on and on.

-so sayeth the Movie Hooligan

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