The Marvel Cinematic Universe is known for gifting rising movie actors the blockbusters that catapulte their careers. All three Chrises (Evans, Hemsworth and Pratt) achieved bigger stardom due to their Marvel films; Scarlett Johansson gear-shifted into an action star; Tom Hiddleston splashed into the hearts of teenage fangirls and started garnering American fame; and Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan became recognizable names. That’s about an eighth of the now-legendary Avengers: Endgame lineup.
But what of the directors? What happens to the people behind the camera, the ones who shape the movies that everyone loves? Have the MCU films, with generally favorable reviews and major box-office receipts, launch filmmakers on to other projects and secured their own level of notoriety?
The results are mixed. Some directors have used their MCU success to work on passion projects and indie films (still answering Disney’s call when it rings), while others have shuffled onto their next attempts at big blockbusters, without every hitting the target.
Here’s what every single Marvel Cinematic Universe director has been doing since their MCU movie:
Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Iron Man 2)
After launching the MCU, Jon Favreau directed the big-budget sci-fi flick Cowboys & Aliens, a notorious flop, as well as Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book, a trend-setting mega-hit. His next movie is a spiritual sequel: The Lion King, which employs the same photorealistic technology as The Jungle Book. Favreau is also the showrunner for The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars TV series set to premiere on the Disney Plus streaming series this fall.
But big-budget Disney blockbusters aren’t all that Favreau has done since Iron Man. The filmmaker also wrote, produced, directed and starred in small-budget comedy Chef, which was well-received by both critics and audiences. It was “back to the basics” for Favreau, but because it was a project he felt inspired by, the smaller budget and lack of a big production label did not deter him.
“If something hits me I will write it and I will do it again and drop everything, no matter how big or how well-paying. There’s nothing that beats the feeling of this,” said Favreau in an interview with The Oregonian.
There are, of course, perks of coming off a big Marvel film, though — Favreau easily got Robert Downey Jr. to play a small part in Chef.
In addition to his directing credits, Favreau also voiced two Star Wars characters: Pre Vizsla, leader of the Mandalorian Death Watch faction in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Rio Durant, from Solo: A Star Wars Story. He’s continued to appear as his Iron Man character Happy Hogan in many of the MCU movies, including Endgame. He’ll next be seen as Happy in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk)
While French director Louis Leterrier gained some action film cred as the director of The Transporter and the Jet Li film, Unleashed, his addition to the MCU tends to be overlooked. (Reminder: Bruce Banner was played by Edward Norton at one point). It’s fitting that, after The Incredible Hulk, Leterrier continued in the vein of directing films that no one really remembers, such as Sacha Baron Cohen’s action-comedy Grimsby. He struck some box office success with 2010’s Clash of the Titans and 2013’s Now You See Me, films which weren’t exactly well-received by critics, but fans sure enjoyed before they faded from memory. Did you remember that Clash of the Titans got a sequel?
Leterrier will next direct the prequel series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance for Netflix.
Kenneth Branagh (Thor)
Sir Kenneth Branagh had an impressive acting and directing roster (and four Academy Award nominations) before he took on Thor. Since then, he’s dabbled in a variety of acting and directing roles, including directing Disney’s live-action Cinderella and acting in Academy Award-winning Dunkirk.
His most recent blockbuster gig was directing and starring in an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, the sort of quintessential English film adapted from a quintessential English work of literature that a quintessential English actor would be drawn to. He followed that up with an acting role in All Is True, in which he plays William Shakespeare (after adapting so many of the Bard’s tales for screen), and another Disney blockbuster: Artemis Fowl, now set to release in May 2020. Next up: directing the Orient Express sequel Death on the Nile, and appearing in Christopher Nolan’s mysterious new movie, Tenet.
Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Joe Johnston started off his film career working on visual effects and art direction for the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones movies. His directorial debut was Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but it was his work on period superhero film The Rocketeer that made him a prime candidate for the MCU’s period superhero film, Captain America: The First Avenger. After Captain America, Johnston directed low-budget thriller Not Safe For Work, which released directly on demand and was met with pretty decent reviews.
More recently, Disney handed Johnston the tough assignment of reshooting a major chunk of 2018’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. In 2017, the director signed on to helm an adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia book, The Silver Chair, under the Mark Gordon Company. After a major deal for the property at Netflix, it’s unclear if the project will move forward, or if Johnston will retire, which he suggested might happen after The Silver Chair.
Joss Whedon (The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron)
In between the first and second Avengers, Joss Whedon indulged his artsy side by shooting a super-low-budget adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing and writing the paranormal romance film In Your Eyes for director Brin Hill. But since The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Whedon’s only theatrical directing credit has been the reshoots DC’s Justice League (he’s credited as a screenwriter, but not for the directing). Whedon’s primarily known for his television fame with cult classic Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and also helped create Agents of SHIELD after his first Avengers. He’s expected to play a role in the upcoming Buffy reboot.
But Whedon’s lately been subject to controversy, including an expose from his ex-wife about his hypocritical feminism and examination on how his earlier takes on female empowerment don’t exactly hold up in this day and age. Still, his work in female-driven storytelling continues: his next project is a supernatural series for HBO called The Nevers.
Shane Black (Iron Man 3)
After Iron Man 3, Shane Black directed The Nice Guys, a neo-noir action comedy that he also wrote. Much like his first film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Nice Guys was inspired by the work of American mystery author Brett Halliday. Black wrote the script back in 2001, and after the success of Iron Man 3, finally pursued making the film film. The teaming of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe was received well, with critics praising its homage to the 1970s, clever script and chemistry of the leads.
Black also directed the latest Predator movie, intending to revitalize the franchise. The film came under fire, however, since Black cast a registered sexual offender in a minor role. Actress Olivia Munn reached out to Fox to get the scene featuring the actor cut from the final film, but only one other cast member has spoken out in support of her.
There’s been talk of sequels to The Predator, which producer John Davis has expressed he hopes Black to direct, but Black is not signed onto anything yet. The next project he’s attached to a Doc Savage comic book movie, although there’s specified date for that one. Casting, at least when Black last spoke about it in March 2016, was the issue.
“I would very much like to do Doc with a fellow named Dwayne Johnson if we can make that work. I made a decision that Dwayne is the guy. It’s on the back burner while he’s busy.”
Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World)
Known for contributing to television shows such as The Sopranos,Lost, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, director Alan Taylor took on Thor: Dark World as his first theatrical project since 2003’s little-seen Kill the Poor. He went on to direct Terminator Genisys which was intended to kickstart a new trilogy and television series (after the failed attempt to kickstart another new trilogy with Terminator Salvation), but bad box office returns and pretty crummy reviews nixed two potential sequels. Taylor is not involved with the upcoming Terminator: Dark Fate.
After his time with the Terminator franchise, Taylor returned to the seventh season of Game of Thrones to direct the polarizing episode in which Jon Snow and company travel across the wall to bag a White Walker. His next film is The Many Saints of Newark, a Sopranos prequel written by series creator David Chase.
Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame)
The Russo Brothers finished up their Marvel Cinematic Universe legacy with Avengers: Endgame and currently are shopping around their follow-up: Cheery, a heist movie starring Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland.
But finishing up the Infinity Saga hasn’t been the only thing on the Russo Brothers’ minds. They executive produced SyFy series Deadly Class, based on the comic series of the same name which revolves around a school of assassins, and the action-thriller 21 Bridges starring Chadwick Boseman. Rumored projects include a TV adaptation of The Warriors and yet another remake of Poltergeist.
James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy films)
In case you need a refresher: in reaction to Gunn’s public criticisms of President Donald Trump, far-right personality Mike Cernovich dug into Gunn’s old tweets which made casual jokes about heavy topics such as rape and pedophilia. Gunn had previously apologized for those jokes (and other controversial content), but Disney severed ties with him. Gunn later snagged DC’s second Suicide Squad movie, only to have Disney reverse its decision and rehire him to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Though the sequel was originally slated for a 2020 release, it will be pushed to accommodate Gunn’s Suicide Squad commitment.
Gunn has also used his Marvel cred to return to his horror roots and produce movies for up-and-coming filmmakers. Grimy, violent projects include The Belko Experiment and the Superman-inverting Brightburn.
Peyton Reed (Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp)
Peyton Reed got his theatrical start with comedies like Bring It On, The Breakup and Yes-Man before taking over Ant-Man from director Edgar Wright. His latest project was Ant-Man and the Wasp. Reed doesn’t have any other feature projects on his to do list, but he direct the pilot for the upcoming CBS comedy The Unicorn starring Ant-Man and the Wasp costar Walton Goggins.
Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange)
Derrickson dabbled mostly in supernatural horror before taking on Doctor Strange, with directing credits ranging from Hellraiser: Inferno to Sinister. He currently is set to executive produce a series from Blumhouse Productions about a love-story in war-torn Middle East called You Bury Me. Blumhouse, like Derrickson, is typically known for their low-budget horror so it marks a departure for both studio and director.
Though not officially confirmed by Marvel, early reports suggest Derrickson is set to direct an upcoming Doctor Strange sequel.
Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
Spider-Man: Homecoming was Watts’ first blockbuster directing project, though he had previously directed and produced 10 episodes of the Onion News Network and helmed the indie horror film Clown and the thriller Cop Car. Watts directed the upcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok)
Taika Waititi is mostly known in the United States for the horror-comedy mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows, which he directed, produced, wrote and starred in. He gained cult status with films like Eagle vs. Shark and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
After Thor: Ragnarok, Waititi jumped into a tinier film, the dark comedy Jojo Rabbit, about a young German boy in World War II whose only friend is an imaginary (and ethnically incorrect) version of Adolf Hitler. In addition to writing, producing, and directing, Waititi is also playing Hitler in the production. It’s just the type of off-beat, darkly humorous project that he’s built his career around.
Waititi’s next project sounds just as surprising: a live-action remake of Akira, set for a May 2021 release.
Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)
Before the success of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler directed critically-acclaimed Fruitvale Station and Creed, which both starred Michael B. Jordan.
Coogler’s next project is another collaboration with Michael B. Jordan entitled Wrong Answer, based on a public school cheating scandal that occurred in Atlanta. He’s also set to produce Space Jam 2, and is expected to return to the MCU with an untitled Black Panther sequel.
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Captain Marvel)
The indie duo behind Half Nelson, Sugar, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and Mississippi Grind only just saw their big leap to blockbuster filmmaking take flight (to the tune of $1.1 billion worldwide) so they have yet to book another big screen outing. Instead, they jumped on a prestige TV gig: Boden and Fleck will direct the first two episodes of FX’s new limited series Mrs. America, starring Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, a leading conservative lawyer from the 1970s who campaigned against feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment. The show’s stacked cast includes Uzo Aduba, Rose Byrne, Melanie Lynskey, James Marsden, Margo Martindale, Sarah Paulson, John Slattery, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tracey Ullman.