As actors within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, our favorite celebrities star in different projects. Some have even directed a film or two of their own! For established actors like Chris Evans, it can be easy for some to forget he made his debut feature directing the TIFF -premiering “Before We Go.” You may be surprised to see what other Marvel actors have helmed their own projects. With “Avengers: Endgame” releasing this weekend, Awards Circuit looks at the top ten MCU cast-directed films (not that there’s too many) and ranks them!
10“Sympathy for Delicious” (2010)
dir. Mark Ruffalo
“Sympathy for Delicious” is directed by The Hulk himself, Mark Ruffalo. In his feature directorial debut, Ruffalo takes on a story of inspiration to the best of his ability. Alongside him is Christopher Thornton, who writes and stars as the lead in the film. The narrative follows Thornton’s character Dean, who becomes paralyzed from the waist down. (In real life, Thornton was involved in an accident which led to his debilitation.) Through the advice of Father Joe (Ruffalo), he hesitantly seeks the help of faith healing. He miraculously receives the power to heal others, but not himself.
Inspired by some of Thornton’s experiences post-accident, “Sympathy for Delicious” is a bit of a mixed bag of self-indulgence and how one man makes an attempt to right his own life and gain a different perspective. It’s the suspension of belief in the protagonist’s abilities, but the film tries to balance it to make sense.
9“These Vagabond Shoes”
dir. Scarlett Johansson
“A man travels across New York City to get a Nathan’s Famous hot dog.” As simple as the synopsis, Scarlett Johansson’s seven-minute short film is structured like a “day in the life” watch. Kevin Bacon stars as a man who takes a quiet trip to Coney Island to enjoy a delicious snack on the boardwalk. Very minimal dialogue is needed as he makes his way out of his prim flat and into the world. Buying a pack of cigarettes proves to be uncomfortable as the store clerk maniacally laughs at the increase in price for smokers. Over public transit he gazes at people, keeping to himself.
“These Vagabond Shoes” is a quiet, small film. Never asking much, it’s just a short time spent with a man who enjoys his own company. There’s something to be said for these little moments shared with oneself, and Johansson seems to appreciate the joy in mundanity. Originally, Johansson’s film was to be featured in the anthology project “New York, I Love You.” It was a collection of shorts set along the moody, inviting landscape of NYC. “These Vagabond Shoes” was left behind for not featuring the interpersonal narratives the other shorts depicted. Nonetheless, it premiered at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival in 2009. It serves as Johansson’s sole directing credit.
8“Miles Ahead” (2015)
dir. Don Cheadle
The same year he starred as War Machine in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Don Cheadle also released his own film. He directed the biographical drama “Miles Ahead.” The actor stars in the film as the legendary jazz musician, Miles Davis. Climbing the musical chain, Davis is depicted through his most successful feats and leveraged out by the stories of his marriage and withdrawn habits later in life. Cheadle embodies the musician, giving an excellent performance here. The most compelling aspects of the film come when the biography of Davis’ life takes a turn toward fiction. Cheadle takes his liberty at hand and introduces layers to his character in these creative freedoms. “Miles Ahead” is Cheadle’s sole feature directorial project. Later in his career, he would direct a handful of episodes for his show “House of Lies.”
7“Unicorn Store” (2019)
dir. Brie Larson
Captain Marvel’s directorial debut plays like the cinematic version of a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book. It premiered in Toronto back in 2017 and wasn’t released until earlier this year on Netflix. Brie Larson directs and stars in “Unicorn Store,” a film about a woman’s kindred, childish spirit and the lengths one goes to keep that comfort bottled up. Larson’s Kit is a young creative, flourishing in her own mind as she’s presented with a chance to fulfill her dreams. If she’s deemed worthy, she will get to own her very own unicorn. Larson’s film, although riddled with tonal and character issues, is a film that just wants to hug you.
6“Before We Go” (2015)
dir. Chris Evans
Our Steve Rogers directed a little film a few years ago called “Before We Go.” This marks Chris Evans’ only directing credit, leaning into some very personal chemistry on screen. It stars Evans and Alice Eve as two strangers who meet one night at Grand Central Terminal. Nick (Evans) sits by and plays his trumpet at the terminal when Brooke (Eve) runs past him, dropping her phone and failing to make the last subway of the night. The gent Nick is, he hands Brooke her phone and offers to pay for her desperate trip back to Boston, to no avail. What follows is a serendipitous, at times melancholic, waltz down snoozy NYC streets.
Evans hones in on the spark people share in finite moments. The film harbors the vulnerability in relationships and confides in the viewers as his characters do in each other. “Before We Go” balances on its emotional pulls, bringing to light our insecurities when it comes to love and the existing scars that remain. Evans is a charmer, giving his Nick the chance to give Brooke a hand, but the intimacy they share never overstays its welcome. One could say Evans was inspired by the likes of Richard Linklater and the focus on conversation as plot. It wouldn’t be an incorrect assumption, but Evans has a clear vision to dissect human connection, and it peeks through in this film.
5“The Party’s Just Beginning” (2018)
dir. Karen Gillan
Karen Gillan directs a film about grief and how one can spiral into depression after the death of a loved one. Gillan’s directorial debut, “The Party’s Just Beginning” is a constant look into a character who’s not in their most positive state of mind. She stars as Luisaidh, a woman who’s endlessly brooding around but who’s only a byproduct of the trauma in her life. Her best friend committed suicide and the film never lets the audience forget how important this event was to Luisaidh. Gillan is never off beat, laying it down as the film opens up about her emotions while it restrains her character visually toward solace.
It’s no surprise Karen Gillan’s film ranks so high on this list. She’s engaging so much in the film as her character endures these emotional blows. It’s an individual film to her hometown of Inverness, as well. The suicide rate in Scotland’s region is no exaggeration and Gillan makes a lasting, poignant statement in her film. Through its ins and outs, it’s a story about the constancy of life.
dir. Jon Favreau
Fans must have known Jon Favreau was making an appearance on this list. Already an established producer/actor/director, he’s infused his presence into every project. Within the MCU, he stars as “Happy” Hogan, one of Tony Stark’s closest confidants. But back in 2003, he directed what become a modern Christmas classic, “Elf.” Starring Will Ferrell, the film follows one grown man’s journey into New York to find his father and himself after years of being raised as one of Santa’s elves in the North Pole. The film is widely beloved as a fun, endearing flick for the festive season and Favreau’s comedic flare indulges in it.
3“A Star Is Born” (2018)
dir. Bradley Cooper
Rocket Raccoon is actually a modern auteur… Just kidding. There’s so much to say when it comes to Bradley Cooper’s “A Star Is Born.” Although some deem it flawed with the complex relationship between Cooper’s Jackson and Lady Gaga’s Ally, the film is technically an achievement. From the sound design to its cinematography, “A Star Is Born” follows to the tune of its own direction. The concert sound is crisp and immersive, its cinematography sharp and beautifully lit. Cooper takes the director’s chair and stars in the film, which is essentially a story about envy, stardom, affection and loss. Cooper has a clear sense of what he’s after, framing his film to highlight Gaga’s Ally as one of its lasting high points.
2“The Jungle Book” (2016)
dir. Jon Favreau
It’s presumed Jon Favreau has an upper hand at directing in this list. “Elf” proved to show off his comedic chops. With 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” Favreau takes a piece of the animation canon and adapts it into a live-action/CGI-heavy film. The film follows Mowgli, a man-cub, who flees and embarks on an adventure in the jungle to self-discovery. Favreau’s film is a definitive crowd pleaser, casting sparks of the jungle storytelling into something that fares well as a family movie. It grossed well over $900 million at the worldwide box office, and remains a highly respectable adaptation from Walt Disney Studios.
dir. Jon Favreau
Jon Favreau’s “Chef” is a remarkable, feel-good watch. Favreau stars as Carl, who quits his head chef job to open a food truck in hopes of mending his family and life back together. MCU alums Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson make an appearance throughout. The significance Favreau’s film glows from its original script to its performances. It’s downright enjoyable. It’s not exhausted by the rhythm of a tired remake because it’s a genuine story about family, love and a passion for cooking. Favreau knows exactly what he’s aiming for, and it’s the sky. “Chef” is a wonderful film and it serves as one of Favreau’s greatest risks, as they continue to pay off.