10 Cult Filmmakers Who Went Mainstream

The Avengers hits DVD and Blu-ray today, fresh from a theatrical run that placed it in the top three highest-grossing films of all time. Not too shabby for a second-time director. Yes, there are many reasons to be cheered by the success of The Avengers: it’s a big, loud summer blockbuster with a brain and a heart; it serves as a triple-exception to our resistance to a) sequels, b) superhero movies, and c) 3D; and most importantly, it has given cult phenom Joss Whedon the kind of crossover success most filmmakers can only dream of. After the jump, a look at how the Browncoats’ fave became Tinseltown’s, and nine other tales of cult filmmakers and the plays they made for mainstream success.

Joss Whedon

CULT FAVES: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity

Whedon had created and overseen two long-running television shows (one of them based on his first produced screenplay, the other a spinoff of said program), but his short-lived third series, Firefly, became such a cult fave after its untimely cancellation that it led to his first feature film directing gig. Serenity continued the story begun in those fourteen episodes of Firefly, and though it was wiser and funnier than any five sci-fi films, this Western/space opera hybrid failed to connect with filmgoers who weren’t already in the Firefly fold. So it was a big risk for Disney and Marvel to put The Avengers in the hands of a director who was more of a geek favorite than a box office one — they were, after all, turning over four different franchises (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) to a man whose only real film success to date was a screenplay credit for Toy Story. But the risk paid off, and he’s now got a full dance card of follow-up projects, including (of course) The Avengers 2.