Mexico's 8 Most Successful Filmmakers

Sandra Bullock in Gravity
Warner Bros.

No foreign country’s filmmakers have had a bigger impact on Hollywood over the last decade than Mexico’s. Filmmakers from Mexico have been creating movies since very early in the history of the medium, but the last twenty years have seen an explosion of filmmaking talent from Mexico. Hollywood has taken notice of the visual flair and unique approach to storytelling that Mexican filmmakers have demonstrated, and audiences worldwide have been filling theaters to see their latest movies.

Though many American directors of Mexican descent, such as Robert Rodriguez, have found Hollywood success, this list salutes Mexican-born directors, many of whom still work primarily in their native country. Here are today's eight most successful Mexican film directors, with each listed with his or her biggest worldwide box office hit (box office figures are from Box Office Mojo).

of 08

Gary Alazraki

The Noble Family
Alazraki Films

Biggest Hit: Nosotros los Nobles (The Noble Family) (2013) $26.1 million

After drawing interest with several short films, including, 2005's Volver, volver, filmmaker Gary Alazraki co-wrote and directed 2013's Nosotros los Nobles (The Noble Family), a comedy about spoiled rich children who are forced to get jobs. It quickly became the highest-grossing Mexican film in Mexican box office history, grossing $26.1 million in Mexico alone. Though that box office success wasn't matched outside of Mexico, it gave Alazraki the opportunity to direct Club de Cuervos, the first Spanish comedy series for Netflix.

of 08

Carlos Carrera

The Crime of Father Amaro
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Biggest Hit: El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro) (2002) $27 million

Prior to the release of The Noble Family, Carlos Carrera’s 2002 film El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro) was the highest-grossing Mexican film in Mexican box office history despite attempts by Catholic Church leaders in Mexico to ban the film. The film stars Gael García Bernal as Padre Amaro, a priest torn between his vows and various scandals that rock his community, including his love for a young woman. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Since its release, Carrera has continued to direct film and television.

of 08

Alfonso Arau

A Walk in the Clouds
20th Century Fox

Biggest Hit: A Walk in the Clouds (1995) $50 million

As an actor, Alfonso Arau has appeared in many memorable movies, including The Wild Bunch, Romancing the Stone, and ¡Three Amigos! However, Arau has concentrated more on directing in recent years. His most successful film is 1995's A Walk in the Clouds, a drama about an American soldier (Keanu Reeves) returning home from World War II and his relationship with a young Mexican student (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón). The film was much more successful in the United States than in Arau's native Mexico, and he has continued to act in and direct films on both sides of the border.

of 08

Patricia Riggen

Miracles from Heaven
TriStar Pictures

Biggest Hit: Miracles from Heaven (2016) $73.9 million

Starting in the late 1990s, Patricia Riggen built her resume in both American and Mexican film. Her breakthrough film was 2007's La misma luna (Under the Same Moon), which was a modest hit in both the U.S. and Mexico. More mainstream films like Lemonade Mouth and Girl in Progress followed, and then Riggen directed The 33, a survival movie based on the real-life 2010 Copiapó mining accident. She reached her greatest success with the faith-based American drama film Miracles from Heaven starring Jennifer Garner.

of 08

Eugenio Derbez

Instructions Not Included
Pantelion Films

Biggest Hit: No se aceptan devoluciones (Instructions Not Included) (2013) $99.1 million

American box office analysts were puzzled when a Mexican movie titled Instructions Not Included grossed $7.8 million in only 348 theaters in its opening weekend in the United States. Hardly any of them had heard of director and star Eugenio Derbez, though he is a well-known star by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. No se aceptan devoluciones (Instructions Not Included) stars Derbez as a playboy whose life changes when he is left with a baby daughter he never knew he had until she was left on his doorstep. It broke the record of The Noble Family to become the highest-grossing Mexican film in Mexican box office history. Derbez has yet to direct another film, but he continues to act.

of 08

Guillermo del Toro

Pacific Rim
Warner Bros.

Biggest Hit: Pacific Rim (2013) $411 million

Guillermo del Toro became one of the first modern Mexican filmmakers to gain attention from Hollywood, and after beginning his career with horror films he built his Hollywood resume with the well-received comic book movies Blade II (2002) and Hellboy (2004). His 2006 fantasy film Pan's Labyrinth won three Oscars after a strong performance at the box office, which all led to del Toro's most successful film, 2013's action movie Pacific Rim. He also has become a writer and producer of note, working on projects as diverse as The Hobbit trilogy, the Shrek spinoff Puss in Boots, and the TV series The Strain.

of 08

Alejandro González Iñárritu

The Revenant
20th Century Fox

Biggest Hit: The Revenant (2015) $533 million

Just a few years ago, Alejandro González Iñárritu was generally known as an art-house cinema favorite. His previous films Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, and Biutiful all were profitable, but general audiences were unaware of what he could do as a filmmaker until the one-two punch of 2014's​ Birdman and 2015's The Revenant. Not only were both films critically acclaimed, but Iñárritu became only the third director to win back-to-back Best Director Academy Awards (Birdman also won Iñárritu Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay). However, The Revenant also became a huge box office hit, grossing more worldwide than all of his other films combined. Both Birdman and The Revenant also brought Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki two of his three Best Cinematography Academy Awards.

of 08

Alfonso Cuarón

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Warner Bros.

Biggest Hit: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) $796.7 million

Though the third Harry Potter film is Alfonso Cuarón’s highest-grossing film, it alone does not represent his stellar career.  After directing a number of acclaimed Mexican and American films, including 2001's Y Tu Mamá También, Cuarón won acclaim for his 2006's sci-fi thriller Children of Men. While serving as a producer for del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and Iñárritu's Biutiful, Cuarón spent six years working on the sci-fi thriller Gravity, which he co-wrote with his son Jonás Cuarón. The film was monumentally successful, nearly matching the worldwide gross of his ​Harry Potter sequel. He won Best Director for Gravity, which made him the first Mexican director to win, and like his countryman Iñárritu, Cuarón has worked with Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, and Gravity gave Lubezki his first of three consecutive Academy Awards for Best Cinematography.