Producers are often misunderstood and underrated in the public's image of the movie industry. In fact, producers run the show. When a film wins Best Picture at the Oscars, it’s the producer who takes home the trophy. They are responsible for choosing the films that get made, for raising the money, for hiring the director, and often the cast and writers as well.
During filming, producers make sure that the shooting doesn't go over the budget, and in post-production they oversee the editing and musical accompaniment. In a nutshell, the producer is the person that a film’s life hinges upon.
Like the distribution of wealth and power all over America, there are a few producers who control the majority of the power in Hollywood. If your film gets picked up by one of these fifteen producers, you're almost sure to find success, and possibly a career in film. Keep in mind, however, that they hear thousands of pitches every year - from directors and industry people with years of experience - and they usually only choose a handful of projects to get made.
These are the movie producers who hold the most power, wealth, and influence in Hollywood today.
15 Kevin Feige - $50 Million
Kevin Feige is the President of Marvel Studios, and as such, his current estimated net worth of $50 million is certainly only a temporary figure. It's set to increase wildly in the next few years. Feige is responsible for the superhero boom in films of the last decade, especially Marvel-mania. Every movie that gets released by Marvel, whether it be The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Iron Man trilogy, Thor, The X-Men movies or the Hulk all have his stamp of approval, and his name is associated with all of them.
And these Marvel hits aren’t going anywhere. Producers - and Feige especially - have seen the blockbuster quality of these smash hits, and he recently released plans for Marvel’s “Phase Three,” which has announced the release of films all the way until 2019. He’s also teamed up with Netflix and cable networks to release shows like Agent Carter, and A.K.A. Jessica Jones. Let’s check back in a year or two and see if that $50 million worth doesn’t have another zero tacked on at the end.
14 Martin Scorsese - $70 Million
Although Martin Scorsese is recognized as one of the most brilliant directors of all time, he has also helped produce many of the films he’s directed. He’s on this list because, if you ask most actors, there is probably no other person in the industry, or on the planet, that they would rather work with. It is the dream of actors in all four corners of the world to be given a role in a Scorsese film.
Raised in Little Italy in New York, Scorsese’s upbringing provided the inspiration for his films probably more than any other director’s upbringing. Though he had his first producer credit in 1968, Scorsese hit his stride in the 1990s with a slew of hugely successful gangster films.
He has also produced a wealth of music-related documentaries. Some of his biggest drama directing credits are Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island, and The Wolf of Wall Street. He produced the last four of those films. He is also the executive producer of the hit HBO show Boardwalk Empire.
13 Judd Apatow - $90 Million
Judd Apatow is responsible for producing some of the most popular and hilarious comedies that have been released in recent memory. He is well-known in the industry as a TV and film producer, and he single-handedly created the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jason Segel, and more.
Apatow earned his first co-producer credit in 1991, for the TV movie documentary Jim Carry: Unnatural Act. After producing more TV shows throughout the 1990s, he got his break with the hit show Freaks and Geeks, which starred basically all of the above actors. Since then, he’s produced The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Superbad, Step Brothers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Pineapple Express, to name a few.
12 John Lasseter - $100 Million
John Lasseter is the Chief Creative Officer for Disney and Pixar Studios. He began as an animator for Disney - for which he’s equally famous for - and then joined Lucasfilm and Pixar. He oversees all of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ and Pixar’s films as executive producer. With 35 years in the business, Lasseter can be credited for giving us just about all of our favorite, endearing, heart-warming animated movies since 1980.
Since 2000, he has produced Miyazaki’s English-translations of Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, as well as Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Ponyo, Up, Toy Story 3, Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and more.
Lasseter made his mark, however, and is probably best known for creating the story, writing, and directing the Toy Story trilogy (and the announced fourth installment).
11 Ridley Scott - $140 Million
Ridley Scott helped revolutionize the action drama in film towards the latter end of the 20th century, with films such as Alien (director), Blade Runner (uncredited co-producer), Thelma & Louise, and 2000's Gladiator - a film he would have won an Oscar for, but his executive producer title was also uncredited.
Scott, who has three Oscar nominations, has since become one of the forerunners in action-movie blockbusters. He produced Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood, Prometheus, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and many more. He’s also executive producer of the hit TV show The Good Wife. He specializes in complex stories of epic proportion that give us plenty of action while also making us think.
Scott is still a very hot commodity, with 15 films currently either in pre- or post-production, and five films slated for release each year through 2017.
10 Kathleen Kennedy - $150 Million
Kathleen Kennedy is one of the most powerful women in the industry. She has been producing mega-hits alongside Steven Spielberg since 1981, when they co-founded Amblin Entertainment together (along with her husband, Frank Marshall). In 2012, her position as one of Hollywood’s most influential people was solidified when George Lucas chose her as his successor at Lucasfilm.
She is one of the most-nominated producers at the Oscars, with eight noms but zero wins. She produced some of the highest-grossing films of the '80s and '90s, including E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, the Jurassic Park trilogy, The Sixth Sense, and one of the most highly-acclaimed films of all time, Schindler’s List.
Being head of Lucasfilm, she is also the producer for any upcoming Star Wars or Indiana Jones films. She has 10 films that have either been announced, or are in pre- or post-production, up through 2019.
9 Harvey Weinstein - $200 Million
Harvey Weinstein is the most influential and powerful producer in Hollywood. He’s best known as the co-founder of Miramax, and for being the co-chairman (along with his brother Bob) of The Weinstein Company, their production company, since 2005. He has more producer credits under his hefty belt (302) than probably any other producer in the industry.
Weinstein is known for often being quite ruthless in order to get what he wants - which seems to always happen. Articles have pointed out that past winners of the Best Picture Academy Award have mentioned God’s name in their speech seven times, while winners have mentioned Harvey Weinstein’s name in their speech 30 times. That’s how influential he is.
Weinstein won his Oscar for producing Shakespeare in Love, and he’s also produced such films as Pulp Fiction, Gangs of New York, The English Patient, Kill Bill, Sin City, Django Unchained, The King’s Speech, Inglourious Basterds, Rambo, The Aviator, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and pretty much every other movie that’s ever been made.
8 Brian Grazer - $200 Million
While some of the people on this list began as directors or writers, and then branched out to producing once they’d found some success, Brian Grazer is a real producer’s producer. He has 148 producer credits spanning since 1978, and his films and TV shows have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 131 Emmys. Grazer himself has been nominated for four Oscars - and he finally won in 2001 with A Beautiful Mind.
Grazer co-founded Imagine Entertainment in 1986, with Ron Howard. The films they’ve produced have grossed over $13 billion, making him one of the most lucrative producers in the industry. Some of the films from his ridiculously large repertoire are American Gangster, Rush, Robin Hood, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and that’s just in the last eight years. He’s also been the producer of the hugely successful TV series, 24, since its beginning.
7 Joel Silver - $300 Million
Joel Silver has been a Hollywood Producer for nearly 40 years. According to IMDb, he, along with Jerry Bruckheimer, are responsible for reinventing the action film genre in the 1980s, and he hasn’t slowed down since. In the ‘80s, he produced film such as Predator, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard (plus sequels).
He continued in the ‘90s with more Lethal Weapons and Predators, The Last Boy Scout, the TV show Tales from the Crypt, and ended the century on a high-note with 1999’s The Matrix. In the 2000’s, Silver continued his success with the other Matrix movies, a slew of Jet Li action films, V for Vendetta, and Sherlock Holmes.
He is set to produce his third Sherlock Holmes film in the coming years, and has announced five different films slated for release through 2016.
6 Michael Bay - $430 Million
Michael Bay might not have the greatest reputation amongst movie-goers and industry peers, but his formula has given him great success and made him a blockbuster juggernaut. Bay opts for over-the-top, sometimes-shallow action movies with huge explosions, which has given way to numerous hilarious videos with him as the focal point, such as an Epic Rap Battle and the “BAYSPLOSION!” YouTube videos.
Despite the intellectual value of Bay’s productions, they are all almost certainly guaranteed to be hits. Who wouldn’t want to star in a movie that’s guaranteed to make $200 to $500 million at the box office? He’s produced films such as the four Transformers films, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pain & Gain, The Purge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pearl Harbor, and his first production credit in 1998, Armageddon.
5 Peter Jackson - $450 Million
Despite only having less producer credits than anyone else on this list, the New Zealand-born Peter Jackson is a household name and one of the most successful and powerful producer/directors of the 21st century.
Jackson directed and produced the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and earned himself three Oscars in 2004 (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay) for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The final Lord of the Rings movie would go on to sweep the Oscars (winning 11 awards), becoming arguably the most successful fantasy film in history. Jackson has also produced movies such as District 9 (also nominated in the 2010 Academy Awards), King Kong, and The Frighteners. Any movie with Peter Jackson’s name attached to it is sure to be a smash at the box office.
4 James Cameron - $700 Million
James Cameron’s success ($700 million worth) is the kind you’d expect from Kevin Feige. Cameron, however - with 20 less credits than Feige - has something that no other person has under their belt: the two highest-grossing films of all time. We mean, of course, Avatar and Titanic. They are also the only two movies to ever gross over $2 billion at the worldwide box-office, with Titanic scoring $2.186 billion and Avatar bringing in $2.788 billion.
Cameron got his start by writing The Terminator, Aliens, and Rambo: First Blood Part II in the '80s. Once he had money and reputation, he started producing the films he wrote, like Titanic and Avatar, the latter of which has three more films in production through 2019.
Nowadays, it’s impossible not to know who James Cameron is, and the power that he holds in Hollywood is immeasurable.
3 Jerry Bruckheimer - $850 Million
Jerry Bruckheimer seems to have his hand in every cookie jar. You don’t have to look far when scouring the TV or movie theater to find his name attached to a project. His smart decisions as a producer have made him one of the most sought-after and successful industry persons in Hollywood.
Bruckheimer has been producing since 1972 (43 years if you’re keeping track), and has produced action films such as Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop in the '80s; Bad Boys, Con Air, and Armageddon in the '90s; and Bad Company, Pearl Harbor, and Black Hawk Down in the 2000's.
His most popular and successful franchise would have to be the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, as well as the TV shows (and spin-offs) CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Amazing Race. Since 1999, Bruckheimer has produced no less than 26 TV shows!
2 Steven Spielberg - $3.5 Billion
Steven Spielberg is one of the leading pioneers of the New Hollywood era, and is one of the most popular and inspirational filmmakers in history. He has 150 producer credits and 53 director credits, and is worth $3.5 billion. He’s won two Academy Awards for Best Director - first in 1993 with Schindler’s List, and then in 1998 with Saving Private Ryan.
Three of his films - Jaws (1975), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993) - achieved box office records, with each of them becoming the highest-grossing film made at the time. The unadjusted gross of all Spielberg-directed and produced films exceeds $8.5 billion.
Some other hits he’s produced are Gremlins, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Empire of the Sun, Men in Black, Deep Impact, the TV shows Pinky and the Brain and Animaniacs, Shrek, Catch Me If You Can, Letters From Iwo Jima, Transformers, True Grit, War Horse, Lincoln, and many, many more.
1 George Lucas - $4.3 Billion
George Lucas is arguably the film industry’s most financially successful filmmaker in history. Despite being nominated for four Oscars and never winning, Lucas’ films have stood the test of time. He is most famous for revolutionizing the sci-fi film with his immensely popular Star Wars trilogy, and then for adding to that success with the hugely successful Indiana Jones franchise.
Those two franchises are some of the most endearing in film history, and they’ve given him incredible success. He’s executive-produced every movie and video game associated with Star Wars (including Episodes I through III, and the upcoming episodes VII through IX) and Indiana Jones.
Besides his flagship franchises, Lucas has produced other successful films, such as Willow, The Land Before Time, Labyrinth, and more.