Thomas McCarthy

Best movies: The Station Agent (2003), The Visitor (2008), Win Win (2011)

Any respectable list of the best actors-turned-directors that lacks the name Thomas McCarthy is instantly null and void. When he’s not shooting elegant yet inconspicuous stories about everyday people, the New Jersey native is acting in films as diverse as Meet The Parents, 2012, and Flags Of Our Fathers (fans of HBO's The Wire will remember him as Scott Templeton, the unscrupulous reporter from the final season). But, frankly, we’d much rather see him remain behind the camera from here on out.

Not that McCarthy isn’t a decent performer—in fact, he’s a damn good character actor. It’s just difficult to envision the man as anything other than a director after experiencing his wonderfully conceived movies, honest and poignant human interest tales that preach softly yet impact strongly.

For example, Win Win, one of last year’s most underrated knockouts, looks and feels like a simple comedy, yet it’s actually an enthralling examination of one man’s (Paul Giamatti) reluctance to come to terms with his grown-up responsibilities. It’s a simple, nuanced case study that’s purely McCarthy.