Ever know one of those guys who's always working? Well, if you were able to list their output the same way you could film directors, they would look something like the resumes of these guys. Once the number of movies gets up in the hundreds, it's hard to count because the IMDB starts to list things like participation in documentaries and talk shows, individual TV episodes, uncredited work, etc.. But even if the numbers aren't 100% accurate, the output of these seven filmmakers is indisputable.
1. Steven Spielberg
Love him or hate him, he's an uncanny businessman, a pure entertainer, and a genuine artist with a highly recognizable style (though he rarely transcends the middlebrow), and he has remained relevant for four decades. He has launched or at least aided some interesting careers, most notably Joe Dante (Gremlins), sometimes referred to as the anti-Spielberg, and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), who unfortunately went on to make more films. It would take a book to talk in detail about Spielberg's wide-ranging and influential achievements, from "Columbo" to the one-two release of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List in 1993. He's enormously popular, but he has his share of unsung masterpieces that intellectuals can continue to debate and defend. Indeed, in terms of both quantity and quality, I'd argue that few other cinematic legacies come close to this.
Title Count: nearly 500
Essential Films: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Innerspace (1987), Empire of the Sun (1987), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
2. Judd Apatow
From early, humble beginnings as a wannabe stand-up comic, Apatow worked his way up through various comedy television shows, including two of those peculiar types of shows that are so good they immediately get cancelled: "Freaks & Geeks" and "Undeclared." His film factory (including workers Seth Rogen, James Franco, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) sprung up quickly and recently, but by directing only sporadically and taking producing and writing credits elsewhere, he has cranked out 14 feature films in less than five years, most of them hilarious hits, and he shows no signs of stopping.
Title Count: nearly 200
Essential Films: The Cable Guy (1996), Anchorman (2004), Knocked Up (2007), Superbad (2007), Pineapple Express (2008)
3. Luc Besson
At one point, he was merely a young French director with a couple of cool action/crime movies under his belt, but now he has an entertainment empire. He has more or less left the director's chair in exchange for several writer/producer credits per year, such as this week's box office hit Taken. His good movies are so cheerful and energetic that it's easy to forgive him has bad movies, even though the two camps eventually come out about even. His international factory workers include Jason Statham, Jean Reno, Jet Li and director Louis Leterrier, all of whom have spent some of their finest hours under his wing. And even Quentin Tarantino owes him a debt of gratitude for some Pulp Fiction inspiration.
Title Count: nearly 200
Essential Films: Leon/The Professional (1994), Nil by Mouth (1997), Wasabi (2001), The Transporter (2002), Unleashed (2005)
4. Steven Soderbergh
He hasn't racked up the big quantities yet, but Soderbergh has become one of Hollywood's most challenging, versatile and productive talents. Despite Oscars and big box office, he still seems like an amused outsider. I suspect that many bean-counters fear and dread him, but he has developed devoted friendships with some of the town's most powerful stars (George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, etc.). Just a look through his last five films as director -- Bubble (with no known actors), The Good German (shot in black-and-white), Ocean's Thirteen and Che (four hours long) -- is enough to cause cinephiles to grin and accountants to run screaming.
Title Count: over 75
Essential Films: Out of Sight (1998), Far from Heaven (2002), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), A Scanner Darkly (2006), Che (2008)
5. Roger Corman
Yes, Corman has cranked out a lot of junk, and he will probably always be known primarily as a human film school that launched the careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson, Jonathan Demme and countless others. But his economy, wisdom, savvy and skill cannot be discounted, and there are a good number of films created under his watchful eye that will stand the test of time.
Title Count: nearly 500
Essential Films: A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Intruder (1962), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Shooting (1967), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979)
6. Allan Dwan
Martin Scorsese and Andrew Sarris are fans, but Peter Bogdanovich conducted the first studies of Dwan's career, interviewing him fairly extensively before his death in 1981. Born in 1885, Dwan began working in the film industry around 1911, making mostly one- and two-reelers. He's officially credited with more than 400 films, but Bogdanovich estimates that he probably worked on closer to 1000. That sheer volume of hours behind the camera developed a clean, brisk, economic style filled with action, though his greatest, most dazzling work is on history's first million-dollar film, Robin Hood (the Douglas Fairbanks version).
Title Count: over 450
Essential Films: Robin Hood (1922), The Iron Mask (1929), Heidi (1937), Tenessee's Partner (1955), Slightly Scarlet (1956)
7. Georges Méliès
I should have picked D.W. Griffith here, but instead I'm going with Méliès; last year the great Flicker Alley released an amazing five disc DVD box set with some 173 titles on it (almost all shorts). Méliès quite literally had his own movie factory and used it to make more than 500 films, many starring himself, ranging from simple, fun cinematic magic tricks to more ornate, costumed literary adaptations like Joan of Arc (1899) and Baron Munchausen (1911). He will forever be known for the indelible image of the rocketship hitting the moon in the eye in Le Voyage dans la lune (1902).
Title Count: More than 500
Essential Films: The Four Troublesome Heads (1898), Le Voyage dans la lune (1902), The Impossible Voyage (1904), The Black Imp (1905), Tunnel sous la manche (1907)