Career trajectory of M. Night Shyamalan

This guy’s career needs a twist. Can The Happening beat the trend?

[Chart showing box office numbers and Rotten Tomatoes critical review ratings for five films directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Chart shows a strong downward trend.  Sources:,]
(Click on the graph to see a larger version.)

4 Responses to “Career trajectory of M. Night Shyamalan”

  1. Akos Says:

    I’m just happy to see that quality and box office are correlative at least in some cases.

  2. Dave Zatz Says:

    One hit wonder? Nice idea for a graph. Maybe the next one could be Star Trek movie gross predicting party of next president? Seems like we’ve had dozens of films, so the years might line up. 😉

  3. Stephen Says:

    Well, I don’t know that I’d say “one-hit wonder” because I bet both Signs and The Village made money and count as hits. But the trend sure isn’t pretty.

    Of course, the guy has made five more movies than me, and anything above 0% at RT is better than the nothing I have to offer. (And his worldwide gross is $1.6 billion more than mine, since mine is zero.) So it’s easy to criticize, and I can only imagine the tremendous pressure on him to repeat his success with The Sixth Sense. But either he’s trying too hard or trying the wrong things, because what he’s doing isn’t working the way it used to.

    An over-reliance on going for the twist is my diagnosis — how can you get away with a twist after five attempts? The audience is super-sensitive. My own twist-detection-meter is on so high when I watch his movies that I figured out the twist to The Village during the opening shot.

    After The Sixth Sense, my reaction was: Wow. This is a writer/director to watch.

    After Unbreakable, my reaction was: Well, that was an interesting movie but it didn’t really work.

    After Signs, my reaction was: That movie sucked and didn’t work at all.

    After The Village, my reaction was: Wow, his worst film yet.

    I never saw Lady In the Water.

    The thing is, even his failures are worth dissecting. He hires interesting actors and can put together great sequences. His career should be going the opposite direction it is going.

    The number one thing making me worried about The Happening (besides the downward quality trend) is that its title is “The Happening.” Hello? More generic please? How about “The Occurrencing” or “An Instantation” or “Concerning the Events Transpiring.”

    My best recommendation is he should stop writing his own movies, and hire editors/writers that can help him put his directing career back on track.


    Dave, interesting Star Trek movie idea. I’ll poke at the data.

  4. Rich Says:

    When I saw the village I thought, “Wow, this guy needs to direct other people’s stories for a while.” I think the best thing Quentin Tarantino did was make Jackie Brown. It made him take someone else’s story and put it on screen. I think this caused him to grow as a director.

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