The majority of the time, filmmakers need to make a few tries before coming up with something truly exceptional. James Cameron reversed course following his failed directorial debut with Piranha II, David Fincher's career nearly collapsed after helming Alien 3, and Ron Howard's 1977 road comedy Grand Theft Auto left him jobless for five years in the feature film industry.
It doesn't happen frequently, but it has occurred that a director's debut movie winds up on a list of the best movies ever made. With the films 12 Angry Men, The Maltese Falcon, and Eraserhead, Sidney Lumet, John Huston, and David Lynch, respectively, cemented their places in history. A brilliant debut film has the ability to launch a director's career and elevate them to international acclaim. These movies, which ranged from comedies and coming-of-age stories to crime dramas and horror flicks, were made by directors who had never held the position before.
10. Everything, Everywhere All At Once (2022) by Daniel Scheinert and Dan Kwan
Everything, Everywhere, At Once, starring Michelle Yeoh as a Chinese-American woman who must harness her newfound abilities when an interdimensional rupture tears reality apart and imperils the multiverse, was written, directed, and co-produced by Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (also known as "The Daniels").
Everything, Everywhere, All At Once embraces its eschatological themes to create an artful blockbuster that is infused with martial arts and superb kung-fu action. It is ridiculously entertaining and unapologetically pleasurable. The Daniels take the fantastical subject matter and turn it into a ridiculously funny movie that travels through a pop existentialist journey that is surprising.
9. Zombieland (2009) by Ruben Fleischer
Ruben Fleischer makes his feature film debut as a director with Zombieland, which also stars Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and Woody Harrelson. Four survivors of a zombie apocalypse are followed by the camera as they travel across the Southwestern United States while adhering to a set of guidelines and survival techniques.
Zombieland is a wickedly humorous and brilliantly original film thanks to its clever writing and quick pacing. Alongside Eisenberg, who geeks it up as a diligent, rule-abiding college student, Woody Harrelson has a blast as a redneck who is out to kill. Zombieland demonstrates that the zombie subgenre is still alive and well, complete with inventive language, breathtaking gore, and a small amount of romance.
8. The Witch (2015) by Robert Eggers won audiences over.
Anya Taylor-Joy makes her acting debut on screen in Robert Eggers' The Witch, which he also wrote and directed. Other cast members include Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson, Kate Dickie, Ralph Ineson, and Harvey Scrimshaw. The movie, which is set in 1630s New England, follows a Puritan family who, when their youngest son mysteriously disappears, come across demonic forces in the woods beyond their farm.
The Witch is replete with metaphorical interpretation, as with every great horror film. The film's strength comes from director Robert Eggers' meticulousness, which is complemented by a gripping, transgressive story that is deeply rooted in the religious conviction and paranoia of life in 17th-century New England. The Witch provides a genuinely uncomfortable slow burn that portends great things for Eggers by expertly fusing the sacred and the obscene.
7. Ryan Coogler Flourished With Fruitvale Station (2013)
Fruitvale Station, a movie starring Michael B. Jordan in its writing and directing debut by Ryan Coogler, is about Oscar Grant. The movie is based on the incidents that led to Grant's death in 2009, when he was killed by Bay Area police in Oakland, California's Fruitvale Station neighborhood.
Fruitvale Station is a passionate, moving, and strong film that creates a gripping moral fable about the oddities that ruin the lives of martyrs in society. By telling Grant's story as a narrative rather than a documentary, director Ryan Coogler creates a celebration of life and a condemnation of death that pose significant queries about the worth of black lives.
6. Get Out (2017), Jordan Peele prepared audiences.
The principal character of Chris, a young black man dating a white lady in Brooklyn, is played by Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele's Get Out, which he also wrote, directed, and produced. Chris learns a number of unpleasant secrets when she invites him on a weekend retreat to her family's house in Upstate New York.
Jordan Peele creates a clever, ever-so-slightly humorous exploration of social prejudice that delves deeper than the audience anticipates, striking the ideal balance between fear and humor. Get Out is a metatextual triumph in filmmaking that effectively traces out how director Jordan Peele integrated a political message into the horror subgenre by exploring what "horror" meant to various audiences.
5. Sam Raimi's The Evil Dead (1981) revolutionized a genre.
The Evil Dead, written and directed by Sam Raimi, stars Bruce Campbell as Ashley "Ash" Williams, who goes on vacation with his girlfriend and three other friends in a remote cabin in rural Tennessee. There, an old book's text accidentally awakens the dead, causing the group to unintentionally unleash a flood of evil.
The Evil Dead skillfully blurs the line between horror and camp by fusing suspenseful filmmaking with dark humor. Sam Raimi made his debut with a crass cult favorite that, while lacking in plot, more than makes up for it with unrestrained gore and inventive photography. The Evil Dead is still regarded as the gold standard for contemporary horror filmmaking because of its gruesome kills and witty one-liners.
4. Alex Garland won praise for Ex Machina (2014).
Ex Machina, written and directed by Alex Garland, centers on a programmer who accepts his CEO's invitation to put an artificially intelligent humanoid robot through the Turing test. Sonoya Mizuno, Gana Bayarsaikhan, and Corey Johnson provide supporting turns alongside Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, and Alicia Vikander.
With an astonishing degree of assurance and style, Alex Garland directs. Ex Machina builds a captivating science-fiction thriller by taking well-known ideas and presenting them in a deep, intricate, and inventive way. Garland's primary ensemble gives powerful performances, especially Alicia Vikander, who makes the movie play as a poignant tale about the status of humanity.
3 Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird (2017) gave audiences gifts.
Saoirse Ronan portrays Christine MacPherson in Greta Gerwig's first solo film, Lady Bird, which she also wrote and directed. Christine adopts the moniker "Lady Bird" during her senior year of high school as she negotiates a close but contentious relationship with her independent mother (Laurie Metcalf).
Greta Gerwig establishes herself as a big talent in the director's chair with Lady Bird, one of the best coming-of-age films in recent memory. Saoirse Ronan's striking depiction of adolescence is brought to life by Laurie Metcalf, whose push-pull dynamic beautifully and authentically captures the turmoil of growing up.
2. Quentin Tarantino launched off with Reservoir Dogs (1992).
In his feature film debut, Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed Reservoir Dogs, which stars a large ensemble cast of actors as diamond thieves whose intended jewelry heist goes horrifically wrong. The film's leading actors include Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Lawrence Tierney, and Michael Madsen. Tarantino himself and Edward Bunker provide supporting turns.
Reservoir Dogs marked Tarantino's directorial and writing debut, and it did it with a bang. Its harsh, acidic dialogue and abrasive narrative structure, which veers into an almost absurdist ending, make it a success. Reservoir Dogs is a direct feature film debut from Quentin Tarantino, who is essentially declaring, "Look what I can do." Perhaps it contains a few too many pop culture allusions, and it can be a little too provocative at times.
1. Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941) changed the game.
The movie Citizen Kane, in which Orson Welles makes his acting and directing debut in a feature film, explores the life and legacy of newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane (portrayed by Welles). The movie is partially based on William Randolph Hearst, who forbade mention of the movie in his newspapers and whose life is the subject of the movie.
There is no denying Citizen Kane's pure brilliance; Orson Welles' first film is so radically different in terms of technique, subject matter, and presentation from other films of the day. The film's investigative approach, which permanently altered how movies were produced and understood, is its most memorable aspect. Over 80 years after its release, Citizen Kane—a motion picture moviemaking milestone—remains relevant and distinctive.
There you have it. Films that became directors’ and aspiring directors’ dream productions