Entertainment

The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked  

Ranker Film
239 votes 30 voters 50 items

List Rules Only feature film directorial debuts.

The best directorial debuts of the 2000s may have come and gone, but many of the films themselves have become mainstays of popular movies and fan favorites today. In other words, these directors' first films were all box-office hits—so much so that you may have been unaware these movies were their first attempts at directing. Well, believe it or not, they were! And while all the films on this list are great, it's up to you to decide what was the best first movie from directors in the 2000s. Could some even be considered the best directorial debuts of all time?

Of all the 2000s directorial debuts, Adam McKay's Anchor Man: The Legend of Ron Burgundy has got to be one of the best, as it's long been considered one of the top comedies of its time. The same could be said about Judd Apatow and his first film, The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Comedies aside, you also have to consider the awesome supernatural flick Donnie Darko by Richard Kelly, as well as the animated classic, Monsters, Inc. from Pete Docter (along with David Silverman and Lee Unkrich). Of course, these are just a glimpse of the many debuts from the 2000s. 

Check out the list of best directorial debut movies below and cast your votes for your favorites. 

list ordered by
1
Monsters, Inc. is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
David Silverman, Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich
Monsters, Inc. is a 2001 American computer-animated comedy film directed by Pete Docter, produced by Pixar Animation Studios, and released by Walt Disney Pictures. John Lasseter and Andrew ...more
2
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Judd Apatow
The 40-Year-Old Virgin is a 2005 American romantic comedy film written, produced and directed by Judd Apatow, about a middle-aged man's journey to finally lose their virginity. It was co-written ...more
3
(500) Days of Summer is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Marc Webb
(500) Days of Summer is a 2009 American romantic comedy-drama film by first time director Marc Webb. On January 8, Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meets Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel), his ...more
4
Moon is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Duncan Jones
Moon is a 2009 British science fiction drama film co-written and directed by Duncan Jones. The film follows Sam Bell, a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year ...more
5
Hunger is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Steve McQueen
Hunger is a 2008 film directed by Steve McQueen.
6
A Single Man is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Tom Ford
A Single Man is a 2009 American drama film based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Isherwood. It is directed by Tom Ford in his directorial debut and stars Colin Firth, who was ...more
7
Zombieland is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Ruben Fleischer
Zombieland is a 2009 American zombie comedy film directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma ...more
8
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron B... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Adam McKay
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, or simply Anchorman, is a 2004 comedy film directed by Adam McKay, produced by Judd Apatow, starring Will Ferrell, and written by McKay and Ferrell. The ...more
9
Donnie Darko is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Richard Kelly
Donnie Darko is a 2001 American supernatural drama film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena ...more
10
Up is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Pete Docter
Up is a 2009 American 3D computer-animated adventure comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Directed by Pete Docter, the film centers on an ...more
11
Napoleon Dynamite is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Jared Hess
Napoleon Dynamite is a 2004 American independent art-house comedy film written by Jared and Jerusha Hess and directed by Jared. The film stars Jon Heder in the role of the title character, for ...more
12
Wet Hot American Summer is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
David Wain
Wet Hot American Summer is a 2001 satirical comedy film directed by David Wain from a screenplay written by David Wain and Michael Showalter, starring Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, ...more
13
Shrek is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
Shrek is a 2001 American computer-animated fantasy-comedy film produced by PDI/DreamWorks, released by DreamWorks Pictures, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, featuring the voices of ...more
14
Legally Blonde is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Robert Luketic
Legally Blonde is a 2001 American comedy film directed by Robert Luketic, based on the novel by Amanda Brown. Sorority girl Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) decides to enroll in Harvard Law School ...more
15
Mission: Impossible III is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
J.J. Abrams
Mission: Impossible III (stylized as M:i:III) is a 2006 American action spy film directed by J. J. Abrams, and the third film in the Mission: Impossible series. Retired from field work, IMF ...more
16
Bring It On is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Peyton Reed
Bring It On is a 2000 American teen comedy film that was directed by Peyton Reed and written by Jessica Bendinger. It was followed by four direct-to-video sequels, none of which contain any of ...more
17
Lilo & Stitch is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Lilo & Stitch is a 2002 American animated action-adventure comedy-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures on June 21, 2002. The 42nd ...more
18
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Shane Black
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a 2005 American neo-noir dark comedy film written and directed by Shane Black, and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan and Corbin Bernsen. The ...more
19
Layer Cake is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Matthew Vaughn
Layer Cake is a 2004 British thriller film directed by Matthew Vaughn, in his directorial debut. The screenplay was adapted by J. J. Connolly from his novel of the same name. The film was ...more
20
In Bruges is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Martin McDonagh
In Bruges is a 2008 British-American comedy film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two Irish hitmen in hiding, with Ralph Fiennes as ...more
21
Chicago is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Rob Marshall
Chicago is a 2002 American musical comedy film adapted from the satirical stage musical of the same name, exploring the themes of celebrity, scandal, and corruption in Jazz Age Chicago. The film ...more
22
Hot Rod is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Akiva Schaffer
Hot Rod is a 2007 American comedy film co-written, directed, and starring members of The Lonely Island. The film stars Samberg as an amateur stuntman whose step-father, Frank continuously mocks ...more
23
Love Actually is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Richard Curtis
Love Actually is a 2003 British Christmas-themed romantic comedy film written and directed by Richard Curtis. The screenplay delves into different aspects of love as shown through ten separate ...more
24
Gone Baby Gone is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
Ben Affleck
Gone Baby Gone is a 2007 American neo-noir mystery film directed by Ben Affleck and starring his brother Casey Affleck. The screenplay by Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard is based on the novel of ...more
25
Saw is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts Of The 2000s, Ranked
James Wan
Saw is a 2004 horror film written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, in Wan's directorial debut. In the film, Adam (Whannell) and Lawrence (Cary Elwes) awaken chained in a large ...more