Entertainment

The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors  

Ranker Film
579 votes 40 voters 134 items

List Rules Vote up the best directorial debuts of these actors-turned-directors.

Have you ever wanted to rank every actor-turned-director's first movie? Now’s your chance with this list of all the first movies of actor-directors. Maybe you like the actor but hate them as a director. There are also actors who turn out to be geniuses in the director's chair. Orson Welles, Robert De Niro, and Dennis Hopper all made classic films when they decided to put on their director's hat for the first time. They also acted in the first films they directed, but are they the best?

This list is also fun because everyone knows that Clint Eastwood directed Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino, but did you know that Play Me Misty was the first movie he ever directed? Or that before Ben Affleck directed The Town and Argo, he directed his brother Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone? Use this list to satisfy your curiosity when it comes to the first films that were directed by famous actors. 

Jordan Peele, Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Joel Edgerton, and Drew Barrymore are just some of the more contemporary examples of famous actors with directorial debuts. Bradley Cooper and Jordan Peele actually won Oscars for their films A Star is Born and Get Out. You'll even find a sequel on this list as Elizabeth Banks took the reigns on Pitch Perfect 2. Vote up the first movies by actors-turned-directors that you love and vote down the ones you thought were terrible. 

1
Shakes the Clown is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bobcat Goldthwait
Shakes the Clown is a 1992 American film directed and written by Bobcat Goldthwait, who performs the title role. It also features Julie Brown, Blake Clark, Paul Dooley, Kathy Griffin, Florence ...more
2
Wet Hot American Summer is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
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
3
Harlem Nights is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Eddie Murphy
Harlem Nights is a 1989 comedy film starring Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor and directed by Murphy. The film featured Michael Lerner, Danny Aiello, Redd Foxx, Della Reese and Murphy's brother ...more
4
Return to Me is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bonnie Hunt
Return to Me is a 2000 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Bonnie Hunt and starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. It was filmed in Chicago in 1999, and released in April 2000.
5
Dirty Work is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bob Saget
Dirty Work is a comedy buddy film starring Norm Macdonald, Artie Lange, Jack Warden, and Traylor Howard and directed by Bob Saget. In the film, long-time friends Mitch and Sam start a ...more
6
Little Man Tate is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jodie Foster
Little Man Tate is a 1991 drama film directed by and starring Jodie Foster. The film marked her directorial debut. It tells the story of a seven-year-old child prodigy, Fred Tate, who struggles ...more
7
Mr. Saturday Night is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Billy Crystal
Mr. Saturday Night is a 1992 film that marks the directorial debut of its star, Billy Crystal. It focuses on the rise and fall of Buddy Young Jr., a stand-up comedian. Crystal produced and ...more
8
The Four Seasons is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Alan Alda
The Four Seasons is a 1981 romantic comedy film written and directed by and starring Alan Alda, co-starring Carol Burnett, Len Cariou, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston and Bess Armstrong. ...more
9
The Winter Guest is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Alan Rickman
The Winter Guest was British actor Alan Rickman's debut as a director, and stars Phyllida Law and Emma Thompson.
10
Rosewater is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jon Stewart
Rosewater is a 2014 American drama film written and directed by Jon Stewart, based on the memoir Then They Came for Me by Maziar Bahari and Aimee Molloy. It recounts Bahari's 2009 imprisonment ...more
11
Bob Roberts is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Tim Robbins
Bob Roberts is a 1992 satirical mockumentary film written, directed by and starring Tim Robbins. It tells the rise of Bob Roberts, a right-wing politician who is a candidate for an upcoming ...more
12
Looking for Richard is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Al Pacino
Looking for Richard is a 1996 documentary, drama film directed by Al Pacino.
13
Oh! What a Lovely War is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Richard Attenborough
The film is a 1969 musical film directed by Richard Attenborough, with a cast including Dirk Bogarde, John Gielgud, John Mills, Kenneth More, Laurence Olivier, Jack Hawkins, Corin Redgrave, ...more
14
Ordinary People is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Robert Redford
Ordinary People is a 1980 American drama film that marked the directorial debut of actor Robert Redford. It stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton. The story ...more
15
Shadows is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
John Cassavetes
Shadows is an improvised film about interracial relations during the Beat Generation years in New York City, and was written and directed by John Cassavetes. The film stars Ben Carruthers, Lelia ...more
16
Vacation is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley
Vacation is a 2015 American comedy film written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (in their directorial debuts). It is the fifth installment of the Vacation film series ...more
17
Mac is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
John Turturro
Mac is a 1993 drama film directed by John Turturro.
18
Strays is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Vin Diesel
Strays is a 1997 American drama film directed, written, produced by and starring Vin Diesel, which follows a drug dealer and hustler who is fed up with the repetitive life style he leads and ...more
19
The Fearless Hyena is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jackie Chan, Kenneth Tsang
The Fearless Hyena is a 1979 Hong Kong kung fu film directed by and starring Jackie Chan. The film was co-directed by Kenneth Tsang. The film has been released on several alternative titles ...more
20
Filth and Wisdom is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Madonna
Filth and Wisdom is a 2008 film directed by Madonna, starring Eugene Hütz, Holly Weston, Vicky McClure and Richard E. Grant. It was filmed on location in London, England, from 14 to 29 May ...more
21
Grand Theft Auto is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Ron Howard
Grand Theft Auto is a 1977 American comedy road movie directed by Ron Howard. It was Howard's feature film directorial debut and features himself as Sam Freeman and Nancy Morgan as Paula Powers ...more
22
Infinity is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Matthew Broderick
Infinity is a 1996 American biographical drama film about the early life of physicist Richard Feynman. Feynman was played by Matthew Broderick, who also directed and produced the film. ...more
23
One-Eyed Jacks is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Marlon Brando
One-Eyed Jacks, a 1961 Western, is the only film directed by actor Marlon Brando. The picture was originally planned to be directed by Stanley Kubrick from a screenplay by Sam Peckinpah, but ...more
24
Rabbit Test is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Joan Rivers
Rabbit Test is a 1978 American comedy film about the world's first pregnant man, directed by Joan Rivers and is also Billy Crystal's film debut. The title is a reference to the Friedman test, ...more
25
The Kentuckian is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Burt Lancaster
The Kentuckian is a 1955 Technicolor and CinemaScope adventure film directed by Burt Lancaster, who also starred. This was one of only two films Lancaster directed, and the only one for which he ...more