Entertainment

The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors  

Ranker Film
719 votes 42 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
Harlem Nights is listed (or ranked) 1 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
2
Return to Me is listed (or ranked) 2 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.
3
Get Out is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jordan Peele
Get Out is a 2017 American horror film directed by Jordan Peele. A young African-American (Daniel Kaluuya) visits his white girlfriend's parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness ...more
4
A Bronx Tale is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Robert De Niro
A Bronx Tale is a 1993 American drama film set in the Bronx during the turbulent era of the 1960s. It was the directorial debut of Robert De Niro that follows a young Italian-American teenager ...more
5
This Is the End is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen
The comedy "This is the End" follows six friends trapped in a house after a series of strange and catastrophic events devastate Los Angeles. As the world unravels outside, dwindling ...more
6
The Gift is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Joel Edgerton
The Gift is a 2015 American-Australian psychological horror-thriller film written, co-produced, and directed by Joel Edgerton in his directorial debut. The film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca ...more
7
Caddyshack is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Harold Ramis
Caddyshack is a 1980 American sports comedy film directed by Harold Ramis and written by Brian Doyle-Murray, Ramis and Douglas Kenney. It stars Michael O'Keefe, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, ...more
8
Mr. Saturday Night is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
Citizen Kane is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Orson Welles
Citizen Kane is a 1941 American drama film produced by, co-written by, directed by and starring Orson Welles. The picture was Welles's first feature film. The film was nominated for Academy ...more
10
Wine Country is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Amy Poehler
Wine Country is a 2019 American comedy film directed by Amy Poehler. Tensions from the past come to the forefront for a group of friends celebrating a 50th birthday in Napa.
11
Play Misty for Me is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Clint Eastwood
Play Misty for Me is a 1971 American psychological thriller film, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, in his directorial debut. Jessica Walter and Donna Mills co-star. The original music ...more
12
Sling Blade is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Billy Bob Thornton
Sling Blade is a 1996 American drama film set in rural Arkansas, written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton, who also stars in the lead role. It tells the story of a man named Karl Childers with ...more
13
Dances with Wolves is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Kevin Costner
Dances with Wolves is a 1990 American epic western film directed, produced by, and starring Kevin Costner. It is a film adaptation of the 1988 book of the same name by Michael Blake and tells ...more
14
Shakes the Clown is listed (or ranked) 14 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
15
Wet Hot American Summer is listed (or ranked) 15 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
16
Cadence is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Martin Sheen
Cadence is a 1990 film directed by Martin Sheen, in which Charlie Sheen plays an inmate in a United States Army military prison in West Germany during the 1960s. Sheen plays alongside his father ...more
17
The Man With the Screaming Bra... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bruce Campbell
Man with the Screaming Brain is a 2005 science fiction/slapstick film co-written, produced, directed by and starring Bruce Campbell. It is Campbell's feature film directorial debut. The film was ...more
18
The War Zone is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Tim Roth
The War Zone is a 1999 drama film directed by Tim Roth in his directorial debut and starring Ray Winstone, Tilda Swinton, Lara Belmont and Freddie Cunliffe. The film is written by Alexander ...more
19
Easy Rider is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Dennis Hopper
Easy Rider is a 1969 American independent road drama film directed by Dennis Hopper. Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) are freewheeling motorcyclists that sell cocaine smuggled from ...more
20
Reality Bites is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Ben Stiller
Reality Bites is a 1994 romantic comedy-drama film written by Helen Childress and directed by Ben Stiller. It stars Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Stiller, with supporting roles by Janeane ...more
21
Frailty is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bill Paxton
Frailty is a 2002 psychological thriller film, directed by and starring Bill Paxton, and co-starring Matthew McConaughey. It marks Paxton's directorial debut. The plot focuses on the strange ...more
22
Throw Momma from the Train is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Danny DeVito
Throw Momma from the Train is a 1987 American black comedy film directed by Danny DeVito, and starring DeVito and Billy Crystal, with Rob Reiner, Anne Ramsey, Branford Marsalis, Kim Greist, and ...more
23
Return of the Dragon is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bruce Lee
Way of the Dragon is a 1972 Hong Kong martial arts action comedy film written, produced and directed by Bruce Lee, who also stars in the lead role. This was Bruce Lee's only completed ...more
24
That Thing You Do! is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Tom Hanks
That Thing You Do! is a 1996 American musical comedy drama film written, directed by, and co-starring Tom Hanks. Set in the summer of 1964, the movie tells the story of the quick rise and fall ...more
25
Confessions of a Dangerous Min... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
George Clooney
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a 2002 biographical spy comedy film depicting the life of popular game show host and producer Chuck Barris, who claimed to have also been an agent for the ...more