Entertainment The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors  

Ranker Film
518 votes 33 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. 

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15 4
Get Out is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jordan Peele
Get Out is a 2017 satirical horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele. A young African American man visits his white girlfriend's family estate where he learns that many of its residents, ...more
2
12 4
A Bronx Tale is listed (or ranked) 2 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
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10 4
The Gift is listed (or ranked) 3 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
4
10 4
Citizen Kane is listed (or ranked) 4 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
5
6 1
Caddyshack is listed (or ranked) 5 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
6
7 2
Frailty is listed (or ranked) 6 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
7
7 2
This Is the End is listed (or ranked) 7 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
8
7 2
Play Misty for Me is listed (or ranked) 8 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
9
8 3
Dances with Wolves is listed (or ranked) 9 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
10
8 3
Sling Blade is listed (or ranked) 10 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
11
9 4
A Star Is Born is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Bradley Cooper
A Star Is Born is a 2018 American musical romantic drama film directed by Bradley Cooper. A movie star (Cooper) helps a young singer/actress (Stefani Germanotta) find fame, even as age and ...more
12
7 3
Return of the Dragon is listed (or ranked) 12 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
13
7 3
Henry V is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Kenneth Branagh
Henry V is a 1989 British drama film adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name about King Henry V of England. The film stars ...more
14
6 2
Antony and Cleopatra is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Charlton Heston
Antony and Cleopatra is a 1972 film adaptation of the play of the same name by William Shakespeare made by the Rank Organisation. It was directed by Charlton Heston and produced by Peter Snell ...more
15
6 2
Whip It is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Drew Barrymore
Whip It is a 2009 comedy-drama film written by Shauna Cross, based on her novel Derby Girl. The film is directed and co-produced by Drew Barrymore in her directorial debut. It stars Ellen Page ...more
16
5 1
Antwone Fisher is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Denzel Washington
Antwone Fisher is a 2002 American biographical drama film directed by Denzel Washington, marking his directorial debut. He also stars in the film as the psychiatrist Jerome Davenport, alongside ...more
17
4 0
The Players Club is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Ice Cube
The Players Club is a 1998 American comedy/drama film written and directed by Ice Cube, who made his directorial debut and also has a small role in the film. The film stars Bernie Mac, Jamie ...more
18
8 5
That Thing You Do! is listed (or ranked) 18 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
19
5 2
Mid90s is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Jonah Hill
Mid90s is a 2018 American comedy drama film directed by Jonah Hill. A thirteen-year-old (Sunny Suljic) in 90s-era LA spends his summer navigating between his troubled home life and a group of ...more
20
5 2
Away from Her is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Sarah Polley
Away from Her is a 2006 Canadian film which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival and also played in the Premier category at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The feature-length ...more
21
5 2
Reality Bites is listed (or ranked) 21 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
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4 1
The War Zone is listed (or ranked) 22 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
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4 1
The Man With the Screaming Bra... is listed (or ranked) 23 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
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4 1
The Night of the Hunter is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Charles Laughton
The Night of the Hunter is an American thriller film directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. Based on the 1953 novel of the same name by Davis ...more
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4 1
Paradise Alley is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Directorial Debuts of Famous Actors
Sylvester Stallone
Paradise Alley is a 1978 American sports film written and directed by Sylvester Stallone in his feature film directorial debut, who also starred in the role. After Stallone's success with the ...more