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The Best Directorial Debuts Of Famous Actors

Updated March 22, 2021 2.1k votes 92 voters 2.8k views134 items

List RulesVote 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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    Get Out

    Jordan Peele

    ActorsDaniel Kaluuya, Catherine Keener, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones

    Released2017

    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 about...  more
  • 2
    30
    11

    A Bronx Tale

    Robert De Niro

    ActorsRobert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Chazz Palminteri, Domenick Lombardozzi, Lillo Brancato

    Released1993

    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 in The...  more
  • 3
    30
    11

    Dances with Wolves

    Kevin Costner

    ActorsKevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Charles Rocket, Graham Greene, Maury Chaykin

    Released1990

    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 the...  more
  • 4
    32
    14

    Citizen Kane

    Orson Welles

    ActorsOrson Welles, Alan Ladd, Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Arthur O'Connell

    Released1941

    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 Awards in...  more
  • 5
    24
    7

    Caddyshack

    Harold Ramis

    ActorsBill Murray, Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Brian Doyle-Murray, Ted Knight

    Released1980

    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, Ted...  more
  • 6
    28
    14

    A Star Is Born

    Bradley Cooper

    ActorsBradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chappelle

    Released2018

    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 personal...  more
  • 7

    ActorsBrad Pitt, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Matt Damon

    Released2002

    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 Central...  more
  • 8
    18
    5

    Ordinary People

    Robert Redford

    ActorsMary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland, Adam Baldwin, Timothy Hutton, Elizabeth McGovern

    Released1980

    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
  • 9
    20
    7

    Antony and Cleopatra

    Charlton Heston

    ActorsCharlton Heston, Julian Glover, Fernando Rey, Warren Clarke, Freddie Jones

    Released1972

    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 from a...  more
  • 10
    17
    5

    Shakes the Clown

    Bobcat Goldthwait

    ActorsAdam Sandler, Robin Williams, Kathy Griffin, Florence Henderson, Bobcat Goldthwait

    Released1992

    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
  • 11
    21
    11

    Sling Blade

    Billy Bob Thornton

    ActorsRobert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, John Ritter, Dwight Yoakam, J. T. Walsh

    Released1996

    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 a...  more
  • 12

    ActorsBruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Nora Miao, Chung-Hsin Huang, Robert Wall

    Released1972

    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 directorial...  more
  • 13
    20
    11

    Frailty

    Bill Paxton

    ActorsMatthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Matt O'Leary, Levi Kreis

    Released2001

    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
  • 14
    19
    11

    This Is the End

    Evan Goldberg, Seth Rogen

    ActorsJames Franco, Jonah Hill, Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride

    Released2013

    This Is the End is a 2013 American disaster comedy film directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and an adaptation of their 2007 short film Jay and Seth versus the Apocalypse. After a series of...  more
  • 15
    14
    5

    Harlem Nights

    Eddie Murphy

    ActorsEddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Arsenio Hall, Roberto Durán, Redd Foxx

    Released1989

    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 Charlie...  more
  • 16
    14
    6

    The War Zone

    Tim Roth

    ActorsColin Farrell, Tilda Swinton, Ray Winstone, Kate Ashfield, Annabelle Apsion

    Released1999

    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 Stuart...  more
  • 17
    17
    9

    Real Life

    Albert Brooks

    ActorsAlbert Brooks, Harry Shearer, Charles Grodin, James L. Brooks, Nudie Cohn

    Released1979

    Real Life is an American comedy film released in 1979. The first feature directed by Albert Brooks, who also co-authored the screenplay, it is a spoof of the 1973 reality television program An...  more
  • 18

    ActorsBilly Crystal, Danny DeVito, Rob Reiner, Kate Mulgrew, Branford Marsalis

    Released1987

    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 Kate...  more
  • 19
    15
    7

    Paradise Alley

    Sylvester Stallone

    ActorsSylvester Stallone, Tom Waits, Terry Funk, Ted DiBiase, Anne Archer

    Released1978

    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 1976...  more
  • 20

    ActorsBruce Campbell, Stacy Keach, Ted Raimi, Tamara Gorski, Velizar Binev

    Released2005

    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
  • 21
    17
    11

    Whip It

    Drew Barrymore

    ActorsDrew Barrymore, Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Jimmy Fallon, Juliette Lewis

    Released2009

    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 Elliot Page as a...  more
  • 22
    14
    7

    Pitch Perfect 2

    Elizabeth Banks

    ActorsSkylar Astin, John Michael Higgins, Ester Dean, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle

    Released2015

    Pitch Perfect 2 is a 2015 American music and comedy film written by Kay Cannon....  more
  • 23
    14
    8

    Play Misty for Me

    Clint Eastwood

    ActorsClint Eastwood, Donna Mills, Jessica Walter, Don Siegel, Cannonball Adderley

    Released1971

    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 score...  more
  • 24
    14
    8

    Antwone Fisher

    Denzel Washington

    ActorsDenzel Washington, Viola Davis, Salli Richardson, James Brolin, Joy Bryant

    Released2002

    Antwone Fisher is a 2002 American biographical drama film directed by and starring Denzel Washington in his feature film directorial debut. He also stars in the film as the psychiatrist Jerome...  more
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    10
    3

    ActorsChevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Demi Moore

    Released1991

    Nothing but Trouble is a 1991 American horror comedy film directed by Dan Aykroyd. A businessman (Chevy Chase) and his friends are captured by a sadistic judge (Dan Aykroyd) and his equally odd...  more