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The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time

Updated April 23, 2020 8.7k votes 601 voters 7.4k views121 items

List RulesOnly feature-length films.

Believe it or not, some of the greatest films of all time were also some of the greatest directorial debuts to date. It's not too often a director's first go at overseeing an entire production ends up on a list of the best movies, but it does happen. Considering this, we've probably all seen an awesome movie and thought, "What a great job by the director" without even realizing it was the director's first movie. Regardless of what thoughts you might have had, below you'll find a list of who are now famous directors' first movies. Just consider that next time you watch one of these top flicks of the past.

From hilarious comedies to full-on thrillers, these debut films from top directors would be impressive even if they weren't the directors first. Just take a look at some of the great movies on the list. Does the classic Reservoir Dogs ring a bell? Yep, that was Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut. How about the 2018 hit Get Out? Sure enough, Jordan Peele of Key & Peele nailed it on his first crack at directing. And that's only the start of a long list of incredible debuts. 

While you may find many of them surprising, check out the list of directorial debuts below and vote up the films you find most impressive. 

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  • 26
    Sex, Lies, and Videotape
    56
    35

    Sex, Lies, and Videotape

    Steven Soderbergh

    ActorsAndie MacDowell, James Spader, Laura San Giacomo, Peter Gallagher, Steven Brill

    Released1989

    This film is a 1989 American independent drama film that brought director Steven Soderbergh to... more on Wikipedia
  • 27
    Monsters, Inc.
    38
    16

    Monsters, Inc.

    David Silverman, Pete Docter

    ActorsBilly Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Tilly, James Coburn

    Released2001

    Monsters, Inc. is a 2001 American computer-animated comedy film directed by Pete Docter,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 28
    Deadpool
    114
    98

    Deadpool

    Tim MIller

    ActorsRyan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano

    Released2016

    Deadpool is a 2016 American superhero film directed by Tim Miller, based on the Marvel Comics... more on Wikipedia

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  • 29
    Pi
    60
    43

    Pi

    Darren Aronofsky

    ActorsMark Margolis, Ajay Naidu, Clint Mansell, Ben Shenkman, Samia Shoaib

    Released1998

    Pi, also titled π, is a 1998 American surrealist psychological thriller film written and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 30
    Say Anything...
    48
    35

    Say Anything...

    Cameron Crowe

    ActorsJohn Cusack, Jeremy Piven, Joan Cusack, Bebe Neuwirth, Eric Stoltz

    Released1989

    Say Anything... is a 1989 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron... more on Wikipedia

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  • 31
    Play Misty for Me
    57
    46

    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... more on Wikipedia
  • 32
    Eighth Grade
    46
    34

    Eighth Grade

    Bo Burnham

    ActorsElsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Daniel Zolghadri, Greg Crowe

    Released2018

    Eighth Grade is a 2018 American comedy film directed by Bo Burnham. An eighth grader (Elsie... more on Wikipedia

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  • 33
    A Star Is Born
    91
    87

    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... more on Wikipedia

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  • 34
    Finding Nemo
    27
    15

    Finding Nemo

    Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

    ActorsEllen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Eric Bana, Allison Janney, Albert Brooks

    Released2003

    Finding Nemo is a 2003 American computer-animated comedy-drama adventure film produced by... more on Wikipedia
  • 35
    Bottle Rocket
    46
    38

    Bottle Rocket

    Wes Anderson

    ActorsOwen Wilson, James Caan, Leslie Mann, Luke Wilson, Andrew Wilson

    Released1996

    Bottle Rocket is a 1996 American comedy film directed by Wes Anderson. It was co-written by... more on Wikipedia

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  • 36
    Gone Baby Gone
    26
    15

    Gone Baby Gone

    Ben Affleck

    ActorsCasey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman

    Released2007

    Gone Baby Gone is a 2007 American neo-noir mystery thriller film directed by Ben Affleck,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 37
    Dances with Wolves
    14
    1

    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... more on Wikipedia

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  • 38
    Sling Blade
    24
    13

    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... more on Wikipedia
  • 39
    Little Miss Sunshine
    25
    15

    Little Miss Sunshine

    Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton

    ActorsSteve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Toni Collette, Abigail Breslin, Alan Arkin

    Released2006

    Little Miss Sunshine is a 2006 American comedy-drama road film and the directorial film debut... more on Wikipedia

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  • 40
    Fruitvale Station
    44
    39

    Fruitvale Station

    Ryan Coogler

    ActorsMichael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Ahna O'Reilly, Kevin Durand

    Released2013

    Fruitvale Station is a 2013 American biographical drama film directed by Ryan Coogler, based... more on Wikipedia
  • 41
    The Cabin in the Woods
    63
    64

    ActorsChris Hemsworth, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Acker, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins

    Released2012

    The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 American horror comedy film directed by Drew Goddard in his... more on Wikipedia

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  • 42
    The Terminator
    12
    1

    The Terminator

    James Cameron

    ActorsArnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Paxton, Linda Hamilton, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Biehn

    Released1984

    The Terminator is a 1984 American science fiction/horror action film directed by James... more on Wikipedia

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  • 43
    Booksmart
    20
    11

    Booksmart

    Olivia Wilde

    ActorsKaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Billie Lourd, Lisa Kudrow

    Released2019

    Booksmart is a 2019 American comedy film directed by Olivia Wilde. On the eve of their high... more on Wikipedia

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  • 44
    The Babadook
    46
    49

    The Babadook

    Jennifer Kent

    ActorsEssie Davis, Daniel Henshall, Adam Morgan, Hayley McElhinney, Craig Behenna

    Released2014

    The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer... more on Wikipedia
  • 45
    Wreck-It Ralph
    58
    63

    Wreck-It Ralph

    Rich Moore

    ActorsSarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, Stefanie Scott, John C. Reilly

    Released2012

    Wreck-It Ralph is a 2012 comedy animation family film written by Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee... more on Wikipedia

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  • 46
    Sorry to Bother You
    14
    7

    ActorsLakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews

    Released2018

    Sorry to Bother You is a 2018 American sci-fi fantasy comedy film directed by Boots Riley. In... more on Wikipedia
  • 47
    The Virgin Suicides
    40
    41

    The Virgin Suicides

    Sofia Coppola

    ActorsKirsten Dunst, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Hayden Christensen

    Released1999

    The film is a 1999 American drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, produced by her... more on Wikipedia

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  • 48
    Hard Eight
    30
    29

    Hard Eight

    Paul Thomas Anderson

    ActorsGwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John C. Reilly, Philip Baker Hall

    Released1996

    Hard Eight is a 1996 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Paul Thomas... more on Wikipedia
  • 49
    The Duellists
    8
    1

    The Duellists

    Ridley Scott

    ActorsHarvey Keitel, Albert Finney, Pete Postlethwaite, Stacy Keach, Keith Carradine

    Released1977

    The Duellists is a 1977 historical drama film and the directorial debut of Ridley Scott. It... more on Wikipedia

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  • 50
    10 Cloverfield Lane
    42
    49

    10 Cloverfield Lane

    Dan Trachtenberg

    ActorsJohn Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr.

    Released2016

    10 Cloverfield Lane is a 2016 American science fiction psychological thriller film directed by... more on Wikipedia

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