Film Directors The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time  

Ranker Film
2.1k votes 128 voters 68 items

List Rules Only 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. 

1
54 12
The Shawshank Redemption is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Shawshank Redemption Frank Darabont The Shawshank Redemption is a 1994 American drama film written and directed by Frank Darabont and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Adapted from the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and ...more

2
41 11
Citizen Kane is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Citizen Kane 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

3
48 20
Get Out is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Get Out 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

4
45 18
Reservoir Dogs is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Reservoir Dogs Quentin Tarantino Reservoir Dogs is a 1992 American ensemble crime film that depicts the events before and after a botched diamond heist. The film was the debut of director and writer Quentin Tarantino, and stars ...more

5
30 14
District 9 is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
District 9 Neill Blomkamp District 9 is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Neill Blomkamp, released August 13, 2009. It takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. District 9 is based on Alive in Joburg, a short film ...more

6
31 15
Night of the Living Dead is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Night of the Living Dead George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 American independent zombie horror film directed by George A. Romero, starring Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea and Karl Hardman. It premiered on October 1, 1968, and ...more

7
29 14
Boyz n the Hood is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Boyz n the Hood John Singleton Boyz n the Hood is a 1991 American hood drama written and directed by John Singleton in his directorial debut, and starring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia ...more

8
29 15
Eraserhead is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Eraserhead David Lynch Eraserhead is a 1977 American surrealist body horror film written and directed by filmmaker David Lynch. Shot in black-and-white, Eraserhead is Lynch's first feature-length film, coming after ...more

9
29 15
Ex Machina is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Ex Machina Alex Garland Ex Machina is a 2015 independent science fiction psychological thriller film directed by Alex Garland. A young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a ground-breaking ...more

10
29 16
The Evil Dead is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Evil Dead Sam Raimi The Evil Dead is a 1981 American horror film written and directed by Sam Raimi and executive produced by Raimi and Bruce Campbell, who also stars alongside Ellen Sandweiss and Betsy Baker. The ...more

11
32 19
Deadpool is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Deadpool Tim MIller Deadpool is a 2016 American superhero film directed by Tim Miller, based on the Marvel Comics character. After being given mutant abilities with a scarred physical appearance, Wade Wilson (Ryan ...more

12
23 12
The Cabin in the Woods is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Cabin in the Woods Drew Goddard The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 American horror comedy film directed by Drew Goddard in his directorial debut, produced by Joss Whedon, and written by Whedon and Goddard. The film stars Kristen ...more

13
24 13
John Wick is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
John Wick Chad Stahelski, David Leitch John Wick is a 2014 American action thriller film directed by Chad Stahelski and David Leitch. Starring Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean ...more

14
29 18
American Beauty is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
American Beauty Sam Mendes American Beauty is a 1999 American drama film, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, an office worker who has a midlife crisis when he becomes ...more

15
22 12
Nightcrawler is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Nightcrawler Dan Gilroy Nightcrawler is a 2014 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a thief who starts shooting footage of ...more

16
22 12
Being John Malkovich is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze Being John Malkovich is a 1999 American fantasy comedy film written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. It stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener, with John Malkovich ...more

17
28 18
Lady Bird is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Lady Bird Greta Gerwig Lady Bird is a 2017 American comedy-drama film directed by Greta Gerwig. The adventures of a young woman (Saoirse Ronan) living in Northern California for a year.

18
21 12
Donnie Darko is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Donnie Darko Richard Kelly Donnie Darko is a 2001 American supernatural drama film written and directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, Jena ...more

19
21 15
Wreck-It Ralph is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Wreck-It Ralph Rich Moore Wreck-It Ralph is a 2012 comedy animation family film written by Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee and directed by Rich Moore.

20
19 13
Badlands is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Badlands Terrence Malick Badlands is a 1973 American crime film written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. Warren Oates and Ramon Bieri are also featured. Malick has a small ...more

21
20 15
The Maltese Falcon is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Maltese Falcon John Huston The Maltese Falcon is a 1941 Warner Bros. film noir based on the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. Directed by John Huston, the film stars Humphrey Bogart as private investigator Sam ...more

22
26 22
This Is the End is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
This Is the End 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

23
19 15
This Is Spinal Tap is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
This Is Spinal Tap Rob Reiner This Is Spinal Tap is an American 1984 rock music mockumentary written, scored by, and starring Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. The film portrays the fictional ...more

24
16 12
Say Anything... is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Say Anything... Cameron Crowe Say Anything... is a 1989 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Cameron Crowe in his directorial debut. In 2002, Entertainment Weekly ranked Say Anything... as the greatest ...more

25
19 17
Play Misty for Me is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Play Misty for Me 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

26
16 14
The Babadook is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Babadook Jennifer Kent The Babadook is a 2014 Australian psychological horror film, written and directed by Jennifer Kent, in which a woman and her son are tormented by a "boogie-man" type monster. The film ...more

27
15 13
Sex, Lies, and Videotape is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Sex, Lies, and Videotape Steven Soderbergh Sex, Lies, and Videotape is a 1989 American independent drama film that brought director Steven Soderbergh to prominence. It tells the story of a man who films women discussing their sexuality, ...more

28
17 16
10 Cloverfield Lane is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
10 Cloverfield Lane Dan Trachtenberg 10 Cloverfield Lane is a 2016 American science fiction psychological thriller film directed by Dan Trachtenberg. The film was developed from a script titled The Cellar, but under production by ...more

29
16 15
Don Jon is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt Don Jon is a 2013 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Produced by Ram Bergman and Nicolas Chartier, the film stars Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett ...more

30
15 14
Pi is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Pi Darren Aronofsky Pi, also titled π, is a 1998 American surrealist psychological thriller film written and directed by Darren Aronofsky in his directorial debut. The film earned Aronofsky the Directing Award at ...more

31
10 9
The Gift is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Gift 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

32
16 16
Blood Simple is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Blood Simple Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir crime film written, produced and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. It was the directorial debut of the Coens and the first major film of cinematographer Barry ...more

33
16 16
Fruitvale Station is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Fruitvale Station Ryan Coogler Fruitvale Station is a 2013 American biographical drama film directed by Ryan Coogler, based on true events. The story of Oscar Grant III (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, ...more

34
15 15
Despicable Me is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Despicable Me Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud Despicable Me is a 2010 American 3D computer-animated comedy film directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. When a criminal mastermind (Steve Carell) uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a ...more

35
14 14
Frozen is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Frozen Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee Frozen is a 2013 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy–comedy film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 53rd animated feature in the ...more

36
19 20
Ted is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Ted Seth MacFarlane Ted is a 2012 American comedy film directed by Seth MacFarlane. The screenplay by MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild is from MacFarlane's story. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, ...more

37
14 15
The Virgin Suicides is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
The Virgin Suicides Sofia Coppola The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 American drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, produced by her father Francis Ford Coppola, starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh ...more

38
16 18
Breathless is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Breathless Jean-Luc Godard Breathless is a 1960 French film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard about a wandering criminal and his American girlfriend. It was Godard's first feature-length work and represented ...more

39
15 17
Garden State is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Garden State Zach Braff Garden State is a 2004 comedy-drama film written and directed by Zach Braff and starring Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm and Braff himself. The film centers on Andrew Largeman, a ...more

40
15 17
Duel is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Duel Steven Spielberg Duel is a 1971 television thriller film directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Richard Matheson, based on Matheson's short story of the same name. It stars Dennis Weaver as a terrified ...more

41
15 17
Bottle Rocket is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Bottle Rocket Wes Anderson Bottle Rocket is a 1996 American crime comedy film directed by Wes Anderson. It was co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson. In addition to being Wes Anderson's directorial debut, Bottle Rocket ...more

42
12 14
Lion is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Lion Garth Davis Lion is a 2016 Australian-American-British drama film directed by Garth Davis and written by Luke Davies, based on the non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley. Brierley (Dev Patel), ...more

43
1 1
Dawn of the Dead is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
SahilBloch added Dawn of the Dead Zack Snyder Dawn of the Dead is a 2004 American horror film directed by Zack Snyder in his feature film directorial debut. A remake of George A. Romero's 1978 film of the same name, it is written by James ...more

44
9 13
Eighth Grade is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Eighth Grade Bo Burnham Eighth Grade is a 2018 American comedy film directed by Bo Burnham. An eighth grader (Elsie Fisher) struggles to finish her last week of classes before embarking for high school.

45
9 13
Hard Eight is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Hard Eight Paul Thomas Anderson Hard Eight is a 1996 American neo-noir crime thriller film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson. There ...more

46
9 13
Diner is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Diner Barry Levinson Diner is a 1982 American comedy-drama written and directed by Barry Levinson. The film is Levinson's screen directing debut, and the first of Levinson's four "Baltimore Films" set in ...more

47
3 7
Night Comes On is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Night Comes On Jordana Spiro Night Comes On is a 2018 drama film directed by Jordana Spiro. Released from juvenile detention on the eve of her 18th birthday, Angel LaMere (Dominique Fishback) embarks on a journey with her ...more

48
9 15
Pitch Perfect is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Pitch Perfect Jason Moore Pitch Perfect is a 2012 American musical comedy film directed by Jason Moore. Featuring an ensemble cast, including Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Brittany Snow, Ester ...more

49
8 14
Bone Tomahawk is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Bone Tomahawk S. Craig Zahler Bone Tomahawk is a 2015 American Western horror film directed by S. Craig Zahler. Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.

50
10 17
Hunger is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Hunger Steve McQueen Hunger is a 2008 film directed by Steve McQueen.