Film Directors The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time  

Ranker Film
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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. 

list ordered by

1
67 17
The Shawshank Redemption is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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
57 13
Citizen Kane is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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
59 21
Reservoir Dogs is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

4
63 24
Get Out is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

5
39 20
American Beauty is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

6
35 17
Ex Machina is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

7
36 18
Eraserhead is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

8
37 19
Night of the Living Dead is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

9
34 17
District 9 is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

10
35 18
The Evil Dead is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Sam Raimi This film 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. This film ...more

11
32 16
John Wick is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

12
33 17
Boyz n the Hood is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

13
28 13
Being John Malkovich is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

14
32 18
A Star Is Born is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

15
40 26
Deadpool is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

16
26 13
Nightcrawler is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Dan Gilroy Nightcrawler is a 2014 American neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal who starts shooting footage in Los Angeles and ...more

17
28 15
Donnie Darko is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

18
32 20
Lady Bird is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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.

19
25 16
The Maltese Falcon is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

20
23 14
Badlands is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Terrence Malick Badlands is a 1973 American 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 speaking ...more

21
17 8
Mid90s is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

22
25 18
The Cabin in the Woods is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

23
26 20
Wreck-It Ralph is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Rich Moore Wreck-It Ralph is a 2012 comedy animation family film written by Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee and directed by Rich Moore.

24
22 16
This Is Spinal Tap is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

25
19 14
Sex, Lies, and Videotape is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

26
19 15
Pi is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

27
21 18
Play Misty for Me is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

28
20 17
Blood Simple is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen Blood Simple is a 1984 neo-noir 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

29
27 26
This Is the End is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

30
20 19
10 Cloverfield Lane is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

31
26 26
Ted is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

32
18 17
Frozen is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

33
19 19
Despicable Me is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud Despicable Me is a 2010 American 3D computer-animated comedy film directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. When a mastermind (Steve Carell) uses a trio of orphan girls as pawns for a grand ...more

34
17 17
The Virgin Suicides is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Sofia Coppola The film 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 Hartnett, and A. ...more

35
16 16
Say Anything... is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

36
19 20
Breathless is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Jean-Luc Godard Breathless is a 1960 French film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard about a wandering wrong doer and his American girlfriend. It was Godard's first feature-length work and represented ...more

37
18 19
The Babadook is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

38
18 19
Fruitvale Station is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

39
11 11
The Gift is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

40
17 18
Duel is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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
16 17
Don Jon is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

42
1 0
Back Roads is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Alex Pettyfer Back Roads is a 2018 American drama film directed by Alex Pettyfer, based on the novel by Tawni O'Dell. Caring for his three younger sisters after the death of his abusive father and the arrest ...more

43
16 18
Garden State is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

44
14 16
Lion is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

45
3 3
Dawn of the Dead is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
SahilBloch added Zack Snyder This film 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 Gunn and ...more

46
1 1
Puss Gets the Boot is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
comicspies1 added William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Rudolf Ising Tom chases Jerry all over their house, while Jerry foils Tom's plans to catch him. Tom breaks a lot of things in the house, while chasing Jerry, but that's when Mammy steps in. Mammy is Tom's ...more

47
11 13
Hard Eight is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

48
10 13
Eighth Grade is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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.

49
10 13
Diner is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
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

50
0 1
Wildlife is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Directorial Debuts Of All Time
Paul Dano Wildlife is a 2018 American drama directed by Paul Dano. Set in 1960, a boy (Ed Oxenbould) watches his parents' (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) marriage fall apart after they move to ...more