The dreaded sophomore slump. A band makes a great debut album or an author writes an acclaimed first novel, but then can’t live up to the hype and create another masterpiece. What about a director's second film? There are no sophomore slumps on this list. In fact, many of these directors are best known for their second films, which are the finest of their esteemed filmography. Here are the best second movies of famous directors.
Some of the best directors of all time are featured on this director’s best second films list. There are plenty of modern auteurs like David Fincher and Christopher Nolan, and, of course, old school filmmakers like Sergio Leone and Mike Nichols. It’s hard to believe Memento, Fight Club, and The Graduate were only the second time around for those directors. It’s not easy to helm a feature-length film, and these guys seem to have mastered the art by Round 2.
Make your voice heard. Vote up your favorite best second films of famous directors.
Quentin Tarantino burst onto the indie scene with Reservoir Dogs in 1992, then pretty much single-handedly launched the independent film movement into the mainstream two years later with Pulp Fiction (1994).
Tarantino, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Pulp Fiction, redefined storytelling with his nonlinear tale of a boxer, two gangsters, a mob boss's pretty wife, and two diner robbers, while turning lowbrow genres into high art. Pulp Fiction is unapologetically violent, but with each drop of blood comes a shard of humor. The auteur's signature visual style and clever winks at old school Hollywood, couched in the language of the French New Wave, only add to what has to be considered one of the most original movies ever made.
Actors: John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken, + more
Initial Release: 1994
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
#18 on The Most Rewatchable Movies
Steven Spielberg made a few TV Movies in the early 1970s before hitting the big screen with The Sugarland Express in 1974. A year later, the 27-year-old director's make-or-break sophomore film arrived in theaters. It was Jaws, and we all know how that played out. The film is an arresting hybrid of '70s drama, '50s monster movie, and procedural thriller that not only scared beachgoers for generations to come, but invented the concept of the summer blockbuster.
Actors: Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, John Searle, + more
Initial Release: 1975
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
#41 on The Most Rewatchable Movies
#6 on The Best '70s Movies
#29 on The Best Movies of All Time
Ridley Scott's first film was The Duellists (1977), a decent debut that set him up to direct the first installment of one of the greatest sci-fi franchises in cinema history. Alien (1979), however, was not just a sci-fi movie. It was a horror movie in space, and a rich exploration of character and the existential effects of extreme isolation. The film was dark, visually stark, and truly frightening. How could anyone ever forget the famous chestburster scene?
Did you know you have George Lucas to thank for Alien? As it turns out, Scott was planning on following up The Duelists with an adaptation of Tristan and Isolde, a medieval love story. The Scott saw Star Wars.
"I never saw or felt audience participation like that, in my life. The theater was shaking. When that Death Star came in at the beginning, I thought, I can’t possibly do Tristan and Isolde, I have to find something else. By the time the movie was finished, it was so stunning that it made me miserable. That’s the highest compliment I can give it; I was miserable for week. I hadn’t met George at that point, but I thought, 'Fu*k George.' Then, somebody sent me this script called Alien. I said, 'Wow. I’ll do it.'"
Actors: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton, + more
Initial Release: 1979
Directed by: Ridley Scott
#10 on The Best '70s Movies
#50 on The Best Movies of All Time
Sergio Leone came flying out of nowhere with his second feature, A Fistful of Dollars. The first part in his spaghetti western trilogy also featuring For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, the film is a heinous and totally unabashed remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, without actually being a remake (Toho Studio sued, Kurosawa's name is on the credits now, it's a whole thing). Of course, Yojimbo is basically an unofficial adaptation of Dasheill Hammet's novel Red Harvest, so it's kind of a moot point.
The real point is, with A Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone made one of the most influential films of the '60s - it created a genre; was a huge influence on the likes of Quentin Taratino, Robert Rodriguez, and Sam Raimi; and flung Clint Eastwood headfirst into international stardom. All this for a rumored budget of $200,000, from a director who's first film, The Colossus of Rhodes, is all but forgotten.
Actors: Clint Eastwood, Gian Maria Volonté, Aldo Sambrell, Mario Brega, Benito Stefanelli, + more
Initial Release: 1964
Directed by: Sergio Leone
#24 on The Best Movies of the '60s
#39 on The Greatest Movie Themes