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Top Ten: Directorial Debuts

Every director starts somewhere. There’s always that first picture. For many directors, their first movie is either a trial-by-fire (see David Fincher and Alien3), a promising start (see Neil Marshall and Dog Soldiers) or something that they, and we, would rather forget ever happened (see James Cameron and Piranha II: Flying Killers).

There are some debuts, however, that announce a new talent completely. These are not just first movies, but manifestos. They scream out ‘this is what I can do, keep watching this space’. After this, the filmmaker either makes good on his promise or spends his career struggling to escape the shadow of it. That is the double-edged sword of a great debut. It really can be a blessing or a curse.

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JL3508d ago

Some good movies here, but this list auto-fails in my opinion for not including 12 Angry Men (one of my all-time favorite movies). It still stands as one of Sidney Lumet's best movies (if not the best).

I didn't at all care for Airplane! And Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, I thought it was good, but nothing great by any means. I'd take those two away. One would undoubtedly be replaced by 12 Angry Men (which I'd put at the top). Some of the others on the list I haven't seen so I can't exactly judge them, but there are some key debuts left off here.

Quentin Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs
Guy Ritchie: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Kevin Smith: Clerks
Frank Darabont: The Shawshank Redemption
John Huston: The Maltese Falcon
Sam Mendes: American Beauty
Troy Duffy: Boondock Saints
Ben Affleck: Gone Baby Gone
Dennis Hopper: Easy Rider
Ruben Fleischer: Zombieland
Tobe Hooper: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
James Wan: Saw
Jodi Foster: Little Man Tate

I'm sure I'm missing several notable ones as well. I'd probably end up having to substitute at least half of that list with some of these right here. Especially 12 Angry Men, Clerks, Lock Stock and Reservoir Dogs.

Christopher3507d ago

100% agree with you on Lumet and Huston on The Maltese Falcon is a huge one as well.

While I'm a massive Bruce Campbell fan, I would hardly put Evil Dead on that list. I find it kind of annoying that Raimi still using some of the more annoying camera tricks, even when they don't work too well, IMHO.

I don't consider Donnie Darko, Night of the Hunter, or Airplane! great for their directing so much as other aspects (writing, casting, originality).

darklordzor3507d ago

I'd always put Evil Dead on the list. For it's time and budget Raimi did a very impressive job. It launched his career and Campbell's. I think it works.

Christopher3507d ago

I'd disagree with that. I think Sam Raimi's real future started with Darkman. Evil Dead was so unnoticeable until Army of Darkness and truly didn't do anything to show a great debut (though, he also had done many shorts before it as well).

JL3507d ago

Thank you for the Lumet love as well :D (and the Huston).

I must admit, I've never seen Evil Dead. I'll have to get around to watching it sometime soon maybe (it is in my Instant queue).

Airplane I just didn't like period. Night of the Hunter I've never seen. I can agree on the Donnie Darko thing. The originality and writing is what really made it shine, still I'd give the director his credit. There are however, quite a few from the ones I mentioned that I'd put over Donnie Darko.

jony_dols3507d ago

Duncan Jone's directional debut 'Moon' is a great film,

Featuring great visuals (for its tiny budget), an amazing Clint Mansell soundtrack and a one man show by the most underrated actor in Hollywood, Sam Rockwell.
It really has shown Duncan's future potential.

His 2nd feature film (The Source Code) is going to be released on the 1st of April, and early reviews are saying that its going to be crackingly good.

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CelluloidZombie3507d ago

Oh no! An auto-fail! I absolutely considered 12 Angry Men, and many of the others you listed here, JL. It was one of the most difficult whittling down processes I've gone through. :-)

However, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels never had a chance. I can't stand that movie.

Thanks for commenting. I've been chuffed with how popular this post has been.

JL3507d ago

lol Yea, auto-fail. It's understandable though, even from my comment and other comments (combined with the ones included in your list) it's evident there have been many great directorial debuts. 12 Angry Men definitely is one of my all-time favorites, and I think one of the best movies ever.

Didn't like Lock Stock though? Not a Guy Ritchie fan? I thoroughly enjoyed that movie.

darklordzor3507d ago

Clerks and Shawshank Redemption and Boondock Saints would have been fantastic additions to this list! Overall it's not bad, but it's so hard with all these great films out there made by first time directors. Hell, you could even through Monsters out there for Gareth Edwards.

JL3507d ago

Eh, I wasn't all that impressed with Monsters. Wasn't horrible or anything, but I wasn't impressed.

Oh, and you forgot to say that 12 Angry Men would've been a fantastic addition as well :D (lol sorry, just one of my all-time favorites).

darklordzor3507d ago

I wanted more from it than I got, but honestly I blame it on the budget. As far as filmmaking goes, it was beautifully told. There was very little dialogue in the film, but the story was still cohesively told.

darren_poolies3507d ago

Neill Blomkamp - District 9

All I have to add, one of my all-time favourite movies, really looking forward to what he does next.

JL3507d ago

That's a good one. Wouldn't make my Top 10 by any means, but definitely a good movie and an impressive debut.

CelluloidZombie3507d ago

Thanks for all the comments, people. I have to say I'm amazed that Evil Dead isn't getting the love. For me, it's by far the best of the trilogy. Army of Darkness was awful.

Still, the beauty of writing a post like this is stirring the debate. Glad to see people having their say.

Other movies that were considered but ultimately rejected were:

Blood Simple
Little Miss Sunshine

darklordzor3507d ago

Oh believe me, I had all the love in the world for Evil Dead, I will always stand by it's side!

JL3507d ago

Little Miss Sunshine, that's another good one. Primer I started watching, but never finished for some reason. Maybe I should get back to that one day.

CelluloidZombie3506d ago

I'd stick at it, JL. It's worth it, but you might be scratching your head and going 'huh?' for a few days afterwards. I was. ;-)