25 of the Best First Films in Movie History

25 of the Best First Films in Movie History


A still from Get Out of Daniel Kauulya looking directly into the camera with tears streaming down his face

Screenshot: Get Out/Universal Pictures (Fair Use)

It takes a rare sort of artistic genius to create a masterpiece on your first try. Whatever type of art we’re talking about, there is of course nothing wrong with fumbling around in the dark in search of greatness. Certainly the cinema is no different—the careers of many of history’s most revered film directors resemble a bell curve: They start out with works displaying unpolished promise, work up to something approaching greatness, and then fade out a bit as the spark that fired them early on begins to sputter out.

But not everyone waits to make a classic. Some directors, through a rare combination of luck and talent, strike gold their first time in the big chair. These 25 unforgettable debut films aren’t necessarily their directors’ best work (though in some cases, they absolutely are), but each of them displays ample proof that their helmers have the goods. For some of these directors, their first films turned out to be their one and only shot, while others have built long careers from auspicious beginnings. The most exciting names here, however, are the ones who are still just getting started.

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