Top 10 directorial debuts

Undercutting the conventional narrative that a novice helmer cannot create a masterpiece, I present my list of the top 10 feature directorial debuts of all time. Surprisingly, all of these movies are in my top 200, which you can find here. Just missing the top 10 (but still in my top 200) are additional masterpieces such as Loving Vincent, directed by Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela (her second feature); The Lion King, directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff; The Shawshank Redemption, directed by Frank Darabont; and Easy Rider, directed by Dennis Hopper.

Among recent debuts, let me commend Ari Aster for 2018’s Hereditary and Fran Kranz for 2021’s Mass.

Experience shmexperience!

1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles) (1941)
2. Harlan County U.S.A. (Barbara Kopple) (1976)
3. 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet) (1957)
4. Arthur (Steve Gordon) (1981)
5. Duel (Steven Spielberg) (1971)
6. Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton) (1996)
7. American Beauty * (Sam Mendes) (1999)
8. Chicago * (Rob Marshall) (2002)
9. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Mike Nichols) (1966)
10. Ordinary People * (Robert Redford) (1980)

For my other top-10 lists (by genre or category), go here.

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