In the fickle world of pop culture, it’s easy to get caught up in reputation. As a director, your filmography begins to plant certain expectations in the minds of cinephiles everywhere – it’s the difference between seeing Thomas or W.S. between the names Paul and Anderson.
A true joy as a film lover is finding a promising new director, unbound by the positive or negative potential of past work. This list covers up-and-comers who fit that bill: for inclusion, they needed to have only one feature-length film to their credit. You won’t find any stale one-hit wonders here, either; the oldest release on the list is from 2011 (sorry, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”).
If it’s true that you’re only as good as your last project, the directors listed here are doing better than plenty of seasoned veterans. Some have an upcoming project to eagerly anticipate while the others have us attentively keeping an ear to the ground, but one thing is for certain: they’re all off to a good start.
There are a handful of new talents on the scene that are producing high quality cinema, but have already made it to their second film (and beyond). Thus, you’ll notice the lack of such names as Richard Ayoade, Sarah Polley, Shane Carruth, Jeremy Saulnier, James Ponsoldt, Kelly Reichardt, and Destin Cretton. If that lineup is any indication of what modern directors can achieve, the first-timers on this list have a bright future indeed.
Excellent list. I’ve seen most of the films included here – some I liked, some not so much. But if there’s one thing they have in common, it’s that the young filmmakers (whether in age or simply experience) behind the camera showed poise and wisdom beyond their years, at least some of the time. I might also have included Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s “Don Jon” (2013), which I did like better than some of the other films on this list, and which really showcased JGL’s potential as a premier filmmaker heading into his “Sandman” project.
Pretty good list. Although not sure what time frame you are looking into but if you go further back in time there are much more amazing directorial debuts to be found.
Agreed, but the scope would be too large! There could be an excellent top 10 for every year of cinema!
No doubt about it! This list was meant to cover a span of 2-3 years, but I drew attention to a few other fantastic debuts in my review of “Blood Simple” (also in this issue). It’s amazing how many of the all-time best directors came so strong out of the gate.