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25 Best Directorial Debuts Of The Decade

Close-up Culture James Prestridge lists off his favourite directorial debuts of the decade.

Let us know your favourite directorial debut in the comment section!

25) Boots Riley – Sorry To Bother You (2018)

Boots Riley in action

Musician and activist Riley turned his hand to filmmaking with his scathing satire, Sorry To Bother You. The dark comedy pulls no punches in its attack on capitalism and racism in America.

24) Aneesh Chaganty – Searching (2018)

Aneesh Chaganty and John Cho on the set of ‘Searching’

Chaganty’s Searching is one of the most inventive and underrated thrillers of the decade. Playing out entirely through computer screens and smartphones, the film follows a growingly desperate father (John Cho) as he searches for his missing teenage daughter (Michelle La).

23) Paul Dano – Wildlife (2018)

Paul Dano and Jake Gyllenhaal filming ‘Wildlife’

Wildlife, adapted from Richard Ford’s 1990 novel, tells the story of a young teen haplessly witnessing the collapse of his parents’ marriage. With incredible lead performances from Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal, the film suggests Dano has picked up a lot from his time as an actor.

22) Mari Okada – Maquia (2018)

Mari Okada promoted ‘Maquia’

Okada, who is one of Japan’s most prolific anime writers, won international plaudits for the stunning world building and touchinh storytelling in Maquia.

21) Drew Goddard – The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

Drew Goddard and a werewolf on the set of ‘The Cabin In The Woods’

Co-written with Joss Whedon, Goddard’s directorial debut questions the direction of the horror genre in cutting and entertaining fashion. The 44 year old has since gone on to have huge mainstream success with The Martian (2015).

20) Benh Zeitlin – Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012)

Benh Zeitlin talks to young actress Quvenzhane Wallis

Zeitlin recieved a nomination for Best Director at the Academy Awards following his adaptation of Lucy Alibar’s one-act play, Juicy And Delicious.

19) Dan Trachtenberg – 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Dan Trachtenberg directs Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman

Trachtenberg’s directorial debut delivered the best film in the Cloverfield series. He is now slated to be directing a Harry Houdini film in the coming decade.

18) Andrea Jaurrieta – Ana By Day (2018)

Andrea Jaurrieta directs Ingrid García-Jonsson

Jaurrieta gained experience on the set of Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta before making her first feature film. Led by a captivating performance from Ingrid García-Jonsson, Ana By Day follows a young woman as she tries to reinvent herself when a mysterious doppelgänger appears.

17) Robert Eggers – The Witch (2015)

Robert Eggers films ‘The Witch’

Eggers’ atmospheric and deeply unsettling debut became an instant horror classic. The American director has since worked on The Lighthouse with Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.

16) Alonso Ruizpalacios – Güeros (2014)


Güeros earned Ruizpalacios a number of awards for its bold and effervescent storytelling. The Mexican filmmaker then followed up Güeros with another universally acclaimed film, Museum.

15) Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station (2012)

Ryan Coogler talks with Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer

The restrained and devastating storytelling of Fruitvale Station won Coogler acclaim at Cannes. It would not be long before Hollywood trusted him to direct big budget films – Creed and Black Panther.

14) Ana Lily Amirpour – A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

‘A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night’

One of the most memorably stylish films of the last ten years, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night follows a lonely vampire as she stalks the streets of Iran.

13) David Michôd – Animal Kingdom (2010)

David Michôd directs Jacki Weaver

With an unforgettably tragic opening scene, Michôd’s directorial debut is a chilling tale about an Australian family wrapped up in a deadly rivalry with the police.

12) Jordan Peele – Get Out (2017)

Jordan Peele talks to Daniel Kaluuya

Given his status a sketch comedian, few could have predicted Peele’s rise as one of the most compelling and thought-provoking directors around. The social criticism and unnerving visuals of Get Out meant this was a popular debut for Peele.

11) Bo Burnham – Eighth Grade (2018)

Bo Burnham and Elsie Fisher talk on the set of ‘Eighth Grade’

Burnham first rose to prominence as a YouTuber, so it felt fitting that his directorial debut was an honest look at a young vlogger dealing with the anxieties of growing up.

10) Deniz Gamze Ergüven – Mustang (2015)


Ergüven brought wonderful lead performances out of her young cast to help tell this saddening story. The Turkish-French director then went on to work with Halle Berry and Daniel Craig on Kings.

9) László Nemes – Son Of Saul (2015)

László Nemes films ‘Son Of Saul’

Nemes won an Oscar for Best Director with his intense portrayal of life in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War Two.

8) Dan Gilroy – Nightcrawler (2014)

Dan Gilroy directs Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal

Gilroy had been screenwriting for nearly two decades before his directorial debut. This creepy tale of an opportunist hellbent on making his way in the television industry was well worth the wait.

7) Jennifer Kent – The Babadook (2014)

Jennifer Kent on the set of ‘The Babadook’

Kent turned her 2005 short film, Monster, into a contender for the most terrifying of all time. Most notably, it won the Aussie filmmaker high praise from horror legend William Friedkin.

6) Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born (2018)

Bradley Cooper talks to Lady Gaga

The big feel and emotion of this Hollywood remake was pulled off brilliantly by Cooper – in front and behind the camera.

5) Ari Aster – Hereditary (2017)

Ari Aster goes over the script with Toni Collette

Aster wrote and directed a number of short films this decade before leaving audiences horrified and numb with his first feature. What a first big-screen impression to make.

4) Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird (2017)

Greta Gerwig films ‘Lady Bird’

Gerwig’s solo directorial debut (she co-directed the 2008 film Nights And Weekends) is a touching portrait of the relationship between a mother and daughter.

3) Julia Ducournau – Raw (2017)

Garance Marillier in ‘Raw’

Body horror, great performances and a number of unforgettable scenes marked out this terrific directorial debut.

2) Olivia Wilde – Booksmart (2019)

Olivia Wilde with Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein

Wilde’s female-led directorial debut is one of the finest comedies of the decade. It came fifteen years after she first appeared on the big-screen with Luke Greenfield’s The Girl Next Door.

1) Alex Garland – Ex Machina (2014)

Alex Garland with Oscar Isaac

Garland had written four films before taking his place in the director’s chair. The British writer displayed incredible vision to execute this unnerving sci-fi film.


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