This is a list of film directorial debuts in chronological order. The films and dates referred to are a director's first commercial cinematic release. Many film makers have directed works which were not commercially released, for example early works by Orson Welles such as his filming of his stage production of Twelfth Night in 1933 or his experimental short film The Hearts of Age in 1934. Often these early works were not intended for commercial release either by intent, such as film school projects or inability to find distribution.
Consequently, as television gained popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, many directors began to learn their craft in this medium. Notable directors who did their first directorial work in this medium include Robert Altman, Norman Jewison, Sidney Lumet, and Alfonso Cuarón. As commercial television advertising became more cinematic in the 1960s and 1970s, many directors' early work was in this medium, including directors such as Alan Parker and Ridley Scott. With the success of MTV and the popularity of music videos from the early 1980s, this gave another avenue for directors to hone their skills. Notable directors whose early work was in music videos include David Fincher, Jonathan Glazer, Michel Gondry, and Spike Jonze.
The following symbols indicate where a director has worked in another medium prior to directing commercially.
♦ Indicates where a director has created other earlier works for television
# Indicates when a director's earlier work is uncredited
† Indicates when a director's earlier work has not been released in cinemas, for example film school productions, short films or music videos.
Refer to individual entries for further detail.
- Max Barbakow – Palm Springs
- Halle Berry – Bruised
- Harry Bradbeer♦ – Enola Holmes
- Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz† – Antebellum
- Brian Patrick Butler† – Friend of the World
- Eric D. Cabello Diaz – El Camino de Xico
- Dean Craig† – Love Wedding Repeat
- Joel Crawford† – The Croods: A New Age
- Jack Danini† – Ode to Passion
- Emerald Fennell† – Promising Young Woman
- Michael Fimognari† – To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
- Will Forbes – John Henry
- Jeff Fowler† – Sonic the Hedgehog
- Edward Hall♦† – Blithe Spirit
- Sam Hargrave† – Extraction
- Chris Henchy† – Impractical Jokers: The Movie
- David Henrie† – This Is the Year
- Natalie Erika James† – Relic
- Anthony Jerjen† – Inherit the Viper
- Aneil Karia♦† – Surge
- Glen Keane and John Kahrs – Over the Moon
- Regina King♦† – One Night in Miami...
- Natalie Krinsky – The Broken Hearts Gallery
- Patrice Laliberté♦† – The Decline
- Andrew Lawrence – The Office Mix-Up
- Anthony Leone† – Hacksaw
- Rob Lodermeier – The Willoughbys
- Viggo Mortensen – Falling
- Jekaterina Oertel – DAU. Natasha
- Prentice Penny♦† – Uncorcked
- David Prior† – The Empty Man
- Emma Seligman† – Shiva Baby
- Remi Weekes♦ – His House
- Autumn de Wilde† – Emma
- David S. F. Wilson† – Bloodshot
- Florian Zeller♦ – The Father
- Justine Bateman† – Violet
- Ryan Bliss† – Alice Fades Away
- Mika Boorem† – Hollywood.Con
- Jonathan Butterell – Everybody's Talking About Jamie
- Enrico Casarosa – Luca
- Ryan Crego♦ – Arlo the Alligator Boy
- Bakhtyar Fatah♦ – 09
- Jonah Feingold† – Dating and New York
- Dean Fleischer-Camp† – Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
- Hamish Grieve† – Rumble
- Maggie Gyllenhaal♦ – The Lost Daughter
- Rebecca Hall – Passing
- Lisa Joy♦ – Reminiscence
- Fran Kranz – Mass
- Simon McQuoid – Mortal Kombat
- Brian Andrew Mendoza† – Sweet Girl
- Marcos Mereles† – All Is Vanity
- Lin-Manuel Miranda – tick, tick... BOOM!
- Dasha Nekrasova – The Scary of Sixty-First
- Edson Oda – Nine Days
- Megan Park† – The Fallout
- Questlove† – Summer of Soul
- Diana Ringo – Quarantine
- Alessandra de Rossi – My Amanda
- Rodo Sayagues – Don't Breathe 2
- Evan Spiliotopoulos – The Unholy
- Liesl Tommy♦ – Respect
- Mattson Tomlin – Mother/Android
- Jude Weng – Finding 'Ohana
- Robin Wright†♦ – Land
- Carlson Young† – The Blazing World
- Kyle Edward Ball† – Skinamarink
- Mayim Bialik† – As They Made Us
- Loren Bouchard♦ and Bernard Derriman†♦ – The Bob's Burgers Movie
- Berkley Brady†♦ – Dark Nature
- Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum – Dog
- Janeen Damian – Falling for Christmas
- John C. Donkin – The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild
- Jesse Eisenberg† – When You Finish Saving the World
- Tim Federle♦ – Better Nate Than Ever
- Tom George♦ – See How They Run
- Michael Giacchino♦ – Werewolf by Night
- Mark Gustafson – Pinocchio
- Alex Hardcastle♦ – Senior Year
- Lee Jung-jae – Hunt
- Sanaa Lathan† – On the Come Up
- Charlotte Le Bon† – Falcon Lake
- Gail Lerner†♦ – Cheaper by the Dozen
- Jennifer N. Linch† – Kung Fu Ghost
- Pierre Perifel – The Bad Guys
- J. J. Perry – Day Shift
- Daniel and Michael Philippou† – Talk to Me
- Kyra Sedgwick♦ – Space Oddity
- Domee Shi† – Turning Red
- Goran Stolevski† – You Won't Be Alone
- Ian Tripp† and Ryan Schafer† – Everybody Dies by the End
- Charlotte Wells – Aftersun
- Kenya Barris♦ – You People
- Charlie Day – Fool's Paradise
- Nicholas Maggio† – American Metal
- Michael B. Jordan – Creed III
- Jingyi Shao† – Chang Can Dunk
- Chris Stuckmann† – Shelby Oaks
- Patrick Wilson – Insidious: Fear the Dark
- Anna Kendrick – The Dating Game
- Jonathan Krisel – Untitled Sesame Street film
- Minkyu Lee† – The Witch Boy
- Kelly Marcel – Venom 3
- Rachel Morrison♦ – Flint Strong
- Chris Pine – Poolman
- Taylor Swift† – TBA
- Zelda Williams† – Lisa Frankenstein
- Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk – Hell of a Summer
- ^ Co-directed with Robert N. Bradbury
- ^ Credited as Detlef Sierck
- ^ Co-directed with Anthony Hankey
- ^ Co-directed with Gunther von Fritsch
- ^ Co-directed with Brian Desmond Hurst
- ^ Co-directed with Robert Jordan Hill
- ^ Co-directed with Yakov Bazelyan
- ^ Credited as Derek Thomas
- ^ Co-directed with Abe Levitow
- ^ Co-directed with Bradley R. Swirnoff
- ^ Co-directed with Bill Melendez
- ^ Co-directed with Rintaro
- ^ Co-directed with Kenneth Tsang
- ^ Co-directed with Jesse Wells
- ^ Co-directed with Frank Lustig
- ^ Co-directed with David Van Taylor
- ^ Co-directed with Peter Farrelly
- ^ Co-directed with Quentin Lee
- ^ Co-directed with Jim Wynorski
- ^ Co-directed with Kevin Lima
- ^ Co-directed with Chris Malloy and Emmett Malloy
- ^ Co-directed with David Daniel
- ^ Co-directed with Corey Yuen
- ^ Co-directed with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
- ^ Co-directed with Tim Johnson
- ^ Co-directed with Vincent Paronnaud
- ^ Co-directed with Ryan Fleck
- ^ Co-directed with Matthew Robinson
- ^ Co-directed with Alastair Fothergill
- ^ Co-directed with Barry Cook
- ^ Co-directed with Guy Jenkin
- ^ Co-directed with Jocelyn Towne
- ^ Credited as Declan Dale
- ^ Co-directed with Nicholas Stoller
- ^ Co-directed with Conrad Vernon
- ^ Co-directed with Lee Unkrich
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- ^ "15 Facts About Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE: America's Greatest Film Turns 75". AFI.com. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
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- ^ "The 50 greatest debut movies: part six". Time Out. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- ^ a b c d e f g h "The 50 greatest debut movies: part four". Time Out. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Jarecki, Nicholas (2001). Breaking In — How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start. ISBN 0-7679-0674-8.
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- ^ "The "Sugarland Express" Gang". TexasMonthly September 1, 2001. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
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- ^ Albert, Antonio (May 12, 1993). "Imanol Arias debuta como director de cine con 'Un asunto privado'". El País (in Spanish). Madrid: Prisa. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
- ^ Macor, Alison (February 7, 1997). "Losing Chase". The Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 5, 2020.
- ^ Ouellette, Kevin (July 15, 2008). "Review: Dangan Runner". Nippon Cinema. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- ^ a b c d "Top 5 Female Directorial Debuts". Soundonsight.org. October 24, 2011.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i "10 best-reviewed directorial debuts since 1990". Metacritic.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- ^ a b c d e f "10 worst-reviewed directorial debuts since 1990". Metacritic.com. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- ^ a b c d e f g "The Doom Dispatch: The Ten best Directorial Debuts of the Decade". www.geeksofdoom.com. Retrieved August 21, 2009.
- ^ "Sob Stories: The quiet beauty of Man Push Cart". Slate. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- ^ Bradshaw, Peter (August 8, 2009). "Katalin Varga". London: Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
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- ^ "SXSW Review: Attack The Block Could Be The Best Action Movie of the Year". Cinemablend.com. March 17, 2011.
- ^ Ma, Kevin (June 1, 2014). "Bona announces Q1 2014 results". Film Business Asia. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- ^ Kroll, Justin (September 30, 2018). "'Sesame Street' Movie Taps 'Portlandia' Co-Creator Jonathan Krisel as Director (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
- ^ Rosario, Alexandra Del (January 28, 2021). "'The Witch Boy': Netflix To Release Animated Musical From Oscar-Nominated Director Minkyu Lee". Deadline. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- ^ Kroll, Justin (October 28, 2022). "'Venom 3': Kelly Marcel Set to Direct Next Installment Starring Tom Hardy". Deadline. Retrieved December 20, 2022.
- ^ Lang, Brent (December 9, 2022). "Taylor Swift Making Feature Directing Debut for Searchlight Pictures". Variety. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
- ^ Lang, Brent (2023-02-06). "Finn Wolfhard and Billy Bryk's Directorial Debut Hell of a Summer Drops First Look, Altitude Film Sales Boards Horror-Comedy (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 2023-02-07.