Top 10 Directorial Debuts

Much like in any other art, film-makers place a large amount of emphasis on their debut pieces. Essentially used as a reference point for the remainder of their careers, directors must ensure that their debut makes some kind of impact. Here are some of the more notable debuts from over the years- all of which have remained as a prominent work throughout their respective directors careers.


10. Eraserhead – David Lynch (1977)

Defining an entire age of independently produced cinema, David Lynch created the unmistakable Eraserhead rather early on in his career. The piece, which documents the day to day bleakness of one man’s life in a surrealist black and white existence, has become a cult classic and is often cited as a main influence upon filmmakers today. Eraserhead was Lynch’s first full length film, created on a shoestring budget following the success of prior short works.


9. Mad Max – George Miller (1979)

As one of the first of an increasingly popularly ‘dystopian’ genre, Mad Max is a frantic journey into a post-apocalyptic future where it’s every man for himself. Starring a very fresh faced Mel Gibson as the central protagonist, Mad Max tells the tale of one man and his journey across a desolate Australia circa once the world as we know it has ended. Encountering many grim individuals upon his way, Max must use his cunning to overcome some rather intense situations. All in all an excellent debut from Miller which helped put the Australian film industry on the map.


8. Citizen Kane – Orson Wells (1941)

Directing and starring in this, his debut work- Orson Wells established himself as the fearless yet gifted and competent filmmaker he became known as soon after. Set around the fall of a certain newspaper mogul and his media empire, Citizen Kane blends elements of several separate styles- from noir to biopic via satire- Wells’ first movie is a real showcase of the man’s talents in his field- wherein he is still known as an early pioneers.


7. Bloodsimple – Coen Brothers (1984)

A tireless voyage of darkness set in the Texan desert, Bloodsimple did well to inform the world of the themes which could be expected in the brothers’ later works. Showing their tastes for deadpan and nihilistic humour as well as an endless cabaret of characters- each one of them as odd as the previous- Bloodsimple was a solid debut on all fronts. Despite having maybe become more conventional over the years, the Coen brothers still adhere to many of the aforementioned themes.


6. This is Spinal Tap – Rob Reiner (1984)

With his debut, Rob Reiner really set the premise of ‘mockumentary’ as a plausible comedy format. Imitated many times since, This is Spinal Tap has become a comical institution- as well as doing incredibly well commercially. The film follows the hilarious mishaps of a hard rock band as they fade slowly into obscurity- doing well to highlight the pressures of the music industry as a whole in the process. Hosting an array of classic scenes and quotes alike, Reiner’s personal appearance as fictional documentarian ‘Marty DiBergi’ adds a whole other dimension.


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