The odds of hitting the big time in the movie business are slim but these five first films by famous directors are proof positive that dreams do come true. Filmmaking is often called a “young man’s” game and a majority of directors on this list began their careers well under the age of thirty. Perhaps there is something to be said for the hubris of youth that allows first-timers to exceed not only their own expectations, but also those of the powers-that-be. Examining the origins of these five famous filmmakers is a fun task that any film buff would enjoy.


  1. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992). Quentin Tarantino’s debut is one of the most engaging first films by famous film directors. This fast-talking quirky, circle jerk of a film is full of paranoia. Low budget, long on laughs and longer on gore, it reels you in right from the very beginning. From talking about the nature of leaving a “tip” at a restaurant to African-American male/female relations, the conversations are casually realistic. Complete with a scene where a cop gets his ear cut off and accompanied by a great classic rock soundtrack, this film would only set the stage for the films that followed, including: “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown,” “Kill Bill” and “Inglorious Basterds.”

  2. “Duel” (1971). American movie master director Steven Spielberg became one of the youngest to ever direct a major motion picture. A prophetic pre-road rage tale, actor Dennis Weaver spends the entire movie running from what looks like an eerie souped-up milk truck. Spielberg’s use of tension building reaction shot’s and close-up’s would later define his globally adored film-making style. Generally considered the greatest, if not at least the most commercially successful, working film director, Spielberg has made such classics as “Jaws.” “E.T.,” “Indiana Jones,” “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List,” and “Jurassic Park.”

  3. “Following” (1998). Christopher Nolan’s initial feature effort is one of the most interesting first films by famous directors. The helmer who would later go on to make such films as “Memento,” “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “Inception” showed more than a hint of promise his first time out. The simple story of a man obsessed with the people he follows was shot in black and white, yet is never dull for a moment and makes great use of light and shadow to heighten its moodiness.

  4. “Boyz N the Hood” (1991). This ghetto lullaby introduced director John Singleton to the world. A product of the esteemed USC Cinematic Arts program, Singleton went on to become the youngest and one of the few African-American Director’s ever nominated for an Academy Award. Rapper-actor Ice Cube made his film debut on “Boyz N the Hood” and helped push this film to critical and commercial acclaim.  Singleton would later go on to direct films such as “Rosewood,” and “Abduction,” as well as producing the pop culture hit, “Hustle & Flow.”

  5. “Menace II Society” (1993). The Hughes Brothers debut is one of the most promising first films by famous directors.  The sometimes controversial twin duo lensed this gritty, violent and searing look at urban life in Los Angeles on a meager budget. The talent the Brothers displayed on this rookie showing would only grow as they worked on such films as the Johnny Depp” starrer “From Hell” and the post apocalyptic Denzel Washington vehicle, “The Book of Eli.”  Upon it’s release “Menace II Society” was presented in the Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival and was later nominated for and Independent Spirit award and won the MTV Best Movie of the Year Award.