Top 50 director debut movies of the last 10 years

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February 24, 2020
IAC Films

Top 50 director debut movies of the last 10 years

Every year in cinema highlights up-and-coming film directors who share their visions with the world, whether through independent projects at events like the Sundance Film Festival or large wide-release blockbusters. Hollywood is always hungry for new talent, and the debut feature films from newer directors put them on the map to be snatched up or courted for larger productions.

Though making a first feature-length film is a daunting task, many of these first-time directors are not coming into the experience totally blind, carrying relevant credits and skills. These filmmakers may have created short films, worked in commercials and ads, or directed television episodes. They may also come from other trades in the filmmaking world, such as visual effects, screenwriting, or storyboarding.

Often enough, prolific actors will make the jump into directing, taking advantage of their name and celebrity and instantly highlighting their directorial debuts. And in recent decades, some fresh filmmakers are coming from newer media, such as YouTube and other social media and video websites. Whatever the case may be, making a feature-length movie is simply the next step for the careers of these creators.

With this in mind, Stacker is taking a look at the top 50 of these directors (or directing teams), having surveyed the best movies of the past decade (2010–2019) on IMDb. The minimum vote threshold is 3,000, and these top 50 directorial debuts are ranked according to IMDb user scores. Ties were broken by votes. Bollywood films were not considered, nor were Pixar films with first-time co-directors.

Each slide will cover the history of a director and list their feature film debut, along with their IMDb rating; titles that they have directed afterward will also be discussed. Their filmmaking style and themes that reoccur over their subsequent works will also be touched upon.

Click onward to see some of the top new talents in filmmaking from the past decade.

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1 / 50
Focus Features

#50. Pariah (2011)

- Director: Dee Rees
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 5,672
- Metascore: 79
- Runtime: 86 min

African American filmmaker Dee Rees made a splash at the Sundance Film Festival with “Pariah,” which centered around a young lesbian embracing her identity. That film was considered to have a layer, which carried over to Rees’ next film, a biopic of blues singer Bessie Smith. The most prolific film from Dee Rees is “Mudbound,” which released on Netflix in 2017; like “Pariah” and “Bessie,” this film was distinctly focused on African American characters, with the Oscar-nominated “Mudbound” addressing racism and PTSD after World War II in rural Mississippi.

2 / 50
Hoody Boy Productions

#49. Krisha (2015)

- Director: Trey Edward Shults
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 6,568
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 83 min

Writer-director Trey Edward Shults was a crew member and intern for three different Terrence Malick films before making his feature film directorial debut with “Krisha.” His following films, “It Comes At Night” and “Waves,” embodied different genres, with the former being a horror film, but all three of Shults’ films carry the theme of family dynamics. In fact, “Krisha” starred Shults’ own real-life aunt, Krisha Fairchild.

3 / 50
Wigwam Films

#48. Before I Disappear (2014)

- Director: Shawn Christensen
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 8,744
- Metascore: 47
- Runtime: 93 min

Although Shawn Christensen is relatively new to feature filmmaking, this director had already established himself as a musician for the band Stellastarr and a filmmaker for shorts including “Brink” and “Curfew.” The latter won the Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film, and Christensen would adapt the short into his first feature-length film “Before I Disappear,” also starring in the lead role. His next film would be “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall” in 2017, although it was a critical and financial failure.

4 / 50
The Works/Universal

#47. Wild Bill (2011)

- Director: Dexter Fletcher
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 11,512
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 98 min

English actor Dexter Fletcher appeared in films including “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” and “Layer Cake,” but he soon ventured into directing with a crime comedy film called “Wild Bill.” Fletcher also directed “Sunshine on Leith,” a jukebox musical film, and a biopic called “Eddie the Eagle” starring Taron Egerton. Fletcher’s big Hollywood breaks included replacing Bryan Singer in mid-production for musical biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) and again directing Taron Egerton in the Elton John musical biopic “Rocketman” (2019); Fletcher is returning to stylistic crime comedy with the third “Sherlock Holmes” film with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.

5 / 50
Annapurna Pictures

#46. Booksmart (2019)

- Director: Olivia Wilde
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 62,955
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 102 min

Actress Olivia Wilde has had a prolific career in Hollywood since her breakout performance in the television show “House,” amassing a number of credits for film and television since then. Coming-of-age film “Booksmart” represented a shift in her career, as her highly acclaimed directorial debut starring Beanie Feldstein, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance. With “Booksmart” under her belt, Wilde has a couple of jobs lined up, including directing and starring in a thriller called “Don’t Worry, Darling” and an untitled holiday-comedy film.

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6 / 50
Bellanova Films

#45. Coherence (2013)

- Director: James Ward Byrkit
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 95,507
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 89 min

James Ward Byrkit was a close collaborator of director Gore Verbinski, working as a conceptual artist on the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and a writer on “Rango.” His first project as director was “Coherence,” a science-fiction thriller involving the passing of a comet and the strange effects it has on the characters. The film was praised as smart and crafty, using non-stars and a small budget, although his next projects are unknown as of yet.

7 / 50
Dreamworks Animation

#44. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

- Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 238,580
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 90 min

Jennifer Yuh Nelson is the first woman to direct an animated feature film for a major Hollywood studio, directing “Kung Fu Panda 2” and its sequel “Kung Fu Panda 3.” These two family films were highly successful in the box office, cementing Nelson as one of the first financially successful Asian American directors. Her live-action debut with “The Darkest Minds,” based on a young adult novel, was significantly less successful critically and financially.

8 / 50
Universal Pictures

#43. Pitch Perfect (2012)

- Director: Jason Moore
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 264,091
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 112 min

Even before directing the first “Pitch Perfect” film, Jason Moore was a proven director in theater through “Avenue Q” and television with shows like “Dawson’s Creek,” “Everwood,” and “One Tree Hill.” The energetic “Pitch Perfect” was closer to Moore’s work in theater than his melodramatic work on television. Moore would continue his mainstream filmmaking in Hollywood with the 2015 Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comedy film “Sisters.”

9 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#42. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

- Director: Dan Trachtenberg
- IMDb user rating: 7.2
- Votes: 272,887
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 103 min

Director Dan Trachtenberg placed himself in the public eye with the short film “Portal: No Escape,” which is based on the Valve-developed video game “Portal.” Trachtenberg then found himself at the helm for a sci-fi thriller originally called “Valencia,” which was reconfigured into the second “Cloverfield” film. Trahctenberg later directed the first episode of “The Boys” on Prime Video, and was originally meant to return to video game adaptations with an “Uncharted” film before dropping out of the project.

10 / 50
Sony Pictures Classics

#41. Brigsby Bear (2017)

- Director: Dave McCary
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 14,452
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 97 min

The sketch comedy troupe known as Good Neighbor consists of Dave McCary, Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, and Nick Rutherford, all who found mainstream success either writing for or acting in “Saturday Night Live.” McCary works as a segment director for “SNL,” while Mooney and Bennett are in the cast and Rutherford served as a staff writer. Comedy film “Brigsby Bear” represented his feature film directorial debut, starring Mooney and produced by The Lonely Island. It generally was praised for its humor and sentiment.

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11 / 50
Porchlight Films

#40. Animal Kingdom (2010)

- Director: David Michôd
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 52,739
- Metascore: 83
- Runtime: 113 min

Before making his feature film debut with “Animal Kingdom,” David Michôd directed a number of short films and documentaries, often collaborating with Joel and Nash Edgerton. Australian crime drama “Animal Kingdom” won Michôd instant critical acclaim, and he followed his debut with a diverse slate of films including 2014 dystopian drama “The Rover,” 2017 war satire “War Machine,” and the 2019 Shakespearean-inspired historical drama “The King.” The latter two films are exclusive on Netflix.

12 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#39. The Book of Life (2014)

- Director: Jorge R. Gutiérrez
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 61,519
- Metascore: 67
- Runtime: 95 min

Mexican animator Jorge R. Gutiérrez had worked on a number of children’s animated shows before creating his own: “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera.” Gutiérrez would then join studio Reel FX to direct “The Book of Life,” a highly personal film that tells a Romeo and Juliet-like story based around the Mexican Day of the Dead. While Gutiérrez hasn’t directed any feature films since then, he has an overall deal with Reel FX.

13 / 50

#38. Four Lions (2010)

- Director: Christopher Morris
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 68,331
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 97 min

English satirist Chris Morris is most famous for his collaborations with fellow satirist Armando Iannucci on satirical news show “The Day Today,” before developing the similar “Brass Eye.” It wasn’t until 2010 when Morris delved into feature filmmaking, creating a pointed satire called “Four Lions” that centered around homegrown terrorist jihadis. After directing episodes of Iannucci’s HBO show “Veep,” Morris directed a second film called “The Day Shall Come,” which made fun of real-life FBI sting operations.

14 / 50
Sony Pictures Classics

#37. The Guard (2011)

- Director: John Michael McDonagh
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 77,086
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 96 min

Irish filmmaker John Michael McDonagh’s directorial debut “The Guard” starred Brendan Gleeson and was a successful and acclaimed buddy cop film. McDonagh would reteam with Gleeson in a 2014 Irish dark comedy called “Calvary,” which had Gleeson portray a good-natured priest. The director would follow in 2016 with “War on Everyone,” yet another dark comedy buddy cop film.

15 / 50
Fox Searchlight

#36. Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

- Director: Benh Zeitlin
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 78,623
- Metascore: 86
- Runtime: 93 min

Independent filmmaker Benh Zeitlin garnered four Academy Award nominations for his first feature film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which takes place in a Louisiana bayou. The film, which featured then-nine-year-old actress Quvenzhané Wallis—who became the youngest actress nominated for an Oscar—was praised for being fantastical and imaginative. Zeitlin’s upcoming film “Wendy,” which is a reimagining of the original “Peter Pan” story, looks to capture that same fantastical spirit.

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16 / 50
Warp Films

#35. Submarine (2010)

- Director: Richard Ayoade
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 81,885
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 97 min

Famous for co-writing British comedy shows such as “Garth Marenghi's Darkplace” and starring in “The IT Crowd,” Richard Ayoade was already an established name in comedy. But he showed a different side of his artistry with his feature film debut, “Submarine,” which was a surreal and quirky coming-of-age comedy-drama. Ayoade followed up in 2013 with “The Double,” another surreal comedy based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

17 / 50
Gracie Films

#34. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

- Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 94,131
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 104 min

Screenwriter Kelly Fremon Craig stamped her name on plenty of lighthearted screenplays, including the 2009 film “Post Grad.” Craig wrote a screenplay called “Besties” and sent it to director James L. Brooks, who produced the film and mentored Craig with her directorial debut with the film, retitled “The Edge of Seventeen.” With the Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson coming-of-age film garnering Craig much praise, she is now attached to a number of upcoming projects, writing the “Scooby-Doo” prequel “Scoob!” and currently planning to direct and write an adaptation of “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”

18 / 50
DC Entertainment

#33. The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

- Director: Chris McKay
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 123,348
- Metascore: 75
- Runtime: 104 min

Animator Chris McKay previously worked on Seth Green’s Adult Swim show “Robot Chicken” before joining directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller co-directing “The Lego Movie.” After that, McKay acted as the solo director for the spin-off film, “The Lego Batman Movie,” which was highly acclaimed like the original Lego film. McKay is making his live-action debut with “The Tomorrow War,” a sci-fi war film, and is reported to return to the Batman universe with a live-action “Nightwing” movie.

19 / 50
Dreamworks Animation

#32. Rise of the Guardians (2012)

- Director: Peter Ramsey
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 150,035
- Metascore: 58
- Runtime: 97 min

Originally a storyboard artist, Peter Ramsey accepted an invitation to join DreamWorks Animation, working on several short and feature films. Ramsey made his first solo directorial effort with the highly stylistic and action-packed “Rise of the Guardians.” With Sony Pictures Animation and co-directors Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman, Ramsey co-directed the also-stylistic and action-packed “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (2018), winning an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

20 / 50

#31. Hereditary (2018)

- Director: Ari Aster
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 192,404
- Metascore: 87
- Runtime: 127 min

Primarily known for making horror films, Ari Aster first gained attention for his highly subversive short film “The Strange Thing About the Johnsons.” Aster had mainstream success with “Hereditary” through studio A24; the film centered on family dynamics and was thought to be one of the scariest films in recent memory. Aster quickly followed up with the daytime-set horror film “Midsommar,” which instead focused on a troubled romantic relationship instead of a familial one, and was equally praised for being disturbing yet relatable.

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21 / 50
Disney Pixar

#30. Monsters University (2013)

- Director: Dan Scanlon
- IMDb user rating: 7.3
- Votes: 303,888
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 104 min

Originally a story artist for direct-to-video Disney animated films like “The Little Mermaid II” and “Tarzan II,” Dan Scanlon would later have a similar role on Pixar films like “Cars” and “Toy Story 3.” He took on the task of directing the prequel to the Pixar classic “Monsters Inc.” with “Monsters University.” This year, Pixar will release Scanlon’s first original film, a fantasy road trip movie called “Onward.”

22 / 50

#29. Blindspotting (2018)

- Director: Carlos López Estrada
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 21,579
- Metascore: 77
- Runtime: 95 min

Mexican American director Carlos López Estrada began his career directing a number of surreal music videos, with one of his more famous being for the Capital Cities song “Kangaroo Court.” After a number of collaborations with experimental rap group CLPPNG, which includes “Hamilton” star Daveed Diggs, Estrada re-teamed with Diggs for a semi-autobiographical film called “Blindspotting,” which focused on a parolee in a gentrifying Oakland. Estrada returned to more surrealist fare directing an episode of “Legion” and the music video for Billie Eilish song “When the Party’s Over.”

23 / 50

#28. Mid90s (2018)

- Director: Jonah Hill
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 35,880
- Metascore: 66
- Runtime: 85 min

Actor Jonah Hill was already renowned for his acting work on a number of comedy films like “Superbad” but gained Oscar nominations for the films “Moneyball” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Continuing with his career growth, he directed the music video for the Danny Brown song “Ain’t It Funny” and later made his feature film debut with the A24 indie film “Mid90s.” The film was praised as a nostalgic throwback to mid-1990s youth skateboarding culture.

24 / 50

#27. Eighth Grade (2018)

- Director: Bo Burnham
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 52,511
- Metascore: 89
- Runtime: 93 min

Comedian Bo Burnham has proven to have a unique career trajectory, becoming prolific through his YouTube channel, which has been viewed over 275 million times, and having a number of stand-up comedy specials with Comedy Central and Netflix. Burnham also expanded to poetry, and later teamed with A24 for his first feature film entitled “Eighth Grade,” a coming-of-age film that like his comedy, reflected on many aspects of his personal life, and was thought to be one of the best films of 2018.

25 / 50
STX Entertainment

#26. Molly's Game (2017)

- Director: Aaron Sorkin
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 117,613
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 140 min

Even though Aaron Sorkin is one of the most well-known screenwriters from the past couple of decades with shows like “The West Wing” and films including “The Social Network,” it took until 2017 for Sorkin to go behind the camera as a film director. “Molly’s Game” took Sorkin’s fast and clever dialogue and showcased it from his own fast and energetic creative eye. Sorkin is reportedly directing a second film from another one of his own screenplays: a crime drama film called “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” based on a real-life 1968 incident.

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26 / 50
IAC Films

#25. Lady Bird (2017)

- Director: Greta Gerwig
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 200,633
- Metascore: 94
- Runtime: 94 min

Actress Greta Gerwig is one of several performers who successfully made a transition into directing. Gerwig starred in (and co-wrote) a number of films directed by her partner Noah Baumbach, including “Francis Ha” and “Mistress America,” before garnering Oscar attention with her first feature film “Lady Bird.” Starring Saoirse Ronan and featuring Timothée Chalamet, the coming-of-age dramedy resulted in a Best Director nomination for Gerwig; she followed up with a 2019 adaptation of “Little Women,” also a coming-of-age film and also starring Ronan and Chalamet.

27 / 50
Summit Entertainment

#24. John Wick (2014)

- Directors: Chad Stahelski
- IMDb user rating: 7.4
- Votes: 494,663
- Metascore: 68
- Runtime: 101 min

Stuntmen Chad Stahelski and David Leitch co-directed “John Wick,” a high-octane and stunt-heavy action film starring Keanu Reeves, although only Stahelski was credited. The pair also did second-unit directing for “Captain America: Civil War” and eventually pursued other projects separately, with Stahelski directing the second and third “John Wick” films and Leitch taking on “Atomic Blonde,” “Deadpool 2,” and “Hobbs & Shaw.” Stahelski is attached to a number of future projects (including a “Highlander” reboot), all undoubtedly to contain elaborate stunt work, but “John Wick: Chapter 4” will likely come before any of them.

28 / 50
Unified Picture

#23. Rudderless (2014)

- Director: William H. Macy
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 16,772
- Metascore: 52
- Runtime: 105 min

Best known as a character actor in films like “Fargo” and the television show “Shameless,” William H. Macy made a relatively subtle transition into film directing. His first film “Rudderless” was a well-received musical drama film. Macy explored other genres with sex comedy “The Layover” and coming-of-age romance film “Krystal,” both in 2017, but neither reached the same amount of critical success as his first film.

29 / 50
Laokoon Filmgroup

#22. Son of Saul (2015)

- Director: László Nemes
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 41,394
- Metascore: 91
- Runtime: 107 min

Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes won the coveted Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for “Son of Saul,” which takes place over the course of a day-and-a-half in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. Nemes’ second film, “Sunset,” was also a historical drama, this time taking place in Budapest right before World War I. Both films were praised for being dark and harrowing.

30 / 50
Forest Whitaker's Significant Productions

#21. Fruitvale Station (2013)

- Director: Ryan Coogler
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 70,502
- Metascore: 85
- Runtime: 85 min

African American director Ryan Coogler has made three personal films, all on different production scales. “Fruitvale Station” was an indie film that premiered at Sundance, starring Michael B. Jordan and telling the true story of a victim of police violence in Oakland; “Creed” was a follow-up to the “Rocky” series with Jordan as the son of Apollo Creed, training under Rocky Balboa; and “Black Panther” starred Chadwick Boseman as the Marvel Comics African king/superhero of the fictional utopian Wakanda facing off against Jordan’s Killmonger character, winning big at the Oscars and grossing over $1 billion worldwide. Coogler is set to make a fourth film with Jordan called “Wrong Answer” and will return to direct a second “Black Panther” film for Marvel Studios.

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31 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#20. Frozen (2013)

- Directors: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
- IMDb user rating: 7.5
- Votes: 543,458
- Metascore: 74
- Runtime: 102 min

Jennifer Lee graduated from Columbia and won several awards for screenwriting, then received her career break in 2011 when she was invited to work at Disney Animation by a Columbia schoolmate. After working on “Wreck-It Ralph,” Lee became the co-director of the soon-to-be-popular film “Frozen,” working with Chris Buck, who had previously co-directed “Tarzan” and “Surf’s Up.” Lee drew from her own childhood experiences as a young girl, and continued to tell the stories of Elsa and Anna when she co-directed “Frozen II.”

32 / 50
Sony Music Entertainment

#19. You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011)

- Director: Giddens Ko
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 8,745
- Metascore: data not available
- Runtime: 109 min

Taiwanese novelist Giddens Ko wrote a semi-autobiographical novel called “You Are the Apple of My Life,” which became the basis for his feature film debut in 2011. The film focused on a student who would become a writer and was shot on location, even at the high school that Giddens himself attended. Later, his 2017 film “Mon Mon Mon Monsters” was a horror comedy that also focused on high schoolers, and despite the genre shift, still served as a personal film.

33 / 50
Optimum Releasing

#18. Tyrannosaur (2011)

- Director: Paddy Considine
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 29,193
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 92 min

English actor Paddy Considine proved to be a versatile performer in both British and Hollywood films, and he showed even more versatility when expanding to film directing. His 2007 short film “Dog Altogether” became the basis of his first feature-length film “Tyrannosaur,” a pure drama known for its brutal characters and themes. He starred in his 2017 film “Journeyman” as an injured boxer with memory loss focusing on trying to rebuild himself.

34 / 50
Studio Ghibli

#17. The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)

- Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 71,137
- Metascore: 80
- Runtime: 94 min

After working as an animator on a number of Studio Ghibli films, Hiromasa Yonebayashi made his first directorial effort with the fantasy film “The Secret World of Arrietty.” His next film “When Marnie Was There” (2014) came shortly after the retirement of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, and Yonebayashi became one of the key people behind the new Studio Ponoc. The studio’s first film was Yonebayashi’s 2017 “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” another fantasy film.

35 / 50
Screen Gems

#16. Searching (2018)

- Director: Aneesh Chaganty
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 118,220
- Metascore: 71
- Runtime: 102 min

Indian American film director Aneesh Chaganty caught attention with a Google Glass spot called “Seeds,” later joining the company to make a number of commercials. Chaganty went farther with the use of technology in his first feature film “Searching,” a mystery thriller story, which was entirely told on computer and smartphone screens. “Searching” focused on a father trying to find his daughter, while Chaganty’s next film “Run” will feature a dark relationship between a daughter and mother.

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36 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#15. The Greatest Showman (2017)

- Director: Michael Gracey
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 213,727
- Metascore: 48
- Runtime: 105 min

Before directing feature films, Michael Gracey was working in the industry in visual effects for commercials, music videos, and later, feature films. His first film was “The Greatest Showman,” a musical that starred Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, and which certainly took advantage of Gracey’s experience with music videos and showy visual effects. As of 2015, Gracey was also attached to direct an adaptation of “Naruto.”

37 / 50
Universal Pictures

#14. Despicable Me (2010)

- Directors: Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud
- IMDb user rating: 7.6
- Votes: 478,787
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 95 min

Pierre Coffin is a French animator who got his start directing short films and commercials, while illustrator Chris Renaud worked at Blue Sky Studios as a storyboard artist for films like “Robots” and “Ice Age: The Meltdown.” Both Coffin and Renaud eventually collaborated with Illumination Entertainment, directing “Despicable Me,” which introduced the Minions (one of whom Coffin voices). Amongst the two directors, their work for Illumination includes the two “Despicable Me” sequels, “Minion,” the upcoming “Minions” sequel, “The Lorax,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” and its sequel.

38 / 50

#13. Les Misérables (2019)

- Director: Ladj Ly
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 4,217
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 104 min

French director Ladj Ly had previously made short films and documentaries before crafting a feature-length narrative drama in “Les Misérables.” An original story inspired by the 2005 French uprising, this Oscar-nominated film was based on a short film that Ly had earlier made. Along with his directing, Ly has also appeared in some French media as an actor.

39 / 50
Armory Films

#12. The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

- Directors: Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 31,676
- Metascore: 70
- Runtime: 97 min

Fresh from their feature film debut with “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz are just starting off their careers in the larger world of Hollywood. Actor Zack Gottsagen stars in this “Huckleberry Finn”-like story as a young man with Down syndrome who escapes his care home to pursue his dreams. Nilson and Schwartz were nominated for the Outstanding Directorial Achievement in First-Time Feature Film from the Directors Guild of America. They are developing another lighthearted piece, a show following two girls who venture into the woods to take magic mushrooms.

40 / 50
Warner Bros.

#11. A Star Is Born (2018)

- Director: Bradley Cooper
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 295,289
- Metascore: 88
- Runtime: 136 min

Bradley Cooper became more prolific as a leading actor in the early 2010s, while also venturing into production in the middle of the decade working with his “Hangover” director Todd Phillips. Cooper’s first directorial effort was a remake of “A Star Is Born,” which paired himself with Lady Gaga. While Cooper did not receive an Oscar nomination for his directing to the disappointment of himself and the pundits, “A Star Is Born” still garnered a number of Oscar nominations in other major categories and won Best Original Song for “Shallow.”

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41 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#10. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

- Director: Rich Moore
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 359,950
- Metascore: 72
- Runtime: 101 min

Filmmaker Rich Moore had plenty of animation directing experience before moving to Disney Animation, directing several episodes of “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” The child-friendly video game movie “Wreck-It Ralph” was his first effort, earning him his first Oscar nomination. Moore would eventually win his first Oscar for co-directing Disney’s 2016 “Zootopia,” and once again got an Oscar nomination for co-directing the “Wreck-It Ralph” sequel entitled “Ralph Breaks the Internet” (2018).

42 / 50
Universal Pictures

#9. Get Out (2017)

- Director: Jordan Peele
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 442,170
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 104 min

Jordan Peele was mostly known for his sketch comedy work on “Mad TV” and his own “Key & Peele,” but the actor and writer surprised everyone with his first directorial effort “Get Out,” which earned him a nomination for Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards and a win for Best Original Screenplay. Peele had previously tackled race relations through his sketch comedy, but “Get Out” reframed his usual satire into a “social horror” film. Peele continued this trajectory in developing a reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” and released his second film “Us,” which also featured social commentary and satire.

43 / 50
Universal Pictures

#8. Ex Machina (2014)

- Director: Alex Garland
- IMDb user rating: 7.7
- Votes: 443,035
- Metascore: 78
- Runtime: 108 min

Writer Alex Garland was already well known in Hollywood for his sci-fi scripts that included “28 Days Later,” “Sunshine,” and “Dredd.” Garland would then try his own hand in sci-fi thriller directing with “Ex Machina,” an original story that explored relations between humans and AI; the film unexpectedly defeated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the Academy Award for Visual Effects. His second film “Annihilation” (2018) was essentially a sci-fi horror film that was also critically acclaimed, in part due to its unsettling nature.

44 / 50
Focus Features

#7. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

- Director: Travis Knight
- IMDb user rating: 7.8
- Votes: 110,721
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 101 min

Travis Knight previously served as the lead animator for the stop-motion animation studio Laika before helming his own movie for the studio, the highly acclaimed “Kubo and the Two Strings.” This fantasy adventure led to Knight taking on larger-scale projects in Hollywood, with the first being “Bumblebee,” a live-action prequel to Michael Bay’s “Transformers” film. While his two films thus far are quite different, both have children protagonists and have fantastical and adventure elements to them.

45 / 50
Disney Pixar

#6. Toy Story 4 (2019)

- Director: Josh Cooley
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 150,826
- Metascore: 84
- Runtime: 100 min

Pixar animator Josh Cooley started as an intern for Pixar in 2004, working as a storyboard artist in several of the studio’s hit films like “The Incredibles” and “Cars.” Cooley would get a larger credit with “Inside Out,” co-writing the screenplay for the animated film. His first solo directorial effort was “Toy Story 4,” a highly anticipated sequel, earning the Best Animated Feature Academy Award for his debut.

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46 / 50
Bold Films

#5. Nightcrawler (2014)

- Director: Dan Gilroy
- IMDb user rating: 7.9
- Votes: 426,843
- Metascore: 76
- Runtime: 117 min

Brother of fellow filmmakers Tony and John Gilroy, Dan Gilroy was a credited writer for films like “Real Steel” and “The Bourne Legacy” before venturing onto his own with “Nightcrawler.” The Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle featured an unsettling performance from the lead actor and was thought to be an excellent debut for Gilroy. The director later made “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” (2017) and “Velvet Buzzsaw” (2019), the latter being a Netflix movie that also featured an unhinged Gyllenhaal.

47 / 50
The Weinstein Company

#4. Lion (2016)

- Director: Garth Davis
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 192,783
- Metascore: 69
- Runtime: 118 min

Australian director Garth Davis established himself as a director for commercials and television shows before directing his first feature film “Lion.” The biographical film follows the real-life story of an Indian Australian man who searches for his family 25 years after being separated from them. The film was considered uplifting and moving, elements that Davis attempted to capture again in “Mary Magdalene."

48 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#3. Deadpool (2016)

- Director: Tim Miller
- IMDb user rating: 8.0
- Votes: 857,011
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 108 min

Visual effects artist and title sequence designer Tim Miller was due to make his directorial debut with an adaptation featuring the violent and profane Marvel character Deadpool, but 20th Century Fox was unwilling to greenlight an R-rated superhero film, even after viewing test footage that Miller had directed. After an enthusiastic response to the test footage following a leak to the public, Miller created the film he wanted and soon became courted for other projects after the critical and box office success of “Deadpool.” Miller’s most recent output is “Terminator: Dark Fate,” a soft reboot with his friend James Cameron, director of the original “Terminator” films, serving as producer.

49 / 50
The SPA Studios

#2. Klaus (2019)

- Directors: Sergio Pablos, Carlos Martínez López
- IMDb user rating: 8.2
- Votes: 54,196
- Metascore: 65
- Runtime: 96 min

Spanish animator Sergio Pablos worked in Disney Studios in Paris in the 1990s, contributing to movies like “A Goofy Movie,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Hercules,” and “Tarzan.” Although he did not direct the movie for Illumination, Pablos is credited as the creator of the “Despicable Me” franchise, as it is based on a story and art design from him. His first directorial effort, “Klaus,” based on the historical figure of Saint Nicholas of Myra, earned him a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.

50 / 50
Sony Pictures Animation

#1. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

- Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
- IMDb user rating: 8.4
- Votes: 293,803
- Metascore: 87
- Runtime: 117 min

Bob Persichetti worked for Disney Animation before moving to DreamWorks in the early 2000s, acting as a storyboard artist on films like “Shrek 2” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” Meanwhile, Rodney Rothman worked on live-action comedy films and collaborated with Phil Lord and Chris Miller on “22 Jump Street.” Lord and Miller would gather Persichetti, Rothman, and “Rise of the Guardians” director Peter Ramsey to direct the highly stylized “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” which became a critical phenomenon and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

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