First impressions count. These features launched some of cinema's highest achievers, showing the themes and techniques to which many would return.
Whether on land, at sea or on the road, these debuts show what happens when an instinct for storytelling meets the medium in which it will blossom.
Drama201997 minsDirector: Melina León
Melina León’s brutal debut feature about a young indigenous woman whose baby is stolen from her in 1980s Peru. Based on true events.
Drama1991105 minsDirector: Isaac Julien
The Queen's Silver Jubilee beats to the sounds of Funkadelic, Sylvester and the O'Jays in Isaac Julien’s feature debut.
Horror198189 minsDirector: Lindsey C. Vickers
An evil and enigmatic entity throws a family into turmoil in Lindsey C. Vickers' much sought-after cult horror.
Drama201544 minsDirector: Mark Jenkin
A young man strives to provide a home for his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn child, in Mark Jenkin's mid-length precursor to Bait.
Drama1991112 minsDirector: Julie Dash
Julie Dash’s groundbreaking Daughters of the Dust remains urgent and poetic and continues to resonate, inspiring Beyoncé’s iconic visual album Lemonade.
Drama202185 minsDirector: Robert Machoian
Robert Machoian’s terse, Utah-set drama explores the anguish of a couple whose relationship has disintegrated, but with only one of them wanting out.
Comedy202294 minsDirector: Andrew Gaynord
A deliciously dark comedy about social paranoia that will have you joyfully squirming in your seat.
Drama201793 minsDirector: Rungano Nyoni
Welsh-raised, Zambian-born Rungano Nyoni delivers a dazzling debut with this darkly satirical fairy tale about a little girl accused of being a witch.
Drama202084 minsDirector: Blerta Basholli
Director Blerta Basholli’s feature debut is a moving story of resilience and hope, and the first film in Sundance history to win all three main awards.
Drama1976105 minsDirector: Lewis John Carlino
When an English widow, Anne (Sarah Miles, Ryan’s Daughter) falls in love with a dashing American sailor (singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson), her jealous teenage son goes to horrific lengths to restore the status quo.
Thriller202186 minsDirector: Josef Kubota Wladyka
Haunted by the disappearance of her younger sister two years prior, a former champion boxer leaves no stone unturned in her brutal search for answers.
Drama197290 minsDirector: Christopher St. John
A Black cop struggles with his inner and outer demons in Christopher St John’s experimental debut feature.
Drama200896 minsDirector: Joanna Hogg
On a Tuscan break a fortysomething woman finds herself drawn to the company of a group of partying teens, including a young Tom Hiddleston (in one of his earliest roles).
Drama202190 minsDirector: Aleem Khan
In this knockout feature debut from Aleem Khan, Bafta-winner Joanna Scanlan is the woman who discovers her late husband’s secrets.
Drama1989108 minsDirector: Ann Turner
Set in mid-1950s Australia, with the fear of communism in the air and rabbit plagues overrunning the countryside, Ann Turner’s debut film depicts a long, hot summer seen through the eyes and wild imagination of a young girl.
Drama2015105 minsDirector: debbie tucker green
What if an immaculate conception took place in a South London household? Idris Elba stars in a subtle, thought-provoking and original family drama.
Drama194593 minsDirector: Ingmar Bergman
Ingmar Bergman’s intriguing directorial debut, in which a young woman is torn between the traditional rural life of her family and the bright lights of the big city.
Drama200089 minsDirector: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Thai filmmaker and Palme d'Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul's hallucinatory debut feature is an extraordinary combination of experimental documentary and fiction.
Crime1997103 minsDirector: Jan Kounen
An ultra-violent cult thriller starring Vincent Cassel as a ruthless bank robber and Monica Bellucci as his partner-in-crime.
Drama1961142 minsDirector: Jacques Rivette
Remarkable first feature from cinematic visionary Jacques Rivette, brilliantly capturing the mood of paranoia and uncertainty of the Cold War period.
Drama2014132 minsDirector: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
A new arrival at a school for young deaf people is drawn into a nightmarish world of crime and brutality, in this audacious and acclaimed modern classic told in unsubtitled sign.
Biopic201090 minsDirector: Clio Barnard
Clio Barnard's film about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar mixes reconstruction, interviews (performed by actors) and scenes from the plays.
Drama2021103 minsDirector: Pascual Sisto
A troubled teenager holds his family captive in this gripping psychological thriller starring Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle as his parents.
Drama201788 minsDirector: John Trengove
A traditional rite of passage ritual forms the backdrop for this tough and complex tale of closeted sexuality in South Africa.
Drama202099 minsDirector: Fernanda Valadez
This compelling first feature finds a mother embarking on an Odyssey-like search for her missing son across a border terrain where law and order has effectively broken down.
Thriller200975 minsDirector: Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor
An inventive and acclaimed British feature following the transformation of a teenager who agrees to portray her missing college friend in a highly detailed crime reconstruction.
Drama1978121 minsDirector: Horace Ové
Hailed as Britain's first black feature film, Pressure is a hard-hitting, honest document of the plight of disenchanted black youths in 1970s London.
Science Fiction2018106 minsDirector: Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja
The passengers on an interstellar space-liner are thrown into turmoil when their mission goes off course, in this compassionate and thought-provoking sci-fi drama.
Horror197788 minsDirector: Nobuhiko Obayashi
An unforgettable mixture of bubblegum teen melodrama and grisly phantasmagoria, Obayashi’s deranged fairy tale House is one of Japanese cinema’s wildest supernatural ventures and a truly startling debut feature.
Drama201798 minsDirector: Carla Simón
An outstanding debut feature charting the emotional journey of a six-year old girl in the aftermath of her mother’s death in early 1990s Spain.
Drama201787 minsDirector: Peter Mackie Burns
Emily Beecham stars in a powerful character study about a 31-year-old chef who's drifting through her London life, until she witnesses a shocking event…
Thriller2006110 minsDirector: Andrea Arnold
Andrea Arnold’s highly acclaimed film, winner of top prizes at Cannes and the BFI London Film Festival, is a haunting drama about a woman confronting past demons.
Crime200893 minsDirector: Courtney Hunt
Nominated for two Oscars (Best Actress – Melissa Leo - and Best Original Screenplay) Frozen River is a riveting thriller that raises questions about the borders we construct, between countries, communities and each other.
Comedy201488 minsDirector: Destiny Ekaragha
Riotous urban comedy adapted from the hit Royal Court play, about a Peckham teen affronted by the arrival of his long-lost Nigerian sibling.
Animation & Artists Moving Image1980195 minsDirector: Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway's epic first feature, constructed as an excerpt from an imagined, filmic directory listing everyone affected by VUE – the Violent Unknown Event
Road movie200285 minsDirector: Ivan Sen
Lena, a light-skinned Aboriginal girl living in a remote Australian town, finds herself on a journey of necessity with Vaughn, a Murri boy doing prison time in Ivan Sen’s Golden Bear-nominated feature film debut.
Drama199598 minsDirector: Mathieu Kassovitz
Mathieu Kassovitz’s landmark mid-90s drama throws a cinematic Molotov cocktail at structural racism, police brutality and media manipulation.
Historical drama197685 minsDirector: Derek Jarman and Paul Humfress
A distinctly bold and sensual reclaiming of gay history, Jarman here tells the sexually intense story of the 4th-century martyr.
Crime195891 minsDirector: Louis Malle
Julien Tavernier plans the perfect murder of his boss. Having emerged from the scene of the crime, he returns to retrieve a vital piece of evidence but finds himself trapped in a lift, increasingly desperate to escape before the police arrive.
Biopic198884 minsDirector: Terence Davies
Terence Davies' debut feature is a remarkable evocation of working-class family life in the 40s and 50s and a visionary exploration of memory.
Drama2012107 minsDirector: Sally El Hosaini
Sally El Hosaini's feature debut tells of the love and disenchantment of two British-Egyptian brothers as gangs, drugs and sexuality come between them.
Road movie1979100 minsDirector: Chris Petit
Chris Petit's cult classic is one of the most striking feature debuts in British cinema – a haunting blend of edgy mystery story and existential road movie.
Romance201984 minsDirector: Lucio Castro
A chance encounter reconnects two men in this heart-breaking lament on love, lust and missed opportunities.
Drama193489 minsDirector: Jean Vigo
Newlyweds begin their life together on a working barge in this luminous romance, the only full-length feature film by director Jean Vigo.
Comedy199495 minsDirector: David O. Russell
David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) made his feature debut in 1994 with this biting black comedy, which caused a stir with its incestuous subplot and portrayal of adolescent restlessness.
Comedy201586 minsDirector: Desiree Akhavan
Desiree Akhavan directs and stars in this witty, razor-sharp and fearless comedy following the sexual misadventures of a bisexual Brooklynite.
Drama2018102 minsDirector: Lila Avilés
Lila Avilés provides an engaging, behind-closed-doors look at the working environment of a chambermaid in one of Mexico City’s most luxurious hotels.
Documentary201994 minsDirector: Suhaib Gasmelbari
Beautifully shot documentary about four members of the 'Sudanese Film Club' who decide to revive an old cinema.
Drama201988 minsDirector: Fyzal Boulifa
A lifelong friendship is tested by tragedy in this atmospheric and intense first feature from acclaimed British shorts director Fyzal Boulifa.
Drama200796 minsDirector: Lance Hammer
Three haunted souls are thrust into co-existence in this searing debut work from Lance Hammer, a double prize winner at the Sundance Film Festival.
Sex comedy2008116 minsDirector: Anna Biller
Anna Biller's outrageous sexploitation satire follows bored housewife Barbi as she searches for adventure in predatory 1970s Los Angeles.
Animation & Artists Moving Image202070 minsDirector: Jóhann Jóhannsson
Two billion years ahead of us, a future race of humans finds itself on the verge of extinction. Tilda Swinton narrates this visually stunning lament for humanity by acclaimed composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (Sicario, Arrival).
Drama1988100 minsDirector: Claire Denis
Claire Denis' fully formed debut offers a child’s-eye-view of racial and sexual tension that bubbles with unspoken desires.
Drama1972103 minsDirector: Perry Henzell
The cult classic, acknowledged as the catalyst for the popularisation of reggae in the US, sees Jimmy Cliff traversing the underbelly of Jamaican shanty-town life.
Crime1989103 minsDirector: Takeshi Kitano
In his brutal directorial debut, ‘Beat' Takeshi Kitano plays a renegade cop who frequently resorts to violence and unethical methods to get results.
Documentary2012103 minsDirector: Rodney Ascher
Rodney Ascher's enigmatic essay film weaves together the contrasting theories of five different narrators who believe Stanley Kubrick deliberately buried hidden messages in his 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.
Drama196381 minsDirector: Věra Chytilová
Věra Chytilová's first feature is an important work of women's cinema, which contrasts the parallel stories of a gymnast (filmed as documentary) and a housewife (told as fiction).