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.
Comedy201388 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.
Horror2014101 minsDirector: Ana Lily Amirpour
If you only see one Iranian vampire western this year, make sure it’s this one. A female vampire stalks a ghost town in Ana Lily Amirpour’s arresting 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.
Film noir196090 minsDirector: Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard’s extraordinary debut feature, an insouciant and iconoclastic crime film that paved the way for the French New Wave.
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.
Comedy201987 minsDirector: Sasie Sealy
A crafty Coen-esque black comedy about an elderly widow who inadvertently steals from the Chinese mob and subsequently takes on the gangs to secure her fortune.
Drama2019120 minsDirector: Nora Fingscheidt
An intensive drama about a pre-pubescent girl who actually crashes Germany’s child and welfare system whilst on her quest for love and security.
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.
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
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.
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.
Drama1962101 minsDirector: Alain Robbe-Grillet
The debut feature from famed novelist and screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grillet is a daring examination of fantasy and memory set in Turkey.
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.
Drama2012107 minsDirector: Sally El Hosaini
Sally El Hosaini's feature debut tells of the love and disenchantment of two British-Egyptian brothers. Gangs, drugs and sexuality come between them
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.
Drama2004102 minsDirector: Cate Shortland
This intoxicating drama about an adolescent girl's sexual awakening launched the careers of both its star Abbie Cornish and director Cate Shortland.
Drama196381 minsDirector: Vera 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).
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.
Documentary201781 minsDirector: Christopher Ian Smith
From Utopian dreams to concrete realities; charting the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.
Documentary201898 minsDirector: Gabrielle Brady
A therapist helps traumatised refugees detained on a remote island where powerful natural and tribal rituals prevail, in this extraordinary mix of fact and fiction.
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.
Horror1979118 minsDirector: William Peter Blatty
From the writer of The Exorcist, one of the ultimate cult film experiences: William Peter Blatty's unclassifiable blend of unhinged psychological thriller and anarchic comedy.
Science Fiction2018106 minsDirector: Pella Kågerman
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.
Science Fiction1965101 minsDirector: Kevin Brownlow
Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's legendary, independently produced speculative fiction, imagining the Nazi occupation of Britain.
Drama201699 minsDirector: Shubhashish Bhutiani
This gentle, tender and award-winning Indian comedy follows the ordeal of an over-worked modern son forced to accompany his 77-year-old father to the holy city of Varanasi, where he plans to end his days.
Drama200796 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).
Drama201594 minsDirector: Jane Linfoot
Jane Linfoot's clinically constructed study of guilt, betrayal, responsibility concerns a comfortable family whose seemingly perfect lives are suddenly thrown into turmoil.
Drama2014105 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Romance201984 minsDirector: Lucio Castro
A chance encounter reconnects two men in this heart-breaking lament on love, lust and missed opportunities.
Historical drama197685 minsDirector: Derek Jarman
A distinctly bold and sensual reclaiming of gay history, Jarman here tells the sexually intense story of the 4th-century martyr.
Comedy199785 minsDirector: Cheryl Dunye
Cheryl Dunye's smart and funny romance - thought to be the first feature directed by a black lesbian - remains a breath of fresh air decades on.