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Great Debuts

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.

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Blood SimpleBlood Simple

Film noir198392 minsDirector: Joel Coen

The Coen Brothers' neo-noir thriller debut is both brilliantly grisly and darkly comic.

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Gone Too Far!Gone Too Far!

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.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at NightA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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.

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La HaineLa Haine

Drama199598 minsDirector: Mathieu Kassovitz

Mathieu Kassovitz’s landmark mid-90s drama throws a cinematic Molotov cocktail at structural racism, police brutality and media manipulation.

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Breathless [À bout de souffle]Breathless [À bout de souffle]

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.

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Lift to the ScaffoldLift to the Scaffold

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.

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Lucky GrandmaLucky Grandma

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.

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System CrasherSystem Crasher

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.

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PrevengePrevenge

Comedy201688 minsDirector: Alice Lowe

Alice Lowe directs and stars in this riotous tale of a pregnant serial killer, hellbent on revenge.

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Distant Voices, Still LivesDistant Voices, Still Lives

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.

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The FallsThe Falls

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

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Under the SkinUnder the Skin

Melodrama199783 minsDirector: Carine Adler

Carine Adler’s sexy and dark debut, starring Samantha Morton in her first major feature film role.

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Bronco's HouseBronco's House

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.

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Radio OnRadio On

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.

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The Immortal OneThe Immortal One

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.

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Spanking the MonkeySpanking the Monkey

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.

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My Brother the DevilMy Brother the Devil

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

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ShadowsShadows

Drama195982 minsDirector: John Cassavetes

John Cassavetes' directorial debut follows the relationship between a mixed-race woman and a white man.

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Appropriate BehaviourAppropriate Behaviour

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.

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SomersaultSomersault

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.

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Something DifferentSomething Different

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).

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Room 237Room 237

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.

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New Town UtopiaNew Town Utopia

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.

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Island of the Hungry GhostsIsland of the Hungry Ghosts

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.

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BallastBallast

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.

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VivaViva

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.

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The Ninth ConfigurationThe Ninth Configuration

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.

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AniaraAniara

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.

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It Happened HereIt Happened Here

Science Fiction1965101 minsDirector: Kevin Brownlow

Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's legendary, independently produced speculative fiction, imagining the Nazi occupation of Britain.

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Hotel SalvationHotel Salvation

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.

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UnrelatedUnrelated

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).

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The IncidentThe Incident

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.

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Second ComingSecond Coming

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.

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Lynn + LucyLynn + Lucy

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.

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Last and First MenLast and First Men

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).

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HoneytrapHoneytrap

Drama201497 minsDirector: Rebecca Johnson

While attempting to settle into her new London neighbourhood, Layla finds herself thrown into the city's gang culture.

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Identifying Features [Sin señas particulares]Identifying Features [Sin señas particulares]

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.

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The ChambermaidThe Chambermaid

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.

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End of the CenturyEnd of the Century

Romance201984 minsDirector: Lucio Castro

A chance encounter reconnects two men in this heart-breaking lament on love, lust and missed opportunities.

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SebastianeSebastiane

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.

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Stud LifeStud Life

Drama201287 minsDirector: Campbell X

Campbell X's debut feature is a sexy, young and cool gay romance taking a unique look at a slice of British urban life.

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The Watermelon WomanThe Watermelon Woman

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.

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Sanshiro SugataSanshiro Sugata

Crime194379 minsDirector: Akira Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s assured debut film about a young man’s spiritual journey through the study and practice of judo.

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LuckyLucky

Drama201688 minsDirector: John Carroll Lynch

Harry Dean Stanton gives the performance of a lifetime as an irascible nonagenarian maverick grappling with his mortality.