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.
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).
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
Drama201895 minsDirector: Mitra Tabrizian
An Iranian exile in London, who is haunted by his past, gets involved in the conflicts of a total stranger and has to see it through until the end, in this mesmerising slow-burn thriller.
Drama196989 minsDirector: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
A Greek immigrant unleashes jealousy and xenophobia among a group of Munich neighbours in Fassbinder’s shocking adaptation of his own play.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Documentary2017127 minsDirector: Chris Kelly
Filmed over 6 years, Chris Kelly's BAFTA-nominated documentary follows the lives of three people caught up in violent land-rights protests, in this illuminating record of a neglected tragedy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Documentary201876 minsDirector: Catherine Lurie
Riding on their steel steeds, eleven bikers expose their family pasts, as they power through eight countries from Tel Aviv to the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympic stadium, in this compelling and cathartic documentary.
Drama2013108 minsDirector: Diego Quemada
Diego Quemada-Diez’s astounding debut feature follows four Guatemalan teenagers as they attempt to escape from the slums of Guatemala City to the bright lights of 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 Fiction1965101 minsDirector: Kevin Brownlow
Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's legendary, independently produced speculative fiction, imagining the Nazi occupation of Britain.