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.
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.
Drama201985 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.
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.
Drama202090 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Documentary201994 minsDirector: Suhaib Gasmelbari
Beautifully shot documentary about four members of the 'Sudanese Film Club' who decide to revive an old cinema.
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).
Horror202179 minsDirector: Frida Kempff
Claustrophobic and chilling psychological thriller about a woman tormented by nocturnal noises, featuring a fierce, soul-baring central performance from Cecilia Milocco.
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.
Drama1981102 minsDirector: Menelik Shabazz
Menelik Shabazz’s pioneering first feature traces the emotional and political growth of a young black couple in Thatcher’s London.
Biopic201090 minsDirector: Clio Barnard
Clio Barnard's film about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar mixes reconstruction, interviews (performed by actors) and scenes from the plays.
Thriller200875 minsDirector: Christine Molloy
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.
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.
Drama202089 minsDirector: Bassam Tariq
Bassam Tariq’s visceral directorial debut, co-written with Riz Ahmed, finds a British-Pakistani rapper’s life spiralling out of control when, on the cusp of success, he succumbs to a debilitating illness.
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.
Drama202094 minsDirector: Zoé Wittock
Love takes a dizzying turn in this disarmingly enchanting psychosexual tale of a young woman who falls in love with a fairground ride.
Comedy2021103 minsDirector: Marley Morrison
AJ discovers it’s not so bad being on a family holiday when she meets flirtatious lifeguard Isla in this smart and funny first feature.
Drama1975121 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
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.
Drama201687 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.
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.
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
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.
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
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. 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.
Drama1991112 minsDirector: Julie Dash
Julie Dash’s groundbreaking Daughters of the Dust remains urgent and poetic and continues to resonate, most recently inspiring Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.