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.
Spanking 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.
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.
The 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.
It Happened Here
Science Fiction1965101 minsDirector: Kevin Brownlow
Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's legendary, independently produced speculative fiction, imagining the Nazi occupation of Britain.
Drama201379 minsDirector: Rob Brown
A former child soldier in Congo, now living in London, witnesses a crime and is drawn into a violent world he'd hoped to leave behind.
Distant Voices, Still Lives
Biopic198881 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
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Drama2014116 minsDirector: Chaitanya Tamhane
Hailed as a modern classic channelling the spirit of Satyajit Ray, Chaitanya Tamhane's film is an absurdist portrait of injustice in contemporary India.
Mr. and Mrs. Kabal's Theatre
Animation & Artists Moving Image196777 minsDirector: Walerian Borowczyk
Walerian Borowczyk's (The Beast, Immoral Tales) first feature-length work is an existential marital drama set in a bizarre wasteland populated by exotic flora and fauna.
Animation & Artists Moving Image197921 minsDirector: Brothers Quay
The debut film from the Brothers Quay follows a dreamer who's seduced by the mystery of the city at night. He leaves his room and goes into the street, where a tram-car carries him away.
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).
In Which We Serve
War1942114 minsDirector: David Lean
Noel Coward and David Lean direct this affecting drama of a Royal Navy crew recalling their lives in flashback, as their ship sinks.
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.
Drama2001113 minsDirector: Richard Kelly
Richard Kelly's astounding debut feature is a mix of stylish eighties veneer and existential horror starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the troubled teen who is haunted by a giant rabbit prophesying the apocalypse.
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.