A director’s debut feature is our first glance at who they are. An introduction to their style, influences, aesthetic, voice- the sum of which frames their vision. The work of ambitious directors dedicated to making their mark often results in game changing, innovative films. Some of cinema’s most famous and celebrated films happen to be debut features. Lucky for Fandor, we have a rich collection of first films by iconic and emerging directors to share, and we are really good at sharing. 

Presenting the stunning directorial debuts of George Miller, Baz Luhrmann, Kelly Reichardt, Todd Haynes, Michelangelo Antonioni, Damien Chazelle, John Carpenter, Shirley Clarke and so many more!  

Top 5 Staff Picks

1. Mad Max (Only on Fandor for the month of December)

The original Mad Max directed by George Miller in 1979 is an Australian dystopian action movie which produced three sequels, Mad Max 2 in 1981, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome in 1985, and Mad Max: Fury Road in 2015. Starring then newcomer Mel Gibson as Main Force Patrol officer "Mad" Max Rockatansky. When a deranged motorcycle gang terrorizing society goes too far (no spoilers), Max is driven mad and sets out for ruthless vengeance. If you are a fan of the latest Oscar® winning Mad Max: Fury Road, it would be wise to watch what started it all, George Miller’s debut feature.

2. Strictly Ballroom (Only on Fandor for the month of December)

The directorial debut of the extravagant Baz Luhrmann. Developed from a play and influenced by Luhrmann’s family history with ballroom dancing, Strictly Ballroom displays the cutthroat world of competitive dance. Luhrmann, known for his adaptations such as Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!, and The Great Gatsby, creates epic environments with lavish visuals and strong musical influences. Strictly Ballroom is a very funny and uplifting romantic comedy in which a man finds his footing with his dance partner, who transforms from shy caterpillar into a dancing butterfly.

3. River of Grass

The directorial debut of Fandor favorite Kelly Reichardt. River of Grass is a lovers on the lam crime drama. Reichardt’s films focus on outsiders and the landscapes they inhabit, bordering genres instead of being defined by them. In true Reichardt fashion, the director describes River of Grass as a "a road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime." Filmed in southern Florida, we are less fixated on the plan and more on the holistic film world that the director brings us into. It is easy to conclude from this Sundance-nominated debut feature that Reichardt would continue to be a force in independent film.

4. Story of a Love Affair

The debut narrative feature by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni is a film noir starring Lucia Bose and Massimo Girotti. Past lovers, Paola and Guido, are reunited when Paola’s wealthy industrialist husband hires a private detective to investigate her life before they met. An old affair is rekindled when a mistake from their past threatens to become exposed. Above all else, the stunning visuals in this film are what take the prize and reveal what we now know as distinctly Antonioni.

5. Dark Star

Sci-Fi comedy Dark Star is the feature film debut of John Carpenter, co-written with Dan O’Bannon. Released in 1974, the film has become a cult classic. Set in the mid twenty-first century, the plot revolves around the daily musings of the astronauts aboard scout ship, Dark Star, which travels the universe on a mission to destroy unstable planets. As the plane deteriorates (it has been in space for the last twenty years), so do the minds of the crew. John Carpenter went on to make Halloween, Escape from New York, and The Thing among other notable horror and sci-fi films.

Want to see more directorial debuts? Watch the full Spotlight: Debut Feature