This is a list of film directorial debuts in chronological order. The films and dates referred to are a director's first commercial cinematic release. Many film makers have directed works which were not commercially released, for example early works by Orson Welles such as his filming of his stage production of Twelfth Night in 1933 or his experimental short film The Hearts of Age in 1934. Often these early works were not intended for commercial release either by intent, such as film school projects or inability to find distribution.
Subsequently, many directors learnt their trade in the medium of television as it became popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Notable directors who did their first directorial work in this medium include Robert Altman, Sidney Lumet, and Alfonso Cuarón. As commercial television advertising became more cinematic in the 1960s and 1970s, many directors early work was in this medium, including directors such as Alan Parker and Ridley Scott. With the success of MTV and the popularity of music video from the early 1980s, this gave another avenue for directors to hone their skills. Notable directors whose early work was in music videos include David Fincher, Jonathan Glazer, Michel Gondry, and Spike Jonze.
The following symbols indicate where a director has worked in another medium prior to directing commercially.
♦ Indicates where a director has created other earlier works for television
# Indicates when a director's earlier work is uncredited
† Indicates when a director's earlier work has not been released in cinemas, for example film school productions, short films or music videos.
Refer to individual entries for further detail.
- Co-directed with Robert N. Bradbury
- As Detlef Sierck
- Co-directed with Anthony Hankey
- Co-directed with Gunther von Fritsch
- Co-directed with Brian Desmond Hurst
- Co-directed with Robert Jordan Hill
- Co-directed with Yakov Bazelyan
- Directed segment Interlude in the Marshland
- Co-directed with Bradley R. Swirnoff
- Co-directed with Rintaro
- Co-directed with Kenneth Tsang
- Co-directed with Jesse Wells
- Co-directed with Frank Lustig
- Co-directed with David Van Taylor
- Co-directed with Quentin Lee
- Co-directed with John Lasseter
- Co-directed with Jim Wynorski
- Co-directed with Kevin Lima
- Co-directed with David Silverman
- Co-directed with Corey Yuen
- Co-directed with Ryan Fleck
- Co-directed with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
- Co-directed with Roger Allers
- Co-directed with Tim Johnson
- Co-directed with Vincent Paronnaud
- Co-directed with Matthew Robinson
- Co-directed with Pete Docter
- Co-directed with Alastair Fothergill
- Co-directed with Chris Renaud
- Co-directed with Guy Jenkin
- Co-directed with Jocelyn Towne
- Co-directed with Mike Mitchell
- As Declan Dale
- Co-directed with Andrew Stanton
- Co-directed with Nicholas Stoller
- Co-directed with Conrad Vernon
- Co-directed with Lee Unkrich
- Co-directed with Rich Moore
- Co-directed with Peter Ramsey
- Co-directed with Peter Chelsom, Fernando Eimbcke, Dennis Gansel, Dani Levy, Josef Rusnak, Til Schweiger, Massy Tadjedin
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- Jarecki, Nicholas. Breaking In — How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start. ISBN 0-7679-0674-8.
- Lowenstein, Stephen. My First Movie. ISBN 0-375-42081-9.
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- Bobbin, Jay (August 18, 1996). "'Losing Chase' (SHOW) Actor Kevin Bacon ("Apollo 13..." Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
- Kevin Ouellette (July 15, 2008). "Review: Dangan Runner". Nippon Cinema. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
- Albert, Antonio (May 12, 1993). "Imanol Arias debuta como director de cine con 'Un asunto privado'". El País (in Spanish). Madrid: Prisa. Retrieved September 3, 2018.
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- "Sob Stories: The quiet beauty of Man Push Cart". Slate Magazine. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Bradshaw, Peter (August 8, 2009). "Katalin Varga". London: Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved October 10, 2009.
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