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10 Great First Movies Made by Directors Before The Age of 28

03 June 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Pedro Caldeira

sex lies videotapes

A director is often supposed to be someone of experience with several working years in the film business and who uses the knowledge acquired through time to excel at making fine films.

Sometimes there are cases where the strength and irreverence of youth, combined with talent, genius, and inventive power, can replace the old shaman figure stereotype with someone far younger who is still capable of creating great films.

There are times when a  young director can create amazing films on the first attempt. This is a review of some of the cases of directors, aged up to 27, who made great debuts. Some cases are one hit wonders, others  were fortunate enough to be part of movie scene from an early age, and some keep creating fine films until this day.


10. Clerks (1994) by Kevin Smith (Age: 24)


Although Kevin Smith has yet to deliver a great commercial movie, he is la deity in the world of independent film. After attending film school for only four months, he decided to take his tuition money and use it to actually make films.

Hustling to raise the rest of the money while casting friends and using the store where he was working as location, he wrote a simple but engaging film called Clerks about… well, a day in the life of a clerk. However, filling the picture with incredible situations,intriguing characters, and witty dialogue conquered the movie world, winning several awards and grossing approximately 3 million dollars in the US.

The film is now a cult classic, and Kevin Smith has continued to produce great independent films in his own style, such Chasing Amy and Dogma.


9. El Mariachi (1992) by Robert Rodriguez (Age: 24)


Robert Rodriguez is one of the youngest debut directors on this list, and one of most inventive of problem solvers. Without these qualities his first movie would not have been made. He created the film without ever attending film school, and he was the writer, producer, cinematographer, special effects supervisor, director, and editor of this film.

The locations were all chosen with an eye towards free of charge places, and many of the actors and extras in the film were just non-professionals chosen adjacent to these locations. Many of the actors were also members of the film crew as well.

El Mariachi,a simple film which concerns a case of mistaken identity between a singer and an assassin, and its gritty action and low cost attracted a lot of attention. El Mariachi cost $7000, and grossed 2 million dollars worldwide. The low budget action film success has caused the director to be an influential presence in that genre. Since that time he has contributed such films as From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City.


8. THX 1138 (1971) by George Lucas (Age: 27)


George Lucas is a famous name despite a limited filmography and is one of the most successful filmmakers in film history, largely due to his milestone Star Wars films. His first film, though, was THX 1138. This audacious debut, based on the idea of a dystopian future, was released at a time when sci-fi was not a particular popular genre.

The film demonstrated the director’s visionary quality, and how he was able to marshal limited resources (including minimal set design and sound mixing) in making an excellent film. At the time THX 1138 wasn’t well received at the box office, but as Lucas established his name, his debut feature began to build a solid reputation and is now considered a cult classic.


7. Bottle Rocket (1996) by Wes Anderson (Age: 27)

Bottle Rocket

Wes Anderson is one of the most promising names in the film business thanks to his unique personal style and a keen eye for detail. And this was immediately noticeable in his debut film Bottle Rocket. Although his current style is more refined, especially in the use of color and cinematography, the basic elements were already present: witty dialogue, colourful and peculiar characters, and incredible nonsensical situations.

All of this was facilitated with a firm grasp for someone so young directing a debut film. It wasn’t well received at the box office, but the critics found it promising. He is now considered a unique visionary director with whom many wish to work, as evidenced by the superior assembled cast of his latest film, the Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), which was nominated for nine Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director) winning four.


6. Hard Eight (1996) by Paul Thomas Anderson (Age: 26)

hard eight pic

One modern day director who exerts a strong hand over his films, loves his characters though pushing them to the limit and not allowing redemption, one that demands top notch cinematography and who doesn’t shy away from maximum impact, then the name to remember is Paul Thomas Anderson. His films are quite strong, challenging for the viewer, and linger in the memory.

The amazing thing is that this film school dropout would be able to make so strong an impression with his debut, at only 26 years of age. Hard Eight (or Sydney, the title Anderson prefers) is a mesmerizing experience,and one which would open the way for such films as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood.



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  • Nacho Mancilla

    I didn’t know Welles was 26 . . . It gets me concerned and jealous


      “It gets me concerned and jealous”

      You and me both.

    • Cygnifier

      Note that he was making the film while he was 24 and 25. He had only turned 26 a few months before it was released.

    • Gines Velazquez

      To the time he started with filmmaking he was a big star… he was a well know director from broadway where he start with theatre at 16… and before RKO Pictures hire him, he made the War of the worlds adaptation for radio, changing the view concept on media…

  • asalways

    Nolan’s Following could have narrowly made this list…

  • frank mango

    sofia coppola virgin suicides

  • Dr Gonzo

    what about Xavier Dolan’s J’ai tué ma mère? I know his directorial talent is disputed but it’s a good movie and he was only 20, for god’s sake! 😛

    • Afrikoka

      I asked myself the same thing but I don’t remember if it was necessarily greater than these films.

  • Steve Mahofski

    I don’t think Sex, Lies and Videotape deserves to be in the top five, especially if Virgin Suicides (Coppola) or Shoot To Kill (Winner) didn’t make the ten.

  • Caleb Slain

    Welles was 24.

    • Douglas Taylor

      And he made Too Much Johnson before Citizen Kane.

      • Cygnifier

        Too Much Johnson wasn’t a feature film — it was a series of 3 shorts that were designed to be interspersed with a play. His other two films prior to Citizen Kane were also shorts: The Green Goddess was 20 minutes and Hearts of Age, made as a student film in high school, was only 8 minutes. What a start they gave him though!

  • ima_robot_beepbeepbeep

    The Magnificent Ambersons is crap. Oh but because Orson Welles directed it we must praise it and call it a masterpiece. Lemmings.

    • Helena Barbosa

      not a crap…. is a great movie!

    • cinemaftw

      Or maybe…MAYBE…you’re wrong…naaaaaaah….but maybe..

    • Dave

      We’ll never see Welles’ vision for the film. If you know anything about the film you know it was recut and reshot while Welles was in South America shooting It’s All True. It’s an uneven film to be sure with Tim Holt seriously miscast, but it’s difficult to pin the faults of the film on Welles’ except the casting of Holt, because of it’s convoluted history

  • Still D.R.E.

    Orson directed that at 26 geez I have 4 more year to get my shit together.

  • Minz

    I’m 24 and haven’t made anything, what a depressing though. Maybe I should just give up now

    • Nancy Hall

      Youth is overrated.

  • jozozovko

    No Werner Herzog = “What the heck were you thinking?”

    • Darren

      Great point, Herzog was a wild young filmmaker

  • Binod K Gurung

    Thank God for Duel! It had me shitting bricks when I first saw it!

  • cinemaftw

    Truffaut was 26, his birthday is February 6, he make The 400 Blows, from November 10 of 1958 to January 5 of 1959, so did not have 27 yet