NewsNews11 Best Directorial Debuts by Renowned Actors in 2023

11 Best Directorial Debuts by Renowned Actors in 2023

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Ever wondered about the early movies of famous actors who turned directors? Well, get ready to rank them all! Sometimes, we adore actors but find their work behind the camera a bit lackluster. However, there are those who surprise us with their incredible directing skills. Take Orson Welles, Robert De Niro, and Dennis Hopper, for instance. They made some truly iconic films when they stepped into the director’s chair. And here’s the twist – they even acted in their own directorial debuts. But are they truly the cream of the crop?

Prepare to be amazed because Clint Eastwood, known for directing masterpieces like Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino, actually began his directorial journey with Play Me Misty. And did you know that before Ben Affleck helmed The Town and Argo, he directed his brother Casey Affleck in Gone Baby Gone? This list is packed with fascinating trivia about the first films directed by these famous actors.

Now, let’s dive into more recent examples. Jordan Peele, Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Joel Edgerton, and Drew Barrymore have all made their directorial debuts, capturing the attention of the industry. In fact, both Bradley Cooper and Jordan Peele even took home Oscars for their films A Star is Born and Get Out respectively. And guess what? Elizabeth Banks even took charge of Pitch Perfect 2, turning it into a worthy sequel on this list.

So, are you ready to join the conversation? Share your love for the first movies by actors-turned-directors that truly captivate you, and let your voice be heard by giving a thumbs down to the ones that didn’t quite hit the mark. It’s time to have some fun with this exciting list!

1. Dances with Wolves

Dances with Wolves
In the epic film Dances with Wolves, we follow the journey of Lieutenant John Dunbar, played by Kevin Costner, as he is assigned to a remote western Civil War outpost. During his time there, he forms a strong bond with a tribe of Lakota Indians, among them Stands With A Fist, portrayed by Mary McDonnell. As Dunbar immerses himself in their culture, he becomes deeply connected to the community and their struggle for survival. This remarkable movie, praised for its authentic portrayal of Native American life, received seven Academy Awards, including the prestigious Best Picture award. The breathtaking cinematography beautifully captures the rugged and untouched landscapes of the American frontier, while the story delves into themes of friendship, cultural exchange, and personal growth.

Actors: Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant, Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman
Released: 1990
Directed by: Kevin Costner

2. Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane
Citizen Kane, directed by Orson Welles, is a captivating drama that takes a deep dive into the life of Charles Foster Kane, a wealthy newspaper magnate. Through the recollections of those who were close to him, the story unfolds like a complex puzzle, revealing a tale of ambition, power, and the search for love. We get to see Kane’s life piece by piece, from his modest beginnings to his extravagant adulthood. This film stands out for its innovative techniques and narrative structure, which earned it an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Its unique storytelling style keeps viewers engaged right until the very end.

Actors: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warrick, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead
Released: 1941
Directed by: Orson Welles

3. Frailty

Frailty is an incredibly suspenseful and captivating movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film revolves around the Meiks family, led by their father (played by Bill Paxton), who believes he has been chosen by God to rid the world of demons disguised as ordinary people. As the story unfolds, his sons Fenton (portrayed by Matthew McConaughey) and Adam (played by Jeremy Sumpter) get entangled in this chilling crusade.

What makes Frailty even more intriguing is how it takes a dark twist when the line between divine mission and insanity becomes blurred. It delves deep into the human psyche, exploring themes of faith, morality, and the gray area that lies in between. The movie raises thought-provoking questions about the boundaries of religious conviction and the consequences of following one’s beliefs to extreme measures.

With its gripping storyline and outstanding performances, Frailty is truly an unforgettable cinematic experience. The unique plot will keep you hooked from beginning to end, and the talented cast brings the characters to life in a way that will leave a lasting impact. Whether you’re a fan of psychological thrillers or simply enjoy thought-provoking movies, Frailty is definitely worth watching.

Actors: Bill Paxton, Matthew McConaughey, Powers Boothe, Matt O’Leary, Luke Askew
Released: 2002
Directed by: Bill Paxton

4. Get Out

Get Out
In Get Out, we follow Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), an African-American photographer, as he embarks on a journey to meet his girlfriend’s parents for the very first time. Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), his Caucasian girlfriend, assures him that her parents won’t have any issues with his race. However, their overly accommodating behavior starts to become unnerving. Directed by the talented Jordan Peele, this film masterfully combines elements of horror and dark comedy to create a captivating experience. Just when you think you have a grasp on the story, it takes a chilling turn as Chris discovers the disturbing secret that the family has been hiding. Get Out has received well-deserved recognition, including the prestigious Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. With its unique spin on the traditional suspense thriller, this movie is definitely worth watching.

Actors: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Caleb Landry Jones
Released: 2017
Directed by: Jordan Peele

5. Caddyshack

In the comedy classic, Caddyshack, we dive into the rowdy world of Bushwood Country Club. The story revolves around Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a young caddy with dreams of scoring a college scholarship. Along the way, he gets caught up in a whirlwind of eccentric characters. We meet the wealthy club patron Judge Smails (Ted Knight), the bold real estate developer Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), and the slightly unhinged greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray). Amid their wild antics and hilarious mishaps, Caddyshack cleverly pokes fun at social class and the world of golf. Notably, the film has been acknowledged by the American Film Institute as one of the funniest movies in American cinema history.

Actors: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe
Released: 1980
Directed by: Harold Ramis

6. A Bronx Tale

A Bronx Tale
A Bronx Tale takes place in a 1960s Bronx neighborhood and tells the story of Calogero, a young Italian-American boy who finds himself caught between two powerful influences. On one hand, there’s his father, Lorenzo, a hardworking and honest bus driver who instills in Calogero the importance of integrity and putting in effort. On the other hand, there’s Sonny, a charismatic mob boss who represents a life of power and quick money.

Throughout his teenage years, Calogero must navigate the conflicting messages of his father and Sonny as he faces various moral dilemmas. These dilemmas not only challenge his loyalty but also play a crucial role in shaping his future.

Actors: Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Lillo Brancato, Francis Capra, Taral Hicks
Released: 1993
Actors: Robert De Niro

7. A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born
In the film A Star Is Born, we witness the captivating story of Jackson Maine (played by Bradley Cooper), a seasoned musician who stumbles upon the talented but struggling artist, Ally (portrayed by Lady Gaga). Ally, on the verge of abandoning her dreams of becoming a renowned singer, finds herself falling in love with Jack, who encourages her to embrace the spotlight. However, as Ally’s career begins to soar, their relationship faces its own challenges as Jack battles his personal demons.

With Bradley Cooper at the helm as director, this romantic drama becomes a deeply emotional and authentic portrayal of two artistic souls uniting both on stage and in their personal lives. The film has received widespread acclaim and has been honored with numerous awards, solidifying its status as a touching exploration of the complexities of love and fame.

Actors: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron
Released: 2018
Directed by: Bradley Cooper

8. Sling Blade

Sling Blade
Mentally disabled Karl Childers, played by Billy Bob Thornton, is finally set free from the mental hospital where he has been confined for most of his life. This confinement was a result of him committing a heinous act – the murder of his mother and her lover.

However, Karl’s life takes an unexpected turn when he forms a deep connection with Frank, a young boy who tragically lost his father to suicide. Despite their differences, Karl and Frank develop a unique bond that transcends their individual struggles.

Linda, Frank’s mother portrayed by Natalie Canerday, opens her heart and home to Karl, allowing him to stay with them. Unfortunately, her boyfriend Doyle, played by Dwight Yoakam, is far from welcoming. In fact, he is downright cruel to Karl and is determined to have him removed from their lives.

In the face of this adversity, Karl is determined to protect his newfound friend. He refuses to let Frank suffer at the hands of Doyle’s abuse for years to come. Driven by his loyalty and friendship, Karl devises a plan to save Frank and shield him from further harm.

Through this heartfelt and gripping story, we witness Karl’s journey as he navigates the complexities of his own mental disability, while also confronting the harsh realities of the world around him. Ultimately, it is a tale of resilience, love, and the lengths one person will go to protect those they care about.

Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas Black
Released: 1996
Directed by: Billy Bob Thornton

9. That Thing You Do!

That Thing You Do!
In the movie “That Thing You Do!”, we follow the story of Guy Patterson (played by Tom Everett Scott) as he joins forces with Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech), Lenny Haise (Steve Zahn), and the shy bass player (Ethan Embry) to create a band called The Wonders. Guided by the experienced Play-Tone Records executive Mr. White (Tom Hanks), the band quickly rises to unexpected fame with their catchy hit, ‘That Thing You Do’.

Set in the vibrant 60s, this comedic drama directed by Tom Hanks himself takes us on a journey of the band’s meteoric rise to stardom and the challenges they face along the way. It explores the fleeting nature of fame and the bond of friendship among the young band members.

The film even received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, highlighting the incredible musical talent showcased in “That Thing You Do!”.

Actors: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry
Released: 1996
Actors: Tom Hanks

10. Play Misty for Me

Play Misty for Me
Popular radio show host Dave Garver (played by Clint Eastwood) starts feeling restless in his relationship with his girlfriend (Donna Mills). Without thinking twice, he spontaneously decides to spend the night with a woman (Jessica Walter) he meets at a nightclub. Little did he know that this woman was not just a random hookup, but rather an obsessed fan who had been calling his show repeatedly, asking him to play the song “Misty.”

As the aftermath of their encounter unravels, Garver realizes that getting rid of this woman will not be a simple task. Her mental state begins to deteriorate, resulting in increasingly erratic and disturbing behavior.

Actors: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills, John Larch, Irene Hervey
Released: 1971
Directed by: Clint Eastwood

11. Return of the Dragon

Return of the Dragon
Way of the Dragon, a 1972 Hong Kong martial arts action comedy film, is a total Bruce Lee package. He wrote, produced, and directed the film, and of course, stars in the lead role. What’s interesting is that this was his one and only completed directorial effort. Alongside Lee, the film features Nora Miao, Chuck Norris, Robert Wall, and Hwang In-Shik. Hong Kong got to witness the film’s release on December 30, 1972.

Actors: Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Nora Miao, Chung-Hsin Huang, Robert Wall
Released: 1972
Directed by: Bruce Lee

Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett
With over 5 years of experience, Michael Bennett is an experienced entertainment blogger recognized for straightforward reviews. His research expertise and thoughtfully crafted blog posts make him a source for readers seeking movie and tv show recommendations.


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