There has been a regular complaint that cinema nowadays is dominated by super-hero movies. Certainly in the last 10 years, ever since Iron Man was first released, there has been a big industrial shift towards those types of stories. But that's not to say there aren't other great films being made. The last 10 years have also seen the rise of new independent studios, A24 and Annapurna (among others), which are almost synonymous with quality.
Indeed, part of Marvel's success has been in harboring new talent as it emerges - so many directors make their debut in the independent scene and then follow that up with a blockbuster, hopefully breathing new life into the old formula. Here are only 10 of some of the most interesting and exciting filmmakers who made their debut in the last 10 years.
10 Olivia Wilde: Booksmart (2019) - 7.2
There have been a number of act0rs turned directors, but few in recent years have made such a memorable and enjoyable film as Olivia Wilde did with Booksmart. The film follows Amy and Molly, two successful high school seniors as they go out for one night of partying, something they'd previously denied themselves.
Part high school comedy, part coming-of-age drama, the film is as touching as it is funny. Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein are both excellent leads in a cast full of memorable side-characters that manage to deliver the comedy without slipping into cliche. While it, unfortunately, may not have been a huge box office hit, Wilde received enough critical praise that she's been able to begin a new project with an A-list cast.
9 James Ward Byrkit: Coherence (2013) - 7.2
Also eligible for the title of 'best SF film you've never heard of', Coherence is a seriously clever debut. Filmed on a micro-budget, the movie is set entirely around a dinner party of old friends when a comet passes overhead and things start turning strange. At one point, in order to find help, the party venture outside, only to come face to face with copies of themselves. Soon, they realize that the world is starting to duplicate itself and now they have no way of knowing if their friends are the same friends they had at the beginning of the movie, or if they are copies from an alternate universe.
Director James Ward Byrkit has, unfortunately not been able to make a second film yet, and he has returned to his main job in the art department. However, his debut is an example of smart and sleek filmmaking and should be sought out by any fans of the genre.
8 Chris Morris: Four Lions (2010) - 7.3
British comedian, Chris Morris, first came to public attention with his particular brand of fake interview comedy, well before Ali-G and Borat did it. He's, therefore, no stranger to controversial subjects and methods.
His feature film debut is based around the simple concept that men are incapable of working together on anything, even an act of terrorism. Its premise may seem controversial, but the film itself is incredibly well-judged and, as well as being hilarious, it is genuinely heartbreaking and, therefore, quite thought-provoking. There's certainly nothing else quite like it.
7 Ari Aster: Hereditary (2018) - 7.3
Ari Aster's Hereditary was such a critical hit, it seems surprising that it's not higher on this list, with fans even proclaiming that Toni Collette, as the formidable family matriarch, was snubbed when not given an Oscar nomination for her performance.
Centering on a rather cold family, both before and after a tragic accident, the film demonstrates Aster's particular brand of horror, namely, a meditation on personal trauma and familial relationships under the guise of a more traditional horror story. Yet, Hereditary is directed with such technical skill, it could be watched just for the atmosphere alone.
6 Greta Gerwig: Lady Bird (2017) - 7.4
It's somewhat unsurprising to see Lady Bird on this list, as Greta Gerwig's feature film debut has already been given the title of a modern classic. This is another high school coming-of-age drama (that also co-stars Beanie Feldstein) that still manages to feel fresh and new.
Saoirse Ronan plays Lady Bird as she finds love, friendship, and butts heads with her mother, in her final days at a Sacramento Catholic school. It's a film so honest it seems to speak to everyone who sees it, regardless of background. It also earned Gerwig a Best Director nomination, making her one of only five women to be eligible for the Oscar.
5 Aneesh Chaganty: Searching (2018) - 7.6
Searching is a thriller that takes place entirely on a computer desktop. Using video calls, instant messages, and news websites to tell its story, it follows John Cho's David as he tries to find his missing daughter.
Not only is the movie an excellent thriller (excellently balancing high tension and deep mystery), but through director Aneesh Chaganty's choice to set the film entirely on computer screens, he manages to refresh the genre. Never has the ring of Skype video call sounded more tense and scary. It's also a really interesting reflection on the pros and cons of how we are completely dependent on the internet as a tool.
4 Jordan Peele: Get Out (2017) - 7.7
Undeniably one of the biggest success stories of the last ten years. Jordan Peele went from one of the top writer/performers in the world of TV comedies to almost completely re-inventing his self as the new, Academy-Award winning maestro of modern horror.
Get Out sees a brilliant turn from young star Daniel Kaluuya as he finds himself in the increasingly weird company of his girlfriend's family. As funny as it is thought-provoking as it is scary, it was also an instant cult classic. Now Peele's name appears on nearly every exciting new genre-bending project, and he shows no sign of stopping.
3 Alex Garland: Ex Machina (2014) - 7.7
With Ex Machina, Alex Garland went from one of Hollywood's most interesting screenwriters to one of its most interesting filmmakers. No stranger to the world of clever-SF, Garland's debut is an incredibly tight chamber-piece of a film focusing on only three main characters: a robot, her creator, and a stranger tasked with testing her.
Tense, scary, and even funny at times, the movie is a brilliant study on the nature of life and sentience, while still managing to be highly entertaining. Garland is aided in his success by excellent cinematography, production design, and score, collaborations he's taken with him into every new project since.
2 Tim Miller: Deadpool (2016) - 8.0
There are some exceptions to the Marvel rule. In this case, Tim Miller actually made his debut with a blockbuster, but not before cutting his teeth on a few years in the world of special effects. Deadpool was phenomenally successful on release, making it one of the most successful 'R' rated films of all time, and it's not just down to the strength of its IP.
For Deadpool to be as entertaining as it was on a limited budget, it takes a huge amount of skill and good judgment on the part of Miller. It would have been easy to concentrate everything on upping the gore and violence, but Miller's debut manages to be as satisfying as any other comic book film, while still turning the genre on its head.
1 Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) - 8.4
With some claiming it's the best Spider-Man film to date, it's unsurprising that Into the Spider-Verse is top of the list. But, nonetheless, such a phenomenally high rating is almost unheard of for a debut. True, it's somewhat strengthened by the appeal of its central character and Phil Lord's snappy script, but the directing is what makes this film so unique.
Practically inventing a new style of animation, which combines different various techniques into one, the film manages to look like a comic book while acting as a movie. It rightfully won an Oscar for Best Animated feature and a number of proposed sequels and spin-offs. Whether it's the best Spider-Man film is up for debate, but it's certainly one of the most phenomenal debuts in recent years.
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