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The 10 Best Directorial Debuts Of 2016

Our 10 favourite 2016 movies from first-time filmmakers.

2016 has been a standout year for cinema, and the future looks bright with so many talented filmmakers emerging during the course of the year. Here are the 10 directorial debuts that impressed us most.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Director Dan Trachtenberg caught the attention of Hollywood with his 2011 short Portal: No Escape, inspired by video game Portal. His feature debut arrived under a cloud of mystery this year when it was unveiled as part of a wider Cloverfield franchise. Set primarily in one location, the movie succeeds thanks to Trachtenberg's highly effective use of his limited space in generating tension.

Beyond the Gates

Writer-director Jackson Stewart injected some heart into the horror genre with this nostalgic feelgood chiller. Boasting endearing characters played by a likeable cast, Beyond the Gates is a warm blanket for horror fans to snuggle under.

Bone Tomahawk

Novelist and musician S Craig Zahler turned his hand to filmmaking in some style with this blending of the western and horror genres. While the latter element only really appears in the film's climax, Bone Tomahawk is one of the finest westerns of the modern era, displaying a very classical approach to the genre.


Director Joe Stephenson fits comfortably in the lineage of great British social realist filmmakers like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Alan Clarke and Shane Meadows with an assured, confident and mature debut, mining a contender for 2016's finest lead performance from young newcomer Scott Chambers.

The Childhood of a Leader

Having worked with a who's who of modern auteurist cinema as an actor, it seems Brady Corbet was taking notes, as his own turn behind the camera might be the most distinguished directorial debut by an American actor since Vincent Gallo's Buffalo '66.

James White

Along with fellow writer-director-producers Sean Durkin and Antonio Campos, Josh Mond is a partner in Borderline Films, responsible for the likes of Simon Killer and Martha Marcy May Marlene. With his directorial debut, Mond proved himself just as skilled as his colleagues.


Krisha is the highly impressive feature debut of writer-director Trey Edward Shults, whose film features a cast made up mostly of his own extended family. In most director's hands, a movie like Krisha, set in a single location, would likely resemble a talky filmed play, but Shults's film is a cinematic spectacle.


In her debut, the blackly comic cannibalism drama Raw, France's Julia Ducournau displays a talent for comic staging, always placing her camera in the ideal place to make the most of the film's many comic scenarios, cutting at just the right moment to accentuate the absurdity of the situation and extend a laugh.

The Survivalist

The Survivalist is an exemplary piece of low budget filmmaking. Experts will tell you to make the most of a tight budget by confining your action to a single, easily accessible location and a handful of characters. That's just what we get here, and writer-director Stephen Fingleton makes the most of his limited means.

The Witch

It may feature a very traditional presentation of its titular antagonist, but writer-director Robert Eggers' The Witch is more psychological period drama than Saturday night horror flick, more Bergman, less Blumhouse. He's now set to direct an updating of Nosferatu.