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Updated by Soubin Nath on Jan 31, 2016
Headline for List of Best Directorial Debuts of The 21st Century
Soubin Nath Soubin Nath
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List of Best Directorial Debuts of The 21st Century

The new millennium has graced us with some phenomenal films from many talented directors. Many of those directors, whether previously in front of the camera or limited to screenplay writing, took the reigns behind the camera for the first time.The list below includes films whose first-time directors have quite diverse backgrounds. Here are the best 10 Directorial Debuts of The 21st Century


Ex Machina (2015)

Directed by Alex Garland

With Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.

Nightcrawler (2014)

Directed by Dan Gilroy

With Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed

When Louis Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.

The Babadook (2014)

Directed by Jennifer Kent

With Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney

A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Directed by Benh Zeitlin

With Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly, Lowell Landes

Faced with both her hot-tempered father's fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Directed by Sean Durkin

With Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Christopher Abbott

Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.

Moon (2009)

Directed by Duncan Jones

With Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Rosie Shaw

Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet's power problems.

District 9 (2009)

Directed by Neill Blomkamp

With Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope, Nathalie Boltt

An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Directed by Charlie Kaufman

With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener

A theatre director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he creates a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse as part of his new play.