15 More Great Second Films by Directors

Following our Top 10 Second Films by Directors since 1970, Mark Fraser takes a look at 15 more great movies made by directors working on only their second feature-length film project.

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Dan Grant wrote a terrific top 10 about the best second films by directors. The list highlighted the astonishing array of quality work appearing in fledgling careers with film makers such as John Carpenter, James Cameron and Steven Spielberg producing arguably their greatest achievements in only their second go at the helm. Perhaps even more interesting was the long list of other great films (and their makers) that didn’t make our top 10. Film journalist and Top 10 Films contributor Mark Fraser was quick to highlight some of his favourites which I have decided to publish here in full. Enjoy!

See our Top 10 Second Films by Directors since 1970 HERE

15. Terrence Malick – Days of Heaven (1978)

The film won an Oscar for best cinematography.

14. Hugh Hudson – Chariots of Fire (1981)

Won the best film Oscar in 1982.

13. Adrian Lynne – Flashdance (1983)

OK, he’s not quite in the same league as Malick, but this film probably made about 100 times more profit at the box office than Days of Heaven; plus his take on Lolita in the mid-1990s showed he was a pretty handy director.

12. Alan Parker – Midnight Express (1978)

A far cry from his first feature Bugsy Malone.

11. Michael Cimino – The Deer Hunter (1978)

Who would have thought after a sleeper like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot he’d win an Oscar with his next effort (with a Best Picture, no less!), plus polarise a bunch of people in the process. Of course, as we all know, it all went to hell for him after that.

10. Albert and Allen Hughes – Dead Presidents (1995)

Probably took a few liberties with its depiction of Vietnam, and many would be turned off by the violence, but it is a strangely remarkable film on a number of levels, not least when it becomes a desperate crime caper.

9. Carl Schultz – Goodbye Paradise (1983)

One of the best Australian films ever made … before this his only other work was the tepid Blue Fin.

8. J.J. Abrams – Star Trek (2009)

He had only made Mission: Impossible III before this; I’m no Trekkie, but this was an entertaining and competent piece of work.

7. Zack Snyder – 300 (2007)

Showed he would be a force to be reckoned with after his quite stunning debut (the remake of Dawn of the Dead).

6. Edward Zwick – Glory (1989)

A far more substantial work than About Last Night … it also gave Denzel’s career a shot in the arm and won a few Oscars to boot.

5. Paul Thomas Anderson – Boogie Nights (1997)

I haven’t seen Hard Eight, so it’s hard to make a comparison, but this one pretty much put him on the map as a Hollywood auteur.

4. George Clooney – Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

I actually preferred Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but this helped Georgie become one of Hollywood’s leading liberals … plus it put him firmly in Oscar territory.

3. John Carpenter – Assault of Precinct 13 (1976)

Far more influential in terms of Carpenter’s career than Dark Star.

2. David Lynch – The Elephant Man (1980)

It’s easily one of his best works, avoiding many of the idiosyncratic indulgences that have plagued most of his other films.

1. Joel and Ethan Coen – Raising Arizona (1987)

Raising Arizona gave the boys a far wider audience following Blood Simple.

See our Top 10 Second Films by Directors since 1970 HERE

Written and compiled by Mark Fraser.

For all the latest top 10s, reviews and competitions follow Top 10 Films on Twitter!

Your turn – what are your fave second films by directors?

Other top 10s you might like: Top 10 Sequels Of All Time | Top 10 Science-Fiction Films of the 1990s | Top 30 Horror Films 1967 – 1979 | Top 10 films to have driven people to murder

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About the Author
Mark is a film journalist, screenwriter and former production assistant from Western Australia.

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  1. Avatar
    Jack Deth Reply

    Hi, Mark and company:

    Excellent set of second efforts!

    Carpenter’s ‘Assault on Precinct 13’ is a great no to low budget, slow burning pressure cooker of a film. Never understood why or how is was re-made so poorly.

    Zwick showed great potential with his made for TV ‘Special Bulletin’ and proved it with ‘Glory’.

    ‘Raising Arizona’ proved that the Coen brothers were more than a flash in the Neo-Noir pan after ‘Blood Simple’. Great characters and even greater lines!

    Would also offer as an Honorable mention, David Mamet’s ‘Things Change’. A great example of Old and New.

  2. Avatar
    Pete Reply

    Some more excellent choices, especially Boogie Nights and The Deer Hunter but still no Requiem for a Dream or Seven?

  3. Avatar
    Dan Grant Reply

    This list just highlights how many truly fantastic efforts are out there from excellent directors. Still, as mentioned, no Fincher for Seven and no Singer mentioned for The Usual Suspects. He would have made my list had I not forgotten that The Usual Suspects was his second effort.

  4. Avatar
    Evan Crean Reply

    There’s a lot more on this list than the previous one that I haven’t seen, but I agree with the ones on it that I have. Star Trek, Deer Hunter, Good Night and Good Luck, 300, and Glory are all tremendous films. I thought Dead Presidents was okay the first time I saw it, but quickly became burned out on it because one of the premium channels, I think it was HBO, showed it non-stop for months. Maybe I’d like it now that I’ve taken a long break from it?

  5. Avatar
    ruth Reply

    Insightful list once again Mark!

  6. Avatar
    Mark Reply

    Xie xie Ruth, but credit should also go to our gracious host for choosing to put it up as a stand alone item while making it all look good to boot (plus the original idea was a thought provoking one to start with …)

    I do agree with Dan et al about Se7en and The Usual Suspects – I didn’t mention the Fincher film as somebody else did in the previous blog; also, Brian Singer probably would have eluded me anyway as I haven’t seen the film for the best part of a decade.

    And I hate to admit this (especially after seeing it recur on some of these top 10 lists), but I’ve yet to see Requiem of a Dream – somehow it’s managed to slip by me. One of these daze ….

  7. Avatar
    Dan Reply

    Dan, there are lots of good picks on here. I love Good Night and Good Luck, so it’s always good to see it on any list. Days of Heaven is my favorite Malick film and such a gorgeous movie. Assault of Precinct 13 is such a cool update on the Rio Bravo formula and definitely showed Carpenter’s promise. Nice job!

  8. Avatar
    Alex Withrow Reply

    Great picks. Days of Heaven, Deer Hunter, Boogie Nights, The Elephant Man… some of my all time favorites.

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