You know and love their movies, but do you know how they actually got started?
Every major director in Hollywood has some surprising first movies! I’m going to give you the best of them, so you know what to watch next.
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You can read the show transcript below:
James Cameron’s movies are a staple in my TiVo Stream 4K rewatch list, from The Terminator to Aliens and even Avatar, a somewhat guilty pleasure.
But way back in 78, dude got maaaad. As the legend goes, James Cameron was a truck driver before he saw Star Wars. He was equally inspired and frustrated by what he saw, thinking he could do better, so he started learning how to use cameras to make his own stuff.
That’s how Xenogenesis, his first movie, was born.
James Cameron: Xenogenesis
This experimental sci-fi short was shot by Cameron and his friends in his living room, after he raised 20,000 from a local dentist to fund the movie.
You betcha. This is a movie that inspired many of the themes Cameron is known for, including strong female characters.
Still, you could say his biggest movie debut actually happened in 1981, when he did Piranha II: The Spawning.
It might not sound like an instant classic, it being a cheesy sequel and all, but I do wish Hollywood would bring back the Piranha series. We had Jaws, let’s focus on some small fish too, ok?
Speaking of small fish in general, nothing quite defines the struggle quite like this flick from 1971.
Steven Spielberg: Duel
Steven Spielberg debuted as a director with the movie Duel, a fantastic story that still holds its own.
It’s old but it delivers some fresh thrills! It’s about a regular salesman just minding his own business, driving somewhere, when a huge tanker just starts trying to run him off the road. The whole of the movie is this – one regular man trying to avoid being killed by a huge truck – and you never get to see who’s driving it!
Ridley Scott: The Duellists
Then, there’s The Duellists from 1977, the first major movie from director Ridley Scott.
The fact that Spielberg and Scott both launched with a Duel-named movie is just a small coincidence, cause the plots couldn’t be more different.
Ridley Scott might have made his name with Alien and Blade Runner, but back in 1977, he brought a pretty serious and historically accurate drama to the Cannes Film Festival.
The Duellist is based on a short story by Joseph Conrad called “The Duel”, and follows two enemies in the early 1800s.
You’ll also see here one of the earliest roles Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine had. Even back then, it was clear they had what it takes to be huge stars.
That’s exactly the case for the actors who also starred in the 1994 movie Shallow Grave.
Danny Boyle: Shallow Grave
Check it out, this is the first major movie from Danny Boyle.
If you loved 28 Days Later, Trainspotting and of course Slumdog Millionaire, this dark comedy should be next on your list.
It’s about three friends who discover their dead roommate had a loooot of cash – and what follows of course is plenty of betrayals, and even murders.
Shallow Grave is not only Danny Boyle’s major break, it’s also a big ticket item for the two main stars.
Ewan McGregor properly launched his career here, and rode the gravy train all the way to Star Wars. He was joined by Christopher Eccleston, who went on to become the ninth, and my favorite Doctor in the legendary Doctor Who series.
What a beginning!
I said the same thing about Frank Darabont’s early projects.
Frank Darabont: Shawshank Redemption
You have Mister Darabont to thank for the Walking Dead series, since he gave everything he had to turn these comics into a fantastic first season. I just rewatched it, thanks to TiVo Stream 4K and the Greg Nicotero carousel I was telling you about last time, and I can confidently say it’s still fresh af.
Frank Darabont, the mastermind behind The Walking Dead showing up on screen, debuted back in 94 with a bang.
You have him to thank for Shawshank Redemption, one of the best movies of all time, no matter who you ask. From critics to IMDB to Rotten Tomatoes, Shawshank ranks up there everywhere.
How’s this for Darabont’s first director gig? He directed Shawshank Redemption after also writing the screenplay for it, got 7 Oscars nominations, then went on to adapt Stephen King’s Green Mile, direct it, aand scored another 4 nominations.
But let’s see some weird stuff, shall we?
I found some of the best SciFi and fantasy directors in town – and found their oldest and quirkiest projects ever.
For example, did you know George Lucas’ most successful movie is not Star Wars?
If you go by Rotten Tomatoes, it’s actually his first movie that proved a hit, with a 90 percent rating.
George Lucas: THX 1138
It’s called THX 1138 and was launched in 71 as a remake of an old student film of his with the same name. And it’s the best kind of weird.
In THX 1138 sex is banned, drugs are mandatory, and people go to one of the weirdest jails ever put on screen – not quite like the one in The Cube, but just as scary!
The same can’t be said about this movie from 74, which gave us the origins of the famous Alien, but with none of the scare factor.
John Carpenter: Dark Star
The legendary John Carpenter debuted back in 74 with Dark Star. It’s an extra low-budget comedy scifi where a space crew, 20 years into a solitary mission, find themselves battling the oddest, funniest malfunctions on the ship.
How did it inspire Ridley Scott’s Alien? Pretty straightforward, actually. John Carpenter’s co-writer for Dark Star, Dan O Bannon, went on to work with Ridley Scott on Alien, and brought along the idea of chasing an alien around the ship.
By the way, you can see O Bannon in Dark Star – he’s playing Pinback.
Two years later, in 1976, another legendary director got his start. No one, I literally mean no one could have predicted they would go on to make The Lord of the Rings, and win 11 Oscars with the final part of that trilogy.
You guessed it, it’s Peter Jackson.
Peter Jackson: Bad Taste & The Valley
He directed a low budget short movie called The Valley back in 76, featuring some dudes who go prospecting and end up travelling through a hole in time. It’s almost impossible to find a copy of this flick, but you can see a bit of it in the Netflix documentary The SciFi Boys.
Still, to see where Peter Jackson actually got started as a director , you have to go forward for about 9 years. Check out the deliciously campy movie from 87 called Bad Taste.
There’s literally nothing in common between Bad Taste and Lord of the Rings, his life’s achievement, but you’re gonna wanna add this one to your list.
It’s about aliens invading a small New Zealand town and trying to use human flesh as the main serving in their intergalactic fast food restaurant.
Even though it’s so low budget, Peter Jackson and his friends played most of the roles, there is plenty of gore and special effects here. It could almost rival Evil Dead! Since according to my Tivo Stream 4K we’re halfway to Halloween already, I think it’s a great movie to watch if you miss the holidays- prepare for a hilarious ride. Just don’t try to carve a pumpkin while watching, you might throw up. Trust me, it’s gory!
So, what do you think? Which director had the best, most surprising first movie? Name your pick in the comments and let me know if you think I missed a great flick.
Until the next time, please hit like and subscribe to support this channel – it helps me bring you even more shows like this.
Catch you later!