10 Great Directors Who Made Terrible Debut Films

Some things are best forgotten...

Joseph Burstyn

Most directors start out their career with a ridiculously small budget and a cast and crew who are as inexperienced as they are, so is it any surprise that a fair amount of debut films turn out looking like a mess?

While some directors come swinging straight out the gate - look at Jordan Peele's superb masterpiece Get Out which earned him an Oscar and a place in history - most take time to hone their voice and develop their distinct style of filmmaking.

Whether it was insufficient experience, bad source material or they were ahead of their time, these now influential and highly regarded directors all failed to make the grade on their first attempt at a motion picture. Luckily, however, these directors were given a second shot after a big swing and a miss and they managed to win over the critics and audience in the long run.


10. Francis Ford Coppola - The Bellboy And The Playgirls

Defin Film

Coppola may be revered as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, having directed and written The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now, but he got his start on German 3-D softcore porn film The Bellboy and the Playgirls.

With a tagline as suggestive as 'this Bellboy is after more than just big tips', it is little surprise that this nudity-heavy exploitation film was widely panned by critics. Even Coppola's classmates at UCLA, where he was still studying, looked down on him filming this low brow filth with many labelling him a 'cop-out' for stooping so low.

In his own words, Coppola acknowledges that this job was essentially filming 50 minutes worth of "nudie sketches in colour for a stupid German movie that had been shot in black-and-white." This may have been an unlikely start for one of cinema's greats but he had the last laugh as he eventually eclipsed his UCLA classmates and teachers.


An avid cinephile, love Trainspotting (the film, not the hobby), like watching bad films ironically (The Room, Cats) and hate my over-reliance on brackets (they’re handy for a quick aside though).