It seems more often than not that directorial debut’s are more impressive than their follow-ups, but occasionally with some popular directors, they top their original debut with their second film. Here are seven directors whose second film, in my opinion, was much better than their first.
Paul Haggis (Crash < In the Valley of Elah)
If you’re one of the people like myself who hate Crash and wish it nothing but hatred, and you also hate Paul Haggis, then make sure you’ve seen In the Valley of Elah before you judge him. His follow-up film is surprisingly good, a neat little indie drama in the southern US which gives Tommy Lee Jones a chance to reprise his role in No Country for Old Men, in a way. His characters are quite similar in the two films, and they work. While this isn’t quite the apology we were hoping for for Crash, it is nonetheless acceptable.
Paul Verhoeven (Business is Business < Turkish Delight)
When you think of Paul Verhoeven, it’s likely you think of the crappy movies he made in America in the 90s, such as Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Yes, those films are bad, but let’s look back at his earlier, more fruitful career. His first feature film, Business is Business, was a fairly crappy sex-laden drama that doesn’t really warrant that much attention. However his second film Turkish Delight, voted the Best Dutch Film of All Time, while also sex-laden, is a brilliant work of art. Sure there’s lots of sex, but that’s just Verhoeven. It really is a great movie.
Terrence Malick (Badlands < Days of Heaven)
Malick has made far too few films, but that could be a good thing. At least in this format, he’s got a much smaller chance of disappointing us, and he never has. Badlands was a great, brilliant movie, but Days of Thunder managed to beat it. In terms of sheer visuals, the script, and Malick’s amazing direction, it’s a pure winner in my book. Sure, both films are great but Days of Thunder is just a flipping masterpiece.
Andrei Tarkovsky (Ivan’s Childhood < Andrei Rublev)
Ivan’s Childhood is a Criterion DVD, apparently, and although I haven’t seen it, my friend Stephen tells me it’s nowhere near as good as Andrei Rublev, which I have seen. Tarkovsky’s movies always amaze me; Solaris and Stalker, the other two I’ve seen, are masterpieces in my opinion, as is Andrei Rublev, and even if Ivan’s Childhood is a good film, I don’t see how it could top any one of Tarkovsky’s others.
Michael Cimino (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot < The Deer Hunter)
When Michael Cimino and Clint Eastwood teamed up, it should’ve worked. However, in my opinion, it didn’t, and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was the result. Although Cimino’s career has really gone downhill recently, he at least had one great shining moment with The Deer Hunter, the classic war film which was his follow-up. A masterpiece of Francis Ford Coppola proportions, The Deer Hunter easily outwits any of Cimino’s films.
Clint Eastwood (Play Misty For Me < High Plains Drifter)
Okay, so Play Misty for Me wasn’t that bad, but when you compare it to High Plains Drifter? Come on, there’s a clear winner there. Although 1976’s The Outlaw Josey Wales beats both, in my opinion, before then there was one huge film that attracted everyone’s attention and proved Eastwood could do a great job both acting and directing, and in my opinion there’s no competition to which film proved that point better.
Peter Weir (The Cars That Eat People < Picnic at Hanging Rock)
Okay, from the title of the first film we can tell it was a poor starting point for Weir. Granted the film isn’t awful and its premise is mildly interesting, it just fails to take off for me. Picnic at Hanging Rock, however, is a masterpiece which had me riveted the entire time and only just managed to miss the cut on my Top 100 films list, published recently. The Cars That Eat People (aka, The Cars That Ate Paris) sucks ass compared to it’s follow-up, and even though I’ve never been that interested in Weir’s career subsequent to Picnic, I still have faith that he has the ability to make great films.
That’s my list. Disagree with any of my choices? Anyone you’d like to add? Leave a comment below!