Best Second Films: 25 Working Directors Who Beat the Sophomore Slump

IndieWire | 6/27/2019 | Staff
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A great first feature is instrumental in putting a director on the map, but a second film is more important in determining whether or not said director is the real deal or just a one-hit wonder. Perfecting the art of the second feature is a challenge, and not every great director has succeeded (see Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Kafka,” and even Martin Scorsese’s “Boxcar Bertha” for examples).

The filmmakers who have achieved the one-two punch of a knockout debut and a worthy follow-up have often jumped to the front of the list of the most exciting directors working today. This year has proved to be a banner one for second features, from Jordan Peele’s “Us” to Ari Aster’s “Midsommar.” Both films are included on IndieWire’s list below, which highlights 25 great auteurs working today who succeeded in shattering the sophomore slump. Any list of the best second films ever made should definitely consider the titles below (listed alphabetically by director).



Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut “Hard Eight” was a critical favorite that bombed at the box office (a gross less than $250,000 on a $3 million production budget). Fortunately, New Line Cinema knew Anderson had a hit in him with “Boogie Nights.” The director’s second feature, set in the 1977 porn scene, would make Mark Wahlberg a star and revive the career of Burt Reynolds, Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Anderson himself earned a nom for Best Original Screenplay, but it was the film’s iconic characters and $43 million box office that put Anderson on the path to becoming one of the all-time great American auteurs.



Wes Anderson made his directorial debut with “Bottle Rocket,” but it’s his 1998 coming-of-age comedy “Rushmore” that broke through and announced the young writer-director as one of the most...
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