The best movie debuts of 2018

Stefan Pape
Contributor
There have been some amazing first time filmmakers making their debut in 2018. (Warner Bros./Universal/Fox)

In another impressive year for cinema, there have been a whole variety of exceptional debutants, on both sides of the lens.

We’ve compiled a list of those who stood out most and are worth keeping a keen eye out for in the future.

Unfortunately, we had to resist the temptation to put in the Olivia, the West Highland White Terrier who not only starred in Game Night, this year but also Widows. Give that dog a treat.

These lot deserve one too.

Idris Elba (Yardie)


While busy batting away Bond rumours and picking up People’s ‘sexiest man alive’ award, in the meantime Idris Elba was busy releasing his directorial debut, Yardie.

An impressive turn in this new capacity, telling a compelling story enriched by its vibrant aesthetic, while remaining pertinent in a political climate. Never mind playing the next Bond, he could be in line to direct it.

Connor Swindells (VS.)

VS. is the British 8 Mile

Packaged as something of a ‘British 8 Mile‘, while this rap-battling coastal drama was lauded for its creativity and originality, its most impressive element was the leading performance by Connor Swindells, as the film’s lead Adam.

The troubled protagonist required a rich and nuanced turn from the actor and he more than delivered.

Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker (Love, Simon)

Love, Simon

Every so often comes along a romantic comedy that transcends the genre and subverts expectations. This year, Love, Simon was one such film. It triumphed in many areas, but mostly in its excellent screenplay; full of charm, wit and heart.

The two writers, Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker are also behind the hit TV series This Is Us, but have shown they can replicate their talents on the big screen too.

Molly Wright (Apostasy)

Apostasy review: a serious-minded, unflinching religious drama

Apostasy is Daniel Kokotajlo’s directorial debut (he’s another one to keep an eye out for), and its premise is fascinating – delving into the Jehovah’s Witness community through a young girl who is refusing medical treatment as it’s against her religious beliefs.

As you can tell, this is a complex character to play, needing such an internalised and emotive display – and Molly Wright is breathtakingly good.

Ari Aster (Hereditary)


Hereditary has been recognised by many as the horror flick of the year, and so much of that is down to its striking direction, by newcomer Ari Aster.

He has been quoted as saying he doesn’t perceive his own film to be a horror movie, calling it more of a traumatic exploration of a family set-up. While some may be inclined to disagree, it’s already encouraging that he’s a filmmaker refusing to confide by the limitations of any one genre. Bring on the next one, just try not to make it so scary, please.

Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favour)

Henry GOlding debuted in Crazy Rich Asians

When seeing Henry Golding turn up and beguile audiences with his enviable amount of charm in Crazy Rich Asians and A Simple Favour, so many will have said, ‘where do I recognise him from?’ Well, unless you’re Malaysian, where he’s a TV host, the answer is likely ‘nothing’, for these two films mark his first foray into the world of cinema.

But it’s easy to see why he seems so familiar; he has a classic, Hollywood demeanour, an old-fashioned charisma that is hard not to love.

Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You)

Boots Riley made Sorry to Bother You

While you couldn’t be blamed for having apprehensions about director Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, thanks to the unconventional means of storytelling on show, and, absurd narrative plot-points, what cannot be denied is how resourceful and ingenious a piece of filmmaking it is. To craft something so memorable and unique, and yet maintain its relevance and profundity, is a huge credit to this exciting new voice in cinema.

Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma

Alfonso Cuáron’s masterpiece Roma is an intimate character study of the nanny of a middle-class family in Mexico in the 1970s, and he’s entrusted the leading role of Cleo in the hands of an untrained actress in Yalitza Aparicio.

In fact, she had only turned up to the audition to keep her sister company, with no intention of trying it out herself. But it’s her rawness and authenticity that makes this so special, and she is tasked with performing in one of the most difficult scenes you’ll see this decade, never mind this year – and she’s magnificent.

Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows)

Viola Davis and Cynthia Erivo in Widows

While UK audiences may recognise Cynthia Erivo from brief TV appearances in recent years, she’s made quite the mark with her first two movies.

In Bad Times at the El Royale she plays a Motown singer with a secret, and in Widows, she’s a combative getaway driver. Though both roles are wildly different from one another, they are tied together by one simple thing; her undeniable talent.

Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born)

Bradley Cooper made his directorial debut this year

He’s hardly a newcomer to the movie industry, but A Star is Born marks the directorial debut for esteemed actor Bradley Cooper.

Tipped to pick up a fair few awards during the next few months, Cooper has taken a story we’ve seen before (literally) and made it so undeniably his, stamping his identity as a director on proceedings, which filmmakers often take far longer to achieve. With this movie he’s crafted an intimate romance in a grand set-up, never losing sight of its humanity, albeit a narrative unfolding in the public eye, between two incredibly famous musicians.

Lady Gaga is obviously great in the role, but Cooper matches her at every turn, both in front of the camera and behind it.

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