Ranked: Best and Worst Directorial Debuts Since 1990

  • Publish Date: August 4, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 10 user comments

10 worst-reviewed directorial debuts since 1990

1. Miss March 7 (2009) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore

"Miss March is overall a raggedy, unfocused affair that wastes both directors' acting talent and feels like too much work between the laughs."

—John Anderson, Variety

We're almost starting to feel sorry for this 2009 comedy from Whitest Kids U' Know stars Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore (making their directorial debuts here in addition to writing and starring), since it has been turning up on so many of our "10 worst" lists in recent months. Still, there's a reason for that: comedies don't earn Metascores of 7 for being "funny," "competent," or "watchable." Fortunately, the pair have yet to direct a second film.

2. Whipped 10 (2000) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Peter M. Cohen

"Cohen ... is clueless when it comes to what motivates women. His insights are as worthless as a lecher's promise and the issues he raises as stale as a couch crumb."

—Rita Kempley, Washington Post

Another completely unfunny, infantile, misogynistic comedy that performed about as well at the box office as it did with critics, the Amanda Peet-starring Whipped managed to end the film career of writer-director Peter M. Cohen just as it was getting started. Cohen's only credits in recent years involve work on such reality television gems as Hell Date.

3. Date Movie 11 (2006) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer

"The Scary Movie franchise makes some sense, because horror films are easily deflated by laughter. But how do you go about parodying a comedy? The answer is, 'You don't,' but Seltzer and Friedberg forge ahead anyway by stealing jokes from other movies and taking them to the outer limits of anti-hilarity."

—Scott Tobias, A.V. Club

Aiming to do for rom coms what Scary Movie did for horror films, Date Movie was the creation of two of the latter's writers, who stepped behind the camera for the first time as well. Despite receiving scathing reviews and failing to stay within its intended date movie target by choosing to spoof everything from Lord of the Rings to Kill Bill to Wedding Crashers, the film was a moneymaker, and the Friedberg/Seltzer directing duo moved on to such diverse titles as Epic Movie 17, Meet the Spartans 9, Disaster Movie 15, and Vampires Suck 18. Well, at least they're consistent.

4. 3 Strikes 11 (2000) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by DJ Pooh

"This is a sloppy hash of a movie, poorly directed and plotted in a way that looks as if it were improvised on the spot."

—Edward Guthmann, San Francisco Chronicle

Simply put, DJ Pooh's directorial debut stinks. Originally a rapper and record producer, Pooh diversified into film when he co-wrote Friday, starring Ice Cube. Five years later, he wrote and directed the screwball crime comedy 3 Strikes, earning poor marks for both jobs while the film failed to make an impact at the box office. Pooh's film career ended the following year with the little-seen hip hop car wash comedy The Wash 18, though he continues to work in television.

5. The Master of Disguise 12 (2002) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake

"A film about as funny as a seeping wound."

—Keith Phipps, A.V. Club

There are just two things you need to know about The Master of Disguise: it stars Dana Carvey, and he plays a character named Pistachio Disguisey. A family film with less plot than one of Carvey's SNL best-of discs, this Adam Sandler-produced box office flop is happily the one and only film directed by Perry Andelin Blake, best known for serving as a production designer on most of Sandler's films. Although, given what critics said about the film's screenplay, perhaps Blake did something to piss Sandler off and was given the directing assignment as a form of punishment.

6. Slackers 12 (2002) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Dewey Nicks

"'Slackers' is a dirty movie. Not a sexy, erotic, steamy or even smutty movie, but a just plain dirty movie. It made me feel unclean, and I'm the guy who liked 'There's Something About Mary' and both 'American Pie' movies. Oh, and 'Booty Call.' This film knows no shame."

—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Yes, that's a very young Jason Schwartzman pictured above, but even Schwartzman completists are best advised not to seek out this first movie by Dewey Nicks, a fashion photographer and commercial director before and after this one misguided foray into feature films. A big money loser, Slackers failed to capitalize on a decent cast (that also included Jason Segel, Laura Prepon, and Joe Flaherty), opting instead to attempt a grosser, creepier, and wholly unfunny imitation of the American Pie movies.

7. Down to You 13 (2000) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Kris Isacsson

"There's nothing wrong with Down to You that a smart script and savvy direction couldn't cure."

—Michael Atkinson, Mr. Showbiz

Last summer, we rated the Julia Stiles-Freddie Prinze Jr. rom-com Down to You as the worst chick flick of the past 20 years, and no film has come along since then to steal its crown. Hollywood also wasn't too impressed with first-time director Kris Isacsson; his directorial career over the past decade has consisted solely of made-for-TV movies such as 2008's Husband for Hire, starring both Erik Estrada and Tempestt Bledsoe.

8. Freddy Got Fingered 13 (2001) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Tom Green

"The movie is simply not professional. It's not, even by the lowest standards of Republic B-westerns in the '30s or bad, cheap horror films in the '50s, releasable."

—Stephen Hunter, Washington Post

Comedian Tom Green's big screen debut is another film that has appeared on previous "worst" lists here, though one of our writers has defended it in the past, and Metacritic users seem to tolerate it a lot more than critics did. Still, Green's career tanked after Fingered's release, though he recently wrote and directed a mockumentary, Prankstar, that is awaiting distribution.

9. Fair Game 13 (1995) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Andrew Sipes

"A noisy actioner so inanely scripted, acted, and directed that it practically begs you to make fun of it. "

—Joey O'Bryan, Austin Chronicle

It's hard to fully blame Andrew Sipes for this 1995 debacle. Not only was he directing for the first time after a career writing for television (Spenser: For Hire, Simon & Simon), but he was saddled with a lead (supermodel Cindy Crawford) who was new to acting and source material (the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling) that had already been made into a hit movie (Cobra, starring Sylvester Stallone). Crawford was even worse than expected, male lead William Baldwin made nobody forget Stallone, and the film became one of the decade's biggest box office bombs, grossing just $11.5 million against a budget in excess of $50 million. As for Sipes? He never directed again.

10. Daddy Day Camp 13 (2007) Add to Netflix Queue
Directed by Fred Savage

"First-time director Fred Savage ... proves he has a bright past in show business."

—Kyle Smith, New York Post

It's not surprising that a sequel was made to the 2003 Eddie Murphy vehicle Daddy Day Care 39, which was a major box office success despite poor reviews. Nor is it surprising that the sequel was even worse, given that Murphy was replaced with Cuba Gooding Jr. Making his feature film directorial debut, one-time child star turned TV director Fred Savage (The Wonder Years) unfortunately brings out the worst in Gooding, and earned a Razzie nomination for worst director as a result. But while Savage never directed another film, his recent TV work has been strong, most notably on cult hits like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Party Down (shows for which he also served as a producer).

What do you think?

What are your favorite and least favorite directorial debuts? Which filmmakers have disappointed you the most after starting out strong, and which have surprised you after weaker first films? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (10)

  • 89iajo  

    Plus, where is chaos? It has a metascore of 1.

  • 89iajo  

    Catwoman should be on here, despite a 27 it did'nt deserve.(More like a 1.)

  • Isle0fRed  

    Res Dogs, El Mariachi, Pi, Clerks...?

  • musicmann1967  

    I hate to sound obvious, but how can "Reservoir Dogs" not be on this list?

  • DeThCo17  

    Where the hell is "Hard Eight" by Paul Thomas Anderson?? That movie is a classic and definitely better than half nelson. Also "Control" by Anton Corbjin should be on the good list.

  • Turbotaster  

    Donnie Darko is one of my favourites

  • evergreenOldboy  

    sorry now realize i was reading that wrong haha

  • evergreenOldboy  

    just FYI, District 9 came out in 2009

  • bpex12  

    I think Moon (directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell) definitely deserves at least an honorable mention. I was surprised to see it only has a rating of 67.

  • NormGunderson  

    SLACKERS always gets a bad rap. Is it bad? Yes. Is it unfunny? Absolutely not! Lines like, " if you treat a girl like dirt she'll stick to you like mud" support this argument!

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