100 Best Films From Directors Under 30

100 Best Films From Directors Under 30

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In an industry dominated by seasoned veterans, these young prodigies have burst onto the scene, challenging conventions and redefining the art of storytelling. These films showcase the raw talent and unique perspectives of directors under 30 (at the time of their film’s release), proving that age is no barrier to cinematic brilliance. Prepare to be awe-inspired and witness the birth of a new generation of filmmakers who are destined to shape the future of cinema. Get ready to discover the best films by directors under 30 that will leave you in awe and eager for what’s to come.

71. Laurence Anyways (2012)

best

8.4

Country

Canada, France

Director

Xavier Dolan

Actors

Alexandre Goyette, Anne Dorval, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, Antoine-Olivier Pilon

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Romantic

This is a gorgeous French-Canadian movie with out-of-this-world sound work.

Laurence is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Fred. On his birthday, he announces to her that he wants to restart his life as a woman, having always hated his male body. Fred doesn’t know how to take the news: “everything I love about you is everything you hate about yourself”.

Laurence Anyways is about how their romance continues after this revelation. There are so many reasons to watch this movie: the story, the acting, the cinematography; but trust me, the soundtrack alone is reason enough.

72. The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

best

8.4

Country

France, Norway, Poland

Director

Krzysztof Kieślowski

Actors

Alain Frérot, Aleksander Bardini, Bogusława Schubert, Chantal Neuwirth

Moods

Mind-blowing, Original

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s drama stars Irène Jacob as two identical women living separate lives, and the intricate and indelible ways in which they are bound together. While Weronika, a Polish singer, balances her familial duties and intimate romantic relationship, a French music teacher named Véronique senses that she is not alone.

The Double Life of Véronique’s hypnotic and entrancing qualities will wash over you like a tide crashing over a bed of sand. It is a tough film to capture in words, when so much of it is just beyond words—Kieślowski’s film is one to be seen, sensed, and experienced. 

73. Rebels of the Neon God (1992)

best

8.4

Country

Taiwan

Director

Tsai Ming-liang

Actors

Chen Chao-jung, Lee Kang-sheng, Lu Yi-Ching, Miao Tien

Moods

Raw, Slice-of-Life, Slow

Slow cinema might be an acquired taste for many viewers, but Tsai Ming-liang’s gorgeous feature debut about Taiwan’s aimless youth should have enough mystery and suspense to draw anybody in. They key, as with many of these films, isn’t to demand that things happen or actions get explained, but to surrender to every possibility and suggestion of what might be motivating these characters beneath the surface. And through patient, perceptive observation, Tsai gives us so much to chew on: the sleeplessness of urban life, the unpredictability of relationships, and most importantly the morality that forms when a disillusioned young man fully embraces his being an outcast.

And if nothing else, Tsai provides us with some of the most beautiful and honest images of city life around. It’s hard to describe, but just the neon-lit arcade halls and dingy hotel rooms are enough to let you into who these characters are. It’s an experience not to be missed.

74. Hit the Road (2021)

best

8.4

Country

Iran

Director

Panah Panahi

Actors

Amin Simiar, Hasan Ma'juni, Pantea Panahiha, Rayan Sarlak

Moods

Gripping, Original, Thought-provoking

A road trip movie with an unknown destination, Hit the Road plays with our expectations by avoiding any obvious questions we might have, and making us focus on the real important things. Informed by the censorship and persecution faced by critics of Iran’s government—including director Panah Panahi’s own filmmaker father, Jafar—the film places more focus on the very act of escape and what that can take from a family. And most importantly, through Panahi’s skillful direction of rural Iran’s varied, beautiful landscapes, he creates a conflicted relationship between character and setting, with entire emotional crescendos playing out just through a single shot of the environment. It’s one of the most underappreciated movies of the year.

75. The Kings of the World (2022)

best

8.4

Country

Colombia, France, Luxembourg

Director

Female director, Laura Mora

Actors

Brahian Acevedo, Carlos Andrés Castañeda, Cristian Campaña, Cristian David Duque

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Dark

The Kings of the World is a surreal coming-of-age movie that follows Rá, Culebro, Sere, Winny, and Nano, street kids who are on their way to claim land that’s rightfully theirs. Their one goal is to finally make a home after living without one for so long, but they’re hindered by the inevitable tragedies that befall kids of their kind: impoverished, alone, and abandoned.

The title is ironic, but it also hints at their state of mind: these boys are unstoppable, rabble-rousers who live like there’s no tomorrow. They tear down private property and invade inns not out of spite, necessarily, but out of a knowledge that whatever they do they’re gonna be put down anyway, so they might as well live without rules.

Tackling powerful themes like land restitution and youth neglect, The Kings of the World is one of the most agonizing movies you’ll ever see. It’s also Colombia’s official Best Foreign Language Film entry in the 2022 Academy Awards.

76. Dead Man Walking (1996)

best

8.4

Country

United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Tim Robbins

Actors

Adam Nelson, Anthony Michael Frederick, Arthur Bridgers, Barton Heyman

Moods

A-list actors, Depressing, Discussion-sparking

Told with grace and maturity without sensationalizing its subject matter, Dead Man Walking expertly walks the line between taking a moral stand and keeping the messy humanity of its characters intact. Though it may seem just like a legal drama or prison film on the surface, writer/director Tim Robbins weaves in commentary on class and the role religion is expected to play in middle class Southern communities—especially in the context of justice and crime. Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon (in the role that won her her Oscar) play every side to this drama with remarkable control, building an unlikely rapport that culminates in a finale that’s as moving as any great tear-jerker. It may be tough to watch at times, given the raw emotions that are laid bare, but Dead Man Walking remains relevant even today.

77. Hyenas (1992)

best

8.4

Country

France, Italy, Netherlands

Director

Djibril Diop Mambéty

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Funny, Thought-provoking

Restored in 2019, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s adaptation of the 1956 play, The Visit, presents a powerful allegory of societal decay through the story of Linguère Ramatou, a woman who returns to her impoverished hometown with an offer that can change everything. Mambéty’s skillful direction captures the complexities of human nature and the moral choices we face in a world driven by greed and corruption in a global capitalist world. The narrative unfolds with precision, blending dark humor and piercing social commentary. With or without the context of its original influence, Hyenas is a brilliant Senegalese film.

 

78. Rouge (1987)

best

8.4

Country

Hong Kong

Director

Stanley Kwan

Actors

Alex Man, Anita Mui, Emily Chu Bo-Yee, Irene Wan

Moods

Dramatic, Emotional, Romantic

Vivid, seductive, and highly romantic, Rouge starts as an enchanting tale of a ghost courtesan that haunts a modern-day couple to look for her lost lover. It’s easy to be swayed by the ghostly lovers – the courtesan Fleur (Anita Mui) and wealthy pharmacy chain heir Chan Chen-Pang (Leslie Cheung) start off the film courting each other (and the audience) through lush visuals, dramatic declarations, and Cantonese song. They agree to a suicide pact and promise to find each other in the next life. However, as Fleur haunts newspaper journalists Yuen and Chor, it’s clear how different Hong Kong has become. From its culture to its attitudes towards romance, Rouge suggests that while modern day Hong Kong may be more cold and standardized, the past as we know it is only a gorgeous dream. And that dream hides a tragic, sordid reality.

79. Falcon Lake (2022)

best

8.4

Country

Canada, France

Director

Charlotte Le Bon, Female director

Actors

Anthony Therrien, Arthur Igual, Éléonore Loiselle, Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie

Moods

Emotional, Raw

The gorgeous grain of Falcon Lake’s lush 16mm cinematography instantly gives it an air of nostalgia, as if the movie is an intimate reflection on a precious formative summer. That effect is confirmed over the film’s runtime: it takes place from the perspective of Bastien (Joseph Engel), a 13-year-old French boy whose family is being hosted at a Quebec lake cabin by their friend and her 16-year-old daughter Chloe (Sara Montpetit). The woodland setting could be idyllic or eerie, a duality brought explicitly to the fore by Chloe, whose interests lean towards the macabre.

It’s not long before Bastien becomes smitten with the assured older girl, and it’s their dynamic that gives Falcon Lake its profoundly captivating effect. Though the movie’s gothic undertones do give it a troubling air of tension, the way they come to the surface in its ending feels a little inharmonious to the delicate human drama that the teens have built up until then. Both actors turn in performances so extraordinarily nuanced and naturalistic that Falcon Lake doesn’t need that twist — it already stands as a deeply affecting coming-of-age portrait, one in which tenderness and betrayal are raw new pleasures and pains to be discovered.

80. Bad Lieutenant (1992)

best

8.4

Country

United States of America

Director

Abel Ferrara

Actors

Bianca Hunter, Bo Dietl, Darryl Strawberry, Eddie Daniels

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Dark

Bad Lieutenant is no misnomer: Harvey Keitel’s policeman really is one of NYPD’s worst. Already corrupt, abrasive, and abusive at the film’s outset, the movie chronicles his coked-out descent into total depravity after he’s called to investigate a heinous crime amid rapidly worsening personal circumstances. The brilliance of Bad Lieutenant is therefore a counterintuitive one: as awful as the Lieutenant is, we can’t help but feel emotionally involved because, in Keitel’s bravura performance, we can see the glint of pain — and thus of a person — within.

Always one for provocation, director Abel Ferrara pushes our empathy to — and maybe even beyond — its natural limits, only to break with the film’s hitherto unrelenting grit and dangle the glinting possibility of transcendent redemption in front of us. Anyone familiar with Catholic guilt cinema (movies like Martin Scorsese’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door and Mean Streets) will instantly recognize the same undercurrent running through Bad Lieutenant — even if Ferrara takes the idea of juxtaposing the profane with the sacred to the extreme here.

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