Question of the Week: What’s your favorite sophomore directorial films?

Since I just posted a review of Ralph Fiennes’ second film that he directed, The Invisible Woman, I thought I’d turn the focus on other sophomore directorial efforts over the years.


Interestingly, as I was working on this post, I came across this article that talks about the slump of directorial sophomore efforts in 2013. The article argues that a lot of the second films released this year didn’t live up to the director’s debut. The first thing that came to mind for me was Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium, which I thought was just ok, but a downgrade from the excellent District 9. On that list, the writer listed some less-than-stellar second films, but one thing that surely is even better than his first (The Company Men, which I actually like) is John Well’s August, Osage County. Another sophomore film that’s released this year is Oblivion, now I think the sci-fi actioner slightly better than Joseph Kosinski’s sleek–but–disappointing debut TRON: Legacy.

Now, over the years, there have been a ton of great sophomore films that not only beat the director’s first film, but has become a classic in its respective genres. Many of the films pictured above fit that category, some have become my personal favorites. It astounds me what those filmmakers have achieved with their second film, as the level of proficiency makes it seem as though these directors have been making movies for years! Some of these films also launched the filmmakers’ career, proving that they’re a force to be reckoned with. In fact, the likes of Tarantino, Fincher, Cameron, Nolan, etc. have now become cinematic icons in their own right. Now, I don’t know much about sophomore efforts from classic directors, so perhaps you can enlighten me of some of those I should check out?

So folks, I’d love to know which sophomore directorial films are YOUR favorites? Surely you have more than one, so feel free to make a list if you’re so inclined.

82 thoughts on “Question of the Week: What’s your favorite sophomore directorial films?

  1. You cover so many in your image above lol. I’d have to include Coen Brothers- Raising Arizona, Duncan Jones- Source Code, and well damn… you have everyone else above lol.

    1. He..he.. I did my homework 😉 I haven’t seen Raising Arizona yet but Source Code was great! I still need to see Moon even though I already know the main plot as Reddit spoiled it for me 😦

  2. Ted S.

    Good question and as you know my favorite topic is talking about movie directors. I agree with a lot of your choices there, but I think Zack Snyder is going backward, I still think his first movie Dawn of the Dead is his best film.

    I’d add John McTiernan to the list, his first movie wasn’t that bad but then he made Predator and followed that up with Die Hard. For old school, I’ll go with my favorite Sam “Bloody’ Peckinpah, his first movie Major Dundee was good but The Wild Bunch became a classic western.

    1. Dawn of the Dead must be VERY good then 😉 I’m not into horror as u know so i’ll just take ur word for it.

      Ah right, Predator! So I guess Arnie was in yet another great sophomore films.

      1. Ted S.

        It’s my favorite zombie movie behind 28 Days Later. Snyder seems to get out of control with his crazy visuals since he got more money to make his later films. He sort of redeemed himself with Man of Steel but hopefully he’ll do a better job with the sequel.

        That’s right, guess Arnold was just in the right place at the right time. Both films pretty much rocketed him to super stardom.

  3. Hmm, interesting topic, and one I honestly haven’t really given much thought on prior to now. Though I did instantly jump to Zack Snyder’s 300 when I gave it a moment’s thought reading only the title, and was pleased to actually see that one pictured above as well. So hell, let’s go with that for now. 🙂

  4. Tom

    Seeing that you do indeed have a few covered up top, and that I have only just recently treated myself to seeing In Bruges, I’d have to say Seven Psychopaths is my current/most recent favorite sophomore effort. Both those films are just hilarious. Love black comedy. 😀

          1. Well it’s funny you should mention that. There are a few bits of dark comedy but as a whole I don’t think it is. That’s definitely unusual from the brothers but this is more of a straightforward, goofy comedy.

  5. As cliched as it is, nothing beats Cameron’s Terminator as a sophomore effort. To go from the crud of Piranah II to one of the greatest sci-fi flicks (if not the most influential) of all time, is a huge leap.

    And I’d also echo Tim’s comments above, re John McTiernan. To swing into Predator and then follow that up with Die hard is an astonishing feat.

    1. Hey Rodney, I always say that I don’t mind cheese if it’s GOOD cheese 😀 Terminator is a lot of fun and it’s got some iconic lines still being copied today, i.e. ‘Come with me if you want to live.’

      Btw, it’s Ted not Tim ahah, but yeah that’s two great action flicks back to back. Whatever happen to McTiernan now??

  6. Popcorn Nights

    I’ll go for one of my favourite current directors, Iñárritu – I think 21 Grams was his second film, like that a lot.

    1. Oh good one, 21 Grams was terrific and intense. I wonder if Babel was his 3rd film? That one is tough to watch at times. Ahah I haven’t seen Mallrats even though it was filmed in my state.

  7. I’ve been fixated to Lynchian films of late, so I guess it’s apt to choose “The Elephant Man,” which, anyway, would’ve been one of my few choices–“Pulp Fiction” and “Lost in Translation” among those few. Interesting topic, Ruth! 🙂

  8. Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is sandwiched between two very, very good films, both of which are better than it, but it is also good in it’s own right.

    My absolute favorite, though? It might just be PTA’s Boogie Nights.

      1. 😉

        In that case let me suggest you prioritize Boogie Nights. I don’t know that PTA has ever made a movie I dislike, but it might well be my favorite of his offerings.

  9. Wow, there are some amazing sophomore films! It’s so hard to pick but several of those on the image you’ve put together are unbelievably good. As for my favourite? Tough one but I’d go for The Matrix – it’s just such a rewatchable film and so well put together.

    1. The Matrix is definitely fun to watch even every other year, it’s got so much cool things that still holds up to this day. Plus I love Keanu 😀

  10. Good topic Ruth! I don’t typically follow specific directors throughout their careers. Perhaps I should do more of that if I’m going to review movies for the long run 🙂 But, if your header image is any indication of sophomore releases I’d have to go with The Matrix, as it is my all-time favorite movie. And now that I’ve checked out their filmography a bit, I’ll have to see about catching The Wachowski brothers’ first film, Bound. Literally know nothing about it!

    1. Hi Gene, I only follow a handful of them, some other bloggers are way more thorough in their knowledge 😀 Great pick on The Matrix, it’s really a genre-defining film that is also fun to watch over and over. Haven’t seen Bound yet either.

  11. Cool topic Ruth. I’m going to go with films that I personally think were their best films as a sophomore effort but also some of my favorite films. I’m going to second jjames36 mention of Rushmore. Ruth have you seen the hilarious SNL parody of a Wes Andeson horror movie going around yet? It may be the greatest thing SNL has ever done.

    Here’s some leaving out ones mentioned above.

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Michel Gondry
    Trainspotting – Danny Boyle
    The Breakfast Club – John Hughes
    American Psycho – Mary Harron
    Requiem for a Dream – Darren Aronofsky
    The Descent – Neil Marshall
    Welcome to the Dollhouse – Todd Solondz
    The Graduate – Mike Nichols
    Harold and Maude – Hal Ashby

          1. Ahahaha, you beat me to it Dave. I was gonna call Mark out for forgetting Trainspotting 😀

            That’s a hilarious spoof but now I really want to see Rushmore! I had no idea American Psycho was Haron’s second film, boy that’s quite a story to tackle.

  12. Just to cite some I don’t think anyone has mentioned, there’s George Clooney with Good Night and Good Luck. following (3 years later) the pretty decent Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
    Also, if we don’t include shorts, I think Shame is a leap forward for Steve McQueen after Hunger, which was a bit too much to stomach (no pun intended).
    Then I can think of Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, Hughes’ Breakfast Club and Boyle’s Trainspotting as really great sophomoric efforts.
    Still, I’m going to have to say it’s a three-way tie between Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, Ridley Scott’s Alien and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. All three among my all-time favorite films.
    Great topic Ruth!

    1. Hi Niels! Oh I haven’t seen Good Night and Good Luck but I really should soon as I like David Strathrain. Somehow I knew you’d mention Shame as you really like that film.

      Those three are GREAT films you can’t go wrong with, so nice picks there Niels!

  13. So many have been mentioned already but Memento is one of my all time favourite films, so that gets my top vote. Pulp Fiction is also another classic as is Se7en and The Usual Suspects. I’d also mention David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and especially Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.

  14. Fascinating subject. Some of my favourites sophomore efforts are John Boorman “Point Blank”, Steve Kloves “Flesh and Bone”, Orson Welles “The Magnificent Ambersons” and Sergio Leone “A Fistful of Dollars”.

    1. Finally! I’ve been wondering about classic sophomore films! I have so many holes to fill in terms of classic cinema so thanks for the recommendations Paul!

    2. Actually, his first film (well technically since he co-directed and did most of the work) was “The Last Days of Pompeii” and his second film was “The Colossus of Rhodes”

  15. Let’s see…

    1. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola)
    2. Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay)
    3. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick)
    4. Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)
    5. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson)
    6. Rushmore (Wes Anderson)
    7. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)
    8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)
    9. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky)
    10. Raising Arizona (Joel & Ethan Coen)
    11. Memento (Christopher Nolan)
    12. Drugstore Cowboy (Gus Van Sant)
    13. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold)
    14. Harold & Maude (Hal Ashby)
    15. Stranger than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch)
    16. The Wedding Banquet (Ang Lee)
    17. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (Baz Luhrmann)
    18. The City of Lost Children (Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro)
    19. Lovely & Amazing (Nicole Holfocener)
    20. Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow)
    21. Juno (Jason Reitman)
    22. Take the Money & Run (Woody Allen)
    23. Bleeder (Nicolas Winding Refn)
    24. A Little Princess (Alfonso Cuaron)
    25. Adaptation (Spike Jonze)

    This is all I can think of as I just came up with whatever was in my head.

    1. That’s ALL you can think of Steven? Oh man, I’m disappointed 😉 WOW that’s an amazing list of sophomore films, incredible!! I forgot Romeo + Juliet was Baz’s second film. I saw Wedding Banquet years ago and yeah that’s a great one from Ang Lee. It’s controversial subject matter for that culture esp. for that time, but yet he tackled it with care and humor. I know most people only remember Brokeback Mountain but I think that film showed Lee’s versatility even early in his career.

  16. Interesting question. Se7en, Lost in Translation and Pulp Fiction would definitely be some of my favorites. Others would include films like Take Shelter, The Elephant Man, Days of Being Wild and Trainspotting.

  17. Hi, Ruth:

    Excellent pallet of films, breakdowns and discussions of decades of second efforts.

    I’m going with Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Killing’ for a favorite sophomore offering. A very deft B&W heist film with a ‘Dragnet’ like voice over between many key scenes. With a superb batch of then young talent led by Sterling Hayden. Backed up by Vince Edwards and a very creepy Timothy Carey. As they set up and pull off the theft of thousands of dollars in betting cash at a local horse race track.

    There are weak links, of course. Elisha Cook, Jr and his acid tongues wife are front and center as suspense builds. Loot is taken and the wheels start coming off with demands for cuts right away. And the obligatory double crosses make themselves known before fate ironically intervenes during the getaway.

    1. Hello there Jack! I knew I could rely on you to enlighten me on the classic sophomore films! I really like the sound of The Killing, though I’m not sure I *get* Kubrick’s style. Btw, now that sounds like a great one to review next perhaps? *hint, hint* 😀

      1. Hi, Ruth:

        Think of ‘The Killing’ as an episode of the classic 1970s NBC cop series ‘Dragnet’, voice overs and all. Filmed entirely from the criminals’ Point of View.

        It’s pretty straightforward, cinematography wise. No odd or unique angles are employed as in later films. But it also cements Kubrick as a gifted story teller very early on. You’ll also either feel sad. Or laugh out loud at the film’s final few minutes of irony.

        1. Kevin, not to nitpick but wouldn’t Killer’s Kiss (’55) be his second film if you don’t count the documentaries? As a noir it wasn’t nearly up to the level of The Killing. The interactions between Elisha Cook Jr and his wife were my favorite part of The Killing.

          1. I went with the unquestioned knowledge of IMDb, Dave.

            ‘Killer’s Kiss’ has some great shadowy flashbacks, as did ‘Detour’. And ‘Killer’s Kiss’ has a few more questions than answers. And some of Elisha Cook, Jr.’s best “sap” work.

            1. Check IMDb again. Being the Kubrick aficionado I didn’t even have to look it up. He did Fear & Desire in ’53, Killer’s Kiss in ’55 then The Killing in ’56. Paths of Glory in ’57 is the film that Kubrick really showed the kind of filmmaker he’d become renowned for..

              Man…. did Elisha know how to play the ‘sap’ or what?.

  18. Reservoir Dogs. Tarantino’s first and my personal favourite.

    He’s not huge, but Looper was a massive film for him – Rian Johnson and his first one, Brick. Brilliant film.

    Baz Luhrman’s Strictly Ballroom is such a fantastic film. He’s not topped that or Romeo + Juliet for me yet.

    Don’t laugh at this one, but Michael Bay’s first directorial effort with Bad Boys is awesome. That film is just so much fun. And you can see that Bay’s pretty much just kept to his same old directorial tricks, but they still looked so much better in that film.

    One I feel I need to see is Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. STILL not seen that one. Also, Following. The ONLY film of Nolan’s I haven’t seen.

    1. Hi, Jaina:

      Great call with Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’.

      Even Michael Bay deserves some love now and then.

      I’m kind of the same way with Jonathan Liebsman and his ‘Battle L.A.’ after his premiere, ‘The Killing Room’.

      Mr. Liebsman did a lot with a medium budget in creating an homage to the old Army vs. Aliens, 1950s “Us vs. Them” theme of Red Scare Sci-Fi films. Also gets big cred for making parts of storm ravaged Baton Rouge, LA. fill in believably for battle scarred Los Angeles.

    2. Oh yes Looper! Forgot about that one but yes that is a stellar work indeed from Rian Johnson. Boy I still need to see Strictly Ballroom. It’s on Netflix so maybe this weekend I’ll see it 😀

      Oh Bad Boys IS awesome! I mean it’s even spoofed in Hot Fuzz brilliantly. Haven’t seen Being John Malkovich but Following is great, shows just how good Nolan was even in his early days.

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