Best Second Films: 35 Directors Who Beat the Sophomore Slump

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[Editor’s note: The following list was originally published in June 2019 but has been updated accordingly.]

The history of cinema is filled with stories of bold directorial debuts that introduced the world to exciting new voices. But there are far fewer tales of excellent second films. Lightning seldom strikes twice in the same place, so when a director is able to follow up a dazzling debut with something equally remarkable, people tend to notice. A bad second film is not always a career death sentence, as many directors have rebounded from the so-called “sophomore slump.” But when a filmmaker is able to avoid it altogether, it is usually a sign of some serious talent.

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One filmmaker with a beloved second film took Cannes 2022 by storm. Lukas Dhont premiered his film “Close” at the festival and shared the Grand Prix with Claire Denis’ “Stars at Noon.” That’s the second year in a row that a second film made a huge impact at Cannes. Julia Ducournau’s second feature, “Titane,” won the Palme d’Or in 2021.

From Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers to new voices like Ari Aster and Robert Eggers, we’ve rounded up 35 of the best second films from directors who went on to become major filmmakers. Check out the list below.

Zack Sharf also contributed to this article.

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