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10 Great Films Made By Filmmakers Under 25

10 Great Films Made By Filmmakers Under 25

“The Evil Dead” (1981)

Sam Raimi was just 22
years old when he completed “The Evil Dead.” He first made a short film for less
than $2,000 called “Within the Woods” to entice Hollywood execs to “The Evil Dead.” Raimi has said that he “begged” them to give him the $100,000
needed to make the low-budget film, and he eventually accumulated $90,000 from various
investors. The rest is, of course, horror movie history, as an additional two
sequels were made and an incredibly loyal cult following ensued. Raimi’s
career skyrocketed since then, as he was the brains behind the first three
original Spider-Man movies — the second one being a classic of the genre — and
went on to make other great films, especially 1998’s “A Simple Plan.”

“El Mariachi” (1994)

If you’ve ever read the book “Rebel
Without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player,” you
know why much of “El Mariachi’s” legend derives from the fact that it was shot
for just $7,000 with an all-amateur cast. The budget was so low that Robert
Rodriguez shot the film without sound and only overdubbed it during post-production. Originally intended for Mexican home video, Columbia Pictures loved
the movie so much that they bought the rights to it in 1994, much to the
delight of 24-year-old Rodriguez, who was rejected by every Latino
distributor and was about to give up on the film. His passion project became a success. “Mariachi” spawned two sequels and a cult following that reveled in watching
guitar-loving gunmen shoot up the bad guys. Rodriguez’s career went full swing
as he became a sought after action director, his greatest achievement being “Sin
City” or “Desperado,” depending on who you talk to.

“Boyz ‘n the Hood” (1991)

While Raimi is the youngest director on
this list, John Singleton outdid him by becoming the youngest director to ever
get nominated for an Oscar at the young age of 23. His classic “hood”
movie “Boyz ‘n the Hood” kickstarted an influx of Compton-influenced films that
focused on the political and dynamic part of being black in America. “Do The
Right Thing,” of course, is the incendiary masterpiece of the genre — which came
before “Boyz” — but Singleton changed the game. As Ice Cube recently explained, “When we first did the movie ‘Boyz ‘n the Hood,’ we felt like we was teaching
America about a part of itself that they don’t see.” It was a tremendously
important movie, as it showed the country that characters like Dough Boy who, in the film, says that America “don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about
what’s going on in the hood,” existed everywhere, and that their plight
was just as important as any other American’s. It is unfortunately still a relevant
movie to this day, almost 25 years later.

“Clerks” (1994)

Kevin Smith was just 24 when he made
his now-iconic Generation X movie. When it came out, many thought “Clerks” was a
fluke and that Smith just happened to be in the right place at the right time,
but he proved everyone wrong three years later with “Chasing Amy.” However, “Clerks” was where it all began, and where Smith had the most freedom — so much
so, that he had to re-cut the film in order to get the more commercially viable
R rating after the original NC-17 rating by the MPAA. Shot for just $27,575, the film ended up grossing close to $3 million and moving the indie
movement forward in the 1990s. The plot is deceptively simple, that of a 7-Eleven clerk who hates his job and fervently spews pop culture references
left and right as customers come in and out of the store. Shot in black and
white, Smith had to sell a large portion of his comic book collection, max out
“8-10” credit cards, use a portion of his college fund and spend
insurance money he received from a car that was lost in a flood, just to film
the movie.

“George Washington” (2000)

David Gordon Green was just a 24-year-old
filmmaker when he made “George Washington” — one of the most important and
impressive debuts of the 2000s. With a Terrence Malick-influenced narrative
style, a mostly amateur cast of kids and a scant $42,000 budget, Green set out
to make a movie about rural North Carolina kids who have to deal with a sudden
tragedy. Roger Ebert put it on his top 10 list, as did many other film critics
who were impressed by the visual ambition of the film. Green ended up making a
career out of the film, following it with gems like “Pineapple Express,” “All The Real Girls” and “Joe.” Green, now 39 years old, has a chance at
being a legit Oscar contender this year with the recent TIFF premiere “Our Brand is Crisis.”

“Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce,
1080 Bruxelles” (1975)

You are 24 years old, a female
director and about to release a film in 1975. Good luck. Chantal Ackerman beat
all the odds and made one of the defining feminist films of the last 100 years.
The film is an absolutely surreal (and real) depiction of a middle-aged widow
doing everyday chores, all in the while prostituting herself in a middle class
Brussels neighborhood. Unexpectedly, Jeanne has an orgasm with one of her
clients, which sets off an unpredictable set of events. The film was not
released in the United States until 1983, but the impact was already felt in
the rest of the world, where Ackerman’s legendary feminist movie already took
shape as an incendiary classic. It is now considered not just an important
cinematic event, but an important cultural event as well, paving the way for
the manner in which female filmmakers can express themselves in their art.

“Tiny Furniture” (2010)

There is a very good reason that Lena
Dunham’s feature directing debut “Tiny Furniture” is on Criterion: It’s a ballsy,
artful movie, and the fact that it was written and directed by Dunham when she
was just 24 years old is only even more impressive. Dunham shot the film on a
Canon EOS 7D on a $65,000 budget, with a cast of mostly unknown actors — a few of whom
would end up on her hit HBO show “Girls.” The film is as autobiographical as
anything Dunham has done, on the big or small screen, focusing on the plight of
a recent college graduate who doesn’t seem to know what she wants to do or who
she wants to be in life. Casting her real mother and sister in those respective
roles, Dunham’s camera and eye for detail made her a clear born-to-be filmmaker
who seems to thrive on artistic freedom.

“Mommy” (2014)


Xavier Dolan was just
24 when he released “Mommy,” which broke box office records in his native
Quebec and got him the Jury Prize at Cannes, shared with Jean-Luc Godard’s “Goodbye to Language.” “Mommy”
is a terrific movie that features mother and son constantly, maddeningly
talking over each other, with verbal fireworks that bring a rawness to a
breathtakingly original film riskily shot in a squared 1:1 aspect ratio; a
scene midway through the film brilliantly explains why it was shot that way.
It’s been said before by many that we haven’t seen the best of Dolan just yet
and that most directors hit their peak much later in life. Dolan’s film might
be overlong and have some of the ambitious mistakes some rookie directors tend
to make, but his ambitious vision more than makes up for it. 

“Citizen Kane” (1941)

The child prodigy that was
Orson Welles. A theater genius who wowed everyone in his heyday, Welles was a
hot commodity, turning down offer after offer in the ’30s until he was sent an
offer he couldn’t refuse: Complete artistic control in acting, writing,
directing and producing any feature film of his choice. “Citizen Kane” was the
next step — a bracing movie that, to this day, is still heralded as the
greatest ever made (although “Vertigo” is catching up). It is a film so innovative
that it can probably be considered the most influential film of all time. The
fact that Welles was just 25 years old when “Citizen Kane” premiered at the
Palace theater in 1941 is staggering and almost unheard of for a film this
revolutionary and iconic. The technical aspect of the film is what astounds
most people, but the fact that it was released 74 years ago is even more
mind-blowing.

“Duel” (1971)

As a young man, Steven
Spielberg was flirting with pursuing a career in television. He signed on to
direct four movies for ABC, the first one an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s
high-adrenaline novel “Duel,” which was inspired by Matheson’s own terrifying experience on the road the
night JFK was assassinated. Spielberg was just 24 years old when he took on the
story about a psychotic truck driver who tries to chase a man (Dennis Weaver)
off the road, which would later be the major influence for John Dahl’s
underrated “Joy Ride” from 2001. He was asked to turn in something cheap
and fast with a shooting schedule that would run just 13 days. The final result
was so good that Universal picked up distribution, asked Spielberg to shoot a
few more scenes, and then decided to release it in theaters overseas. “Duel” is an intense, taut and gripping
thriller that delved deeply into the social conscious and dark face of America
with such confident flair that you’d never guess the director was just 24 years
of age.

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