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The 10 Best First Feature Films of 2021

It's nearly impossible to feel worried about the future of cinema with such a wealth of new talents debuting their work this year.

Putting together year-end “best of” lists is never easy, but there are certain categories that make the annual chore go down with relish. This year: a truly inspiring crop of feature directorial debuts from a wide ranging of rising talents. Who could possibly be worried about the future of cinema with so many excellent features hitting screens (of all sizes) in the space of just one calendar year?

It’s telling that some of the year’s most lauded films, like Maggie Gyllenhaal’s “The Lost Daughter” and Rebecca Hall’s “Passing,” have already broken through the scrum to earn attention alongside the rest of the year’s heavy hitters. But they are hardly alone, as this year’s list of best first feature films includes a number of hidden gems still ripe for watching, unexpected specialty box office bonanzas (like Emma Seligman’s “Shiva Baby” or Michael Sarnoski’s “Pig”), and still more.

Picking ten films and directors to highlight this year was, well, one word: easy. Check out the next generation of filmmakers and their staggering first films, and get on board with these names now. We certainly are.

Eric Kohn, Jude Dry, and Ryan Lattanzio contributed to this article.

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