What is a “sophomore slump?” In film, a sophomore slump is when the second, or sophomore, film or effort from a director falls short or fails to live up to the standards of its first effort. Notable examples of the sophomore slump include Steven Soderbergh’s Kafka and Sam Raimi’s Crimewave.
However, not every director suffers from the sophomore slump. In some cases, a director’s second film exceeds expectations and ends up surpassing the first film in both critical acclaim and box office gross. With the release of Jordan Peele’s Us, the follow up to the iconic Get Out, here are a few of my choices for the greatest second films from directors.
*Note: These are all the second feature-length films from directors. The list does not count short films or television movies.
Quentin Tarantino: Pulp Fiction
You know you’ve made a memorable second film when it is widely considered a masterpiece. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is one of most unique and original films of all-time due to its nonlinear narrative. The film depicts the lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster’s wife, and a pair of diner bandits in Los Angeles and how their stories are intertwined. Tarantino won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and is credited with launching independent film into the mainstream due to Pulp Fiction‘s success.
John Hughes: The Breakfast Club
For my money, this is the greatest coming-of-age film of all-time. Up until this point, John Hughes was known for writing National Lampoon’s Vacation and directing Sixteen Candles. His sophomore directorial effort, The Breakfast Club, tells the story of five high school students from completely different backgrounds who spend an entire Saturday in detention. Despite being from different social cliques, the students end up forming a special bond and friendship by the end of the film. With “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” playing in the background, the film’s final scene ends with one of the most memorable shots in movie history, the Jon Bender fist pump. The Breakfast Club was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress.
David Fincher: Se7en
WHAT’S IN THE BOX? Director David Fincher is known for suspenseful films with huge plot twists. Fincher has directed some of the most thrilling films of the last 20 years including Fight Club, Zodiac, and Gone Girl. However, it’s Fincher’s second film. Se7en, that stands above the rest. In Se7en, a rookie detective (Brad Pitt) and a retiring investigator (Morgan Freeman) team up to track down a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who is using the seven deadly sins as his motive for the killings. Brilliantly paced and full of suspense, Se7en still keeps viewers on the edge of their seats almost 25 years later.
Sofia Coppola: Lost in Translation
Bill Murray is known for being one of the most influential comedians of the past four decades. However, Murray’s dramatic turn in Lost in Translation will go down as one of his best performances thanks to Sofia Coppola, who wrote and directed the film. Daughter of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather series), Sofia’s second feature film stars Murray as Bob Harris, an aging actor who befriends a young married college graduate, played by Scarlett Johansson, in Tokyo. The film perfectly depicts a midlife crisis as well as a quarter life crisis and how both characters deal with their unknown futures. Beautifully written and directed, Lost in Translation was nominated for four Academy Awards and won for Best Original Screenplay.
Barry Jenkins: Moonlight
It took Barry Jenkins eight years to release his second feature-length film after his first film, Medicine for Melancholy, debuted in 2008. To say his second film, Moonlight, did not disappoint would be an understatement. Moonlight presents the story of Chiron in three stages: childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Jenkins’s film chronicles Chiron’s life in Miami, where he battles over issues of abuse and sexual identity. Moonlight received universal acclaim and received three Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Other great second films from directors:
- Paul Thomas Anderson – Boogie Nights
- Christopher Nolan – Memento
- Mike Nichols – The Graduate
- Steven Spielberg – Jaws (Spielberg directed many amateur and short films in the 1960s, but Jaws was Spielberg’s second feature film in theaters.)
- Ridley Scott – Alien
- Richard Linklater – Dazed and Confused
What are your choices for the greatest second film from a director? Let us know in the comments or tweet your answers to @unafraidshow.
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