It’s impossible to overestimate the challenge of directing a successful film. Some of the most well-known filmmakers toiled for years before their big breakthroughs, producing work as significant and meaningful as their future hits, but never quite reaching mass audiences. There is a Duel for every Jaws, and more like this for every director. The following are only a few of the many famous examples of brilliant films done by directors before they made it big.

1. Used Cars – Robert Zemeckis (1980)

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Rudy Russo, a used car salesman, contacts his boss Luke for funding to run for State Senate. Luke agrees to advance him the $10,000 he requires, but is then involved in a “accident” engineered by his brother Roy, who manages the auto lot across the street and is played by Warden. Because Roy is paying the mayor to build the new expressway through the area, he is attempting to claim title to his brother’s property. As Rudy and his crew try to keep Roy from stealing Luke’s stuff after Luke vanishes, it’s a full-fledged war between the competing car shops, with no dirty tricks off limits. Then there’s Luke’s daughter.

2. Duel – Steven Spielberg (TV Movie 1971)

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On a business vacation, David Mann is simply a typical family man. Unfortunately, matters worsen when a massive gasoline truck in front of him forces him to drive slower than he like. Mann understands he isn’t dealing with simply another road hog as the journey progresses. Despite the fact that he never sees the trucker’s face, the driver demonstrates psychopathic behaviour by running Mann off the road and tricking or forcing him into a variety of fatal circumstances. Mann tries to get away from the truck as the terrifying journey continues, but every time he thinks he’s safe, the truck reappears to terrorise him even more. Finally, the awful confrontation brings him to the realisation that escaping would not help him, and he must take a stance and fight back against the crazed trucker.

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3. Matador – Pedro Almodóvar (1986)

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Matador Diego Montez has become a teacher since being forced to resign due to a goring. Angel, a naive lad so keen to impress that he rapes Diego’s girlfriend, Eva, is one of his students. He fails, but nonetheless turns himself in, confessing to a string of murders he’s witnessed in psychic visions recently. Angel is defended by a lawyer, but the cops are sceptical.

4. Near Dark – Kathryn Bigelow (1987)

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Caleb Colton, a young cowboy in Phoenix, encounters the lovely Mae late at night in town and offers her a ride to her trailer. Caleb brings Mae, who is in a rush, and asks for a kiss, but she bites him on the neck. Caleb’s truck won’t start, so he must walk home. When the sun strikes him near to his farm, though, he starts to burn. Caleb’s father, Loy Colton, and sister, Sarah, see a van materialise out of nowhere and take Caleb. He meets Mae’s family, which includes the leader Jesse Hooker, his companion Diamondback, the ruthless Severen, and the kid Homer.

All of them are predatory night creatures that require blood to survive. Caleb, on the other hand, refuses to kill, so Mae offers him her own blood to keep him alive. Meanwhile, Loy and Sarah are on the lookout for Caleb; when they run into each other in a motel, Caleb must choose between his family and his feelings for Mae.

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5. Brain Dead – Peter Jackson (1990)

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Dr. Rex Martin is a famous neurosurgeon who specialises in the cerebral misfunctions that create mental diseases, and his services are sought by an old school friend, Jim Reston, who is now employed by the mega-corporation Eunice. Dr. Martin is needed by Reston to extract vital information from the mind of John Halsey, a former top mathematician at Eunice who is now a paranoid at the local asylum.

6. Bottle Rocket – Wes Anderson (1996)

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Following his discharge from a mental institution after a nervous breakdown, Anthony reunites with his friend Dignan, who appears to be considerably less sane than the former. Dignan has devised a cunning plan for an as-yet-unspecified criminal spree involving his former boss, the famed Mr. Henry. Anthony and Dignan get a job and hit the road with the help of their pitiful neighbour and friend Bob, where Anthony falls in love with motel maid Inez. When our lads eventually meet Mr. Henry, the accompanying antics are far from what anyone had anticipated.

7. Following – Christopher Nolan (1998)

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Bill tells a story about being a naive writer who enjoys following and studying strangers about London. Bill is confronted one day by a swaggering, self-assured man he has been following. Cobb is a thief who takes Bill under his wing and teaches him how to burgle. They break into a woman’s home, and Bill is drawn to her images, which are scattered throughout her home. He tracks her down and strikes up a conversation with her at a pub run by her ex-boyfriend, a scumbag who murdered someone in her home room with a hammer. Bill soon offers to help her out by breaking into her house.

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8. Barking Dogs Never Bite – Bong Joon-ho (2000)

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The urban life’s disconnections. Yun-ju is quiet and unassuming; his wife is expecting a child, and he’s considering bribing the dean to gain a professorship. He’s also plagued by a yapping dog who keeps him awake in his vast block of flats. Hyeon-nam is similarly uninterested; she works as a bookkeeper in the same building and gets excited only when she hears about a lost dog. Three dogs in the building go missing over the period of a few weeks, and Yun-ju and Hyeon-nam have a connection to each other. A janitor might as well.

9. Fruitvale Station – Ryan Coogler (2013)

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Oscar, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, feels something in the air as he wakes up on December 31, 2008. He takes it as a sign to get a head start on his New Year’s resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, being a better partner to his girlfriend, with whom he hasn’t been completely honest recently, and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4-year-old daughter.

Oscar gets off to a good start, but as the day progresses, he realises that change isn’t going to be simple. He meets up with friends, family, and strangers, and each encounter reveals that Oscar is much more than meets the eye. But it was his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station, that would rock the Bay Area and bring the tale of Oscar Grant to the attention of the whole nation.