Birds Of Prey's Cathy Yan And 9 Other First Time Big-Budget Directors To Know In 2020

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey
(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

It’s no easy task for a director to take on a blockbuster. Big-budget projects often come with massive expectations from audiences, and there’s a lot of studio money on the line too. With 2020 in particular, there’s a ton of filmmaking talent taking on these kinds of projects for the very first time. Bad Boys for Life directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah kicked things off in a big way with the record-breaking success of their action film, and there’s plenty of blockbuster debuts to go.

Get to know the directors helming giant movies for the first time in 2020. You might want to remember some of these folks:

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey

(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Cathy Yan - Birds of Prey

Release Date: February 7

Back in 2017, Warner Bros took a chance on Patty Jenkins and she made history. The Wonder Woman director was the first woman ever to be given a project as big as the DCEU film was, and it became a phenomenon. Cathy Yan is following in Jenkins’ footsteps with Birds of Prey coming this weekend. She helmed her first feature just two years ago after writing and directing three of her own shorts. A little while after the Chinese-spoken Dead Pigs premiered at Sundance to positive buzz, Yan had coffee with Birds of Prey writer Christina Hodson, and it resulted in her becoming the movie's director.

Ben Schwartz in Sonic the Hedgehog

(Image credit: (Paramount))

Jeff Fowler - Sonic the Hedgehog

Release Date: February 14

Taking on the first live-action Sonic the Hedgehog movie as your directorial debut takes some serious fortitude, and Jeff Fowler was the man for the job. Back in 2004, his animated short Gopher Broke was nominated for an Oscar, and he worked on the animation for 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are. Other than that, he kind of came out of nowhere. Following the release of Sonic the Hedgehog’s first trailer, the design of Sonic was met with viral backlash. Fowler listened to fans and redesigned the character's features, and it looks like this will benefit Sonic’s success.

Vin Diesel in Bloodshot

(Image credit: (Sony))

Dave Wilson - Bloodshot

Release Date: March 13

Another first-time director who comes from the visual side of moviemaking is the director of Bloodshot, Dave Wilson. He has long been the supervisor and director of creating trailers for video games at Blur Studios, including Mass Effect 2, various Star Wars games and Bioshock Infinite. Wilson also worked on Avengers: Age of Ultron as well and directed an episode of Netflix’s Love, Death & Robots last year. His first movie stars Vin Diesel and is based on Valiant Comics’ Bloodshot. The superhero is a biotech killing machine with a tragic backstory.

Blu Hunt in The New Mutants

(Image credit: (Fox))

Josh Boone - The New Mutants

Release Date: April 3

Josh Boone is no stranger to a high-profile project. He directed the adaptation of the beloved teen romance novel The Fault in Our Stars back in 2014, which starred Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley. Made on a reported budget of just $12 million, the movie went on to make $307 million worldwide. That helped launch the two actors careers who are popular for their work in Baby Driver and Big Little Lies, respectively. His next project has had a troublesome time reaching the big screen since it was filmed two years ago, but it’s finally coming this spring. The New Mutants is a horror take on the X-Men property with the same name.

Léa Seydoux and Daniel Craig in No Time To Die

(Image credit: (Sony))

Cary Joji Fukunaga - No Time To Die

Release Date: April 10

Following 1917’s Sam Mendes' two-film stint in the James Bond franchise for 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre, Daniel Craig’s final hurrah as 007 will be directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga. This filmmaker has shown promise to helm a big-budget movie for a few years. He had built up his resume as the filmmaker behind the latest adaptation of Jane Erye, the first season of HBO’s True Detective and one of Netflix’s first award contenders, Beasts of No Nation. Fukunaga was also the mind behind the script for 2017’s IT and Netflix’s Maniac. It’ll be exciting to see how he closes out Craig’s tenure as Bond.

Florence Pugh and Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Cate Shortland - Black Widow

Release Date: May 1

Believe it or not, the first Marvel movie to be directed solely by a woman is this summer's Black Widow. Captain Marvel technically was the first female director hire with Anna Boden, but she shared the responsibility with Ryan Fleck. Cate Shortland is an Australian filmmaker who started making her own short films in the late ‘90s. Throughout the years, she’s made a few critically-acclaimed small movies, including Somersault, Lore and Berlin Syndrome, but there’s no question that Black Widow is her most high-profile work to date.

Shaggy and Scooby-Doo in Scoob!

(Image credit: (Warner Bros Animation))

Tony Cervone - Scoob!

Release Date: May 15

Another highly-anticipated feature-length animated feature to get a first-time director is Scoob! The Scooby-Doo property has been rebooted again and again, but it’s been some time since moviegoers could enjoy Shaggy, Velma and the gang on the big screen. Following a couple live-action films in the early ‘00s, Scoob! will take the franchise back to animation with a 3-D look. Tony Cervone has spent his career directing and producing television programs starring Tom & Jerry, Daffy Duck and Scooby-Doo. We’ll have to see how he does with Scoob!

Tony Todd in 1992 Candyman original movie

(Image credit: (TriStar))

Nia DaCosta - Candyman

Release Date: June 12

The horror genre has been finding a successful resurgence in recent years, especially with the help of Jordan Peele’s genius. Following Us, the acclaimed filmmaker has written a “spiritual sequel” to 1992’s Candyman. However, he’s stepping back from directing duties. In turn, Nia DaCosta gets to helm her first major feature film this summer. Last year, she was the director of the underrated crime-drama Little Woods, starring Lily James and Tessa Thompson. The upcoming Candyman will follow the eponymous character returning to the Chicago neighborhood from the original, but now it’s gentrified.

Eternals poster Marvel Studios

(Image credit: (Marvel))

Chloé Zhao - The Eternals

Release Date: November 6

Not one, but two out of two Marvel movies in 2020 will feature the work of first time big-budget directors. Chloé Zhao is a Chinese filmmaker who also started making short films before moving to small indie films in Songs My Brother Taught Me and The Rider. The latter film was nominated for four Independent Spirit Awards, including a nod for her directing. Now she takes on one of Marvel Studios’ most ambitious projects yet with The Eternals. The movie stars including Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Gemma Chan, Kit Harrington and follows immortal heroes over thousands of years.

Raya and the Last Dragon title card

(Image credit: (Disney))

Paul Briggs And Dean Wellins - Raya And The Last Dragon

Release Date: November 25

Closing out the year, are first-time directors Paul Briggs and Dean Wellins, who will direct Disney’s next animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon. The animated movie will follow a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient world. A warrior called Raya is on a quest to find the last dragon. Crazy Rich Asians’ writer Adele Lim is behind the script, and it will star Awkwafina and Cassie Steele. Both first-time directors have been working for Disney in the art and animation department for two decades. Briggs started on Hercules as an in-between artist, and Wellins was on the Gargoyles video game before working on the studio’s modern animated films.

Do you have faith in these new directors? Sound off in the comments!

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.