Finding the actor, writer, composer or director with the perfect bookends is harder than you think. You can find some strong starts with weak finishes, the other way around or nothing good at all. But let’s see some candidates:
John Huston: The Maltese Falcon (1941) - The Dead (1987)
A classic of noir film and a celebrated adaptation of a James Joyce short story. This one should be hard to top.
Sidney Lumet: 12 Angry Men (1957) - Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
One of the greatest movies of all time and a Phillip Seymour Hoffman starring film that had decent reviews.
Actors are trickier… but I’m going to cheat and pick an actor who died young:
James Dean: East of Eden (1955) - Giant (1956)
He had some uncredited stuff before Eden I’m not counting, and Giant may not be as revered as his other two, but he did get a nomination for his work on it.