Robert Jay Rafelson (February 21, 1933 – July 23, 2022) was an American film director, writer and producer. He is regarded as one of the key figures in the founding of the New Hollywood movement in the 1970s. He was also one of the creators of the pop group and TV series The Monkees (Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones) with BBS partner Bert Schneider. He made his feature debut with the Monkees film Head (1968), with Victor Mature, Teri Garr, Carol Doda, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Timothy Carey, and Ray Nitschke.
Among his best-known films as a director include those made as part of the company he cofounded, Raybert/BBS Productions, Five Easy Pieces (1970), with Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Lois Smith, and Ralph Waite; and The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), with Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn and Scatman Crothers; as well as acclaimed later films, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), with Nicholson, Jessica Lange, Michael Lerner, and Anjelica Huston; and Mountains of the Moon (1990), with Patrick Bergin, Iain Glenn, Richard E. Grant, and Fiona Shaw.
Other films include Stay Hungry (1976), with Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, and Arnold Schwarzenegger; Black Widow (1987), with Debra Winger, Theresa Russell, Sami Frey, and Nicol Williamson; Man Trouble (1992), with Nicholson, Ellen Barkin, Harry Dean Stanton, Beverly D’Angelo, Michael McKean, Saul Rubinek, snd Veronica Cartwright; Blood and Wine (1996), with Nicholson, Stephen Dorff, Jennifer Lopez, Judy Davis, and Michael Caine; the TV movie Poodle Springs (1998), with James Caan, Dina Meyer, and David Keith; and No Good Deed (2003), with Samuel L. Jackson, , Milla Jovovich, and Stellan Skarsgård.
Other films he produced as part of BBS include two of the most significant films of the era, Easy Rider (1969), with Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper (who also directed), and Nicholson; and Peter Bogdanovich‘s The Last Picture Show (1971), Timothy Bottoms, Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, and Cybill Shepherd. His first wife was the production designer Toby Carr Rafelson. His eldest son is songwriter Peter Rafelson, who co-wrote the hit song “Open Your Heart” for Madonna.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Head (1968) – director, co-writer, co-producer
- Easy Rider (1969) – directed by Dennis Hopper – uncredited producer
- Five Easy Pieces (1970) – director, co-story, co-producer
- The Last Picture Show (1971) – directed by Peter Bogdanovich – uncredited producer
- The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) – director, co-story, co-producer
- The Mother and the Whore (1973) – directed by Jean Eustache – uncredited producer
- Hearts and Minds (1974) – directed by Peter Davis – documentary – uncredited producer
- Stay Hungry (1976) – director, co-writer, co-producer
- The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) – director, co-producer – written by David Mamet
- Modesty (1981) – director, writer – short
- Black Widow (1987) – director
- Mountains of the Moon (1990) – director, co-writer
- Man Trouble (1992) – director
- Picture Windows (1995) – director miniseries – other directors: Norman Jewison, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Kaplan, Joe Dante, & John Boorman
- Tales of Erotica (1996) – anthology – other directos: Ken Russell, Susan Seidelman, & Melvin Van Peebles