Robert Jonathan Demme (February 22, 1944 – April 26, 2017) was an American film director, producer and screenwriter of film and television who earned widespread acclaim. His direction of the psychological horror film The Silence of the Lambs (1991), with Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, and Scott Glenn; won him the Academy Award for Best Director. It’s the third film to win the Big 5 Academy Awards (Picture, Director, Writer, Actor, and Actress) after Frank Capra‘s It Happened One Night (1934), with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert; and Miloš Forman‘s One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest (1975), with Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.
Originally beginning his career under B-movie producer Roger Corman, with the films Caged Heat (1974), with Juanita Brown, Roberta Collins, Erica Gavin, Ella Reid, Rainbeaux Smith, and Barbara Steele; Crazy Mama (1975), with Cloris Leachman, Stuart Whitman, Ann Sothern, Linda Purl, Jim Backus, Donny Most, Bill Paxton, and Dennis Quaid; and Fighting Mad (1976), with Peter Fonda, Lynn Lowry, Philip Carey, John Doucette, and Harry Northup. Other films in the 1970s include Handle with Care (1977), with Paul Le Mat, Candy Clark, Bruce McGill, Roberts Blossom, and Richard Bright; and Last Embrace (1979), with Roy Scheider, Janet Margolin, John Glover, Sam Levene, Charles Napier, and Christopher Walken.
Films in the 1980s include Melvin and Howard (1980), with Le Mat, Mary Steenburgen, Pamela Reed, Michael J. Pollard, and Jason Robards; Swing Shift (1984), with Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Christine Lahti, Fred Ward, Ed Harris, and Holly Hunter; Something Wild (1986), with Melanie Griffith, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta; and Married to the Mob (1988), with with Michelle Pfeiffer, Matthew Modine, Dean Stockwell, Mercedes Ruehl, Alec Baldwin, and Oliver Platt.
Demme’s other films include Philadelphia (1993), with Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Robards, Steenburgen, Antonio Banderas, and Joanne Woodward; Beloved (1998), with Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton; The Truth About Charlie (2002), with Mark Wahlberg, Newton, and Tim Robbins; The Manchurian Candidate (2004), with Washington, Meryl Streep, Liev Schreiber, and Jon Voight; Rachel Getting Married (2008), with Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, and Debra Winger; A Master Builder (2013), with Wallace Shawn, Julie Hagerty, Lisa Joyce, and Andre Gregory; and Ricki and the Flash (2015), with Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Audra McDonald, and Ben Platt.
Demme also directed numerous concert films such as Stop Making Sense (1984), Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006), and Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016), and worked on several television series as both a producer and director. He died at his home in Manhattan on April 26, 2017, from complications from esophageal cancer and heart disease; he was 73.
Each review will be linked to the title below.
(*seen originally in theaters)
(**seen rereleased in theaters)
- Caged Heat (1974)
- Crazy Mama (1975)
- Fighting Mad (1976)
- Citizens Band (1977)
- Last Embrace (1979)
- Melvin and Howard (1980)
- Swing Shift (1984)
- Stop Making Sense (1984) – documentary
- Something Wild (1986)
- Swimming to Cambodia (1987)
- Married to the Mob (1988)
- The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- Cousin Bobby (1992) – documentary
- Philadelphia (1993)
- SUBWAYStories: Tales from the Underground (1997) -TV anthology film, directed one segment
- Storefront Hitchcock (1998) – documentary
- Beloved (1998)
- The Truth About Charlie (2002)
- The Agronomist (2003) – documentary
- The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
- Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) – documentary
- Jimmy Carter: Man from the Plains (2007) – documentary
- Rachel Getting Married (2008)
- Neil Young Trunk Show (2009) – documentary
- I’m Carolyn Parker (2011) – documentary
- Neil Young Journeys (2011) -documentary
- Kenny Chesney: Unstaged (2012) -documentary
- Enzo Avitabile Music Life (2012) – documentary
- A Master Builder (2013)
- Ricki and the Flash (2015)
- Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016) – concert documentary