Richard Donner


Richard Donner (born Richard Donald Schwartzberg, April 24, 1930 – July 5,2021) was an American director and producer of film and television and occasional comic-book writer. He started his career with hopes of acting. He got a bit part in a TV show directed by Martin Ritt, who encouraged Donner to become a director instead. Ritt hired Donner as his assistant. Later, Donner got a job at Desilu (the production company created by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball), where he directed commercials. He transitioned into television dramas in the late 1950s, directing some episodes of the Steve McQueen western serial Wanted: Dead or Alive and the Chuck Connors western The Rifleman. In his early career as a director he worked on over twenty-five television series including Have Gun Will Travel, The Fugitive, Combat!, Get Smart, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, Gilligan’s Island, Kojak, Tales from the Crypt and The Twilight Zone (most notably the famous “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” starring William Shatner and “From Agnes—With Love” starring Wally Cox), as well as the serial Danger Island from the children’s program The Banana Splits.

Donner directed his first feature film in 1961, X-15, which starred Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore. It was not until seven years later, however, that he directed his next film Salt and Pepper (1968), with Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford. His break-through film was The Omen (1976). A supernatural horror made in the wake of the success obtained by The Exorcist, the film stars Gregory Peck, David Warner and Lee Remick. It became the fifth highest-grossing movie of 1976.

In 1978, Donner directed Superman: The Movie, starring Christopher Reeve in the title role. The film became a hit worldwide, projecting both Reeve and Donner to international fame. Co-stars included Margot Kidder as Lois Lane, Marlon Brando as Jor-El and Gene Hackman as archvillain Lex Luthor. It succeeded at the box office, grossing $134 million domestically. He began work on Superman II (1980), but was eventually replaced by Richard Lester.

Donner’s films in the 80’s include The Toy (1982), with Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Ned Beatty, Scott Schwartz, Teresa Ganzel, and Virginia Capers; the Steven Spielberg produced adventure film The Goonies (1985), with Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Anne Ramsey, Robert Davi, and Joe Pantoliano; Ladyhawke (1985), with Matthew Broderick, Rutger Hauer, and Michelle Pfeiffer; the Lethal Weapon franchise (1987-1998), with Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, and Rene Russo; and Scrooged (1988), with Bill Murray and Karen Allen.

His later films include Maverick (1994), with Gibson, Jodie Foster, James Garner, Graham Greene, James Coburn, and Alfred Molina; Assassins (1995), with Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Julianne Moore; Conspiracy Theory (1997), with Gibson, Julia Roberts, and Patrick Stewart; and 16 Blocks (2006) with Bruce Willis, Mos Def, and David Morse.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • X-15 (1961)
  • Salt and Pepper (1968)
  • Lola (1969)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • Superman (1978)
  • Superman II (1980) – uncredited – replaced by Richard Lester
  • Inside Moves (1980)
  • The Toy (1982)
  • The Goonies (1985)**
  • Ladyhawke (1985)
  • Lethal Weapon (1987)
  • Scrooged (1988)
  • Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
  • Radio Flyer (1992)
  • Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)
  • Maverick (1994)
  • Assassins (1995)
  • Conspiracy Theory (1997)
  • Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)
  • Timeline (2003)
  • 16 Blocks (2006)
  • Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)