Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis developed an interest in film and television at an early age and first worked in his native Chicago as an editor for TV commercials and news programs. This work led him to apply as a transfer student to the University of Southern California film school where his application material included a music video, set to a song by The Beatles. (Not surprisingly his first film would be “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” about a bunch of high school students obsessed with Beatlemania.)
He was initially rejected by USC but he begged an official to reconsider and promised to bring his low grade point average up by attending summer school. This brashness would also play a big part in his initial success as a director when he barged into Steven Spielberg’s office with a copy of his student film and asked Spielberg to employ him. The director was impressed with Zemeckis and his film and would ultimately become a producer on “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
Zemeckis’ early directorial efforts where acclaimed but didn’t do much at the box office. It wouldn’t be until 1984 that he found success on a major scale with the romantic adventure comedy “Romancing the Stone.” He always had a penchant for experimenting with the form of motion pictures and from his earliest film onward he liked to edit real life news footage or in the case of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” cartoon characters into his films to interact with the real actors. This intermingling of the real and the fictional would culminate in his Oscar winning Best Picture “Forrest Gump” which featured Tom Hanks as Forrest speaking and interacting with real life personalities. Zemeckis won the Best Director Oscar for that film and also received a Best Original Screenplay nomination for his box office hit of 1985, “Back to the Future.”
Take a tour of our photo gallery with his 15 greatest movies, ranked worst to best. We include the films mentioned above, plus “Cast Away,” “The Polar Express,” “Used Cars” and more.
– Original text and gallery published in May 2019.