Study Guide

Back to the Future Director

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Robert Zemeckis might be one of the most successful directors you don't know by name. Then again, maybe you do know him by name. In which case you'll know some of the many, many, many movies he's directed.

How do you like this résumé? 

  • Romancing the Stone
  • Back to the Future I, II and III
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  • Death Becomes Her
  • Forrest Gump
  • Contact
  • Cast Away
  • The Polar Express
  • Beowulf
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Flight

And that's just the sampler platter. The dude's been behind some awesome movies.

Zemeckis spent much of his career under the mentorship of Steven Spielberg, who is not a bad person to know if you're trying to make it in the movie biz. It's given him the freedom to do a vast array of projects, from the silly to the dramatic, and has also allowed him to experiment with some pretty sizable budgets.

That's a big deal, because one theme you'll notice running through Zemeckis' projects is a preoccupation with special effects. In BTTF, you've got the DeLorean (coming and going), Marty vanishing as his parents begin drifting apart, and Christopher Lloyd, whose eyeballs we refuse to believe weren't computer animated.

But in future projects he got even heavier into the effects, especially in films like Roger Rabbit, where he combined animation and live action like never before, and in Forrest Gump, where he fooled an entire nation of people into believing that Gary Sinise had sacrificed his legs in order to nab the role of a lifetime. 

In fact, Zemeckis made a hard push to make motion-capture animation a viable sub-genre, starting with The Polar Express and moving through Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. The financial disaster of Mars Needs Moms—which Zemeckis produced—put the kibbutz on those ambitions, and he went back to live-action productions with 2015's The Walk. (Source)

But, like Spielberg, Zemeckis is all about the heart. You can see that in the familial love exhibited by the McFlys, or in such other films as The Polar Express and Forrest Gump. He doesn't just want to just hit you over the head with the effects; he also wants to play your heartstrings like a cello.

What a violent guy.

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