Ari Aster

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Ari Aster
Aster standing onstage
Aster in 2018
Born (1986-07-15) July 15, 1986 (age 35)
Alma materCollege of Santa Fe (BA)
AFI Conservatory (MFA)
  • Filmmaker
  • screenwriter
Years active2011–present
Notable work

Dark comedy


Ari Aster (born July 15, 1986)[1] is an American film director and screenwriter known for Hereditary (2018) and Midsommar (2019).

Early life[edit]

Aster was born in New York City. His father was a musician and his mother was a poet. He has a younger brother.[2] Aster is Jewish.[3] He recalled going to see his first movie, Dick Tracy, when he was four years old. The film featured a scene where a character fired a tommy gun in front of a wall of fire. Aster reportedly jumped from his seat and "ran six New York city blocks", down which his mother had to chase him.[4] In his early childhood, Aster's family briefly lived in Chester, England.[5] They returned to the United States when Aster was 10 years old, settling in New Mexico.[5][6][7]

As a child, Aster became obsessed with horror films, frequently renting them from local video stores: "I just exhausted the horror section of every video store I could find ... I didn't know how to assemble people who would cooperate on something like that ... I found myself just writing screenplays".[4]

In 2004, Aster enrolled at College of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he studied film. After graduating in 2008, Aster was accepted into the 2010 class of fellows at the AFI Conservatory graduate program, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts with a focus in directing.[8][9][10]


Early short films[edit]

Aster's debut film was the short film Tale of Two Tims, which he wrote at College of Santa Fe and submitted to American Film Institute. This garnered him a fellowship into the graduate directing program at the AFI Conservatory. Aster followed up with several AFI cycle films, along with comedic shorts made with industry friends like TDF Really Works in 2011. Aster then followed up with a breakout short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons, which stars Billy Mayo, Brandon Greenhouse, and Angela Bullock as members of a suburban family in which the son is involved in an abusive incestuous relationship with his father.

The Strange Thing About the Johnsons was Aster's thesis film while studying at the American Film Institute's graduate school in California,[11] and later screened at film festivals in 2011, premiering at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah on January 22, before it leaked online in November and went viral. Ivan Kander of the website Short of the Week wrote that the comments on YouTube had "everything from effusive acclaim to disgusted vitriol. In terms of the internet, that means it's a hit."[12] He worked on the production with fellow students from the school. The story was first conceived while discussing taboos with his friends, including Greenhouse, before Aster's first year at AFI.[13]

Between 2011 and 2018, Aster wrote and directed five more short films, often teaming with his AFI Conservatory friends Alejandro de Leon and Pawel Pogorzelski among others.

Breakthrough with A24[edit]

Aster made his feature film directorial debut with the horror-drama film Hereditary, which premiered on January 21, 2018, in the Midnight section at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival,[14] and was theatrically released in the United States on June 8, 2018.[15] It stars Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne as a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother.

Hereditary was acclaimed by critics, with Collette's performance receiving particular praise, and was a commercial success, making over $79 million on a $10 million budget to become A24's highest-grossing film worldwide.[16] Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers called it the scariest film of 2018.[17]

Aster's next production, also with A24, was the folk horror film Midsommar, starring Florence Pugh.[18][19] It follows a group of friends who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every 90 years and find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult. Midsommar was theatrically released in the United States on July 3, 2019, by A24 and in Sweden on July 10, 2019, by Nordisk Film. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Aster's direction and Pugh's performance.[20][21] Aster's original 171-minute cut of the film, which A24 asked Aster to trim down for a wide theatrical release, had its world premiere at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City as part of its Scary Movies XII lineup on August 20, 2019.[22] For his work on the film, Aster received a nomination for Best Screenplay at the 29th Gotham Independent Film Awards.[23]

Ari Aster and producer Lars Knudsen announced in June 2019 the launch of their new production company, Square Peg.[24]

In June 2020, Aster stated that his next film will be a four-hour "nightmare comedy" with Joaquin Phoenix, given the name Disappointment Blvd..[25] More recently, he signed a first-look TV deal with the studio A24.[26]

Influences and style[edit]

In an interview with The Criterion Collection, Aster listed some of his favorite films as Rosemary's Baby, Fanny and Alexander, Persona, A Matter of Life and Death, 45 Years, A Brighter Summer Day, The Age of Innocence, The Piano Teacher, 8 1/2, and Repulsion.[27]


Feature films[edit]

Title Year Director Writer
Hereditary 2018 Yes Yes
Midsommar 2019 Yes Yes
Disappointment Blvd. 2022 Yes Yes

Short films[edit]

Title Year Director Writer Editor Actor
Herman's Cure-All Tonic 2008 Yes No No No
The Strange Thing About the Johnsons 2011 Yes Yes No No
TDF Really Works 2011 Yes Yes Yes Yes
Beau 2011 Yes Yes No Yes
Munchausen 2013 Yes Yes No No
Basically[28] 2013 Yes Yes No No
The Turtle's Head 2014 Yes Yes Yes No
C'est la vie 2016 Yes Yes Yes No


  1. ^ "Ari Aster Biography". AllMovie. Archived from the original on March 12, 2020.
  2. ^ Khon, Eric (June 8, 2018). "Why 'Hereditary' Took Years to Make and What It's Really About". Indiewire. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  3. ^ Singer, Jenny (14 June 2018). "How Did A 'Neurotic Jewish Guy' Make The Horror Hit 'Hereditary'?". The Forward. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b Bishop, Bryan (June 7, 2018). "How Hereditary Director Ari Aster Became an Unlikely Horror Hero". The Verge. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Nicholson, Amy (June 28, 2019). "Midsommar director Ari Aster: 'I often cling to dead things'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 1, 2019.
  6. ^ Hoffman, Jordan (June 12, 2018). "Director Ari Aster's debut film is scarily good. And that might be a problem". Times of Israel. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  7. ^ ""Hereditary" Director Ari Aster Wants To TraumATIZE You". Flaunt Magazine. Retrieved 2020-09-05.
  8. ^ O'Leary, Devin (June 7, 2018). "Film Interview: From Here to Hereditary". Alibi. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018.
  9. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (June 7, 2018). "Writer/Director Ari Aster on his Terrifying Debut Hereditary". Motion Picture Association of America. Archived from the original on July 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Akitobi, Emmanuel (November 28, 2011). ""The Strange Thing About The Johnsons" Director Ari Aster Talks To Shadow & Act About His Provocative & Controversial Short Film". IndieWire. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  11. ^ "Complicated Grief: Ari Aster on Hereditary's Family Nightmare". Filmmaker. June 11, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  12. ^ Ivan Kander (August 10, 2012). "The Strange Thing About the Johnsons". Short of the Week. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  13. ^ Emmanuel Akitobi (November 28, 2011). "The Strange Thing About The Johnsons Director Ari Aster Talks To Shadow & Act About His Provocative & Controversial Short Film". IndieWire. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  14. ^ Means, Sean P. (December 19, 2017). "A horror thriller filmed in Utah is among the additions to 2018 Sundance Film Festival lineup". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved January 25, 2018.
  15. ^ "Hereditary trailer: will this be the year's scariest movie?". The Guardian. January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  16. ^ Giles, Jeff (June 7, 2018). "Ocean's 8: Satisfying but Slight". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  17. ^ Travers, Peter (June 5, 2018). "'Hereditary' Review: Family Horror Tale Is the Scariest Movie of 2018". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  18. ^ "Midsommar". IMDB., Inc. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  19. ^ "AFI Alum Ari Aster on His Terrifying, Personal New Film MIDSOMMAR". American Film. American Film Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  20. ^ Rothkopf, Joshua (June 19, 2019). "Midsommar". Time Out. Archived from the original on June 20, 2019.
  21. ^ Kohn, Eric. "'Midsommar' Review: 'Hereditary' Director's Latest Horror Epic Is Actually a Perverse Breakup Movie". IndieWire. Archived from the original on June 19, 2019.
  22. ^ "Scary Movies XII Lineup Features Villains, Ready or Not, Director's Cut of Midsommar & More". Lincoln Center. 2019-07-16. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  23. ^ "'Marriage Story' Sweeps Gotham Awards; Full Winners List | Hollywood Reporter".
  24. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 20, 2019). "'Hereditary' Helmer Ari Aster Launches Square Peg With Producer Lars Knudsen On Eve Of 'Midsommar' Release".
  25. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (2020-06-06). "Ari Aster Says His Next Movie Will Be a Four-Hour 'Nightmare Comedy'". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  26. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (2021-03-22). "A24 Sets Ari Aster & Lars Knudsen's Square Peg To 2-Year First-Look Television Deal; Emily Hildner Takes Prexy Post". Deadline. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  27. ^ "Ari Aster's Top 10". The Criterion Collection. 18 June 2018. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  28. ^ "NYFF51: Shorts Programs". Film at Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2020-02-27.

External links[edit]