Ari Aster

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Ari Aster
Aster standing onstage
Aster in 2018
Born (1986-07-15) July 15, 1986 (age 34)
Alma materCollege of Santa Fe (BA)
AFI Conservatory (MFA)
  • Filmmaker
  • screenwriter
Years active2011–present
Notable work

Ari Aster (born July 15, 1986)[1] is an American 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 when he was four years old, Dick Tracy. The film featured a scene where a character fired a tommy gun while a wall of fire was behind him. Aster reportedly jumped from his seat and "ran six New York city blocks," whither 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]

He has said his next film will be a four-hour "nightmare comedy".[25]

Influences and style[edit]

In an interview with IndieWire, Aster listed some of his favorite films as Rosemary's Baby, Fanny and Alexander, Persona, A Matter of Life and Death, The Thing, 45 Years, A Brighter Summer Day, The Age of Innocence, In the Mouth of Madness, The Piano Teacher, 8 1/2, and Repulsion.[26]

Regarded as an auteur director, Aster's style consists of long takes, bold colour schemes, and themes of grief, mental illness, and dysfunctional families, and the Occult, as well as recurring motifs of Head injury, and Death by burning.


Ari Aster feature film work
Title Year Director Writer Rotten Tomatoes[27] Metacritic[28]
Hereditary 2018 Yes Yes 89% (8.27/10 average rating) (354 reviews) 87 (49 reviews)
Midsommar 2019 Yes Yes 83% (7.54/10 average rating) (366 reviews) 72 (54 reviews)
Ari Aster short film work
Title Year Director Writer Editor Actor
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[29] 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. ^ Guardian staff (January 30, 2018). "Hereditary trailer: will this be the year's scariest movie?". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. 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. ^ IMDB, Editor. "Midsommar". IMDB., Inc. Retrieved 5 September 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Editor, AFI. "AFI Alum Ari Aster on His Terrifying, Personal New Film MIDSOMMAR". American Film. American Film Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  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. ^
  24. ^ "Lars Knudsen and Ari Aster announce the launch of their new production company".
  25. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan; Lattanzio, Ryan (2020-06-06). "Ari Aster Says His Next Movie Will Be a Four-Hour 'Nightmare Comedy'". IndieWire. Retrieved 2020-06-13.
  26. ^ "Ari Aster's Favorite Movies". IndieWire.
  27. ^ "Ari Aster". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  28. ^ "Ari Aster". Metacritic. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  29. ^ "NYFF51: Shorts Programs". Film at Lincoln Center. Retrieved 2020-02-27.

External links[edit]