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Ari Aster

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Ari Aster
Ari Aster speaking into a microphone.
Aster in June 2018
Born (1986-07-15) July 15, 1986 (age 37)
EducationSanta Fe University of Art and Design (BFA)
American Film Institute (MFA)
Years active2008–present

Ari Aster (born July 15, 1986) is an American filmmaker. Having garnered some initial recognition for the short film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (2011), he became best known for writing and directing Hereditary (2018), Midsommar (2019), and Beau Is Afraid (2023), all of which were released by A24. His films have been noted for their unsettling combination of horror, dark comedy, and depictions of graphic violence. In 2018, he co-founded the production company Square Peg with Danish producer Lars Knudsen.

Early life[edit]

Aster was born into a Jewish family in New York City on July 15, 1986, the son of a poet mother and jazz musician father.[1][2] He has a younger brother.[3] He recalled seeing his first film, Dick Tracy (1990), when he was four years old; the film featured a scene where Warren Beatty's titular protagonist fired a Tommy gun in front of a wall of fire, allegedly causing Aster to jump from his seat and run "six New York City blocks" while his mother tried to catch him.[4] As a child, he and his family briefly lived in England, where his father opened a jazz nightclub in Chester.[5] When he was 10 years old, they returned to the U.S. and settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he spent the remainder of his childhood.[5][6][7]

Aster originally aspired to become an author and became interested in filmmaking through screenwriting; although he would not begin actually making films until college, he had written six feature-length screenplays during his high school years.[8] As a child, he became obsessed with horror films and frequently rented 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, he began studying film at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, where he also wrote for the local Weekly Alibi arts magazine.[9] He graduated in 2008 and debuted as the writer and director of the short film Tale of Two Tims,[citation needed] which he submitted to the American Film Institute (AFI). This led to him being accepted into the 2010 class of fellows at the AFI Conservatory's graduate program, where he earned an MFA with a focus in directing.[10][11][12]


After graduating from the AFI Conservatory, Aster wrote and directed several more short films between 2011 and 2018, often teaming with his AFI Conservatory friends Alejandro de Leon and Pawel Pogorzelski. The most notable project was the short psychological horror film The Strange Thing About the Johnsons (2011), which follows the members of a suburban family in which the father finds himself trapped in an incestuous relationship with his abusive son. The film was Aster's thesis film while studying at the AFI Conservatory,[13] and was later screened at film festivals; it premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in Utah on January 22 before leaking online in November, where it went viral. Film website Short of the Week wrote that the comments on the film's YouTube page had "everything from effusive acclaim to disgusted vitriol [...] in terms of the internet, that means it's a hit".[14] Aster worked on the film with fellow AFI students. He first conceived the story while discussing taboos with his friends, including the film's star Brandon Greenhouse, before starting his first year at AFI.[12]

Aster made his feature-length directorial debut when he wrote and directed the supernatural horror film Hereditary (2018), which follows a family haunted by a mysterious presence after the death of their secretive grandmother. The film premiered in the Midnight section at that year's Sundance Film Festival,[15] and was theatrically released in the United States on June 8.[16] It was acclaimed by critics, with Toni Collette's performance receiving particular praise, and was a commercial success; it grossed over $80 million on a $10 million budget, becoming A24's highest-grossing film worldwide.[17] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone named it the scariest film of 2018.[18]

Aster next wrote and directed the folk horror film Midsommar (2019), which was also produced by A24.[19] It follows a group of American university students who travel to Sweden for a festival that occurs once every 90 years and find themselves in the clutches of a cult claiming to practise paganism. Midsommar was theatrically released in the United States on July 3. The film received positive reviews from critics, with many praising Aster's direction and Florence Pugh's performance.[20][21] Aster's original 171-minute cut of the film, which A24 asked him 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.[22] For his work on the film, Aster received a nomination for Best Screenplay at the 29th Gotham Independent Film Awards.[23]

In June 2019, Aster and Danish producer Lars Knudsen announced that they had launched a new production company called Square Peg.[24] In June 2020, Aster said his next film would be a "nightmare comedy" that lasts for four hours.[25] In February 2021, A24 announced that Aster would write and direct Beau Is Afraid (2023) as its third partnership with him. The film follows an anxiety-fueled and paranoid middle-aged man who must venture out on a surreal odyssey to visit his mother's home.[26][27] It was originally titled Disappointment Blvd.[28] It was released in theaters on April 21.[28] The film received positive reviews, with some critics and viewers praising Aster's direction and Joaquin Phoenix's performance, but the film was not a commercial success as it earned around $10 million at the box office against a budget of $35 million.[29]

In 2021, Aster signed a first-look TV deal with A24.[30] In August 2022, it was announced that Aster would reteam with A24 to produce Kristoffer Borgli's third feature film Dream Scenario, with Nicolas Cage attached to star.[31] The film would be produced by Square Peg, which also expanded its slate to include films by Kantemir Balagov, Guy Maddin, Don Hertzfeldt, and Sebastián Silva, as well as television adaptations of J. G. Ballard's The Drowned World, Nick Drnaso's Acting Class, and Junji Ito's Uzumaki.[32] While Hertzfeldt's project, Antarctica, reportedly "fell apart", Hertzfeldt and Aster have begun collaborating on an as-yet untitled "big" and "very expensive" film.[33][34]

Aster wrote and is currently directing the contemporary Western black comedy film Eddington, which is being co-produced by A24 and Square Peg.[35]


Aster participated in the 2022 edition of the Sight & Sound film polls, which are held every 10 years to commemorate the greatest films of all time and rank them in order, while directors and critics both name their 10 favorite films of all time. Aster named his favorites as Sansho the Bailiff (1954), Vertigo (1958), (1963), Persona (1966), Playtime (1967), Barry Lyndon (1975), Raging Bull (1980), Shoah (1985), Songs from the Second Floor (2000), and A Serious Man (2009). However, he also mentioned his belief that "the ranking of art is a fool's errand".[36]


Short films[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Editor Actor
2008 Herman's Cure-All Tonic[37] Yes No No No
2011 The Strange Thing About the Johnsons[38] Yes Yes No No
TDF Really Works Yes Yes Yes Yes
Beau Yes Yes Yes Yes
2013 Munchausen Yes Yes No No
Basically[39] Yes Yes No No
2014 The Turtle's Head Yes Yes Yes No
2016 C'est la vie Yes Yes Yes No

Feature films[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Producer Ref.
2018 Hereditary Yes Yes No [40][41]
2019 Midsommar Yes Yes No [42][43]
2023 Beau Is Afraid Yes Yes Yes [26]
TBA Eddington Yes Yes Yes [44]


Year Title Producer
2021 Los Huesos[45] Yes (exec.)
2023 Dream Scenario[46] Yes
El Padre Bueno Yes (exec.)
2024 Sasquatch Sunset[47] Yes (exec.)
Rumours[32] Yes (exec.)
TBA Death of a Unicorn[48] Yes
Bugonia[49][50] Yes
Hansel & Gretel[51] Yes (exec.)


  1. ^ Singer, Jenny (June 14, 2018). "How Did A 'Neurotic Jewish Guy' Make The Horror Hit 'Hereditary'?". The Forward. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  2. ^ "Ari Aster Biography". AllMovie. Archived from the original on March 12, 2020.
  3. ^ Khon, Eric (June 8, 2018). "Why 'Hereditary' Took Years to Make and What It's Really About". Indiewire. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  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. Archived from the original on October 1, 2020. Retrieved September 5, 2020.
  8. ^ "Complicated Grief: Ari Aster on Hereditary's Family Nightmare". Filmmaker.Com. June 11, 2018.
  9. ^ "FROM HERE TO HEREDITARY An interview with writer-director Ari Aster". June 7, 2018.
  10. ^ O'Leary, Devin (June 7, 2018). "Film Interview: From Here to Hereditary". Alibi. Archived from the original on June 14, 2018.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ a b 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.
  13. ^ "Complicated Grief: Ari Aster on Hereditary's Family Nightmare". Filmmaker. June 11, 2018. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  14. ^ Kander, Ivan (August 10, 2012). "The Strange Thing About the Johnsons". Short of the Week. Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ "Hereditary trailer: will this be the year's scariest movie?". The Guardian. January 30, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  17. ^ Giles, Jeff (June 7, 2018). "Ocean's 8: Satisfying but Slight". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  18. ^ Travers, Peter (June 5, 2018). "'Hereditary' Review: Family Horror Tale Is the Scariest Movie of 2018". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  19. ^ "AFI Alum Ari Aster on His Terrifying, Personal New Film MIDSOMMAR". American Film. American Film Institute. Retrieved September 5, 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". filmlinc.org. Lincoln Center. July 16, 2019. Retrieved August 18, 2019.
  23. ^ "'Marriage Story' Sweeps Gotham Awards; Full Winners List | Hollywood Reporter". www.hollywoodreporter.com. December 2, 2019.
  24. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (June 20, 2019). "Hereditary Helmer Ari Aster Launches Square Peg With Producer Lars Knudsen On Eve Of Midsommar Release". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation.
  25. ^ Linan, Liliana (June 1, 2020). "A.S. Program Board Presents: Ask Ari Aster". Daily Nexus. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  26. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (February 18, 2021). "A24 To Produce And Finance Ari Aster's Next Pic Disappointment Blvd. Starring Joaquin Phoenix". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  27. ^ "Beau Is Afraid - Rotten Tomatoes". www.rottentomatoes.com. April 21, 2023. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  28. ^ a b Bergeson, Samantha (March 27, 2023). "Everything to Know About Ari Aster's 'Beau Is Afraid' Starring Joaquin Phoenix". Indiewire. Retrieved March 28, 2023.
  29. ^ "Beau Is Afraid". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  30. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (March 22, 2021). "A24 Sets Ari Aster & Lars Knudsen's Square Peg To 2-Year First-Look Television Deal; Emily Hildner Takes Prexy Post". Deadline. Retrieved March 29, 2021.
  31. ^ Kroll, Justin (August 30, 2022). "Nicolas Cage To Star In A24 Comedy 'Dream Scenario' With Ari Aster Producing". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 30, 2022.
  32. ^ a b Kohn, Eric (April 21, 2023). "Ari Aster: 'Film Seems to Be Dying,' but His Production Company Wants to Fix the Problem". Indiewire. Retrieved April 22, 2023.
  33. ^ Raup, Jordan (April 7, 2024). "Don Hertzfeldt and Ari Aster Collaborating on a "Big" Existential Horror Animation". The Film Stage. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  34. ^ Foreman, Alison (April 9, 2024). "Yes, Don Hertzfeldt Is Making a Movie with Ari Aster — but He 'Didn't Actually Say' It Was Existential Horror". IndieWire. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  35. ^ Shanfeld, Ethan (March 12, 2024). "Ari Aster Casts Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Austin Butler, Pedro Pascal in Next A24 Movie 'Eddington'". Variety. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  36. ^ "Ari Aster | BFI". www.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  37. ^ "Watch: The Early Short Films of 'Hereditary' Director Ari Aster". No film School. June 12, 2018. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  38. ^ "The Strange Thing About The JohnsonsMATURE". Vimeo. February 11, 2016. Retrieved April 3, 2022.
  39. ^ "NYFF51: Shorts Programs". Film at Lincoln Center. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  40. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 22, 2018). "Ari Aster, Writer-Director Of Sundance Midnight Pic Hereditary, Inks With WME". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  41. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (July 26, 2018). "Hereditary Becomes A24's Highest-Grossing Pic Worldwide With $78M". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  42. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (May 8, 2018). "A24 Pacts For Hereditary Helmer Ari Aster's Next Horror Film". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  43. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (April 3, 2019). "Ari Aster's Midsommar Moves To Midsummer – CinemaCon". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 1, 2022.
  44. ^ Ruimy, Jordan (November 4, 2023). "Plot Detail's for Ari Aster's 'Eddington'". World of Reel. Retrieved January 1, 2023.
  45. ^ The Bones (2021)|MUBI
  46. ^ Atad, Corey (November 1, 2022). "Nicolas Cage Goes Bald For New Comedy Shoot In Toronto". ET Canada. Archived from the original on November 1, 2022. Retrieved November 11, 2022.
  47. ^ Grobar, Matt (December 5, 2023). "'Sasquatch Sunset': Bleecker Street Acquires Zellner Bros Pic Starring Riley Keough & Jesse Eisenberg". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 5, 2023.
  48. ^ Rajput, Cape Town (July 21, 2023). "Paul Rudd, iShowSpeed and Jenna Ortega's Death in Unicorn to film in Hungary". Kemps Film and TV Production Services Handbook. Retrieved July 24, 2023.
  49. ^ Yorgos Lanthimos Sets Remake of Korean Fantasy Film ‘Save the Green Planet’ With ‘Poor Things’ Producer Element Pictures (EXCLUSIVE)
  50. ^ Lodderhose, Diana; D'Alessandro, Anthony (May 18, 2024). "Focus Features Takes Worldwide Rights To Yorgos Lanthimos' Next Movie 'Bugonia' With Emma Stone & Jesse Plemons – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 18, 2024.
  51. ^ Ari Aster and Lars Knudsen’s Square Peg Boards ‘Hansel and Gretel’ Stop-Motion Feature as Executive Producers (EXCLUSIVE)

Further reading[edit]

  • Gmelch, Adrian (2023). Art-Horror: The Films of Ari Aster and Robert Eggers. Create Space. ISBN 979-8364720719.

External links[edit]