Joe Dante

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Joe Dante
Joe Dante 66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra) 2.jpg
Joe Dante as member of the jury for the 2009 Venice Film Festival
Joseph James Dante Jr.[1]

(1946-11-28) November 28, 1946 (age 76)
Alma mater
OccupationDirector, producer, editor, actor
Years active1968–present

Joseph James Dante Jr. (/ˈdɑːnt/; born November 28, 1946) is an American film director, producer, editor and actor. His films—notably Gremlins (1984) alongside its sequel, Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)—often mix 1950s-style B movies with cartoon comedy.

Dante's films also include Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Matinee (1993), Small Soldiers (1998), and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). His work for television and cable includes immigration satire The Second Civil War (1997) and episodes of anthology series Masters of Horror ("Homecoming" and "The Screwfly Solution") and Amazing Stories, as well as Police Squad! and Hawaii Five-0.

Early life[edit]

Dante was born in Morristown, New Jersey, and grew up in nearby Livingston. His father, Joseph James Dante, was a professional golfer, though Dante was more interested in becoming a cartoonist.[2]



Dante began his film career working for legendary, low-budget producer Roger Corman, who provided similar opportunities to future directors Francis Ford Coppola and James Cameron. In 1968, he made The Movie Orgy, a 7-hour compilation of film clips, commercials and film trailers assembled by Dante.


He then worked as an editor on Grand Theft Auto after co-directing Hollywood Boulevard with Allan Arkush. His next feature film, the Roger Corman-produced Piranha, was released in 1978 inspired by Steven Spielberg's Jaws. In 1979, Dante helped direct Rock 'n' Roll High School when Allan Arkush fell ill due to exhaustion, but remains uncredited as a director.


Dante enlisted John Sayles to rewrite the script for the werewolf tale The Howling, loosely based on the novel by Gary Brandner. Dante directed episodes of television series Police Squad!, before Steven Spielberg invited him to join the directing team on anthology movie Twilight Zone: The Movie. Dante's segment, "It's a Good Life", featured cartoon-style special effects, and revolved around a woman played by Kathleen Quinlan who is 'adopted' by an omnipotent boy. His next film, Gremlins proved to be one of Dante's biggest hits to date, being the third-highest-grossing film of 1984.[3] Combining horror and comedy elements, the film revolves around Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan), who is given a strange creature he calls Gizmo as a pet. After Billy fails to follow the rules for looking after Gizmo, the creature spawns other creatures, which transform into destructive monsters who then begin rampaging through the local town. Dante next directed Explorers, about a group of friends who build a working spacecraft and encounter extraterrestrial life. The film marked the debuts of both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke. In 1987, Dante made the comedy adventure Innerspace, in which Dennis Quaid's character is miniaturised and injected inside a human body. In 1989, Dante directed Tom Hanks in The 'Burbs, a black comedy in which Hanks' character deals with nightmarish neighbors.


In 1990, Dante directed a sequel to his film Gremlins, this time set in a New York high rise. In 1993, he directed Matinee, which received positive reviews. Set during the 1960s, the film pays homage to B movies and the showmen who made and promoted them. In his review for the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote, "At the same time that Dante has a field day brutally satirizing our desire to scare ourselves and others, he also re-creates early-60s clichés with a relish and a feeling for detail that come very close to love". USA Today reviewer Mike Clark wrote "Part spoof, part nostalgia trip and part primer in exploitation-pic ballyhoo, Matinee is a sweetly resonant little movie-lovers' movie". Dante was creative consultant on short-lived fantasy series Eerie, Indiana (1991–1992), and directed five episodes. He played himself in the series finale. In the mid-90s, he worked on The Phantom. When he was removed from the film, he chose screen credit as executive producer rather than pay. In 1998, he directed Small Soldiers which received mixed reviews and was a moderate box office success.


Dante directed the 2003 live-action/animation hybrid, Looney Tunes: Back in Action.[4] A box office bomb,[5][6] the film received mixed reviews.[7][8] In 2007, Dante launched the web series Trailers from Hell,[9] which provides commentary by directors, producers and screenwriters on trailers for classic and cult movies. He is also a contributor to the website.[10] Dante's 2009 film The Hole[11] received positive reviews, and was awarded the Premio Persol at the 2009 Venice Film Festival. The new award was for the "3-D feature deemed the most creative among those produced globally between September 2008 and August 2009."[12] With Roger Corman producing, Dante also directed the interactive web series Splatter for Netflix. The series stars Corey Feldman as a rock star seeking revenge on those he thinks have wronged him.[13]


In 2014, Dante made Burying the Ex, a horror comedy about a young man whose controlling girlfriend suddenly dies in a freak accident but when he tries to move on with his life along with his new partner he discovers that his now undead Ex has come back. The film stars Anton Yelchin and Ashley Greene. It was selected to be screened out of competition at the 71st Venice International Film Festival,[14][15] and was released in 2015. Dante served as executive producer on the independent feature length thriller Dark, starring Whitney Able and Alexandra Breckenridge, directed by Nick Basile. The film is set in New York City during the 2003 blackout. The film was released by Screen Media Films on June 7, 2016.[16] In 2018, Dante directed a segment of Nightmare Cinema, a horror anthology film starring Mickey Rourke and featuring shorts also directed by Alejandro Brugués, Mick Garris, Ryūhei Kitamura, and David Slade.[17]


In 2020, it was announced that Dante would be returning to the world of Gremlins serving as a consultant on the HBO Max prequel series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.[18]

Frequent collaborators[edit]

Like most directors, Dante has developed a stock company of actors who have worked with him over a long period of time.

Dante's long-time friend and business associate, Sylvia, played one of the nuns at the concert in Allan Arkush's Rock 'n' Roll High School. Dante co-wrote and directed five scenes of the film when Arkush became ill.

Filmmaking style and influences[edit]

Dante's films are well known for their many references to other movies and for their special effects.[19] Dante's garage is frequently mentioned in audio commentaries as holding many of the props from his various films, including the Peltzer Peeler Juicer from Gremlins, and where the mock-pornographic scene in The Howling was shot.

His respect for the screenwriter extends to the point where, in order to make sure Dante can confer with the writer on-set and provide some minor, additional remuneration, he always casts the writer in a small part of the production itself. The studio is normally unwilling to pay to have the writer on-set in any other way.[20]

Dante has cited among his major influences Roger Corman, Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, James Whale and Jean Cocteau, as well as an admiration for the film Hellzapoppin', from which he frequently borrows jokes because of how difficult the film is to see in the United States.[21]


The moving image collection of Joe Dante and Jon Davison is held at the Academy Film Archive. The joint collection includes feature films, pre-production elements, and theatrical trailer reels.[22]



Year Title Director Editor Notes
1976 Hollywood Boulevard Yes Yes Co-directed with Allan Arkush
1978 Piranha Yes Yes
1981 The Howling Yes Yes
1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie Partial No Segment: "It’s a Good Life"
1984 Gremlins Yes No
1985 Explorers Yes No
1987 Innerspace Yes No
Amazon Women on the Moon Partial No Segments: "Hairlooming", "Bullshit or Not", "Critics' Corner", "Roast Your Loved One", "French Ventriloquist's Dummy"
and "Reckless Youth"
1989 The 'Burbs Yes No
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch Yes No
1993 Matinee Yes No
1998 Small Soldiers Yes No
2003 Looney Tunes: Back in Action Yes No
2006 Trapped Ashes Partial No Wraparound segments
2009 The Hole Yes No
2014 Burying the Ex Yes No
2018 Nightmare Cinema Partial No Segment: "Mirari"

Other film work[edit]

Year Title Director Writer Executive
Editor Notes
1977 Grand Theft Auto No No No Yes
1979 Rock 'n' Roll High School Uncredited Story No No Directed five scenes
1996 The Phantom No No Yes No
2011 Trail of Blood No No Yes No
2015 Dark No No Yes No
2017 Trafficked No No Yes No
2018 Camp Cold Brook No No Yes No


Year(s) Title Director Producer Notes
1982 Police Squad! Yes No Episode: "Ring of Fear" (E2)
Yes No Episode: "Testimony of Evil" (E6)
1985 The Twilight Zone Yes No Episode: "The Shadow Man" (S1 E10a)
1986 Amazing Stories Yes No Episode: "Boo!" (S1 E17)
Yes No Episode: "The Greibble" (S2 E6)
1991-1992 Eerie, Indiana Yes No Episode: "Forever Ware" (S1 E1)
Yes No Episode: "The Retainer" (S1 E2)
Yes No Episode: "The Losers" (S1 E4)
Yes No Episode: "Heart on a Chain" (S1 E7)
Yes No Episode: "The Hole in the Head Gang" (S1 E13)
1994 Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror No Associate Television documentary
Runaway Daughters Yes No Television film
1995 Picture Windows Yes No Episode: "Lightning" (E4)
1997 The Second Civil War Yes No Television film
1998 The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy Yes Executive Television film
2001 Night Visions Yes No Episode: "Quiet Please" (E3b)
Yes No Episode: "The Occupant" (E6b)
2002-2003 Jeremiah No Executive
2005-2006 Masters of Horror Yes No Episode: "Homecoming" (S1 E6)
Yes No Episode: "The Screwfly Solution" (S2 E7)
2007-present Trailers from Hell No Yes
2007 CSI: NY Yes No Episode: "Boo" (S4 E6)
2011-2017 Hawaii Five-0 Yes No Episode: "Sacred Bones" (S2 E7)
Yes No Episode: "The Promise" (S3 E20)
Yes No Episode: "Fish Out of Water" (S4 E2)
Yes No Episode: "In Deep" (S4 E7)
Yes No Episode: "The Last Break" (S5 E3)
Yes No Episode: "Unmasked" (S5 E6)
Yes No Episode: "Embers" (S5 E16)
Yes No Episode: "The Chilling Storm Is on the Mountains" (S6 E3)
Yes No Episode: "Monsters" (S6 E6)
Yes No Episode: "The Deal" (S7 E12)
2014 Witches of East End Yes No Episode: "When a Mandragora Loves a Woman" (S2 E6)
Yes No Episode: "Poe Way Out" (S2 E11)
2015-2016 Salem Yes No Episode: "The Beckoning Fair One" (S2 E7)
Yes No Episode: "Night's Black Agents" (S3 E4)
2016 Legends of Tomorrow Yes No Episode: "Night of the Hawk" (S1 E8)
MacGyver Yes No Episode: "Wire Cutter" (S1 E4)


Year Title Notes
1968 The Movie Orgy Compilation of preexisting clips
1994 The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Theme park pre-show film
2003 Haunted Lighthouse Theme park film
2009 Splatter Interactive web series
2022 Razzennest horror film by Johannes Grenzfurthner; Dante is the narrator and plays himself

Documentary appearances[edit]


  1. ^ "Full text of "Commencement program, 1968"". June 10, 1968. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  2. ^ Harkness, Alistair (June 18, 2009). "Joe Dante interview: Meet a matinee idol". Edinburgh: Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  3. ^ "1984 Domestic Grosses". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  4. ^ "Detail view of Movies Page". Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  5. ^ Beck, Jerry (2005). The Animated Movie Guide.
  6. ^ "The New Looney Tunes: An Interview with Producer Larry Doyle". January 21, 2003. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
  7. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
  8. ^ "Looney Tunes: Back in Action Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
  9. ^ "Joe Dante presents Trailers From Hell". Cinefantastique.
  10. ^ "Gurus: Joe Dante". Trailers from Hell. Archived from the original on May 17, 2013.
  11. ^ Video from the set of Joe Dante's "The Hole" Archived September 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Vivarelli, Nick (September 14, 2009). "'Hole' wins Venice 3-D film prize: Dante horror pic nabs first ever Premio Persol". Variety.
  13. ^ "Netflix's Splatter Launching on October 29th". DreadCentral.
  14. ^ "International competition of feature films". Venice. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  15. ^ "Venice Film Festival Lineup Announced". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  16. ^ Hipes, Patrick (February 9, 2016). "Joe Dante-Produced Thriller 'Dark' Alights At Screen Media". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
  17. ^ Boucher, Geoff (May 24, 2019). "'Nightmare Cinema': Horror Directors Unite For Anthology & New Screening Series". Deadline. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  18. ^ Bui, Hoai-Tran (February 18, 2020). "'Gremlins' Director Joe Dante Will Consult on HBO Max's Animated 'Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai' Series". /Film.
  19. ^ "Joe Dante talks about his career at Den of Geek". February 21, 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  20. ^ "A Career-Spanning Conversation with Joe Dante". Fangoria. Archived from the original on October 13, 2009.
  21. ^ Interview with Joe Dante on set of The Hole 3D Archived September 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Joe Dante and Jon Davison Collection". Academy Film Archive.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nil Baskar, Gabe Klinger (Ed.): Joe Dante, FilmmuseumSynemaPublikationen Vol. 19, Vienna: SYNEMA - Gesellschaft für Film und Medien, 2013, ISBN 978-3-901644-52-8

External links[edit]