A Beginner’s Guide to Robert Zemeckis

Robert Zemeckis is one of Hollywood’s most visionary directors, never afraid to innovate or debut new state-of-the-art technology. You may not recognise his name, but you will certainly know of his work. While he saw success in the early stages of his career with student film awards and his first feature Romancing the Stone, it wasn’t until 1985 when he truly broke out as ‘one-to-watch’ with the release of one of the most popular, beloved and iconic films of all time – Back to the Future.

Back to the Future is a much-loved franchise, and it got Zemeckis into the mainstream, wowing audiences with his use of ground-breaking, Oscar-winning special effects, beginning his trend of incorporating the newest technology into his films. If there’s any place to start with Zemeckis, it’s with this classic trilogy, which was recently re-released for its 30th anniversary.

Next, Zemeckis would go on to make one of the most important films for the animation industry – Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The animation train was slowing down, and less money was being made. Disney were releasing their lowest rated films ever and Warner Bros were falling out of touch, with some of the classic Looney Tunes’ characters being absent for years.

People had all but lost interest in cartoons, until the live-action animation hybrid Roger Rabbit graced the big screen. With its ingenious blend of film noire with the characters of children’s cartoons, it garnered praise from left and right. Being part live-action, part cartoon, it attracted audiences of all ages and was the biggest animated success in years. This lead into what’s known as the Disney Renaissance era where films like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King were released – all thanks to Robert Zemeckis’ vision and innovation.

Zemeckis’ films were no strangers to Academy Awards, but he himself didn’t win best director until 1994 with the release of the classic Forrest Gump. Everyone is familiar with Forrest Gump – it is widely considered one of the best films ever made for its directing, performances and writing. Zemeckis would again team with Tom Hanks in 2000 for Cast Away, a film solely carried by Hanks performance and Zemeckis direction.

His next three hits would showcase how 3D can bring stories to life in The Polar Express, A Christmas Carol and The Walk. The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol brought motion capture animation into film with great results, despite Polar Express’ dead eyed characters. Polar Express is missable when it comes to Zemeckis’ back catalogue. Stick with A Christmas Carol this coming holiday season.

Zemeckis has made classic after classic and you really can’t go wrong with a place to start. If you’re looking for pure fun entertainment, start with the Back to the Future trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, if it’s drama then go for Forrest Gump and Cast Away.


Daniel Troy

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