Joe Dante

Joseph James Dante Jr. (/ˈdɑːnt/; born November 28, 1946) is an American film director, producer, editor and actor. His films—notably Gremlins (1984) - often mix 1950s style b-movies with cartoon comedy.

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 74)
OccupationDirector, producer, editor, actor
Years active1968–present
Notable work

Dante's films also include Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), 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 Hawaii Five-0.

Early life and careerEdit

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. He made The Movie Orgy in 1968. He then worked as an editor on Grand Theft Auto after co-directing Hollywood Boulevard with Allan Arkush.

His next feature film, Roger Corman-produced Piranha, was released in 1978. Inspired by Steven Spielberg's Jaws, the film was written by John Sayles. Dante then invited Sayles to rewrite the script for werewolf tale The Howling, loosely based on the novel by Gary Brandner.

Gremlins and beyondEdit

Dante directed episodes of cult 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.

Gremlins proved 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. Six years passed before Dante directed the even more anarchic Gremlins 2: The New Batch, set this time in a New York high rise.

Aside from the Gremlins films, Dante also worked with producer Steven Spielberg on comedy adventure Innerspace (1987), in which Dennis Quaid's character is miniaturised and injected inside a human body. His 1985 boys meet alien tale Explorers marked the film debuts of actors River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke. Dante would later work with Tom Hanks on The 'Burbs (1989), a black comedy in which Hanks' character deals with nightmare neighbours.

The 1990sEdit

In 1993 Dante 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. Matinee has a 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 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 1995–1996 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 the science fiction film Small Soldiers which received mixed reviews and was a moderate box office success.

From 2000Edit

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]

Various projects Dante is officially involved in are struggling with funding for years, among them the anthology film "Paris, I'll kill you", the werewolf feature "Monster Love", and the Roger Corman biopic "The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes".[14]

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,[15][16] 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.[17]

In 2019, Dante released Nightmare Cinema, a horror anthology film starring Mickey Rourke and featuring shorts directed by Dante, Alejandro Brugués, Mick Garris, Ryūhei Kitamura, and David Slade.[18]

In 2020, Dante returned to the world of Gremlins serving as a consultant on the HBO Max prequel series Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai.[19]

Dante's actorsEdit

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

1976 1978 1981 1983 1984 1985 1987 1989 1990 1993 1994 1997 1998 2003 2006 2009 2014 2018
Mark Alan  N  N
John Astin  N  N
Belinda Balaski  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N
Paul Bartel  N  N  N  N
Phoebe Cates  N  N
Roger Corman  N  N  N
Bruce Dern  N  N  N
Rick Ducommun  N  N
Kevin Dunn  N  N
Corey Feldman  N  N  N
Carrie Fisher  N  N
Joe Flaherty  N  N
Courtney Gains  N  N
Zach Galligan  N  N
Henry Gibson  N  N  N  N
Charlie Haas  N  N
Heather Haase  N  N
Archie Hahn  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N
Phil Hartman  N  N
Rance Howard  N  N  N  N  N
Jackie Joseph  N  N  N
Chuck Jones  N  N
Denis Leary  N  N
Kevin McCarthy  N  N  N  N  N  N
Dick Miller  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N
Shawn C. Nelson  N  N  N
Ron Perlman  N  N
Robert Picardo  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N  N
Jason Presson  N  N
John Sayles  N  N  N
Wendy Schaal  N  N  N  N
William Schallert  N  N  N
Don & Dan Stanton  N  N
Diane Saint-Marie  N  N
Christopher Stone  N  N
Meshach Taylor  N  N
Kenneth Tobey  N  N  N  N
Dee Wallace  N  N
Frank Welker  N  N  N
Alexandra Wilson  N  N
Mary Woronov  N  N

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.

Dante's filmmakingEdit

Dante's films are well known for their many references to other movies and for their special effects.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22]


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.[23]




Year Title Notes
1976 Hollywood Boulevard Also editor
Co-directed with Allan Arkush
1978 Piranha Also editor
1979 Rock 'n' Roll High School Co-directed with Allan Arkush, uncredited
1981 The Howling Also editor
1984 Gremlins
1985 Explorers
1987 Innerspace
1989 The 'Burbs
1990 Gremlins 2: The New Batch
1993 Matinee
1998 Small Soldiers
2003 Looney Tunes: Back in Action
2009 The Hole
2014 Burying the Ex


  • Flesh and Blood: The Hammer Heritage of Horror (1994) (Documentary)
  • The Phantom (1996) (Executive Producer)
  • Trail of Blood (2011)
  • Dark (2015)
  • Camp Cold Brook (2018)

Short filmsEdit

Year Title Notes
1983 It's a Good Life Segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie
1987 Hairlooming;
Bullshit or Not;
Critics' Corner;
Roast Your Loved One;
French Ventriloquist's Dummy;
Reckless Youth
Segments of Amazon Women on the Moon
2006 Wraparound Segment of Trapped Ashes
2018 Mirare Segment of Nightmare Cinema



Year Title Notes
1968 The Movie Orgy Compilation of preexisting clips
1982 Police Squad! Episodes "Ring of Fear" and "Testimony of Evil"
1985 The Twilight Zone Episode "The Shadow Man"
1986 Amazing Stories Episodes "Boo!" and "The Greibble"
1991–1992 Eerie, Indiana 5 episodes
1994 Rebel Highway Episode "Runaway Daughters"
Picture Windows Episode "Lightning"
1997 The Second Civil War Television film
1998 The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy Television film, also producer
2001 Night Visions Episodes "Quiet Please" and "The Occupant"
2005–2006 Masters of Horror Episodes "Homecoming" and "The Screwfly Solution"
2007 CSI: NY Episode "Boo"
2011–2017 Hawaii Five-0 10 episodes
2014 Witches of East End Episodes "When a Mandragora Loves a Woman" and "Poe Way Out"
2015–2016 Salem Episodes "The Beckoning Fair One" and "Night's Black Agents"
2016 Legends of Tomorrow Episode "Night of the Hawk"
MacGyver Episode "Wire Cutter"



Year Title Notes
1994 The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Theme park pre-show film.
2003 Haunted Lighthouse Theme park film
2009 Splatter Web series

Other creditsEdit

Year Title Notes
2019 In Search of Darkness Documentary film; appears as himself
Love, Antosha
2020 In Search of Darkness: Part II
2021 Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster[24]


  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. ^ "Interview: The Movie Orgies of Joe Dante".
  15. ^ "International competition of feature films". Venice. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  16. ^ "Venice Film Festival Lineup Announced". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 10, 2014.
  17. ^ Hipes, Patrick (February 9, 2016). "Joe Dante-Produced Thriller 'Dark' Alights At Screen Media". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
  18. ^ Boucher, Geoff (May 24, 2019). "'Nightmare Cinema': Horror Directors Unite For Anthology & New Screening Series". Deadline. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
  19. ^ Bui, Hoai-Tran (February 18, 2020). "'Gremlins' Director Joe Dante Will Consult on HBO Max's Animated 'Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai' Series". /Film.
  20. ^ "Joe Dante talks about his career at Den of Geek". February 21, 2008. Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  21. ^ "A Career-Spanning Conversation with Joe Dante". Fangoria. Archived from the original on October 13, 2009.
  22. ^ Interview with Joe Dante on set of The Hole 3D Archived September 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Joe Dante and Jon Davison Collection". Academy Film Archive.
  24. ^ Squires, John (January 25, 2021). "Documentary 'Boris Karloff: The Man Behind The Monster' Releasing This Halloween Season". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved January 26, 2021.

Further readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit