John MacDonald Badham (born August 25, 1939) is an American film and television director. He is best known for directing the films Saturday Night Fever (1977), Dracula (1979), Blue Thunder (1983), WarGames (1983), Short Circuit (1986), Stakeout (1987), Bird on a Wire (1990), The Hard Way (1991) and Point of No Return (1993). He is a two-time Primetime Emmy Award nominee, a two-time Hugo Award nominee, and a Saturn Award winner. He is also a Professor at Chapman University.[1]

John Badham
John MacDonald Badham

(1939-08-25) August 25, 1939 (age 84)
Luton, Bedfordshire, England
Alma materYale University (MFA)
  • Film director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1969–present
Bonnie Hughes
(m. 1967; div. 1979)
Jan Speck
(m. 1983; div. 1990)
Julia Badham
(m. 1992)
RelativesMary Badham (sister)

Early life and education


Badham was born in Luton, Bedfordshire, England, the son of U.S. Army General Henry Lee Badham Jr., and English-born actress Mary Iola Badham (née Hewitt).[2]Henry, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, moved his family back to the U.S. when John was two years old. John's parents and paternal grandparents are buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. Henry was an aviator in both World Wars, and was posthumously inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007. After retirement from the U.S. Air Force as a brigadier general, Henry became a businessman and helped develop the Ensley and Bessemer regions near Birmingham. This same line of business had brought his own father, John's grandfather, into association with Walker Percy, grandfather of writer Walker Percy.[3]

After World War II, Badham's family settled in Mountain Brook, an affluent suburb of Birmingham. He attended Indian Springs School, at that time a brand-new, liberal boys' school located a short distance south of Birmingham in Shelby County near the rural post office of Helena. He later went to college at Yale University, earning a Masters of Fine Arts.



Badham worked in television for years, on Universal Television series like Cannon and The Bold Ones. He then directed several acclaimed TV movies, including Isn't It Shocking? (1973) and The Law (1974). His first feature film was The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings in 1976.[4]

His breakthrough came in 1977 when he replaced John G. Avildsen as the director of Saturday Night Fever, a massive worldwide hit starring John Travolta.[5]His choices after that film were wildly eclectic, ranging from the action thriller Blue Thunder (1983) to the comedy-drama Whose Life Is It Anyway? (1981) to the comedy thriller Stakeout (1987) and its sequel Another Stakeout (1993). WarGames (1983), starring Matthew Broderick, is his other signature film, renowned for its take on popular Cold War fears of nuclear terror as well as being one of the first films to deal with the subculture of amateur hacking.[6]Another sizable hit was Short Circuit (1986), a comedy about a robot who comes to life.[7]

In addition to his numerous film credits, Badham has also continued to direct and produce for TV, including credits for Rod Serling's Night Gallery, the A&E television series The Beast, TV movies like HBO's The Jack Bull (1999), and episodes of series including Crossing Jordan and Criminal Minds.[4]He has also contributed commentary to the web series Trailers from Hell.[8]

In 1986, he signed a two-year development deal with production company Universal Pictures, in order to develop various film projects. Badham is a Professor at Chapman University.[9]

Unrealized projects


Badham has been considered to direct films that ended up being directed by others, such as The Wiz (1978),[10]Brubaker (1980),[11]First Blood (1982),[12]Staying Alive (1983),[13]The Dead Zone (1983),[14]Starman (1984),[15]Project X (1987),[16]Short Circuit 2 (1988),[17]Ghost Dad (1990),[18][19]Patriot Games (1992),[20]The Firm (1993)[21]and Dragonheart (1996).[22]

Personal life


Badham's sister, Mary Badham, was nominated for an Oscar for her role as "Scout" Finch in the film To Kill a Mockingbird. They worked together on one project, William Castle's Let's Kill Uncle, released in 1966, Badham was Castle's casting director, and Mary played one of the leads.[23]

Badham's former wife is retired model Jan Speck of The New Treasure Hunt. She had assorted cameo roles in many of his projects, starting in the 1980s.[24]



Television films


Television series



  1. ^ "Faculty Profile". Retrieved September 14, 2023.
  2. ^ "John Badham, Director (official website): Biography". Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  3. ^ Badham, Jr., H. L., comp. History of the Bessemer Coal, Iron, and Land Company. Bessemer: N.p., 1948.
  4. ^ a b "John Badham". IMDb. Retrieved May 21, 2023.
  5. ^ Sippell, Margeaux (December 8, 2021). "Rocky Director John G Avildsen Almost Directed Saturday Night Fever—Until His Feud With John Travolta". MovieMaker. Retrieved May 21, 2023.
  6. ^ Barsanti, Chris (2014). The Sci-Fi Movie Guide: The Universe of Film from Alien to Zardoz. Canton MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 422. ISBN 9781578595037. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  7. ^ Bland, Simon (May 31, 2021). "How we made Short Circuit, by Steve Guttenberg and John Badham". The Guardian. Retrieved May 21, 2023.
  8. ^ Marshall, Colin. "John Landis Deconstructs Trailers of Great 20th Century Films: Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, 2001 & More". Open Culture. Retrieved September 30, 2015.
  9. ^ "Badham Inks Two-Year Development Deal with U". Variety. July 2, 1986. p. 17.
  10. ^ Potempa, Philip (September 11, 2008). "Fans ask whatever happened to attention 'The Wiz' deserves?". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  11. ^ "Brubaker". Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  12. ^ "First Blood". Retrieved June 11, 2021.
  13. ^ "Staying Alive". Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  14. ^ Lambie, Ryan (February 21, 2015). "Why The Dead Zone Is One of the Best Stephen King Films". Den of Geek. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  15. ^ "John Carpenter's Starman". Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  16. ^ "Project X". Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  17. ^ "Short Circuit 2". Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  18. ^ Evans, Bradford (October 25, 2012). "The Lost Roles of Steve Martin". Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  19. ^ Klady, Leonard (February 28, 1988). "Cinefile". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  20. ^ "Patriot Games". Retrieved June 9, 2021.
  21. ^ "The Firm". Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  22. ^ Duncan, Jody (1996). The Making of Dragonheart (Boulevard ed.). New York: Boulevard Books. p. 13. ISBN 1572971096. OCLC 34806374.
  23. ^ Trailers from Hell: John Badham on To Kill a Mockingbird.
  24. ^ "Jan Speck". IMDb.


  • Badham, John (2006). I'll Be in My Trailer. Michael Wiese Productions. ISBN 1932907149.
  • Badham, John (2013). John Badham on Directing. Michael Wiese Productions. ISBN 9781615931385.