Open main menu

John Flynn (March 14, 1932 – April 4, 2007) was an American film director and screenwriter known for films such as The Outfit and Rolling Thunder.[1]

John Flynn
BornMarch 14, 1932
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DiedApril 4, 2007 (aged 75)
OccupationFilm director and screenwriter
Years active1961–2001



Flynn was born in Chicago and raised in Hermosa Beach, California. He served in the Coast Guard, and studied journalism with Roots author Alex Haley. Flynn received a degree in journalism from UCLA.[1]


Flynn entered the film industry when Robert Wise hired him to do some research for a biopic of Robert Capa. The film was never made but he got along with Wise who hired Flynn to work as his assistant on Odds Against Tomorrow.[2]

Flynn subsequently worked as the script supervisor on West Side Story and as a second assistant director on Kid Galahad and Two for the Seesaw. He then worked as first assistant director on The Great Escape and second unit director on Kings of the Sun ("a bullshit script, a popcorn script," according to Flynn[2]). This was directed by J. Lee Thompson who used Flynn again as an assistant director on What a Way to Go! and John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!.

Film DirectorEdit

In 1966, Wise set up a company to produce low-budget films that others would direct. He optioned Dennis Murphy's novel The Sergeant and hired Flynn to direct. The movie starred Rod Steiger.[2]

His next movie, The Jerusalem File was shot in Israel. It did not perform particularly well at the box office but The Outfit did. This was an adaptation of the novel by Donald Westlake starring Robert Duvall.

The filmmaker achieved a dedicated cult following with the gritty revenge thriller, Rolling Thunder starring William Devane and Tommy Lee Jones. The film was highly controversial because of its violence.[2] In a 1994 interview with Jon Stewart, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino cited Rolling Thunder as an influence and Flynn among his favorite directors.

The film was not a success at the box office and Flynn found himself working on various television movies as well as lower-budgeted projects. He made a number of higher-profile films in the late 1980s including Best Seller, the Sylvester Stallone prison drama Lock Up, and the Steven Seagal action film, Out for Justice.

In the early 1990s, Flynn directed two made-for-cable-TV films, the Dennis Hopper cop film, Nails, and the crime drama Scam.

In 1994, he directed Brainscan, a thriller about the dangers of virtual reality starring Edward Furlong and Frank Langella.

Flynn's last film was the direct-to-video film Protection. He spent the last few years of his life mostly in France.[2]

Flynn died in his sleep at his Los Angeles home. He is survived by his son Tara.[1]


Year Title Notes
1968 The Sergeant
1972 The Jerusalem File
1973 The Outfit
1977 Rolling Thunder
1980 Defiance
Marilyn: The Untold Story TV film
1983 Lone Star TV film
1987 Best Seller
1989 Lock Up
1991 Out for Justice
1992 Nails TV film
1993 Scam TV film
1994 Brainscan
1999 Absence of the Good TV film
2001 Protection

Unfilmed ProjectEdit

  • On the Day of His Death, from a short novel by Polish writer Marek Hlasko about immigrants in Israel - Flynn had wanted to make it since the 1960s[2]
  • a police procedural drama set in Paris "in the spirit of Le samouraï[2]


External linksEdit