Richard Donner: Director's 10 Best Movies, From 'The Goonies' To 'Superman'

Richard Donner directed 22 movies in his career, collaborating with stars from Bruce Willis to Steven Spielberg and the late Christopher Reeve. After his death was announced on July 5, many have paid tribute to his life and his work in the film industry.

Donner's death was announced by his wife, producer Lauren Shuler Donner.

Steven Spielberg paid his respects on Twitter, saying via his @amblin production company handle: "Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres.

"Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all.

"He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can't believe he's gone, but his husky, hearty, laugh will stay with me always."

As other celebrities including Sean Astin, Ben Stiller and Zack Snyder paid their tributes to Donner, we look back at his most iconic movies.


Richard Donner's first movie was X-15, a drama movie starring David McLean, Charles Bronson and Mary Tyler Moore in her feature breakthrough.

The movie follows a fictionalized account of the beginnings of the X-15 research rocket aircraft program.

The film did not launch Donner's career in any big way, and he mainly worked in television before his first major hit, The Omen.

The Omen

Donner's first big success came with The Omen, a 1976 horror movie starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick.

The movie was one of the highest-grossing films in 1976, and was nominated for two Oscars, winning one for best original score.

The film follows a child, Damien Thorn, whose parents learn he is the Antichrist.

The movie was remade in 2006 with Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles playing Damian's parents.


Donner had a major crossover hit with Superman, the first big-budget adaptation of the DC Comics strip.

Christopher Reeve starred as Superman in the 1978 movie, with Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor and Marlon Brando as Jor-El, Superman's biological father in Krypton.

The movie launched and defined Reeve's career. Donner also provided a director's cut of Superman II in 2006.

Since Reeve's portrayal, Brandon Routh and Henry Cavill have played the superhero in subsequent feature adaptations.

The Goonies

A classic children's adventure film, The Goonies was Donner's big collaboration with Steven Spielberg.

The film launched the careers of Lord of the Rings star Sean Astin, MCU star Josh Brolin and stage and screen actress Martha Plimpton, while continuing a run of successes for child actor Corey Feldman.

It became one of the highest-grossing film of 1985, and won Anne Ramsey a Saturn Award for her portrayal of Mama Fratelli.

The Goonies has a 76 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which aggregates critics' reviews.

Lethal Weapon

The Lethal Weapon franchise began in 1987 with the first film, starring Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as mismatched cops who are paired up to investigate an alleged suicide.

The success of the first film spawned a string of sequels, and in 2020 a finale film was confirmed to be in "active development" by producer Dan Lin on The Hollywood Reporter Roundtable.

Donner's death makes the future for the franchise uncertain, but both of his leading men have paid tribute to him via Deadline.

As well as the movies, the Lethal Weapon franchise includes a TV series, video games and theme park attraction.


Scrooged is a Christmas that stars Bill Murray as a heartless TV executive who needs to change.

Based on Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol, it featured Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present and David Johansen as the Ghost of Christmas Past, while the future ghost was played by an uncredited Robert Hammond.

The movie was among the top 20 highest-grossing films for 1988, and is now regularly shown on TV at Christmas.


Maverick saw Donner reunite with his Lethal Weapon collaborator Mel Gibson.

The script was from The Princess Bride's William Goldman, and the film was based on the western TV series about a con artist who uses his schemes to gain money to enter a high-stakes poker game.

Jodie Foster and James Garner co-starred.

The movie was nominated for the Academy Award for best costume design.

Conspiracy Theory

Donner and Gibson again came together for Conspiracy Theory, a 1997 political drama.

Gibson starred opposite Julia Roberts as a taxi driver, who believes many world events take place due to government conspiracy theories.

While the movie received average reviews from critics, earning a 57 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, it was a success commercially.

Superman II: Director's Cut

As mentioned, while he did not direct the second Superman movie, Donner had a stab at re-cutting it in 2006.

Donner was originally signed on to make the film but left the production, which was then handed over to Richard Lester.

Lester was unable to do some reshoots, including with Hackman and Brando, so the latter was cut from the movie entirely.

In Donner's re-edit, Brando's footage is used and, according to fans, makes more sense in general.

Empire magazine wrote: "Fans have generally embraced Donner's version as superior, compromises and all.

"His cut makes more sense, so we say Donner all the way."

X-Men and Free Willy

Outside of his directing work, Donner was also an executive producer on two movies in the X-Men film series, as well as the Free Willy franchise.

Together with his wife, he started The Donners' Company, which produced some major films after it was founded in 1986.

As well as Lethal Weapon 4, the company produced all of the X-Men series, Nora Ephron's You've Got Mail and the two Deadpool movies.

While he was not actively executive producer on all of these, the company as a whole has had major success, especially from Fox's Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Christopher Reeve as Superman
The Omen
The Goonies
08 X Men Wolverine
Stills from some of Richard Donner's movies