-> ''"I don't think there's a filmmaker alive, or who ever lived, who's had a better shake than I've had. I've never been without a project and it's always been a project of my own choosing. So I don't know how much better it could be. I have not become a mogul, I don't build castles and I don't have a vast personal fortune, but I have been able to do what I've wanted to do and I've done it a lot."''

Robert Bernard Altman (February 20, 1925 November 20, 2006) was an American film director, producer, and screenwriter, who came to prominence in the UsefulNotes/NewHollywood era. He was the most prolific of that generation, the most political and critical director of his time, and the one who retained his independent spirit even when that era ended, and retained it until his final film. He developed a reputation as the industry maverick whose films were admired but little loved, but eventually he came to be seen as one of America's greatest and most original film-makers.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Altman was born to a family of German Immigrants and studied at Jesuit schools and at Wentworth Military Academy. During UsefulNotes/WorldWarII, Altman joined the United States Army Air Forces at the age of 18. He flew more than 50 bombing missions as a crewman on a B-24 Liberator with the 307th Bomb Group in Borneo and the Dutch East Indies. After the war, Altman drifted around, working as an extra, a publicist, industrial film-maker before directing his debut, the independently made ''The Delinquents'' made to cash-in on youth films after ''Film/RebelWithoutACause''. The film didn't attract notices but it provided Altman an entry into television where he worked for nearly ten years until his BreakthroughHit of ''Film/{{MASH}}''. The shifts in the industry and the society paved the way for greater experimentation in American films, and the late-blooming Altman grabbed his opportunity and went into one of the greatest productive periods by any directors in movie history, turning films like ''Film/TheLongGoodbye'', ''Film/{{Nashville}}'', ''Film/ThreeWomen'' which were seen as highly innovative for its camera-work, its use of sound and its narrative invention, borrowing from European films but infusing it with a distinctive American spirit and earthiness.

One of his famous techniques was to film group scenes continuously with multiple cameras, forcing the actors to stay in character and sometimes to improvise action or dialogue because any moment of their performance could [[ThrowItIn end up in the film]]. He was notorious for his overlapping dialogue, multiple planes of action and refusing to clarify and make his film accessible to see and hear for the public. Altman often insisted that his movies were [[RewatchBonus made to be seen more than once]] and indeed, his particular ensemble movie, called Altmanesque became the reference points for films like ''Film/{{Magnolia}}'' and ''Film/{{Crash}}''.

A moviemaking maverick with little use for the Hollywood establishment, Altman went to France in TheEighties when funding dried up in America for his movies. In exile, he made filmed theatre, including the unusual one-man-chamber play ''Secret Honor'' and the early HBO miniseries ''Tanner '88''. He made his comeback in TheNineties with ''Short Cuts'' and ''The Player'' and made films in the mainstream for several years. He was still critical of American society and opposed to the policies of UsefulNotes/GeorgeWBush. However, the public caught up to Altman's films and worldview to the extent that Altman (after being nominated for the UsefulNotes/AcademyAward for Best Director five times) was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2006. On receiving the Oscar, Altman stated that he had a heart transplant surgery in the last few months, {{Foreshadowing}} his death a few months later. His final film, ''Film/APrairieHomeCompanion'' was made with Creator/PaulThomasAnderson on standby to takeover, as a form of insurance, but Altman managed to finish it in time.

Altman occasionally dabbled in songwriting as well, most notably in CountryMusic singer John Anderson's 1983 hit "Black Sheep".

!!Works by Robert Altman with their own trope pages include:

* ''Film/ThatColdDayInThePark'' (1969)
* ''Film/{{MASH}}'' (1970)
* ''Film/BrewsterMcCloud'' (1970)
* ''Film/McCabeAndMrsMiller'' (1971)
* ''Film/{{Images}}'' (1972)
* ''Film/TheLongGoodbye'' (1973)
* ''Film/ThievesLikeUs'' (1974)
* ''Film/CaliforniaSplit'' (1974)
* ''Film/{{Nashville}}'' (1975)
* ''Film/ThreeWomen'' (1977)
* ''Film/{{Quintet}}'' (1979)
* ''Film/{{Popeye}}'' (1980)
* ''Film/SecretHonor'' (1984)
* ''Film/ThePlayer'' (1992)
* ''Film/ShortCuts'' (1993)
* ''Film/PretAPorter'' (1994)
* ''Film/CookiesFortune'' (1999)
* ''Film/GosfordPark'' (2001)
* ''Film/APrairieHomeCompanion'' (2006)

!!Other tropes associated with Robert Altman:
* AscendedExtra: Literally. A 22-year-old Altman was an extra in ''Film/TheSecretLifeOfWalterMitty1947''. His scene's about twenty minutes into the film, sitting at a bar behind Creator/DannyKaye, pouring a drink, blowing cigarette smoke through his nose, and mugging a little for the camera.
* AuteurLicense: Earned it after ''{{Film/MASH}}'' and surprisingly hung onto it for the remainder of his career, even after numerous box office failures. A major factor was that he knew how to stay on-budget and film efficiently. Also he had a strong reputation as an actor-friendly director, which led to big names willingly taking pay cuts so they could work with him.
* BenevolentBoss: Robert Altman appeared to be a NiceGuy in real life. He was an artist to wanted to make something his own way but was usually quite supportive of the people he worked with.
* BigApplesauce: Unusually for an American director, he only made one film set in New York, ''Beyond Therapy'', and it was actually filmed in Paris. His 2004 miniseries ''Tanner on Tanner'' is also set in New-York and is the only one shot there.
* BittersweetEnding: One of his trademarks, usually as the result of a CharacterDeath.
* BlackComedy: His comedies lean heavily in this direction, with ''Film/{{MASH}}'' being one of the first films of that type to become a big box office hit.
* ChronicallyKilledActor: Characters played by Bert Remsen get brutally killed in three different Altman films (''Film/BrewsterMcCloud'', ''Film/McCabeAndMrsMiller'', ''Film/ThievesLikeUs'').
* {{Deconstruction}}: Of all kinds of American ideas, myths and imagery in general.
** His genre films like ''Film/McCabeAndMrsMiller'' portrayed the most historically [[ShownTheirWork researched]] depiction of what TheWildWest was really like and the kind of characters that existed there.
** His movies deconstruct politics as a whole. With ''Tanner '88'' (an {{Creator/HBO}} {{mockumentary}} miniseries directed by Altman and written by [[ComicStrip/{{Doonesbury}} Garry Trudeau]]) this is taken UpToEleven, giving us an accurate look at the demands of a Presidential campaign.
* EarlyInstallmentWeirdness: His first few theatrical films [[note]]''The Delinquents'' (1956), ''The Creator/JamesDean Story'' (1957), ''Countdown'' (1968) and ''Film/ThatColdDayInThePark'' (1969)[[/note]] are fairly conventional with few of his signature touches. ''Film/{{MASH}}'' was his first attempt at comedy and introduced his familiar style. And of course he didn't have much freedom to experiment in his industrial films or TV work.
* EitherOrTitle: ''Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson''
* EruditeStoner: His own persona was the more laid-back variety of this. His fondness for marijuana was well-known but but he was adamant to point out that he [[WhatDoYouMeanItWasntMadeOnDrugs never indulged while he was working on set]].
* FanDisservice: He liked doing a variation on this where an attractive person appears nude, but the context of their nudity is so uncomfortable it makes the situation non-erotic. Examples include Sally Kellerman in ''{{Film/MASH}}'', Gwen Welles in ''{{Film/Nashville}}'', Creator/JulianneMoore in ''Film/ShortCuts'' and Farrah Fawcett in ''Dr. T & The Women''.
* GenreBusting: All his films, to the point that he invented his own genre of HyperlinkStory that later critics called the Altmanesque film. His earlier films, ''Film/TheLongGoodbye'' and ''Film/McCabeAndMrsMiller'', deconstructed FilmNoir and TheWestern itself.
* GenreRoulette: Altman never did a straight genre movie and never stuck to one genre. In his career he's done everything from noir to westerns to gangster movies, political satire, thrillers, science-fiction, Victorian period fiction and musicals. He even did a ballet movie with ''The Company''.
* GrayAndGreyMorality: What his movies are famous for. While there are out and out villains in some of his movies, in most cases, Altman shows that nearly all his characters have shades of good and bad within them, and even characters who come off as coarse prove to be unexpectedly brave in other respects. Good people can behave in selfish, unthinking ways, while the JerkassHasAPoint.
* HumansAreBastards: Although Altman loved people in real life, though it would be likely come across a character in each film who committed adultery, showed selfishness, or had jerkass tendencies.
* HyperlinkStory: ''[=Brewster McCloud=]'', ''Film/{{MASH}}'', ''Film/ShortCuts'', ''Film/{{Nashville}}'', ''Health'', ''Film/GosfordPark'', ''Kansas City'', ''Film/APrairieHomeCompanion'', ''Film/CookiesFortune'' and his TV Miniseries ''Tanner' 88''.
* {{Improv}}: If you're in a Robert Altman movie, you better be prepared to make up most, if not all of your lines.
* LeFilmArtistique: Not as many as his reputation would lead you to believe, but ''Film/{{Images}}'', ''Film/ThreeWomen'' and ''{{Film/Quintet}}'' all qualify.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: Frequently, it's pretty much what he's best known for. Massively ensemble dramas like ''Film/{{Magnolia}}'' and ''Film/{{Crash}}'' tend to get compared to his work.
* UsefulNotes/LosAngeles: ''Film/TheLongGoodbye'', ''Film/CaliforniaSplit'', ''Film/ThePlayer'' and ''Film/ShortCuts'' all take place there, and all have a cynical view of life in the city.
* MeaningfulName: ''Altman'' means "old man" in German. He was 80 when ''A Prairie Home Companion'' was shot, making him one of the oldest people to ever direct a major studio film.
* {{Mockumentary}}: ''Tanner '88'' is a mock presidential campaign documentary starring Jack Tanner (Michael Murphy) who goes on a campaign trail complete with logos, entourage, hangers on. What makes this unique is that Altman inserts Tanner into the actual presidential campaign of the 1988-89, showing Tanner participating alongside actual democrat and republican candidates.
* MythologyGag: The song "Let's Begin Again", which he wrote the lyrics for in TheForties as part of a planned musical, crops up in ''[=HealtH=]'' and ''Film/ThePlayer'' (where it's sung at a karaoke bar).
* NameAndName: ''Movie/McCabeAndMrsMiller'', ''O.C. & Stiggs'', ''Vincent & Theo''.
* OutlawCouple: ''Film/ThievesLikeUs''.
* RaisedCatholic: He became lapsed over the years, and his films generally have an indifferent or irreverent attitude toward religion (exemplified by the LastSupperSteal in ''Film/{{MASH}}'').
* RealPersonCameo: Altman made this trope into an artform. One of the themes of his movies is the blurring between real life and fiction, as a result of the rise of mass media and celebrity culture which has affected everything.
** One can see this in ''Nashville'' where Elliot Gould and Julie Christie cameo and the fictional characters recognize them from the movies. He took this further with ''Tanner '88'' his Mockumentary which had cameos from all kinds of political figures, famous and obscure playing themselves and interacting with Jack.
** ''The Player'' set in Hollywood is a who's who's of early 90s cinema and ''Tanner on Tanner'' his 2004 sequel (set during the John Kerry campaign) has cameos by Creator/MartinScorsese, Creator/SteveBuscemi in addition to other political figures.
* RealisticDictionIsUnrealistic: Famous for averting this trope, usually with overlapping dialogue and some improvisation.
* RewatchBonus: A patron saint of this trope. His films have so many little subtleties you won't pick up on the first viewing, not to mention some instances of FridgeBrilliance that you'll only get ''after'' you see the film.
* RomanticismVersusEnlightenment: Very much on the Enlightenment side, critical and satirical of a lot of American mores, genres and myths. His movies spend a great deal of time showing how politics work, what drives group and society behaviour, the tensions behind marriages, businesses and friendships. A good example is to compare ''Gosford Park'' with ''Series/DowntonAbbey'' (created by the former film's screenwriter Julian Fellowes). Altman's film is far more critical and subversive of the upper classes than the TV Show.
* SignatureStyle: Frequent use of panning and zooming, overlapping dialogue, ambient sound as a prominent part of the audio mix, LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters and episodic plots with plenty of NarrativeFiligree, to name the most obvious things. There are also many individual motifs he was fond of that show up in most of his films, like shooting scenes through a window, or having a character speak with a cigarette or pipe in their mouth.
* SlidingScaleOfIdealismVsCynicism: Many films of his can go more towards the cynical end of the scale, but some of them such as ''Popeye''and ''ThePerfectCouple'' are more on the idealistic end.
* TitleByNumber: ''Film/ThreeWomen''. Also his production company Sandcastle 5.