Sometimes, when a quirky visionary hits it big with a mainstream movie, he can do whatever he wants from that point on.

"Auteur theory" states that a film is the result of its director's personal creative vision, as if he were the primary "Auteur" (the French word for "author"), with all other creative roles (writing, acting, cinematography, score, set design etc) being subsidiary to this. While the theory technically applies to all films, it has come to signify small independent "Art House" cinema that has a high degree of quirky, "[[LeFilmArtistique artistic]]" content. More often than not an Auteur director also writes much of the content of their work in order to ensure complete control over their creative vision -- hence the stereotype of the PrimaDonnaDirector.

Thus, an Auteur License is given to an Auteur-type director who makes movies or TV series with a strong artistic style and grants them immunity from having to compromise their artistic vision in a mainstream setting.

Usually Auteur directors are pertinently relegated to the art house circuit as their films are generally deemed unmarketable to a wide audience. As such their films are appropriately cost constrained to avoid them spending large amounts of money on a film that few people will see. However, every so often work by an Auteur director will strike it big with a mass audience and either make an inordinate amount of money, earn a plethora of awards or both. In these cases the director may be granted an Auteur License by the film industry to make their unique type of films for a mainstream audience with a mainstream budget.

Because the usual studio system is unequipped to deal with the Auteur's unique artistic vision, the Auteur License grants them ProtectionFromEditors and an exemption from ExecutiveMeddling. This sort of treatment may cause the previously under known director to get an inflated ego, but an Auteur License does not imply this outcome.

The '''Auteur License''' is valid for as long as the Auteur director's work continues to make money at the box office. For some Auteurs this can last quite a long time, while others [[DarthWiki/FallenCreator have had theirs revoked]] before their first piece is even fully realized. More often than not the magic of the first groundbreaking film is [[ToughActToFollow impossible to reproduce]] and result can range from something mediocre to box office bomb to the complete bankruptcy of the production company or studio. At this state the Auteur License can be revoked and the Auteur will be forced back into the art house world or stuck making movies with much much less [[CreativityLeash creative control]]. However there have been quite a number of Auteurs that can maintain the success of their first films and build their style into a valuable brand that can even insulate their License from the occasional failure.

An Auteur License is not to be confused with your run of the mill star power earned with consistently high grossing, top quality work. While all creative work can bear the artistic stamp of its author, an Auteur License grants the bearer the ability to make a piece far outside what is considered standard fare and that would not normally be green lit.

Not that this has to mean high art: As WilliamGoldman pointed out, if you think about it, Russ Meyer fit this perfectly. He produced and wrote his movies all by himself, also did the camera work and the cut, and definitely had [[GagBoobs his unique, very personal artistic vision]], [[LampshadedDoubleEntendre if you know what we mean]].

ProtectionFromEditors is a less-positively related trope.

When an Auteur license is revoked, see DarthWiki/FallenCreator.

See also PrimaDonnaDirector, when a big-name director has a (possibly justified) big ego.

Contrast ExecutiveVeto, ExecutiveMeddling, ToughActToFollow, ScapegoatCreator. Compare with GloryDays. See also FirstInstallmentWins.


[[AC:Anime and Manga ]]
* The application of this to the ''Anime/TsubasaReservoirChronicle'' anime was how Creator/BeeTrain, while [[Anime/{{Noir}} good]] [[Anime/{{Madlax}} at]] [[Anime/ElCazadorDeLaBruja original works]], ended up with a reputation for ill-advised adaptations.
* {{CLAMP}} --the original authors of the aforementioned anime-- are not better in any significant way. They are famous for doing works that simply don't work-- ''Legal Drugs'', anyone? To make matters worse, they have a tendency to make a web of crossovers out of their works, which are ''many'' and have completely ''different'' premises. Damningly, such snarl is one of the things that ''Tsubasa'' is most often derided for.

* Creator/AkiraKurosawa was granted a Auteur License for the Pearl Harbor epic ''Film/ToraToraTora'' based on his strong body of work in Japanese cinema. In charge of the Japanese unit of the bi-national production costs and delays quickly got out of control due to Kurosawa's perfectionism. At one point he ordered a set completely repainted because it was a slightly wrong shade of white. Kurosawa was fired as director while the film was still in production being replaced by Kinji Fukasaku and very little, if any, of his footage made the final cut. The fact of his Auteur License being revoked was evidenced by never working in Hollywood again.
* Director Creator/TerrenceMalick received his Auteur License after ''Days of Heaven'', went into Creator/JDSalinger-esque seclusion for the next 20 years, and re-emerged to make ''Film/TheThinRedLine'', whereupon 20 major Hollywood stars lined up to get a part in the film, seven of whom were left on the cutting room floor. The studio pulled the plug on the film, whereupon 20th Century Fox insisted Malick employ ''more'' Hollywood stars, many of whom were offering to work for free... Malick retained his big-budget Auteur License for his next film, ''The New World'' (2005) with Colin Farrell.
** As of his Palme d'Or-winning 2011 epic ''Film/TheTreeOfLife'', he seems to have kept it.
* Director Creator/MNightShyamalan had a breakout hit with ''TheSixthSense'' and was granted an Auteur License that allowed him to produce more of his signature TwistEnding films. While the next film ''Film/{{Unbreakable}}'' achieved some success, and ''Film/{{Signs}}'' was another hit. ''Film/TheVillage'' made money but lost some critical respect. His next two films were outright flops, and Shyamalan became a target of mockery. His Auteur License was revoked right after he tried to show it off in ''Film/LadyInTheWater'', and now he is having to make films from established franchises instead of his own stories. That [[Film/TheLastAirbender hasn't worked out so well either]].
* Creator/StanleyKubrick: ''Film/{{Spartacus}}'' made him famous, but he didn't earn his Auteur License until after ''Film/DrStrangelove''. (In between, he suffered major ExecutiveMeddling on ''Lolita''.) For the rest of his life, he had enough respect to get away with strange, arty films like ''Film/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey'' and ''Film/EyesWideShut''. (That last was his very last completed film.)
* Creator/OrsonWelles got issued his Auteur License right off the bat by RKO Pictures for his first film, ''Film/CitizenKane'', based on his work in radio and theatre. Welles directed, wrote, produced, and starred in it. While this movie is now considered one of the greatest films ever made, the content picked a fight with media mogul William Randolph Hearst whose papers refused to carry advertisements for the film causing it to fail financially. While his contract gave him exclusive control over his next film, ''Film/TheMagnificentAmbersons'', the result was deemed unreleasable by the executives and was hacked to pieces by the studio. Welles' Auteur License was revoked at that point and he eventually had to spend long periods of time in Europe to exercise his creative vision.
* Creator/WaltDisney ran his own animation studio and served as producer on every project, so he may have received his Auteur License earlier than this, but he got it for certain (along with seven dwarf-sized Academy Awards) after presenting ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,'' the first feature-length traditionally animated film. His work in animation was bold and innovative, proving the medium could do more than make silly cartoons. Though his later work was, [[VindicatedByHistory at the time]], not immediately as well-received as ''Snow White,'' he managed to use the money and prestige won off that one film to begin work on several more. Eventually his company became so profitable that he was beholden to no one in terms of what he could do. [[VictoryIsBoring Ironically, around the same time (possibly because of this) he started to step away from animation and began working in untapped and more challenging ventures, like television and theme parks]].
** And live action movies - which met with various degrees of success.
* Creator/WoodyAllen. He's practically had an auteur license since he started making movies forty-five years ago (his ''second'' film was a Japanese spy movie he bought and put a GagDub on top of. And it was approved!). His big success with ''Film/AnnieHall'' in 1977 is what made him untouchable, even after he made a string of movies generally considered mediocre in the late 1980s through early 2000s, and after the "[[WifeHusbandry marrying his]] [[ParentalIncest stepdaughter]]" incident that would've ended a lesser celebrity's career. The string of movies since 2005's ''Film/MatchPoint'' are generally considered to be a comeback for him, but if he didn't have a strong case of this trope, he wouldn't have lasted long enough to have a comeback.
** It helps that he makes movies on relatively low budgets, and hence doesn't have to meet as many box-office needs as other movies.
*** The budget itself is helped by his license; actors undoubtedly accept less money than they otherwise would because it's a Creator/WoodyAllen film.
* After being forced to chop down the theatrical cuts of ''Film/{{Aliens}}'' and ''Film/TheAbyss'', Creator/JamesCameron got his after ''Film/Terminator2JudgmentDay''. It was renewed after ''Film/{{Titanic 1997}}'' became the highest-grossing film of all time. Now that he's topped that feat with ''Film/{{Avatar}}'', it's safe to say that Cameron has a lifetime pass because his films practically grant licenses to print money.
** His license will last as long as his movies are profitable. The Studio actively debated interfering with Avatar as its costs spiralled only to be proven wrong when it made a ton of money. Had Avatar lost money it would have been revoked.
* After a decade of often much-acclaimed films, both small- and large-scale (ranging from ''Film/{{Mash}}'' to ''Film/{{Nashville}}'' to ''3 Women'') Creator/RobertAltman got this for 1980's ''Film/{{Popeye}}''--a live-action, big-budget family musical based on the comic strip and cartoon hero--via super-producer Robert Evans. Unfortunately, the resultant film had a long, difficult shoot and got ''very'' mixed notices from critics, and couldn't gross enough money to prove profitable; Altman spent the remainder of the decade making much smaller-scale films that attracted little attention from anyone besides film critics -- and it was just getting started! He didn't make his comeback until ''Film/ThePlayer'' in 1992.
* Creator/TimBurton got his after ''Film/{{Batman}}'' in 1989. ''Film/PeeWeesBigAdventure'' and ''Film/{{Beetlejuice}}'' had both been bigger-than-expected hits for Creator/WarnerBros, but he still faced a good deal of ExecutiveMeddling on ''Batman''. Once it was a megahit, he became a big enough name that not only he given a good deal of creative freedom on ''Film/EdwardScissorhands'', but it was his previous track record and now-signature style that was used to sell it to audiences. Although some of his subsequent films have been critical and/or commercial disappointments, he's had enough successes to hang on to the license.
* Creator/QuentinTarantino at this point has permission to bend what he wants, where he wants, who he wants.
** By 2015, Quentin's license had earned endorsements that allowed him to not only shoot TheHatefulEight in 70mm Ultra Panavision, a film format that had not been used in nearly 50 years, but also get the film's distributor to pay to upgrade ~140 cinemas around the world for 70mm film projection. Keep in mind this took place several years after even basic 35mm film projection was phased out in favor of digital.
* Creator/StevenSpielberg after ''Film/{{Jaws}}''.
* Creator/ChristopherNolan after ''Film/TheDarkKnight''. He purposefully took up the director's chair for the ''Film/TheDarkKnightSaga'' in order to gain the Auteur License (as well as large-scale filmmaking experience) to shoot his pet project that would need big-budget resources to realize fully: ''{{Inception}}''. When that proved a monster critically acclaimed Oscar nominated hit, Nolan's license was likely set for the rest of his career.
* Creator/FrancisFordCoppola earned his license by adapting, producing, and directing the awesome one-two punch of ''Film/TheGodfather Part II'' and ''Film/ApocalypseNow''. He used his newfound clout and money to build his own studio, American Zoetrope, where he planned to house an artistic community, turning out medium-budget passion projects. Unfortunately, his first such film, ''OneFromTheHeart'', went cataclysmically over budget. Unlike the similarly out-of-control ''Film/ApocalypseNow'', ''Heart'' flopped mightily upon release, and Coppola pulled it from theatres after a few weeks. Zoetrope was sold, Coppola's license was revoked, and he spent a good chunk of the 80s and 90s as a director for hire, trying to forge his way back to financial solvency. He has recently taken to financing his films with the proceeds from his vineyard and winery.
* Creator/MichaelBay has became heavily associated and famous for his over the top action movies with huge explosions. He gained his Auteur License after ''Film/{{Armageddon}}'' and his visual style has been heavily copied in modern action films. He even made fun of his filmmaking style in [[ this]] Verizon commercial.
* Creator/GeorgeLucas had the run-of-the-mill star power with ''Film/AmericanGraffiti''. He wrote, issued, and certified his license with [[Film/ANewHope some movie about a farm boy looking for his destiny]]. Due to its success, Lucas has made anything he wanted, anyway he wanted, since. Lucas even sets the terms for when his movies are released, at what theaters, and how the gross profits are divvied up.
** Since, you know, he owns his own studio. The last three films he directed were financed by Lucas himself, with Fox only distributing. Lucas created his own licensing board and gave himself a license.
** And, he actually said "screw you" to the Director's Guild in 1981 (after they demanded he put credits at the beginning of ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'') and yet still manages to make movies, albeit with other talent willing to defy the union. This, sadly, scotched plans for [[WhatCouldHaveBeen Steven Spielberg directing]] ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi''.
* In the beginning of his career, Creator/MartinScorsese cranked out a number of bonafide classics, (''Film/TaxiDriver'', ''Film/MeanStreets'', ''Film/RagingBull'', etc). However, these were buffered by a number of financial flops, disallowing him the kind of carte blanche enjoyed by others on this page. However, since the release of ''Film/{{Goodfellas}}'' in 1990, he's mostly been allowed to make his movies his way. [[Film/GangsOfNewYork Mostly.]]
* Truly talented director MichaelCimino got his license with ''Film/TheDeerHunter'' and promptly lost it with ''Film/HeavensGate''.
* Creator/{{Pixar}}'s movies [[CashCowFranchise were always successful]], but the success of ''WesternAnimation/FindingNemo'' grew their reputation from "the pioneers of CG animation" to "the best in the business right now". A few years later, the release of ''WesternAnimation/WallE'' turned them into "the biggest name in animation", which was cemented by follow-up films ''WesternAnimation/{{Up}}'' and ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory3''. Their reputation took a bit of a hit after that, but their Auteur License remains, and any questions about its viability have been answered with ''WesternAnimation/InsideOut'', which also scored the highest opening for an original movie in history.
** Andrew Stanton, director of ''Finding Nemo'' and ''WALL•E'', was granted one by Disney after they gave him a ton of money to make his passion project. Unfortunately that project was ''Film/JohnCarter'', a film which lost Disney $200 million. Stanton has since gone back to Pixar full time.
* Creator/PeterJackson earned his license with ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'', which then allowed him to make a 3-hour ''Film/KingKong2005'' with a $200 million budget.
* Creator/JuddApatow got his with ''Film/TheFortyYearOldVirgin'', which has also given him ProtectionFromEditors.
* Jean-Luc Godard received his auteur license after the success of his first film, ''Film/{{Breathless}}'', leading him to make more complex and politically-driven films which consequently diminished much of the commercial and critical acclaim that first film earned. To this day, he still grips on to that license.
* A trend that's becoming popular in recent years is to bring the directors of blockbusters back in exchange for agreeing to bankroll vanity projects that the directors might otherwise not get the chance to make. The vanity projects will typically be lower-budgeted, and the studios know they can eat the loss from the gross of the blockbuster sequel, so they give the director complete control. Creator/MichaelBay got this deal for ''Film/PainAndGain'' when he agreed to direct ''Film/TransformersDarkOfTheMoon'', but the REAL king of this is Creator/ChristopherNolan, who received $160 million to make ''Film/{{Inception}}'', and it grossed over ''800 million'' at the box office alone, which has secured his auteur ticket for the foreseeable future.
* Creator/CharlieChaplin was among the first to demonstrate this trope in American film. With his films being fairly consistently hailed big hits, he could take chances like a straight drama for his first Creator/UnitedArtists film, ''AWomanOfParis'', keep ''Film/CityLights'' and ''Film/ModernTimes'' largely silent in UsefulNotes/TheGoldenAgeOfHollywood, make fun of UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler in ''Film/TheGreatDictator'' and do a BlackComedy in ''Film/MonsieurVerdoux''.
* According to reports, Creator/BenAffleck accepted the post-''The Dark Knight Saga'' Batman role in exchange for Warner Bros. bankrolling some of his more tough-to-sell pet projects. Sure enough, shortly after the deal was announced, an Affleck-directed political thriller set in Africa was green-lit.
* When [[Creator/MarvelComics Marvel Studios]] started out, their first film was about [[ComicBook/IronMan a B-List superhero]] starring [[Creator/RobertDowneyJr a washed-up actor]] and with [[Creator/JonFavreau a director]] whose [[{{Film/Zathura}} last movie bombed]]. [[Film/IronMan1 The result]] was a hit, which Marvel not only used to bring more of their heroes to the screen but also [[Franchise/MarvelCinematicUniverse bring them together]] in a SharedUniverse unheard of in the movies, to massive success. They've since used this clout they've earned from this to make [[Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy a movie about an obscure comic book team that features a talking space raccoon]]; and ''it'' was a hit as well, ensuring they won't lose their license any time soon.
* Rob Reiner had hit it big critically and commercially with films like ''Film/ThisIsSpinalTap'', and was told that he could basically do anything he wanted next. When he told a film executive that he wanted to adapt his favorite book, ''Literature/ThePrincessBride'', he was told "anything but that!" The rest, [[Film/ThePrincessBride however]], [[VindicatedByHistory is history]], although he got a severe setback when he abused the Auteur License with ''Film/{{North}}''.

* KurtVonnegut used and abused his novelistic auteur license to write a novel illustrated with his own quirky line drawings in which he [[AuthorGuestSpot features as a character]] (the wonderful ''Breakfast of Champions'') and a semi-novel about his abortive attempt to write a novel called ''Timequake''. It contains many parts of the ''Timequake'' story itself, interspersed with Vonnegut just talking about life, himself, and how things are going in general, and is generally touching.

* After ''Pinball/TheAddamsFamily'' went on to become the best-selling pinball machine of all time, designer Creator/PatLawlor was given free rein on his next game. The result was the highly-rated ''Pinball/TheTwilightZone'', arguably the most complex pinball table ever, with more patent-pending features than any other game ever made.

* After the success of Creator/RichardWagner's early {{opera}}s, he turned to what he termed "''Gesamtkunstwerk''" or "total work of art." The most famous example is ''Theatre/TheRingOfTheNibelung'', which featured words, music, orchestration, production design, choreography, direction, and conducting all handled by Wagner himself— premiered in a concert hall that he designed and built for the purpose. UpToEleven!

* After the sleeper hit that was VideoGame/DemonsSouls, director Hidetaka Miyazaki of Creator/FromSoftware has basically been given complete freedom to keep making his obtuse, unusual and challenging [[{{ActionRPG}} Action RPG's]]. Given the enormous success of both VideoGame/DarkSouls and {{VideoGame/Bloodborne}}, and the fact that he has since been promoted to president of From Software, his license is guaranteed for the foreseeable future.
* Creator/JohnRomero and his infamous ''VideoGame/{{Daikatana}}'' came about as a result of him earning one of these after his success with ''VideoGame/CommanderKeen'', ''VideoGame/Wolfenstein3D'', the first two ''VideoGame/{{Doom}}'' games, and ''[[VideoGame/QuakeI Quake]]''. After ''Daikatana'' flopped it was promptly revoked.
* Due to the success of the ''VideoGame/BioShock'' franchise, it would be safe to say that Ken Levine will be able to keep a hold of this for a while. Funnily enough, [[ he dislikes being called an auteur.]]
* For ''Creator/TaroYoko'' this came into effect after ''VideoGame/NieR''. During the development of the first ''VideoGame/{{Drakengard}}'', Yoko had to continuously fight Square to keep his and the team's distinct artistic vision intact, because Square was afraid the game was too dark and nihilistic. After the game managed to win over a small but dedicated fanbase, Square was willing to fund a second game but wanted something more marketable, and to that end he was only lightly involved with ''Drakengard 2''. However, this lead to one of the more divisive games in the series exactly because of its LighterAndSofter nature, and as a result he was allowed back in the director's seat for the franchise with ''[=NieR=]'', a GaidenGame. Though it wasn't very profitable it eventually became a CultClassic and widely considered an amazing game. Due to its critical success Yoko has essentially been given free rein to do as he pleases, though it stands that his games still don't sell all that well, leading him to wonder if Square is insane for continuing to fund them.
* Creator/HideoKojima had this for a good while, leading to the current firestorm when Creator/{{Konami}} attempted to revoke it. Amusingly, it first came about when his superiors demanded he create a war game and proceeded to design one that discourages killing. Time will tell if Konami has any chance of recovering from the massive backlash surrounding this.

* Creator/TreyParkerAndMattStone after ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark''.
* Creator/MattGroening after ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons''.
* Creator/SethMacFarlane after ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy''.
* Creator/DonBluth more or less gave himself one after leaving Disney to [[StartMyOwn become an independent filmmaker]]. Ironically, it was slowly stripped away with each success until it was altogether revoked following a string of flops in the 90s.