He could not study in Greece after the country went through a civil war (from World War II to 1949) due to his father being communist, so he moved to France, studying literature first then cinema there, notably under the teaching of filmmaker Yves Allégret.
He is well known for blending commentary on controversial political and social issues with the entertainment value of the film medium. Themes such as law and justice, dictatorships, oppression, legal/illegal violence and torture are common in his works, most of which are in French language.
His children Romain, Alexandre and Julie all became directors.
Works on TV Tropes:
- Z (1969)
- State of Siege (1972)
- missing. (1982)
- Betrayed (1988)
- Mad City (1997)
- Amen (2002)
- The Axe (2005)
Tropes and Trivia in his works:
- Author Tract: Denouncing dictatorships, violations of human rights and liberties and showcasing the social cost of economic inequity, in a nutshell.
- The Cameo: He's had cameos in four films — Madame Rosa, The Life Before Us, Spies Like Us and The Stupids.
- Creator's Oddball: Adults in the Room (2019) is the first film he's ever shot in his native country, Greece.
- Humans Are Bastards: Whether it's torture, dictatorships, The Holocaust or a jobless man turned Serial Killer to regain a job, Costa-Gavras has explored quite a palette with this trope.
- Playing Against Type: He likes to ask actors who tend to work mostly in comedies to play in his serious films sometimes. That has happened with José Garcia in 2005's The Axe and Gad Elmaleh in 2013's Le Capital, for instance.
- Production Posse:
- What Could Have Been: He was offered to direct The Godfather at one point when he became well known in Hollywood. He liked the novel, but didn't feel knowledgeable enough about American culture to direct the film.