Joseph James Dante Jr. (born November 28, 1946) is a film director known for a string of cult 1980s sci-fi/fantasy films that oftentimes ran on pure crazy moon-logic.
Dante's work is notable for the strong affection he has for '40s and '50s horror movies (Matinee is a love letter to William Castle, for example), and his taste for black comedy and political commentary. He first got attention for The Movie Orgy, a seven-hour-long collection of weird film clips, ads and trailers that Dante still curates and screens around the United States. After a few smaller successes, he directed Gremlins, which launched a long, contentious relationship with Hollywood, which didn't seem to understand that Dante had a few axes to grind, especially with the political climate celebrating the '50s as a happy Golden Age and the suburbs as a great place to be. With a few exceptions, though, he's relatively subtle about his opinions.
Actually probably better known to people of a certain age for Eerie, Indiana than for his movies; he was an executive producer and directed five episodes. He also appeared As Himself in the Series Finale "Reality Takes a Holiday".
The films he directed include:
- Piranha (1978)
- The Howling (1981)
- Gremlins (1984)
- Explorers (1985)
- Innerspace (1987)
- The 'Burbs (1989)
- Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
- Matinee (1993)
- Small Soldiers (1998)
- Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003)
- Burying the Ex (2015)
He also directed segments of the Anthology Films Twilight Zone: The Movie and Amazon Women on the Moon, as well as the Masters of Horror episodes "Homecoming" and "The Screwfly Solution" and the pre-show for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Tropes present in Dante's work include:
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Dante is basically Hollywood's answer to the anime and manga industry's Rumiko Takahashi due to their tongue-in-the-cheek approach to their comedy-dominated science fiction/Urban Fantasy works in general.
- Author Appeal: Giant monster movies, Universal horror, and cartoons.
- Black Comedy
- Production Posse: Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, and Kevin McCarthy are frequent sights in his films.
- Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror: Has a love for both, but his films tend to be comedy-dominated.
- What Could Have Been:
- After the modest American success of Godzilla 2000, the writer of the dub teamed with Joe Dante to assemble an American produced sequel titled Godzilla Reborn that would have had Godzilla attack Hawaii and starred genre staples like Bruce Campbell, Christopher Lee, and Leonard Nimoy.
- After directing Gremlins, Joe Dante tried creating a biopic about his friend Chuck Jones entitled Termite Terrace, but the executives at Warner Bros weren't interested in a drama about animators (presumably not helped by Jones's extremely vocal criticisms about the studio at the time).