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Zachary Edward Snyder (born March 1, 1966) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter born in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

He is well known for his stylized action movies' cinematography, love for details, slow motion sequences and dark and gloomy color filters, and for creating almost shot-for-shot adaptations of comic books such as 300 and Watchmen (with the latter being a notoriously Hard-to-Adapt Work).

His biggest directorial challenge to date undoubtedly has been to kick-start the Warner Bros./DC Comics shared movie universe commonly referred to as DC Extended Universe (DCEU), starting with the Superman reboot Man of Steel in 2013 then Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016. He then exited Justice League in the middle of the post-production work in May 2017 after the death of his daughter Autumn in March of that year. After almost three years of speculation and fan campaigns, his uncompromised version of the film was eventually announced for release, as a HBO Max exclusive in 2021. He and his wife Deborah are still co-producing films in the DCEU setting via their company, The Stone Quarry (formerly Cruel and Unusual Films, renamed in 2019).

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Snyder's next film (and his second non-adaptation), titled Army of the Dead, marks his return to the Zombie genre, and will be released on Netflix in 2021. There are projects to turn it into a franchise, including a spinoff anime titled Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas. He has confirmed to be working on a Norse Mythology-inspired anime (also produced for streaming on Netflix), and he is also interested in adaptating the Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead and the Arthurian Legend.

He is not related to comic book creator Scott Snyder, but has mentioned him among his inspirations for his DCEU films.


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Works:

    open/close all folders 

    Films he directed: 

    Other Works Snyder was involved in: 
  • 300: Rise of an Empire (2014, co-produced, wrote the script)
  • DC Extended Universe:
  • Army of the Dead:
    • Army of the Dead: The Prequel (film, co-produced)
    • Army of the Dead: Lost Vegas (spinoff anime series to Army of the Dead, co-produced)

Tropes common in Zack Snyder's films:

  • Adrenaline Time: His usage of this in 300 popularized it to the point of parody. His usage of this in Watchmen has all but crowned him as a king of this trope. Interestingly, his usage of this has substantially decreased after Sucker Punch.
  • Animesque: Between Sucker Punch and Man of Steel, it's clear that Snyder takes a lot of influence from anime when it comes to the more outlandish and fantastical fight scenes of his films. Besides having the heroines of Sucker Punch dress up in Japanese schoolgirl uniforms while wielding katanas, Snyder has admitted to being influenced by Birdy the Mighty, which shows in the destructive battles of Man of Steel.
  • Art Imitates Art: He studied art history in school and is a trained painter. He storyboards his own films, which are packed with references to classic art.
  • Auteur License: He had full artistic freedom on virtually every film he made from 300 to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, minus some truncated theatrical versions here and there. Then the extremely polarizing reception to Batman v Superman prompted some Warner Bros. execs to enforce changes on the original script of Justice League. Then they demanded reshoots, and he stepped down before these happened. Thus the film was dramatically altered without his input. It is unknown if he will direct a theatrical film in the near future, but he had free reins in the making of Army of the Dead and other spinoffs of it on Netflix, and deals to make HBO Max content as he likes are not out of the question after his uncompromised version of Justice League will be released on it.
  • Author Appeal:
    • His take on Superman shows him trying to save his adopted mother. Given that Snyder lost his own mother some years before, this may be a personal fantasy for him.
    • John Boorman's Excalibur, Snyder's favorite film, will be homaged in some way. It is not surprise that he has expressed interest in adapting the Arthurian Legend in 2021.
    • Many of his films also focus on parental relationships, both positive and negative, and their effects on the protagonists.
    • Considering his adaptations of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns (in the form of parts of Batman v. Superman) as well as his adaptation project of The Fountainhead, Snyder appears to have some degree of interest in the works of Ayn Rand. Rorschach is based on well-known Objectivist Steve Ditko's The Question while Word of God from Frank Miller has him admit that Rand's work was influential in The Dark Knight Returns. His DCEU heroes however are far from exhibiting such ideology, and his interest in The Fountainhead mainly stems from the opposition between non-conformist architect Roark and conformist, popular architects (in an odd case of Life Imitates Art considering Snyder's vision for the DCEU and the Executive Meddling that wanted to change course to gain more mainstream appeal).
  • Breakthrough Hit: He had success with Dawn of the Dead, but 300 was the film that made him a big name.
  • Color Wash: Even back in the Dawn of the Dead remake, Snyder was playing around with the color palette of his films. A hell of a lot.
  • invokedCopiously Credited Creator: He produced, wrote, directed, handled the camera work and did the cinematography of Army of the Dead.
  • Creator Breakdown: After his daughter tragically committed suicide during post production of Justice League, he decided to step away from the project before reshoots stemming from Executive Meddling were scheduled in UK, wanting to spend more time with his family.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • He appears as a soldier/mercenary protecting the evacuation of the Capitol in the opening of Dawn of the Dead.
    • He was a soldier in Vietnam in Watchmen during Dr. Manhattan's rampage on the Viet Cong soldiers.
    • He voiced the traitor Truck in the Bad Future scene of Batman v Superman.
    • He appeared as a World War I British soldier holding a Lewis Gun in the background of the 1918 photo seen in both Batman v Superman and Wonder Woman.
    • Snyder also shared a screenshot of his version of Justice League, showing a deleted scene in which Lois Lane passes by a café. He can be seen sitting inside said café.
  • Creator Couple: Snyder's production company, The Stone Quarry, is co-run by his wife Deborah. She has been involved in the production of every film he has made up to this day, and they have taken numerous creative decisions together, including casting choices such as Gal Gadot to play Wonder Woman Jason Momoa to play Aquaman.
  • Creator Recovery: After leaving the DCEU after the death of his daughter, Snyder found working on smaller films such as the short Snow Steam Iron to be a cathartic experience.
    • He considers Army of the Dead to be a palate cleanser and a fun experience free of the Executive Meddling he had to put up with when making Justice League.
  • Creator Thumbprint:
  • Darkhorse Casting: He has the habit of casting then-obscure actors in major parts. Notable examples include Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Ray Fisher as Cyborg. An even more glaring example is audiobook narrator and Bit Character actor Ray Porter as the voice of Darkseid in his version of Justice League.
  • Executive Meddling:
    • Averted with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Snyder was virtually free of studio interference in the making of those, save for having to reduce the length of the latter for the theatrical release.
    • The length of a number of his films has been shortened due to studio demands for their theatrical releases. Most infamously, it happened to Batman v Superman, in a move that, according to many critics, disrupted the film's narrative flow.
    • Unlike his previous DC films, Snyder was under the scrutiny of some studio executives (a "vocal minority" according to him) when making Justice League following the negative critical reception to Batman v Superman, having to compromise with executive demands (which, among other things, caused him to scrap the film's original script as well as his intended Superman arc of five films in the DCEU and the Giger-like Steppenwolf design he originally wanted to use), and he eventually left in the middle of the film's post-production to spend more time with his family following his daughter's suicide. Joss Whedon took over and proceeded with reshoots, and the film ended up significantly reshaped as the studio wanted. A great number of scenes that Snyder shot during principle photography were either shortened, deleted, altered (with ADR and a brighter color grading especially) or reshot to insert Whedon's dialogues, the film was heavily re-edited and Junkie XL (frequent collaborator of Snyder) was fired and replaced by Danny Elfman for the soundtrack. Eventually, a Director's Cut of the film devoid of the Whedon additions will be released on HBO Max in 2021, with all the scrapped Snyder footage and characters and the Junkie XL soundtrack, plus additional scenes by Snyder and the original design for Steppenwolf.
  • Fan Nickname: His fans sometimes refer to him and his work collectively as the Zack Attack, especially in regards to his ability to drop a picture/teaser/trailer and make the fandom freak out.
  • Fanservice: He's quite fond of drawing attention to his actors' impressive physiques, especially the men.
    • Then you have the Stocking Filler outfits of the lead actresses in Sucker Punch.
  • He Also Did:
    • One of his first directed works was a promotional docufiction about Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan's Playground, with some fictional sections following a young aspiring basketball player whose inspiration in life is Jordan.
    • He filmed the Hanukkah music video of Ezra Miller and Dan Fogler.
  • Heroic Build: From the Spartans to Dr. Manhattan, Superman, Batman and Aquaman, expect plenty of beefcake, and shots highlighting it in all its glory in his films.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Self-sacrifice to protect/save others is a pretty recurrent trope in his filmography.
  • Hit Stop: His films frequently have at least one face being punched in slow motion and getting appropriately deformed by the impact, or similar effects.
  • Mythology Gag: His DC Extended Universe movies are packed with visual and narrative references to multiple DC Comics one-shots and runs, and other adaptations of these. A list can be found here.
  • Nice Guy: Despite the cynical and dark worlds he depicts, some of Snyder's movie characters still remain nice guys at the core, such as Superman and Nite Owl, even though they have a really hard time coping with their world.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Another reason for his dark and gloomy color palettes outside of his Author Appeal is the fact that said palettes render the special effects much better. Case in point, the attempts to "brighten" Justice League after his departure resulted in loads of invokedSpecial Effect Failure, especially with the bright red sky in the climax.
  • Overcrank: A prominent user of slow-motion.
  • Parental Issues: A Creator Thumbprint of his, where almost every film he's done has something to do with parents.
    • Dawn of the Dead (2004) has a survivor who is about to be a father. His devotion to his family drives him insane as he's faced with his wife and his child's zombification. There's also another survivor whose daughter was a victim of the Zombie Apocalypse.
    • 300 is about an entire society where the relationship between child and parent is complicated due to Sparta's goal of having a highly militaristic culture that is the most badass in all the world. At least three characters are shown to be "Well Done Son!" Guys who wish to impress their fathers or father figures.
    • Sucker Punch: Baby Doll is a recently orphaned teenager who is adopted by an abusive and power-hungry uncle.
    • DC Extended Universe: Superman had a complicatedly strained relationship with his adoptive father Jonathan Kent, Batman's parents were shot dead (duh), Wonder Woman feels restricted by her mother Hippolyta, Aquaman feels abandoned by his mother Atlanna, the Flash's father is in jail and discouraging his obsession with his mother's mysterious death, and Cyborg lost his mother and blames his father for his current condition. Lex Luthor is also rather cross about his father's mistreatment of him.
  • Re-Cut: A number of Snyder's movies had their theatrical cuts shortened, for various reasons.
    • Happened to Dawn of the Dead, Watchmen, Sucker Punch and Batman v. Superman. Sucker Punch has yet to have a "Director's Cut".
    • Justice League got chopped up to pieces during the infamous Troubled Production that followed his departure from the filming. A lot of footage was clearly missing amidst the Joss Whedon additions. Eventually, a fully Snyder Director's Cut of the film will be released in 2021 on HBO Max.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A few of his films, most notably Sucker Punch and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, have elements that only become apparent on a second or third viewing. Or more.
  • Rule of Symbolism: He simply cannot make a movie without some sort of symbolism, one way or another. The parallels to Jesus in his representation of Superman are textbook examples. Less obvious references for the non initiated include the Mahabharata, of which he's a fan.
  • Scenery Porn: Shown most prominent in 300, Legend of the Guardians, Sucker Punch, and his DC Extended Universe films.
  • Shout-Out: John Boorman's Excalibur, with its striking dreamlike and painterly visuals, was one of the movies which inspired him to become a filmmaker. Thus, homages to King Arthur and Mordred's Mutual Kill have shown up in 300 and Batman v Superman.
  • Show, Don't Tell: A firm believer in this. His films have a huge emphasis on visual storytelling and crucial plot points, backstory and character motivations are often conveyed without dialogue.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Varies depending on the project.
  • Slow-Motion Drop: One of the undisputed kings of this trope, specially with ammunition cartridge cases flying, falling and bouncing on the ground.
  • Teasing Creator: He is a prominent user of the social media Vero, and he has shared numerous screenshots and behind-the-scenes photos of his version of Justice League on it during the two years prior to the announcement of its eventual release on HBO Max.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Snyder is a Performer through and through. A lot of criticism gear towards his work is often the lack of logic in some characters' actions, blocking, or cinematography (why did the light bulb get destroyed when Baby Doll's sister is the one who got shot? The extended cut answers this as she fires two shots, one of which hits the stepfather in the arm and ricochets off the pipe and the other hits the bulb). But it rears right back to people praising those same issues for being unique, remarkable, beautiful as well as effectively emotional.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • 300: This movie based on the Real Life Battle of Thermopylae is rife with fantastical elements like giant wolves, goat men, and God-Kings. So naturally, the entire film is actually a story being told by a Spartan to pump up an army that is about to face off against a massive Persian enemy.
    • Sucker Punch: Three levels of reality being juggled by a traumatized girl as she is admitted to an asylum. Despite her status as the protagonist, the girl is not the narrator, who is actually a separate character that also may or may not be an actual real person.
    • Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: An In-Universe version where a testifying witness of Superman's supposed heat-vision-fueled rampage turns out to have been lying the whole time. It soon spreads a nasty spiral of distrust around Superman, with devastating results.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: If the heroes of Snyder's films have Heroic Builds, their shirt's gotta come off at least once. Unless they're Spartans, which means they're shirtless all the time.

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