Michael Crichton - Filmmaker

Michael Crichton, directing COMA, 1977. Photo credit: MGM

Spotlight on Michael Crichton’s Filmmaking Career

Michael Crichton directed seven movies (including the cult favorite Westworld and classics such as Coma and The Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery), produced four movies and had eight screenwriting credits over the course of a filmmaking career that spanned five decades.  Thirteen of his novels were made into films by iconic directors such as Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, The Lost World), Robert Wise (The Andromeda Strain), Barry Levinson (Disclosure) and others.

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsI always wanted to direct movies. My first hero was Alfred Hitchcock – I knew who Hitchcock was long before I knew who Charles Dickens was. I was a very strange kid, I think part of it was that I wasn’t allowed to see movies. My parents thought it was bad for my moral development, or something like that. So movies were really forbidden fruit.

But then I was allowed to see the few selected “good” ones, arty good ones – Citizen Kane, Bergman, Kurosawa. I also allowed to see Hitchcock for some reason, and Hawks, some very commercial directors. The older I get, the more it seems that Hitchcock is the major influence in what I do.

Michael Crichton Signature

I was always interested in film. When I applied to medical school, the doctor who interviewed me said he didn’t have any feeling about me as a doctor. He asked me what I would do if I weren’t applying to medical school. I thought about it for awhile and I said I’d like to be a movie director. Like all American kids, I was exposed to a lot of movies when I was very young. They impressed me. That’s the quality I want to get – total involvement. So many of the movies I see have no effect on me. What I want is that jump you make when you participate in the action. That what I mean by having an effect – getting people to participate- and it isn’t easy. I have to admit I’m interested in audience manipulation. Point of view is the most important thing. It’s true of books, too. Joan Didion once said that the voice everyone listens to in a novel is not that of any particular character but the voice of the person telling the story. I think that is true of film.

Director

Michael Crichton directing PURSUIT, 1971. Photo credit: ABC Television.

Michael Crichton directing WESTWORLD 1972. Photo credit: MGM

Michael Crichton directing COMA, 1977. Photo credit: MGM

Michael Crichton directing THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, 1978. Photo: MGM.

Michael Crichton directing LOOKER, 1980. Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Michael Crichton directing RUNAWAY, 1983. Photo credit: Tristar Pictures

Michael Crichton directing PHYSICAL EVIDENCE, 1988. Photo: Columbia Pictures.

Westworld was the first movie to use computer generated images to create a special effect, marking this film as beginning of motion picture CGI. Learn more in our Programmer and Visionary pages.

Pursuit directed by Michael CrichtonWhat begins as the routine investigation quickly escalates into a heart-stopping race to save millions from certain death in this taut and gripping thriller. Michael Crichton makes an impressive directorial debut in this deadly cat-and-mouse game in which the stakes couldn’t be higher! When government agent Steven Graves (Ben Gazzara) investigates political extremist James Wright (E.G. Marshall), he uncovers a diabolical plot to blastlethal nerve gas into San Diego during the Republican Convention. What’s worse, a computer hacker (Martin Sheen) has provided Wright with a psychological profile to help him outwit Graves. As Wright ingeniously eludes Graves, can Graves find a way to stop him before the ultimate nightmare begins?

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Westworld directed by Michael CrichtonFor $1,000 a day, vacationers can indulge whims at the theme park called WESTWORLD. They can bust up a bar or bust out of jail, drop in on a brothel or get the drop on a gunslinger. It’s all safe: the park’s lifelike androids are programmed never to harm the customers. But not all droids are getting with the program.

Visit our WESTWORLD Movie Page

Coma directed by Michael CrichtonBased on the novel by Robin Cook and directed by Michael Crichton.  Imagine your life hangs by a thread. Imagine your body hangs by a wire. Imagine you’re not imagining.  After her best friend falls into a coma during routine surgery, Dr. Susan Wheeler discovers similar cases at her prestigious Boston hospital. But as her investigation unfolds, Susan uncovers a horrific conspiracy – and suddenly finds herself marked for death.

Visit our COMA Movie Page

The Great Train Robbery directed by Michael CrichtonAll aboard for runaway action and suspense in this riveting masterpiece from writer and director Michael Crichton! Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne-Down  star in this “spine-tingling and suavely performed” adventure based on history’s first train robbery. Stunningly shot by legendary cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, this “ingenious” and wonderful crime caper delivers mile-a-minute thrills and breathtaking excitement. Connery is Edward Pierce, a master thief who conceives a brilliant plan to steal a fortune in gold bars from a railroad payroll car. But to pull off the most daring heist in history, Pierce must join forces with a safecracker (Sutherland) and his own beautiful girlfriend (Down) in a series of intricately plotted thefts that will test all of their nerve, camaraderie and larcenous skill.

Visit our THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY Movie Page

Looker directed by Michael CrichtonPlastic surgeon Larry Roberts performs a series of minor alterations on a group of models who are seeking perfection. The operations are a resounding success. But when someone starts killing his beautiful patients, Dr. Roberts becomes suspicious and starts investigating. What he uncovers are the mysterious – and perhaps murderous – activities of a high-tech computer company called Digital Matrix.

Visit our LOOKER Movie Page

Runaway directed by Michael CrichtonFrom the creator of JURASSIC PARK and SPHERE comes another spine-tingling sci-fi action thriller. It is the future. A sinister plot is turning helpful robots into assassins, and a cop is caught in a deadly showdown with the madman controlling the killer machines. They were crafted for the purpose of serving man. But now, guided by an evil force, they’re committing murder in this fast-paced, futuristic action-adventure. Tom Selleck stars as Jack Ramsay, a sergeant in the Runaway Squad – a security force dedicated to the termination of defective or runaway robots. Ramsay and his assistant Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes) are called in when two electronic engineers meet violent deaths. They discovera link between the murders and the development of a terrifying new weapon by an evil mastermind. Ramsay and Thompson are attacked by murderous robots as they close in on the brilliant and insane electronics genius behind it all, Charles Luther (Gene Simmons). Then the deadly chase begins.

Visit our RUNAWAY Movie Page

Physical Evidence - 1989Everyone wanted Jake Farley dead. A man who dealt in drugs, prostitution and blackmail, Farley had no shortage of enemies, but only Joe Paris (Burt Reynolds), a hard-drinking cop who can’t remember if he killed Farley or not, is on trial for the murder. The District Attorney has everything he needsfor a conviction including weapon and motive. All Joe has is Jenny Hudson (Theresa Russell), a public defender who isn’t entirely convinced of her client’s innocence. Yet as witnesses are threatened,beaten and killed, Jenny begins to believe Joe may have been framed. And while they desperately search for a killer who may or may not exist, one thing remains certain. If Joe’s innocent, the truth will save him. But if he’s guilty, his lies will be the death of them both.

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsAt the time I was directing, I felt that I was reacting against an emerging period of extremely aggressive directorial styles. The clearest example of that — he’s more muted now — is Scorsese. All those very active camera movements drew attention to the fact that there was a person telling you the story in a specific way, and you were being asked to recognize how it was being told to you. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do a much more self-effacing directorial style.

Screenwriter

Westworld directed by Michael CrichtonFor $1,000 a day, vacationers can indulge whims at the theme park called Westworld. They can bust up a bar or bust out of jail, drop in on a brothel or get the drop on a gunslinger. It’s all safe: the park’s lifelike androids are programmed never to harm the customers. But not all droids are getting with the program.

Visit our WESTWORLD Movie Page

Coma directed by Michael CrichtonBased on the novel by Robin Cook and directed by Michael Crichton. Imagine your life hangs by a thread. Imagine your body hangs by a wire. Imagine you’re not imagining. After her best friend falls into a coma during routine surgery, Dr. Susan Wheeler discovers similar cases at her prestigious Boston hospital. But as her investigation unfolds, Susan uncovers a horrific conspiracy – and suddenly finds herself marked for death.

Visit our COMA Movie Page

The Great Train Robbery directed by Michael CrichtonAll aboard for runaway action and suspense in this riveting masterpiece from writer and director Michael Crichton! Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley Anne-Down star in this “spine-tingling and suavely performed” adventure based on history’s first train robbery. Stunningly shot by legendary cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth, this “ingenious” and wonderful crime caper delivers mile-a-minute thrills and breathtaking excitement. Connery is Edward Pierce, a master thief who conceives a brilliant plan to steal a fortune in gold bars from a railroad payroll car. But to pull off the most daring heist in history, Pierce must join forces with a safecracker (Sutherland) and his own beautiful girlfriend (Down) in a series of intricately plotted thefts that will test all of their nerve, camaraderie and larcenous skill.

Visit our THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY Movie Page

Looker directed by Michael CrichtonPlastic surgeon Larry Roberts performs a series of minor alterations on a group of models who are seeking perfection. The operations are a resounding success. But when someone starts killing his beautiful patients, Dr. Roberts becomes suspicious and starts investigating. What he uncovers are the mysterious – and perhaps murderous – activities of a high-tech computer company called Digital Matrix.

Visit our LOOKER Movie Page

Runaway directed by Michael CrichtonFrom the creator of JURASSIC PARK and SPHERE comes another spine-tingling sci-fi action thriller. It is the future. A sinister plot is turning helpful robots into assassins, and a cop is caught in a deadly showdown with the madman controlling the killer machines. They were crafted for the purpose of serving man. But now, guided by an evil force, they’re committing murder in this fast-paced, futuristic action-adventure. Tom Selleck stars as Jack Ramsay, a sergeant in the Runaway Squad – a security force dedicated to the termination of defective or runaway robots. Ramsay and his assistant Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes) are called in when two electronic engineers meet violent deaths. They discovera link between the murders and the development of a terrifying new weapon by an evil mastermind. Ramsay and Thompson are attacked by murderous robots as they close in on the brilliant and insane electronics genius behind it all, Charles Luther (Gene Simmons). Then the deadly chase begins.

Visit our RUNAWAY Movie Page

Jurassic Park written by Michael CrichtonExperience one of the biggest films in motion picture history with director Steven Spielberg’s ultimate thrill ride, JURASSIC PARK. Featuring Academy Award winning visual effects and groundbreaking filmmaking that has been hailed as “a triumph of special effects artistry” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times), this epic film is sheer movie-making magic that was 65 million years in the making. Jurassic Park takes you to an amazing theme park on a remote island where dinosaurs once again roam the earth and five people must battle to survive among the prehistoric predators. Starring Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough, discover the breathtaking adventure you will want to experience again and again.

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Rising Sun written by Michael CrichtonA Los Angeles special liaison officer (Wesley Snipes) is called in to investigate the murder of a call-girl in the boardroom of a Japanese corporation. Accompanied by a detective with unusual knowledge of the Japanese culture (Sean Connery), the two men must unravel the mystery behind the murder by entering an underground “shadow world” of futuristic technology, ancient ways and confusing loyalties.

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Twister written by Michael Crichton

Co-written with Anne-Marie Crichton

TV weatherman Bill Harding is trying to get his tornado-hunter wife, Jo, to sign divorce papers so he can marry his girlfriend Melissa. But Mother Nature, in the form of a series of intense storms sweeping across Oklahoma, has other plans. Soon the three have joined the team of stormchasers as they attempt to insert a revolutionary measuring device into the very heart of several extremely violent tornadoes.

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Michael Crichton working on screenplay revisions

Michael Crichton, 1983. Photo by: Sanjiro Minamikawa

Producer

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsI know a lot about movies, and have made them myself, so I know what to expect. And actually, in general, I feel I have been pretty lucky with the movie versions of my books. I’m particularly happy with Jurassic Park and with Disclosure.

Disclosure produced by Michael CrichtonMichael Crichton’s bestselling novel was both a high-tech thriller and source of controversy with its hot-button plot about a man’s charge of sexual harassment against a female colleague and former lover. The movie, directed by Barry Levinson, turned these issues into a prurient thriller gussied up in glossy production values, virtual reality computer graphics, and steamy sex between Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. Having cornered the market on roles for men whose brains are located south of their waistline, Douglas is well cast as the computer-industry guy who loses a plush promotion to the opportunistic Moore, and he’s perfected the expression of paranoid panic.

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Twister written by Michael CrichtonTV weatherman Bill Harding is trying to get his tornado-hunter wife, Jo, to sign divorce papers so he can marry his girlfriend Melissa. But Mother Nature, in the form of a series of intense storms sweeping across Oklahoma, has other plans. Soon the three have joined the team of stormchasers as they attempt to insert a revolutionary measuring device into the very heart of several extremely violent tornadoes.

Visit our TWISTER Movie Page

Sphere produced by Michael CrichtonThe OSSA discovers a spacecraft thought to be at least 300 years old at the bottom of the ocean. Immediately following the discovery, they decide to send a team down to the depths of the ocean to study the space craft.They are the best of best, smart and logical, and the perfect choice to learn more about the spacecraft.

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The 13th Warrior produced by Michael CrichtonAntonio Banderas brings huge star power to an immensely thrilling action-adventure from the hit-making director of DIE HARD and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR! An exiled ambassador far from his homeland, Ahmed (Banderas) comes across a fierce band of warriors who are being attacked by ferocious creatures legendary for devouring all living things in their path! And when an old fortune-teller warns the combatants that they are doomed to failure without a 13th warrior, Ahmed is given no choice but to join their battle and help conquer the mysterious enemy! Suspenseful and endlessly exciting, this exhilarating hit is sure to thrill anyone who enjoys action on an epic scale!

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Twister is one of the 100 Highest Grossing Movies of All Time

Other Films From Michael Crichton’s Books

The Andromeda Strain based on a book by Michael CrichtonDirected with clinical precision by Academy Award winner Robert Wise, this compelling account of the earth’s first biological crisis is perhaps the most chillingly realistic science fiction thriller ever made. After an errant satellite crashes to earth near a remote New Mexico village, the recovery team discovers that almost everyone in the town are victims of a horrible death, with the mysterious exception of an infant and an old homeless man. The survivors are brought to a state-of-the-art laboratory descending five stories beneath the ground where the puzzled scientists race against time to determine the nature of the deadly microbe before it wreaks worldwide havoc. A trailblazer in the areas of special effects and inventive sets, The Andromeda Strain is based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel that created national paranoia for its topical relevance to the first moon landing.

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The Carrey Treatment based on a book by Michael Crichton

James Coburn brashes out the truth as he plays breezy and brilliant pathologist Peter Carey, confronting hypocrisy and murder in a Boston hospital. Directed by Blake Edwards and adapted from an early novel by Michael Crichton (writing under a pseudonym), The Carey Treatment is an existential murder mystery with a pathologist standing in for the P.I.

Peter Carey accepts a staff position at a staid Boston hospital, under the direction of Dr. J.D. Randall (Dan O’Herlihy). When Dr. Randall’s daughter Karen dies following an illegal abortion, Carey’s colleague David Tao (prolific character great James Hong) is accused of the crime and Carey sets out to prove his innocence. Along the way, Carey finds time to romance Boston beauty Georgia Hightower (Jennifer O’Neill), chase red herrings down blind alleys of comic satire and confront “The Establishment”.

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Dealing based on a book by Michael CrichtonProspective Harvard law student Peter Harkness is learning about crime firsthand. He skips his entry exam to transport a suitcase full of pot from Berkeley to Boston, setting in motion a comic adventure that has him in love with a cool hippie chick and in deep with the mob, a crooked cop and a cigar case stuffed with heroin. Based on a flower-power novel by Michael Crichton, Dealing boasts a 40-brick-load of talent: film-debuting John Lithgow as a most unusual campus dealer, Barbara Hershey as the hippie chick and Charles Durning as the narc who keeps a cut of the contraband for himself. Groovy, man!

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The Terminal Man based on a book by Michael CrichtonMind Control. Advances of modern science have removed it from the realm of the mystical into the all-too-probable. What happens when science loses control is the subject of The Terminal Man, based on a novel by Michael Crichton and written for the screen and directed by Mike Hodges.

Computer scientist Harry Benson (George Segal) has experimental brain surgery to end his potentially dangerous seizures. Electrodes are attached to 40 terminals of his brain to counteract his violent impulses. But there’s no escaping his own mind. The experiment has backfired and the seizures return…with a terminal vengeance. Hooking into this visionary tale will unnerve you. But the truth behind its hallucinatory horrors will fascinate and stimulate you.

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Congo based on a book by Michael CrichtonA megalomaniacal C.E.O. sends his son into the dangerous African Congo on a quest for a source of diamonds large enough and pure enough to function as powerful laser communications transmitters (or is it laser weapons?). When contact is lost with his son and the team, his sometime daughter- in-law is sent after them.

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The Lost World based on a book by Michael CrichtonFour years after JURASSIC PARK’S genetically bred dinosaurs ran amok, multimillionaire John Hammond shocks chaos theorist Ian Malcolm by revealing that Hammond has been breeding more beasties at a secret location. Malcolm, his paleontologist ladylove and a wildlife videographer join an expedition to document the lethal lizards’ natural behavior in this action-packed thriller.

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Jurassic Park III

Based on characters created by Michael Crichton

Return to the action-packed world of prehistoric dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK III where man is up against dangerous predators in the ultimate battle for survival. Adventure runs wild when renowned paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) agrees to accompany a wealthy couple (William H. Macy and Téa Leoni) on an aerial tour of Isla Sorna, InGen’s former breeding ground for prehistoric creatures. After they are terrifyingly stranded, Dr. Grant soon discovers that his hosts are not what they seem and the island’s native inhabitants are smarter, faster, fiercer and more brutal than he ever imagined. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, this visually stunning blockbuster features all-new dinosaurs and special effects that you need to see to believe.

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Timeline based on a book by Michael CrichtonA group of archaeological students become trapped in the past when they go there to retrieve their professor. The group must survive in 14th century France long enough to be rescued.

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Jurassic World

Based on characters created by Michael Crichton

Twenty-two years after the events of JURASSIC PARK, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining, in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

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In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsI think of making a picture as being like this. You have a bowl for your sugar, and you have a sack full of sugar and you’re in a dark room. You walk up and you poor the sugar into the bowl in the dark. Then later you get to turn the lights on and see how much of the sugar went into the bowl and how much spilled all around the sides. You never get it all into the bowl. I don’t think you ever make a movie where the audience response doesn’t surprise you.