Donner’s genre-spanning career began in television directing, helming installments of The Fugitive, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and the iconic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” starring William Shatner. Donner’s big-screen break came in 1976 with the hit horror film The Omen. He then directed Superman in 1978, which catapulted a then-unknown Christopher Reeve to stardom and was the most expensive film ever made up to that point. Donner’s success continued in the ’80s, which saw him direct the beloved children’s movie The Goonies as well as the first Lethal Weapon film, which proved such a success that it launched a franchise. In the next decade, Donner directed the Free Willy trilogy in addition to 1995’s Assassins. Donner also had a hand in producing X-Men and its prequel, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Donner is survived by his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner.
Tributes to Donner flooded social media in the wake of his death. Steven Spielberg, who worked on The Goonies with Donner, wrote on Twitter, “Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres. Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time. I can’t believe he’s gone, but his husky, hearty laugh will stay with me always.”
Danny Glover, star of the Lethal Weapon films, said in a statement, “My heart is broken. Working with Dick Donner, Mel Gibson and the Lethal Weapon Team was one of the proudest moments of my career. I will forever be grateful to him for that Dick genuinely cared about me, my life and my family. We were friends and loved each other far beyond collaborating for the screen and the success that the Lethal Weapon franchise brought us. I will so greatly miss him.” Below, see more tributes to Donner.