Rob Reiner is an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker who has had an extensive career in Hollywood spanning over 50 years. He first rose to fame playing Michael “Meathead” Stivic on the iconic 1970s sitcom All in the Family. After transitioning behind the camera, Reiner became one of the most prominent and successful directors of the 1980s and 1990s. Some of his most popular films include This Is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery, and A Few Good Men.
Early Life and Career
Reiner was born in The Bronx in New York City in 1947. He is the son of famed comedian and actor Carl Reiner and actress Estelle Lebost. Reiner first tried his hand at acting by joining the touring company of the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie in 1963. His big break came in 1971 when he was cast as Michael “Meathead” Stivic on the CBS sitcom All in the Family. His character was the liberal, hippie son-in-law to Carroll O’Connor’s arch-conservative Archie Bunker. Reiner’s nuanced comedic performance earned him two Emmy Awards.
All in the Family
- Reiner played Michael “Meathead” Stivic from 1971 to 1978 on All in the Family.
- His character represented the counterculture of the 1960s.
- He won two Emmy Awards for his comedic work on the show.
- It propelled him to fame and launched his multifaceted career.
After leaving All in the Family in 1978, Reiner explored opportunities behind the camera. He had always been interested in directing and wanted to shift away from being solely an actor.
Transition To Filmmaking
- Began exploring directing opportunities after All in the Family ended.
- Wanted to move away from solely being an actor.
- Had always been interested in getting behind the camera.
- First directing project was the mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.
Directorial Debut with This Is Spinal Tap
Reiner’s directorial debut was the cult classic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap in 1984. He co-wrote the comedy film about a fictional British heavy metal band trying to make a comeback with comedians Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer. This Is Spinal Tap was critically acclaimed and earned Reiner a DGA nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement.
This Is Spinal Tap
- Mockumentary comedy about a fictional British band directed by Reiner.
- Co-written by and starred Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer.
- Became a cult film that launched the mockumentary genre.
- Critically praised and earned Reiner a DGA nomination.
The success of This Is Spinal Tap gave Reiner the opportunity to direct more comedic films in the 1980s. He re-teamed with Billy Crystal on The Princess Bride, which became a beloved fairy tale parody. Reiner also collaborated with Steve Martin and John Candy on the road trip comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
- The Princess Bride (1987) – fairy tale parody starring Robin Wright and Cary Elwes.
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) – John Hughes road trip comedy with Steve Martin and John Candy.
- Continued making successful comedies after Spinal Tap.
- Often collaborated with top comedic talents like Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, and John Candy.
Reiner had one of the most commercially successful runs of any comedy director in the late 1980s and 1990s. He excelled at making funny yet heartfelt romantic comedies, most notably with When Harry Met Sally… starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in 1989. The film is considered one of the definitive romantic comedies of its era.
When Harry Met Sally…
- Starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan as friends who eventually fall in love.
- One of the most iconic romantic comedies of all time.
- Features the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene.
- Added to the National Film Registry in 2021 for its cultural impact.
Reiner re-teamed with Ryan and Crystal on two more romantic comedies in the early 1990s – The Story of Us and Alex Emma. He also directed Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, which became another huge box office hit.
Additional Romantic Comedies
- Sleepless in Seattle (1993) – with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan
- The Story of Us (1999) – with Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer
- Alex Emma (2003) – with Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson
- Excelled at finding the humor and heart in relationships.
In between his funny films, Reiner also directed several memorable dramas that demonstrated his versatility behind the camera. In 1990, he made Misery based on the Stephen King novel. The thriller starred Kathy Bates in an Oscar-winning turn as a deranged fan who holds her favorite author captive. Reiner also directed the legal drama A Few Good Men in 1992, which earned multiple Academy Award nominations.
- 1990 psychological horror/thriller based on the Stephen King novel.
- Stars Kathy Bates who won an Oscar for playing an obsessed fan who imprisons her favorite author.
- Showed Reiner could direct outside of comedy.
A Few Good Men
- 1992 legal drama starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Jack Nicholson.
- About military lawyers defending Marines charged with murder.
- Famously features Nicholson yelling “You can’t handle the truth!”
- Nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Picture.
Reiner dabbled in other genres like the buddy comedy The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. But much of his later directorial work failed to rise to the level of his earlier beloved films.
After the 1990s, Reiner’s directorial output slowed down significantly. He still acts occasionally, including cameos as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm playing Larry David’s arch-nemesis. He continues to be politically active and supports liberal causes. Reiner has been married to photographer Michele Singer since 1989. His son Jake Reiner has followed him into directing.
- Appeared as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm as Larry David’s rival.
- Occasionally still takes on minor acting roles.
- Recent appearances in The Wolf of Wall Street and New Girl.
- Strong supporter of the Democratic Party and liberal causes.
- Major critic of Donald Trump’s presidency. -Uses his platform to endorse Democratic politicians.
While his films are not as consistently successful anymore, Reiner’s impressive run directing some of the most popular comedies of the 1980s and 90s cements his legacy in Hollywood. The longevity of classics like The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally… are a testament to Reiner’s talent for blending humor and heart into timeless films.
Rob Reiner has managed to have an exceptional career that has spanned from sitcom star to prominent film director. After becoming a household name playing Meathead on All in the Family, he made the successful transition behind the camera. Reiner displayed a talent for comedy directing hit films like This Is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, and When Harry Met Sally… He proved he could also handle drama, thrillers, and tearjerkers with films like Stand By Me, Misery, and A Few Good Men. Though his output has slowed in recent decades, Reiner’s run of funny, poignant, and endlessly rewatchable films has earned him a lasting place in pop culture history. His many memorable contributions to American comedy remain beloved to this day.
Rob Reiner’s Filmography
1984 – This Is Spinal Tap
Genre: Mockumentary, Comedy
Plot: This hilarious mockumentary follows the rise and fall of the British heavy metal band Spinal Tap. The film satirizes the rock music industry and features memorable characters and quotable lines.
1985 – The Sure Thing
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Plot: A college student, Walter (John Cusack), sets out on a road trip to California to meet a female pen pal he has been corresponding with. Along the way, he picks up a hitchhiker, Alison (Daphne Zuniga), and the two develop a romantic connection.
1986 – Stand by Me
Genre: Coming-of-Age Drama
Plot: Based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body,” this poignant coming-of-age story follows a group of four friends in a small town who embark on a journey to find the body of a missing boy.
1987 – The Princess Bride
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Plot: This enchanting fantasy adventure tells the tale of a beautiful princess (Robin Wright) who is kidnapped by an evil prince (Cary Elwes). She is rescued by a farmhand (Mandy Patinkin) who falls in love with her.
1989 – When Harry Met Sally…
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Plot: This iconic romantic comedy follows the relationship between Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) from their initial meeting to their eventual marriage. The film explores the complexities of love, friendship, and relationships.
1990 – Misery
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Plot: A famous author (James Caan) is rescued from a car accident by a seemingly kind nurse (Kathy Bates). However, she turns out to be his biggest fan and becomes obsessed with him, holding him captive and forcing him to rewrite his latest novel.
1992 – A Few Good Men
Genre: Legal Drama
Plot: A military lawyer (Tom Cruise) defends two U.S. Marines (Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon) who are accused of murdering a fellow Marine at a military base. The lawyer uncovers a conspiracy and corruption within the Marine Corps.
1994 – North
Plot: A young boy named North (Elijah Wood) sets out on a journey to find his perfect parents. Along the way, he meets various eccentric characters and learns about the complexities of family and relationships.
1995 – The American President
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Political Drama
Plot: The President of the United States (Michael Douglas) falls in love with a lobbyist (Annette Bening) while facing political challenges and personal struggles. The film explores themes of love, politics, and power.
1996: Ghosts of Mississippi
Genre: Historical Drama
Plot: Set in Mississippi in the 1960s, the film follows the story of a civil rights activist, Medgar Evers, who is assassinated in front of his home. The film delves into the investigation and subsequent trial of Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist who was found guilty of Evers’ murder after two hung trials.
Reception: “Ghosts of Mississippi” received critical acclaim for its powerful depiction of racial injustice and its exploration of a pivotal moment in American history. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of Evers.
1999: The Story of Us
Genre: Romantic Drama
Plot: The film tells the story of a couple, Ben and Katie Jordan, who are struggling to keep their marriage alive after 15 years. The film follows their journey as they navigate the complexities of their relationship, dealing with infidelity, resentment, and the challenges of raising a family.
Reception: “The Story of Us” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising its realistic portrayal of marital strife and others criticizing its conventional storytelling. Despite the mixed reviews, the film was a commercial success, grossing over $90 million worldwide.
2003: Alex Emma
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Plot: The film centers around Alex Sheldon, a writer who moves to New York City with his girlfriend, Emma Dinsmore, an aspiring photographer. As they navigate their new life in the city, they face personal and professional challenges that test their relationship.
Reception: “Alex Emma” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performances of Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson, while others found the film to be predictable and lacking depth. Despite the mixed reviews, the film performed well at the box office.
2005: Rumor Has It…
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Plot: Sarah Huttinger, a young woman about to be married, discovers that her family may have inspired the characters in a popular novel, “The Graduate.” Sarah embarks on a road trip to California to meet the man who may be her real father and uncovers secrets about her family’s past.
Reception: “Rumor Has It…” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performances of Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Costner, while others found the film to be formulaic and lacking originality. Despite the mixed reviews, the film was a commercial success.
2007: The Bucket List
Plot: Two terminally ill men, Carter Chambers, a wealthy businessman, and Edward Cole, a car mechanic, meet in the hospital and form a bond. They decide to create a bucket list of things they want to do before they die and embark on a journey to fulfill their dreams.
Reception: “The Bucket List” received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising the performances of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $359 million worldwide.
Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama
Plot: The film tells the story of two neighbors, Juli Baker and Bryce Loski, who have been friends since childhood. Juli has always had a crush on Bryce, but he initially sees her as just a friend. As they grow older, their feelings for each other change and they navigate the complexities of first love.
Reception: “Flipped” received positive reviews from critics, with many praising the performances of Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $21 million worldwide.
2012: The Magic of Belle Isle
Genre: Drama Runtime:
Plot: Monte Wildhorn, a retired writer suffering from a creative block, is invited to spend the summer in Belle Isle, Maine, by a family who admires his work. Monte reluctantly accepts and finds himself drawn to the family’s young daughter, who has a vivid imagination. Together, they embark on a magical journey that helps Monte overcome his writer’s block and find inspiration.
Reception: “The Magic of Belle Isle” received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising the performances of Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $23 million worldwide.
2014: And So It Goes
Genre: Romantic Comedy-Drama
Plot: Oren Little, a self-centered real estate agent, is forced to take care of his granddaughter, Sarah, after his son and daughter-in-law are deployed to Afghanistan. Oren and Sarah initially clash, but they gradually bond and learn to appreciate each other.
Reception: “And So It Goes” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performances of Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, while others found the film to be predictable and lacking depth. Despite the mixed reviews, the film was a commercial success.
2015: Being Charlie
Plot: Charlie Mills, a successful stockbroker, is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder and discovers that he has 23 different personalities. As he struggles to manage his condition, Charlie’s personal and professional life begins to unravel.
Reception: “Being Charlie” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performance of Nick Robinson, while others found the film to be uneven and lacking focus. The film was a commercial failure, grossing only $3.6 million worldwide.
Genre: Biographical Drama Runtime: 137 minutes Plot: The film chronicles the life and career of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, focusing on his rise to power, his presidency, and his role in passing landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
Reception: “LBJ” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performance of Woody Harrelson, while others found the film to be too long and lacking focus. The film was a commercial failure, grossing only $9.2 million worldwide.
2017: Shock and Awe
Genre: Historical Drama Runtime: 86 minutes Plot: The film tells the story of a group of journalists who uncover the Bush administration’s manipulation of intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The film follows their investigation as they face pressure from the government and struggle to expose the truth.
Reception: “Shock and Awe” received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising the performances of Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones. The film was a commercial failure, grossing only $1.7 million worldwide.
2023: Albert Brooks: Defending My Life
Genre: Comedy-Drama Runtime: 99 minutes Plot: Albert Brooks plays Daniel Miller, a man who dies and goes to purgatory, where he must defend his life before a jury to determine whether he will be allowed to enter heaven. Daniel’s defense is based on his memories of his life, as well as the testimony of his loved ones and acquaintances.
Reception: “Albert Brooks: Defending My Life” received generally positive reviews from critics, with many praising Brooks’ performance and the film’s clever and thought-provoking premise. The film was a commercial success, grossing over $80 million worldwide.