Hollywood is mourning the loss of one of its most dynamic and successful filmmakers. Richard Donner, the visionary director behind iconic films such as “Superman: The Movie,” “The Omen,” the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, “Scrooged” and many others, died Monday at age 91.

Donner’s career was remarkable not just for the great commercial success his films enjoyed, but for the diversity in the types of movies he made. Donner’s big-screen break came when he directed the 1976 hit horror film “The Omen,” starring Gregory Peck. Two years later, he helped make history with the blockbuster “Superman: The Movie,” which helped open the door for comic book films that would eventually transform the movie industry. While superhero films dominate Hollywood now, in the late 70s, a movie based on a comic book character was a huge risk. In a 2018 interview with the website Den of Geek, Donner explained why he took on the project.

“I took a challenge that was very exciting for me. I did it because, essentially, when I read what they were doing, I just felt I had to step in and try and save what I felt was a respectful area for Superman.”

Despite producers Alexander and Ilya Salkind wanting to hire a superstar actor such as Paul Newman or Clint Eastwood to play the Man of Steel, Donner wanted an unknown actor by the name of Christopher Reeve for the role. It turned out to be one of the best casting decisions ever, as Reeve remains the standard to this day for the Last Son of Krypton.

Almost as important as the casting was pulling off what was for the time, revolutionary visual effects that would make the audience, as the original movie poster’s tagline said, “believe a man can fly.”

“If the audience didn’t believe he was flying, I didn’t have a movie.” 

Even though the film was a huge hit, earning over $300 million at the box office, creative differences with the producers led to Donner being fired despite having shot nearly the entire sequel. It would be 25 years before fans would see the Donner Cut of “Superman II.” Regardless, Donner’s impact on the superhero movie genre remains apparent. His Superman movie cracked the code on how to adapt comic book stories for the movies, and the film remains in many ways the template for comic book adaptations.

Donner continued making films across all genres. He made the Richard Pryor-Jackie Gleason comedy “The Toy” in 1982. He showed off his versatility by directing two wildly different films in 1985; “Ladyhawke,” a fantasy film starring then-rising star Michelle Pfeiffer, and “Goonies,” a kids adventure film that remains a favorite to this day.

Steven Spielberg, who produced “Goonies” alongside Donner, issued a statement Monday praising his friend and collaborator.

“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.”

Outside of “Superman,” Donner’s greatest theatrical success came from the four “Lethal Weapon” movies he directed. He helped launch the modern-day action comedy by pairing Mel Gibson and Danny Glover together as L.A. cops. The series earned nearly $1 billion at the office and made Gibson one of the world’s biggest stars. Donner would direct him again in two other hits, the thriller “Conspiracy Theory” and the western “Maverick.”

Donner also made the Bill Murray Christmas comedy “Scrooged,” a darkly funny twist on the Dickens tale that has become a holiday staple. He continued making movies until the early 00’s, with the 2006 Bruce Willis cop drama “16 Blocks” being his last directing effort. He remained active in the business, as a producer working alongside his wife and producing partner Lauren Shuler Donner.

Donner’s career began in television, where he directed a slew of episodes across all types of series. His first big opportunity came directing Steve McQueen in the western show “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” He would also direct several episodes of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” including one of its most famous installments, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner. He would go on to direct episodes of such 60s TV classics as “Perry Mason” and “The Fugitive,” as well as comedies like “Get Smart” and even “Gilligan’s Island.”

The tributes to Donner poured in across social media, from actors who starred in his movies to those whose work he inspired.