Former Roger Corman protégé. Also helped by Steven Spielberg.
Directors he has cited as his principal influences include Chuck Jones, Frank Tashlin, James Whale, Roger Corman and Jean Cocteau.
He was interested in directing Batman (1989), which went to Tim Burton.
He was scheduled to direct a Jaws (1975) parody (under the National Lampoon banner) in the early 1980s called "Jaws 3 People 0". Universal Pictures dropped this concept in favor of a straight film (which became the critical and financial flop Jaws 3-D (1983)).
He was one of the directors considered for Jurassic Park (1993), which went to Steven Spielberg.
His favorite films are Bride of Frankenstein (1935), To Be or Not to Be (1942), The Night of the Hunter (1955), Touch of Evil (1958) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He often cites The Innocents (1961) as his favorite horror film, and one of the scariest he has ever seen.
Is a major fan of 1950s science fiction films, and often contains references to them in his movies. Since he is considered an authority on the subject, he is also frequently interviewed about them for documentaries, television specials, and DVD special features.
He directed Robert Picardo in ten films: The Howling (1981), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Matinee (1993), The Second Civil War (1997), Small Soldiers (1998) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), He also directed Picardo in five television episodes: Amazing Stories: Boo! (1986), Rebel Highway: Runaway Daughters (1994), Masters of Horror: Homecoming (2005), CSI: NY: Boo (2007) and Hawaii Five-0: Olelo Pa'a (2013).
He has cast Dick Miller in every film that he has ever directed: Hollywood Boulevard (1976), Piranha (1978), Rock 'n' Roll High School (1979), The Howling (1981), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Gremlins (1984), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) (though Miller's scene was deleted), The 'Burbs (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Matinee (1993), The Second Civil War (1997), Small Soldiers (1998), The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy (1998), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), Trapped Ashes (2006), The Hole (2009) and Burying the Ex (2014). He also directed Miller in four television episodes: Police Squad!: Testimony of Evil (Dead Men Don't Laugh) (1982), Amazing Stories: The Greibble (1986), Eerie, Indiana: The Losers (1991) and Rebel Highway: Runaway Daughters (1994).
He directed Belinda Balaski in ten films: Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Gremlins (1984), Explorers (1985), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Matinee (1993), The Second Civil War (1997), Small Soldiers (1998), and The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy (1998). He also directed Balaski in three television episodes: Eerie, Indiana: Foreverware (1991), Eerie, Indiana: The Hole in the Head Gang (1992) and Rebel Highway: Runaway Daughters (1994).
He directed Kevin McCarthy in seven films: Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Innerspace (1987), Matinee (1993), The Second Civil War (1997) and Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003).
He directed William Schallert in five films: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Gremlins (1984), Innerspace (1987), Matinee (1993), The Second Civil War (1997).
After the unexpected success of the American release of Godzilla 2000 (1999), he and the writer for the dub tried putting together a script for an American sequel set in Hawaii featuring Christopher Lee, Bruce Campbell and Leonard Nimoy, with the special effects being done by Toho. However, the studio's head was changed during the script writing process, and he wasn't interested in movies that cost the required budget for the film ($20 Million). The plot of the film would have had Godzilla rampaging his way through the Hawaiian Islands during a scientific conference in Honolulu, gradually making his way to Mauna Loa. However, the military manages to knock Godzilla out during this rampage (originally he was supposed to die, but Toho requested that be changed), only to discover Godzilla's target: a lava bat kaiju dubbed Miba resting in the volcano. Godzilla is then revived to do battle with him.
He was John Carpenter's choice to direct Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982).
He tried creating a bio-film about Chuck Jones entitled "Termite Terrace", but the executives at Warner Bros weren't interested in a drama about animators and were pushing to relaunch the characters in a more modern fashion with Space Jam (1996).
He was asked to direct Problem Child (1990). He read the script and liked it, but he turned it down as he was about to work on Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).
As of 2015, he is a member of the board of advisers for the Hollywood Horror Museum.
He was considered to direct Jurassic Park (1993) for Columbia Pictures.
He was considered to direct The Mummy (1999) with a script co-written by John Sayles. His version would have cast Daniel Day-Lewis as the mummy and was set in contemporary times and focused on reincarnation with elements of a love story. It came close to being made with some elements, like the flesh-eating scarabs, making it to the final product. However, at that point, the studio wanted a film with a budget of $15 million and rejected Dante's version.
He was originally set to direct The 6th Day (2000).
He prefers Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) to Gremlins (1984).
He was considered to direct The World is Not Enough (1999).
He was never offered the chance to direct Howling II: ... Your Sister Is a Werewolf (1985). The rights to the book "The Howling II" was owned by one of the producers and by Gary Brandner, the author of the book. Brandner, who was not a huge fan of Dante at the time, was not likely going to consider him to make the sequel after his displeasure with the director loosely adapting the first The Howling novel.
He was considered to direct Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) with a script by Dennis Etchison. This version had a much more supernaturally powered Michael Myers killing on the tenth anniversary of the events of the original movie. Tommy Doyle and Lindsey Wallace, the children who were being babysat in the first film, were to return as teens and main characters.
He was considered to direct Doctor Who (1996).
He was originally slated to direct The Phantom (1996), but left due to other commitments. He stayed on as producer, but ended up disowning the final cut, but turned down an offer by the studio to have his name taken off the final product (a move he ended up regretting).
He was considered to direct Beverly Hills Cop III (1994). He does make a cameo in the film.