Chris Joseph Columbus (born September 10, 1958) is an American filmmaker. Columbus is known for directing such movies as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) and for writing movies such as Gremlins (1984) and The Goonies (1985).
Home Alone received a British Comedy Award for Best Comedy Film. Columbus received an Academy Award nomination for producing The Help (2011).
Columbus was born in Spangler, Pennsylvania and raised in Champion, Ohio, the son of Mary Irene (née Puskar), a factory worker, and Alex Michael Columbus, an aluminum plant worker and coal miner. Columbus is of Italian and Czech descent. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Warren, Ohio and went on to study at New York University's film school at the Tisch School of the Arts, where he was a schoolmate of writer/director Charlie Kaufman and Alec Baldwin.
Columbus worked as a screenwriter with Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, working on Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985) and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). He wrote the first episodes of the animated series Galaxy High (1986) and later made his directorial debut with the teen comedy Adventures in Babysitting (1987) and Heartbreak Hotel (1988).
His directorial work includes Home Alone (1990), Only the Lonely (1991), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Nine Months (1995), Stepmom (1998), Bicentennial Man (1999), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Rent (2005), I Love You Beth Cooper (2009) and Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010).
He was the producer of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), the third film in the Harry Potter film series, and received an Academy Award nomination for producing The Help (2011). He is also adapting Erich Segal's novel Acts of Faith into a movie in 2014.
Columbus founded his production company named 1492 Pictures in 1995, intended as a play to Columbus' more famous namesake, Christopher Columbus, with 1492 being the year of the explorer's first voyage.
The character types preferred by Columbus are the everyday American men, women and children who struggle to uphold family traditions against a changing, sometimes intimidating society. In 1993 he said: "I can understand the validity of showing people the ugliness of the world, but I also think there is a place for movies to leave people with a sense of hope. If your film isn't going to do that, I just don't think it's worth making."
Columbus is currently writing the House of Secrets book series with Ned Vizzini and co-founded a new animation studio called ZAG Animation Studios with Saban Capital Group and ZAG Entertainment.
In 1983 Columbus married Monica Devereux, with whom he has four children: Eleanor, Violet, Brendan, and Isabella. Columbus lives in San Francisco's Pacific Heights. Columbus and his wife listed their Pacific Heights home for sale in September 2013 for $12.995M. His children attend or previously attended Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. He donated money to the school for a new building, and the school's "piazza" is named after him.
Many of Columbus' family members —including his children, his wife, his mom, his father-in-law and his cousin Robert Ayres— have appeared in cameo roles in his films.