Internationally, he is best known for his critically acclaimed crime-thriller films, including Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), and the science fiction drama Arrival (2016), the latter of which received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Villeneuve was born on October 3, 1967 in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, the son of Nicole Demers and Jean Villeneuve. He studied at the Université du Québec à Montréal. He is married to cultural reporter Tanya Lapointe and has three children from a previous relationship. He is the older brother of filmmaker Martin Villeneuve.
Villeneuve began his career making short films and won the Radio-Canada's youth film competition La Course Europe-Asie in 1990–91.
Villeneuve first caught attention for his 2001 film Maelström which screened at festivals worldwide, winning eight Jutra Awards and 'Best Canadian Film' from the Toronto International Film Festival. He followed that up with the controversial, but critically acclaimed film Polytechnique (2009) about the shootings that occurred at the Montreal university.
Villeneuve's Incendies (2010) received critical acclaim after it premiered at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals in 2010. Incendies was subsequently chosen to represent Canada at the 83rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Foreign Language Film and was eventually nominated for the award.
The film went on to win eight awards at the 31st Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Direction, Best Actress (Lubna Azabal), Best Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Overall Sound, and Sound Editing. Incendies was named by The New York Times as one of the '10 Best Films of 2011.'
In January 2011, he was selected by Variety as one of the top ten filmmakers to watch. Also in 2011, Villeneuve's work was recognized at the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, Canada's highest honour in the performing arts, and the National Arts Centre Award. Villeneuve followed Incendies with the popular film Prisoners, starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. The film screened at festivals across the globe, won several awards, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2014. Prisoners is currently ranked No. 220 on IMDb's 'Top 250 Films of All Time' list, which is ranked by popular vote.
Following the success of Incendies and Prisoners, Villeneuve won Best Director for his next film, the mind thriller Enemy (2013), at the 2nd Canadian Screen Awards. The film also won the $100,000 cash prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association for 'Best Canadian Film of the Year' in 2015.
Villeneuve directed the crime thriller film Sicario, scripted by Taylor Sheridan, and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin. The film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. It screened to positive reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and went on to become a commercial success, grossing nearly $80 million worldwide.
Villeneuve next directed the film Arrival, based on the short story Story of Your Life by author Ted Chiang, from an adapted script by Eric Heisserer, with Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner starring. Principal photography began on June 7, 2015 in Montreal, and the film was released in 2016. The film grossed $203 million worldwide and received praise for Adams's performance, Villeneuve's direction, and the its exploration of communicating with extraterrestrial intelligence. Considered one of the best films of 2016, Arrival appeared on numerous critics' best films lists, and was selected by the American Film Institute as one of ten Movies of the Year. It received eight nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, ultimately winning one award for Best Sound Editing. It was also awarded the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 2017.
In February 2015, it was announced that Villeneuve would direct Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982). Harrison Ford will reprise his role alongside Ryan Gosling, and it will take place several decades after the original. Scott will executive produce the film for Warner Bros. It will be released on October 6, 2017.
Villeneuve is set to direct the adaptation of Jo Nesbø's crime novel The Son, as well as a new film adaptation to the novel Dune for Legendary Pictures.