His first two films were the now critically acclaimed La balade sauvage (1973) and Les moissons du ciel (1978). He then took a self-imposed retirement of nearly two decades from film-making before lensing his 1998 adaptation of James Jones’s La ligne rouge(1998), which was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including nods for Malick for directing and adapted screenplay.
Adopting a Kubrickian pace of movie-making, he directed Le nouveau monde (2005) and the autobiographical The tree of life – l’arbre de vie (2011) with gaps of only seven and six years, respectively, between release. However, he reportedly was working on ideas for « The Tree of Life » since the late 70s, including exposing footage that found its way into his finished film.
In an unprecedented burst of productivity, he shot his next four films, À la merveille(2012), Knight of Cups (2015), an as-yet unnamed drama and the cosmic documentary Voyage of Time: Au fil de la vie (2016) back-to-back during and immediately after completing the long editing process of « Tree of Life ».