Robert Schwentke was born in Stuttgart in 1968. After graduating from high school, he began to study philosophy and comparitive literature studies in Tübingen. After four semesters – and his first 8mm films – he enrolled in the film class at Columbia College in New York, from which he eventually graduated with a master of Fine Arts.
In order to finance his tuition, he started to write for film and television. Between 1998 and 2001, he wrote scripts for three "Tatort" entries, of which the episode "Bildersturm" got nominated for a Grimme Award.
Schwentke made his feature film debut as a writer and director with the 2002 thriller "Tatoo". The following year saw the release of his sophomore film "Eierdiebe", a dark comedy about a young man diagnosed with testicle cancer for which Schwentke drew from his own experiences with the sickness.
Since "Tattoo" left a good impression with US producers during its American festival run, Schwentke was approached by Hollywood and eventually signed up to direct the thriller "Flight Plan" starring Jodie Foster. The film was a box office success, and Schwentke went on to direct the science-fiction "The Time Traveler's Wife" ("Die Frau des Zeitreisenden", US 2009) and the action comedy "RED – Retired Extremely Dangerous" ("R.E.D.: Älter. Härter. Besser.", US 2010). After helming the sci-fi comedy "R.I.P.D." (US 2013), Schwentke directed "Insurgent" ("Die Bestimmung – Insurgent", US 2015) and "Allegiant" ("Die Bestimmung – Allegiant", US 2016), both sequels to the young adult novel adaptation "Divergent" ("Die Bestimmung – Divergent", US 2014).
Schwentke then returned to Europe for his next project: Shot in Poland and Germany, "Der Hauptmann" relates the story of war criminal Willi Herold, who posed as an officer of the German Wehrmacht at the end of WWII and randomly ordered the execution of countless men. The film premiered at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, where it got rave reviews, and also screened at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, where cinematographer Florian Ballhaus received the Jury Award.