Born into the chaos of a World War II-consumed Paris in 1942, Claude Miller was brought up by his parents instilled with a strong sense of French identity and pride—a recurring theme in many of his films. Having an interest in cinema at an early age, Miller attended the IDHEC film school in Paris from 1962 to 1963. Following his time at school he joined the French army where he gained his first professional and practical film experience, working for the Service Cinéma de l'Armée—the French army’s film division—directing documentary instructional shorts.
After his military service, Miller became an assistant director on the crews of some of France’s most prominent filmmakers, working on the sets of Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend (1967) and Two or Three Things I Knew About Her…(1967); Jacques Demy’s The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967); and Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar (1966). Miller’s most influential mentor proved to be François Truffaut, working on the director’s crew for the films Mississippi Mermaid (1969), The Wild Child (1970) and Bed & Board (1970), among others.
Under the tutelage of Traffaut, Miller directed several short films, as well as his first theatrical feature, the coming-of-age drama La meilleure façon de marcher (1976). He followed the success of his first feature by helming Dites-lui que je l'aime (1977), Garde à vue (1981), L'Effrontée (1985), The Accompanist (1992), The Smile (1994), La Classe de Neige (1998), Betty Fisher et autres histoires (2001), La Petite Lili (2003), and A Secret (2007). In 1988 Miller directed The Little Thief, a project written and developed by his mentor Traffaut, who was unable to complete the project due to his death in 1984. Miller’s final film was Thérèse Desqueyroux (2012), which was released several months after his death, closing out the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
For his filmmaking achievements Miller has been nominated for 16 César Awards, the national film award of France.