Michael Ritchie started his career as a copy boy for The San Francisco Chronicle as a teenager before attending Harvard. He somewhat unexpectedly ended up directing a (then) small play at Harvard entitled Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad written by playwright Arthur L. Kopit which went on to Broadway and a feature film adaption, although Ritchie had no involvement. Producer Robert Saudek, a fan of the play, gave him his break into television on the series Omnibus. Between his work with Omnibus star Alistair Cook and his experience in the news Ritchie developed a sense of realism as a director and honed his satirical style. He continued working in episodic television, directing for Dr. Kildare, Profiles in Courage, The Big Valley, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Felony Squad, and Run For Your Life.
He directed the television movies The Outsider (1967) and The Sound of Anger (1968) before making his theatrical debut with Downhill Racer (1969) starring Robert Redford. Ritchie’s style of realism and satire served him well with features such as the Oscar-winning The Candidate (1972), Bad News Bears (1976), Fletch (1985), Wildcats (1986), The Golden Child (1986), and Diggstown (1992). He continued to direct in television with the award-winning The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (1993).
For his directing efforts Ritchie has been twice nominated for a DGA Award, in 1968 for the pilot of The Outsider, as well as winning the 1994 Movies for Television Award for The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom. Ritchie was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy for “Cheerleader-Murdering Mom.” Ritchie served on the DGA’s National Board and Eastern Directors Council from 1999-2001.