Friedrich Wilhelm "F. W." Murnau (born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe; December 28, 1888 – March 11, 1931) was a German film director. Murnau was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Shakespeare and Ibsen plays he had seen at the age of 12, and became a friend of director Max Reinhardt. During World War I he served as a company commander at the eastern front and was in the German air force, surviving several crashes without any severe injuries.
Arguably Murnau's best known work is his 1922 film Nosferatu, an adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Although not a commercial success due to copyright issues with Stoker's novel, the film was considered a masterpiece of Expressionist artwork. He was also known for his work with the 1924 film The Last Laugh and his interpretation of Goethe's Faust (1926). He later emigrated to Hollywood in 1926, where he joined the Fox Studio and made three films, including Sunrise (1927), 4 Devils (1928) and City Girl (1930).
In 1931 Murnau travelled to Bora Bora to make the film Tabu with documentary film pioneer Robert J. Flaherty, who left after artistic disputes with Murnau, who had to finish the movie on his own. A week prior to the opening of the film Tabu, Murnau died in a Santa Barbara hospital from injuries he had received in an automobile accident that occurred along the Pacific Coast Highway near Rincon Beach, south of Santa Barbara.
Of the 21 films Murnau directed, 8 have been completely lost, leaving 12 surviving in their entirety. One reel of his feature Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna survives.