- As a teenager, won numerous awards for his short films, which aired on local television in the early 1970s.
- At 19, was the youngest director to ever have a movie distributed by a major studio (1976's Jim, the World's Greatest).
- Breakthrough film was the 1979 sci-fi/horror cult classic Phantasm, which spawned three sequels.
- Screenplay for Bubba Ho-tep, his 2002 collaboration with horror icon Bruce Campbell, won the Best Screenplay Award at HBO's U.S. Comedy Arts Film Festival, as well as a 2003 Bram Stoker Award.
- Daughter Chloe, a renowned vegan chef, gained national attention when she won a 2010 episode of Food Network's Cupcake Wars with her vegan cupcakes.