He was born in Mulhouse, France, the nephew of Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Pictures. His family connections served him in good stead, as he became the youngest director on the Universal lot in 1925. He soon proved himself as an able craftsman, and in the early 1930s, became one of Universal's greatest assets, directing such solid films as The Love Trap, Hell's Heroes, and Tom Brown of Culver.
Between 1942 and 1945, Wyler served as a major in the U.S. Army Air Corps and directed a pair of documentaries, The Memphis Belle and the Academy Award winning The Fighting Lady. He also directed two key films which first captured the mood of the nation as it prepared for battle and, four years later, peace. Mrs. Miniver (1942), a story of a middle class English family adjusting to the war in Europe, helped condition American audiences to life in wartime (and galvanized support for the British). The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), the story of three veterans arriving home and adjusting to civilian life, dramatized the problems of returning veterans for those who had remained on the homefront. Wyler won Best Director Oscars for both films (which also won Best Picture Oscars).
In 1965, he won the Irving Thalberg Award for career achievement; eleven years later, he was the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award recipient. In addition to his Best Picture and Best Director Oscar wins, ten of Wyler's films earned Best Picture nominations and he won nine Best Director nominations; three dozen of his actors won Oscars or nominations.