He took a degree in film directing from FAMU in Prague. Critics usually highlight his film Samo jednom se ljubi
(1981), a love story set in the time after WW II about a young Communist and a ballerina from a bourgeois family. He achieved his biggest international success with the idyllic and anxious story from WW II Đavolji raj
(1989). The film won the Grand Prix and an award for the best director at the festival in Tokyo. He collaborated with Serbian filmmaker Srđan Karanović, who was another member of the Prague school, as a screenwriter on two Grlić’s and three Karanović’s films, as well as Karanović’s cult TV series Grlom u jagode
. With Igor Mirković he made the feature documentary Novo, novo vrijeme
(2001), depicting the political atmosphere around elections in 2000. He is one of the founders of film school in Grožnjan, called Imaginary Academy, art director of Motovun Film Festival, and the professor at University of Ohio.