He attributes his passion for movies to World War II. He was sent to Hampshire to see out the war years with his grandmother, an avid filmgoer, where he was taken to the local cinemas regularly. In a short time, he saw a diverse range of movies. He saw his first foreign film at Bath in 1955 – the Italian Bread, Love and Dreams. That was soon followed by Akira Kurosawa's Japanese classic Seven Samurai tracked down in Birmingham. At the age of 19, he founded the Melksham and District Film Society. David arrived in Australia in 1962, and soon became involved with the local film society movement. He directed the Sydney Film Festival from 1966 until 1983.
A highly regarded expert on international cinema, particularly French cinema, in 2001 he received the Australian Film Institute's Longford Life Achievement Award. Stratton was President of FIPRESCI (International Film Critics) Juries in Cannes (twice) and Venice. He was also a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1982.
Stratton worked for SBS from 1980, acting as their film consultant and introducing the SBS Cinema Classic and Movie of the Week for 24 weeks a year. From 1986 onwards Stratton co-hosted the long-running SBS TV program The Movie Show with Margaret Pomeranz. Stratton left SBS in 2004. From 2005 Stratton and Pomeranz have co-hosted the ABC film show, At the Movies.
He has cited on numerous occasions that his favorite film of all time is Singin' in the Rain.
On , Stratton was presented with France’s highest arts decoration: he was made a Commander in the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Literature), the highest rank for this award, for his services to cinema, in particular French cinema. On Friday 9 June 2006 David Stratton, was conferred with an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from The University of Sydney in recognition of his career, and his contribution to intellectual life at the university In 2007, he received the 60th Anniversary Medal by the Festival du Film de Cannes and The Chauvel Award by the Brisbane International Film Festival.
He currently writes reviews for The Australian newspaper and formerly did so for the US film industry magazine Variety. He lectures in film history at the University of Sydney. In 2008 he released his autobiography called I Peed on Fellini.
|publisher = William Heinemann Australia |isbn = 1-7416-6619-8}}