Boetticher attended Culver Military Academy and Ohio State University.
Boetticher received an offer to work at Columbia Pictures at the position of an assistant director on The More the Merrier (1943). The studio liked his work, so that he stayed to assist on Submarine Raider (1942), The Desperadoes (1943) and other films.
Boetticher's first credited film as director was a Boston Blackie film One Mysterious Night (1944).
After Columbia Pictures Boetticher was commissioned as an Ensign in the Photographic Science Laboratory of the US Navy. He made documentaries and service films including The Fleet That Came To Stay (1946), and Well Done.
Boetticher left Columbia and started his work as a film director at Monogram Pictures. There he directed Roddy McDowall in Black Midnight (1949) and Killer Shark (1950). In between he made The Wolf Hunters (1949). He began directing for television with Magnavox Theatre - a production of The Three Musketeers that was released theatrically in some markets as The Blade of the Musketeers.
His first bullfighting film, The Bullfighter and the Lady, nor his films up to 1953 suggested that he was more or less than a competent director of adventure films, an excellent storyteller with a very simple style.
Boetticher signed a contract to direct for Universal Pictures where he specialised in Westerns. His films there included The Cimarron Kid (1952) with Audie Murphy; Bronco Buster (1952); Red Ball Express (1952), a World War Two film; Horizons West (1952) with Robert Ryan; City Beneath the Sea (1953), a treasure hunting film; Seminole (1953), a Western with Rock Hudson; The Man from the Alamo (1953) with Glenn Ford; Wings of the Hawk (1953) with Van Heflin; and East of Sumatra(1953) with Chandler and Quinn.
In 1955, he helmed another bullfighting drama, The Magnificent Matador, at 20th Century-Fox. The Magnificent Matador was a failure, but it showed that Boetticher was intent on greater significance.
The Killer Is Loose was his first important modern-dress film, a very tense thriller about a psychotic, played by Wendell Corey, threatening the staked-out Rhonda Fleming.
Boetticher finally achieved his major breakthrough when he teamed up with actor Randolph Scott, and screenwriter Burt Kennedy to make Seven Men from Now (1956). It was the first of the seven films (last in 1960) that came to be known as the Ranown Cycle. After Seven Men From Now, they were joined by producer Harry Joe Brown for a remarkable series of Westerns, all made cheaply and quickly in desert or barren locations. They have a consistent and bleak preoccupation with life and death, sun and shade, and encompass treachery cruelty, courage, and bluff with barely a trace of sentimentality or portentousness. The series added the austere image of a veteran Randolph Scott to the essential iconography of the Western and proved that Boetticher was a masterly observer of primitive man. His style remained without any flourish or easy touch and the series brought him some critical attention.
Two films at least—The Tall T and Ride Lonesome—must be in contention for the most impressive and least handicapped films ever made.
In 1960, Boetticher added a fine gangster film to his oeuvre, The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond, which only proved the range of his talent. He then returned to Mexico and labored eight years over Arruza, his third bullfighting film. But probably he is better tested by an eight-day schedule, compelled into vigorous, long action setups.
Boetticher returned to Hollywood with the rarely seen A Time for Dying, a collaboration with Audie Murphy shot in 1969 and released in 1982. He provided the story for Don Siegel's Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), and saw Arruza released in 1971.
After a long absence, he appeared very nicely as a rich oilman in Tequila Sunrise (88, Robert Towne).
“At Universal I never had one day off, except Sundays, during my two-year stint there. My forty week a year contract turned into fifty-two weeks a year. I think nine major films is some sort of a record. Universal was not a director’s studio, and I got out of there as soon as I could. My films were very well received, but the studio executives weren’t particularly happy with my desire to make each picture better than it should be. I would finish one show on Tuesday; begin a new one the following Friday. They considered my ambition a waste of time and money. Now that was my first real learning experience."
“The most memorable compliment of my ‘rediscovery’ was the twenty picture retrospective of fifteen weeks of my films in Lisbon, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris. Mary and I gutted out six of those fifteen weeks, then hurried for home. We had both gotten pretty sick of Budd Boetticher.”
Boetticher married Mary Chelde in 1972.