Remembering Roger Ebert: The Critic’s 15 Most Memorable Reviews
Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert passed away on April 4, 2013 following his 11-year battle with cancer. We remember him through his best reviews.
Sad news today, Bettys: Roger Ebert, who might just be the greatest American film critic who has ever lived, passed away yesterday following an 11-year battle with cancer. He was 70 years old.
Born in Urbana, Illinois on June 18, 1942, Ebert began his writing career in his boyhood, writing letters of comic to science fiction fanzines. While he was a student at Urbana High School, he was a sports writer for The News-Gazette in Champaign, Illinois, and he received his undergraduate degree in 1964 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Following his graduation, he wore many hats: He spent a semester as a graduate student in Illinois English department; he studied in South Africa at the University of Cape Town on a Rotary fellowship; he worked towards a PhD at the University of Chicago; and while he was a doctoral candidate, he took on a job as a reporter and feature writer at the Chicago Sun-Times. After the Sun-Times’ movie critic, Eleanor Keane, left the paper in 1967, editor Robert Zonk gave the job to Ebert; so Ebert left the University of Chicago, and the rest, as they say, is history.
He remained the Sun-Times’ movie critic for 46 years, from the moment he landed the job until his death yesterday—even throughout his battle with cancer, which began in 2002. Even after he lost his jaw in 1006 due to complications from one of his many surgeries, leaving him unable to speak or eat, he kept writing. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
Ebert was the one film critic whose reviews I actually enjoyed reading. Like many, I usually take film reviews with a grain of salt (and often a very large one); but Ebert had the sort of critical eye that few possess, and his reviews weren’t loaded with film school jargon or the sort of “those who can’t do, write” bitterness that characterizes many critics. He wrote fluidly and intelligently, examining films as much from the point of view of his experience watching them as from the merits (or, as the case may be, failings) of their filmmaking. Consequently, even if I disagreed with him, I could always see where he was coming from and why we viewed the same movie differently. This, in fact, was one of Ebert’s best qualities as a critic: He acknowledged that the same movie will always play differently for each audience member that watches it.
That said, though, he was usually spot on. So in honor of Roger Ebert’s extraordinary life, here are 15 of his most memorable reviews. The films range from the amazingly good to the astonishingly bad, but what he had to say about them was always worth reading.