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The Titans of Cinema Critique: Top 5 Film Critics of All Time

Cinema, an art form cherished by millions, has been profoundly influenced by the discerning eyes of film critics. These individuals, through their reviews, analyses, and writings, have shaped public perception, influenced filmmakers, and contributed to the cultural dialogue surrounding movies. Here, we explore five of the most influential film critics of all time, whose legacies continue to impact the world of cinema.

1. Roger Ebert

Background: An American film critic, journalist, and screenwriter, Roger Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. His reviews were syndicated to over 200 newspapers in the United States and around the world.

Key Contributions:

Pulitzer Prize: Ebert won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1975.

"Two Thumbs Up": Co-created the popular television show "Siskel & Ebert & the Movies," where he popularized the phrase "Two Thumbs Up."

Impactful Reviews: Ebert's reviews were known for their accessibility and emotional depth, making them relatable to a broad audience.


Ebert's website,, remains a significant resource for film enthusiasts.

He authored several books, including "Life Itself: A Memoir," which was adapted into a documentary.

Statistics: Over his career, Ebert reviewed more than 10,000 films and wrote 17 books on film.

2. Pauline Kael

Background: Pauline Kael was an American film critic known for her work with The New Yorker magazine. She was one of the most influential American film critics from the late 1960s to the early 1990s.

Key Contributions:

The New Yorker: Kael's tenure at The New Yorker spanned from 1968 to 1991.

Distinctive Voice: Her reviews were known for their wit, sharp insights, and unorthodox opinions.

Influence on Filmmakers: Kael's reviews were so influential that they often impacted the careers of filmmakers. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson cite her as a significant influence.


Kael's collected reviews are published in several volumes, such as "I Lost It at the Movies" and "Deeper into Movies," the latter winning the U.S. National Book Award in the Arts and Letters category.

Statistics: Kael wrote over 1,000 movie reviews during her career and influenced a generation of film critics and filmmakers.

3. James Agee

Background: James Agee was an American novelist, screenwriter, journalist, poet, and film critic. His work as a film critic was primarily featured in Time and The Nation during the 1940s.

Key Contributions:

Literary Quality: Agee's reviews were noted for their literary excellence and deep analysis, bridging the gap between journalism and art.

Influential Writings: His book "Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies" remains a cornerstone of film criticism literature.


Agee's critical essays have been collected posthumously, highlighting his contribution to film criticism and literature.

His screenplay work, including "The Night of the Hunter," showcases his versatility and impact on cinema.

Statistics: Although his career as a critic was relatively short, Agee's influence remains profound, with his collected film criticism still widely read and respected.

4. André Bazin:

Background: A French film critic and film theorist, André Bazin co-founded the influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma. He is best known for his theories on realism in cinema.

Key Contributions:

Cahiers du cinéma: Through this magazine, Bazin nurtured a new generation of French filmmakers who would become central figures in the French New Wave, such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

Theoretical Work: Bazin's works, including "What Is Cinema?," are fundamental texts in film studies, emphasizing the importance of realism and the long take.


Bazin's theories continue to be a foundational part of film studies curricula worldwide.

His influence on the French New Wave cemented his legacy as a crucial figure in the history of cinema.

Statistics: Bazin wrote over 2,500 articles and reviews, and his theoretical writings are still widely referenced in academic and critical discussions about film.

5. Manny Farber

Background: An American painter and film critic, Manny Farber's critiques appeared in publications like The New Republic, Time, and The Nation. He is renowned for his concept of "termite art."

Key Contributions:

Termite Art vs. White Elephant Art: Farber's essay "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art" is seminal, praising the small, detailed, and unpretentious aspects of filmmaking.

Cinematic Insights: His reviews often focused on underappreciated films and directors, bringing attention to the art of the unnoticed.


- Farber's unique perspective and artistic background provided a distinctive voice in film criticism, influencing both critics and filmmakers.

- His essays are collected in books like "Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies."

Statistics: Farber wrote extensively from the 1940s to the 1980s, leaving behind a body of work that continues to be studied and admired.

Recommended Reading:

For those looking to delve deeper into the world of film criticism, the following books are essential:

1. "Life Itself: A Memoir" by Roger Ebert - A personal and poignant account of Ebert's life and career.

2. "I Lost It at the Movies" by Pauline Kael - A collection of some of Kael's most influential reviews.

3. "Agee on Film: Criticism and Comment on the Movies" by James Agee - A comprehensive anthology of Agee's film criticism.

4. "What Is Cinema?" by André Bazin - A foundational text in film theory and criticism.

5. "Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies" by Manny Farber - A collection of Farber's essays that showcase his unique approach to film criticism.

These critics have not only critiqued films but have also shaped the art form itself, making their works indispensable for anyone serious about understanding cinema.


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