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162 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the debate begin!
This new book, by prominent movie critic Roger Ebert, is likely to ignite discussion and debate over his 100 selections. The debate shouldn't be over whether or not these are the 100 greatest movies ever, since the author establishes in the introduction that these are simply 100 great movies, and not necessarily what he considers the best. The debate, then, will likely be...
Published on May 19, 2002 by Christian Wheeler

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected pleasures and few surprises from this populist critic
I have a long history with Roger Ebert's criticism; growing up in the midwest in the era of "Star Wars", I remember Siskel and Ebert's "Sneak Previews" (later "At the Movies") as an early guide to the newly-discovered world of cinema. I remember eagerly tuning in every week, and often being disappointed that an interesting-sounding film wasn't going to show in the small...
Published on September 18, 2009 by Muzzlehatch


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162 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let the debate begin!, May 19, 2002
This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
This new book, by prominent movie critic Roger Ebert, is likely to ignite discussion and debate over his 100 selections. The debate shouldn't be over whether or not these are the 100 greatest movies ever, since the author establishes in the introduction that these are simply 100 great movies, and not necessarily what he considers the best. The debate, then, will likely be over why he considers some of the films to be great. Some of the choices will brook little argument: "Casablanca," "Citizen Kane," "Gone With the Wind," "Battleship Potemkin," "The Godfather," and many others profiled are often at or near the top of most "great movies" lists. Even some of the more "obscure" entries, such as "Woman in the Dunes" and "Gates of Heaven" are generally known to most film buffs and accepted by critics as fine filmmaking. Ebert's intent, it seems, is to make people aware of WHY "The Godfather" and other well-known films are so imbued into our consciousness, and to raise awareness of other, often forgotten classics. Terrence Malick's often overlooked "Days of Heaven" is just begging to be rediscovered, as is Fassbinder's haunting "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul," Powell's frightening "Peeping Tom," and Lang's wrenching "M." Ebert gives each film a two or three page review, explaining many things of interest, including casting problems (Orson Welles over Noel Coward in "The Third Man", for example), production difficulties, and sometimes, each film's immediate or long-term impact (such as how "It's A Wonderful Life" rose from obscurity to become a holiday classic, or the resurrection of "The Shawshank Redemption" on home video). In addition, there are discussions of symbolism, controversies, directorial styles and quirks, and much more. This is a very informative book, great for film buffs like me (who became more aware of some wonderful films) and for the casual moviegoer. The writing is engaging, witty, and never technical. Ebert's love for film is present on every page.
As I looked over the list, I realized that I had few arguments with Ebert's choices--virtually everything listed qualifies as a great movie. I did wonder why he chose some films from certain genres and not others. "Red River" is a great Western, but why not "Stagecoach," which invented the modern Western, or "The Searchers," which perfected it? What about the iconoclastic "Shane"? Silent films seemed to come up a bit short; one could ask why not Chaplin's "Modern Times," Griffith's controversial "Birth of a Nation," or one of the last great silents, Sjostrom's "The Wind," starring Lillian Gish? Certainly, "Modern Times" and "Birth of a Nation" have been profiled dozens of times over the years, but it would have been nice to see Ebert's opinion of them. Also, what about Richard Rush's brilliantly subversive "The Stunt Man," starring Peter O'Toole? "A Hard Day's Night," over "Yellow Submarine?" (Granted, his explanation about why "Night" was selected made prefect sense). And, it seems that some directors received more attention than others (Hitchcock, for example, though I am a fan). ONE David Lean? What about Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky? Chinese director Zhang Yimou? Preston Sturges' brilliant satire "Sullivan's Travels?" Welles in "Touch of Evil?"
But I'm quibbling. When a prominent critic like Ebert publishes a book like this, the end results can only be positive. For one, it will start debate and discussion among critics, film buffs, and casual fans, and second, it will raise awareness of great films so often forgotten by our society in the wake of the endless clones churned out by the modern Hollywood machine. I have made it my goal to see every film on the list (I had seen a number of them before it came out) and have managed to take in five of them just in the past two weeks, with another two or three on the way. (Home video is great!!). But, sadly, I have been unable to locate a few of the more obscure ones, especially the foreign classics. Video stores have ten or twenty copies of the latest release (forgotten in a year, if not sooner), but almost no classics and virtually no foreign films. (A hint: If you have access to a large university or public library, try there). This is not only a profile of good films, but also a look into the times, places, cultures, and individuals that produced them. Excellent work.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What makes a movie great?, April 20, 2002
By 
"weirdo_87" (Rancho Cucamonga, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
As I was reading some of Roger Ebert's essays in this book, a thought occurred to me: All the movies in this book could have been failures for one reason or another. "Apocalypse Now" was very costly and troubled and could have been easily ruined. "2001" might have been too different for audiences to handle. "Psycho" might have been too much for them to stomach. And some of these movies in the book were not as renowned upon their original release and seemed doomed for obscurity. And so on. Yet, after years of research and analyze by critics, all of these are now acclaimed films.
The reason is not due to a memorable scene or a witty catchphrase (Which all the above-mentioned films have). It is because of the passion involved in making them. Many of the people working on these movies became so involved in them that they would die just to finish the film, and would drive others mad in the process. Many of them were also willing to try something new or not give in to peer pressure or criticism. And some, like the late Billy Wilder, said they only made films that they wanted to see. The involvement in the film extends beyond the director and into the actors. The actors have fun with their roles, trying out new techniques and becoming so involved with the character that they become him. Let's take for example a catchphrase, such as "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse". The line has entered largely into our lives so much that we take it for granted. Yet I am still moved whenever I hear it said by Marlon Brando. Yet, had it not been for the correct timing, tone of voice, rate of speech and pronunciation (All due to acting and direction), it could have been easily wasted.
Ebert never really states this in his book, but he seems to be making that point across just by glancing at any review. He shows that same involvement in his writing. Some critics when they write reviews only outline the film's plot and say things like "Good acting" or "Great music" and that's it. Many also have that star rating system. Ebert does away with that ridiculous system, thus leaving the films open to balanced reviews, and tells about more than the events. In some of his reviews, he points out about a certain method an actor is using on screen or about how this scene is lit or filmed or what the director is doing to us in here or how sound and music are used. It may seem like overkill, but it sure shows that he was really paying attention.
The Great Movies does have two problems though, both of which have ups and downs.
1. Naturally, one would have disagreement with the selections. Ebert not only makes predictable and defined choices (Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather) but also unexpected ones (Gates of Heaven, Night of the Hunter, My Life to Live). I must also say that I hadn't heard of many of these movies before getting this book. However, this also shows how more balanced the list is than say the AFI's Top 100 (Though I would have included films like "Touch of Evil" or "King Kong"). As explained above, the fact Ebert writes with enthusiasm would make people want to see them more.
2. The reviews are very well written and accessible to the public and are arguably the best of Ebert's career. But they are not brand new. In fact, they can be obtained free off the Internet at the Ebert Page of the Chicago Time website, along with dozens of other reviews for the "Great Movies" series. Many of them have been available in this capacity for years. Certainly, Ebert could have written at least some reviews exclusive to the book to compensate for this. However, one must admit that it's easier to bring a book to the video store to look for movies than to haul your computer or laptop. Ebert also somewhat makes up for this by having a film still from each movie in his essays. There are also two introductions: One by Mr. Ebert and the other by Mary Corliss (Operator of the Film Stills Archive of the Department of Film and Media at the Museum of Modern Art in New York).
Overall, with its wide variety of film genres, balance of contemporary and vintage films and the well written and easy to read reviews, this is a very good book. ...
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Intro to 100 Great Movies -- Something New for All, March 18, 2002
By 
Dan Sherman (Alexandria, VA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
Any sort of list of "great" movies (or anything else for that matter) is surely going to raise questions of what is included or what is excluded. This is an excellent book, and my guess is that most readers who like movies (and not just what has played in the past five years or so) are going to find many of their favorites here, along with some movies that they have never seen or perhaps even heard of. Ebert is an excellent writer, and with a 3-4 page discussion for each movie, he concisely sketches the plot of each film and really tries to identify what makes the movie worth watching -- the script, the performances, the look of the film, etc. His chapters (really short essays about individual films) are much more than "book reports" and really bring out what there is to love about these films. For me, reading this book was like getting reaquainted with some old friends and getting to know some new ones. This is a nice book that can be happily dipped into many times -- the only complaint about the book is that it is too short, both in terms of the length of writeups and the number of films it covers. I suspect Ebert could write another book to describe what is worthwhile about 100 other films (great of near great)-- Let's hope he does!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expected pleasures and few surprises from this populist critic, September 18, 2009
By 
Muzzlehatch (the walls of Gormenghast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Movies (Paperback)
I have a long history with Roger Ebert's criticism; growing up in the midwest in the era of "Star Wars", I remember Siskel and Ebert's "Sneak Previews" (later "At the Movies") as an early guide to the newly-discovered world of cinema. I remember eagerly tuning in every week, and often being disappointed that an interesting-sounding film wasn't going to show in the small town I lived in. Later, when I moved to Chicago to go to school, I discovered that the town was a treasure-trove for movie criticism, with not just Siskel and Ebert but also Dave Kehr and later Jonathan Rosenbaum among many others. Eventually Ebert, who I generally liked more than Siskel, became less interesting to me and less a must-read as he concentrated less on the obscure and arthouse worlds and became a bigger celebrity. So my feelings about him have run through a wide range over the years...

...and this book is full of perfect examples of why that is. On the one hand, he communicates an enthusiasm that is hard to ignore, and his writing is always lucid and entertaining; on the other, he is sloppy and sometimes dead wrong in his facts or prone to ignoring pertinent information. I'd think most readers would be interested to know that Ozu's "Floating Weeds" is a remake of an earlier film BY THE SAME DIRECTOR, for example. And making a snide comment about the failed "futuristic city" in Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life" makes me wonder if he actually saw that film -- actually a vision of the afterlife. He could have picked a more accurate example for a throwaway line in his otherwise decent discussion of "Metropolis". His choices generally are very conservative, films that anyone with a smidgeon of knowledge of film will know -- though they're (nearly) all great films, it would have been nice to see him point his way towards directors and films that need the exposure more than "Singin' in the Rain", "Vertigo" and Frank Capra. Then again, he does push the "Up" documentaries and "Gates of Heaven".

In the end, you've got to take my review with a grain of salt - just as you should Ebert's, or any critic's. For those just starting off on their explorations of the wonderful worlds of film, this will be a much more valuable and intriguing work. Those who, like me, have stepped a good ways outside of the mostly safe waters that Ebert generally resides in will probably not be as enthralled by it.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An American legend and his best essays to date....., March 8, 2002
By 
This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
For once -- a collection of true film essays rather than "star reviews" or valueless blurbs. Ebert is, for my money, the best essayist inthe country, largely because he combines wit, intellect, and a clear understanding of film history. His imagination, especially in these essays, goes back into the past to discover, or rather, re-discover, the films that influenced our culture, current cinema, or even just Roger himself. These are great films -- musts for all buffs -- and they provide a starting point for debates about the greatest of all-time. As he no doubt intends, these films are not THE best, but rather a source of stimulation; a beginning of debate, which is all lists should do anyway.
My only complaint, however, has nothing to do with the writing or selection of films, but rather has everything to do with the necessity of buying this book. After all, all of these essays are available on his website, free of charge. While I would love to keep Mr. Ebert in comfort buy purchasing this manual, it simply doesn't make sense. I would have preferred that he write at least several (a dozen, perhaps?) new essays that are exclusive to this book.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! Bring On the Next 100!, September 3, 2002
By 
A. Wolverton (Crofton, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
It's a real pleasure (and a rare one) to see an individual that gets carried away in his work. You know after reading just a few pages of 'The Great Movies' that Roger Ebert is such a person.
Ebert examines what he believes to be not the BEST 100 films of all time, but simply 100 great films. There are certainly more than 100, and I hope Ebert will write about many, many more of them.
Read the book with an open mind. After reading Ebert's essays, I was persuaded to at least consider viewing some of the films that I never would have considered before.
I imagine that it was somewhat difficult for Ebert to limit himself to a 3-4 page essay per film. You can tell that he could have gone on and on with his comments and still not even scratched the surface of evidence explaining why the film is great. His expertise and enthusiam are obvious and compelling.
Of course, people will argue over why Ebert chose this film and not that one, but isn't that half the fun of such a book? I guarantee that if you set this book between any two film lovers and hang around long enough, you're going to experience some great film conversation. I suspect that's one of the reasons Ebert wrote the book - to get people talking/discussing/arguing about great movies. Thanks, Roger, and bring on the next 100.
511 pages
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for movie buffs, November 5, 2006
By 
This review is from: The Great Movies (Paperback)
Nobody writes about film the way Roger Ebert does. Ebert's writing about film, like his TV reviews, are always fun and entertaining, not pretentious and stuffy, like other film critics are. This book is compiled from Ebert's long-running bi-weekly column "The Great Movies", in which he examines what makes certain movies enduring. This isn't designed to be a "100 best of all time" list. It simply happens to be which movies Roger chose to write about at that particular time.
Roger takes a look at classic and popular movies such as "Star Wars", "Casablanca", and "Gone With The Wind". But he also examines lesser known movies such as "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" and the "Up" documentaries (such as "28 Up", and so on). Comedies, dramas ,thrillers ,foreign films, all genres are represented.
One can see all the joy and passion Ebert has for the cinema in these pages. In writing about Fellini, for example, (in his discussion of the film "8 1/2") Ebert writes about how some veiwers have a problem with Fellini's emphasis of images over ideas. He writes,"I celebrate it", meaning that film is a medium for images and that sometimes the most memorable images are not necessarily linked to one defined purpose.
The collection also includes anecdotes about how some movies were rediscovered and/or restored years later. The Marx Brothers' "Duck Soup" was a flop until young people in the sixties responded to its anti-authority themes. The original negative of Renoir's masterpiece "The Grand Illusion" was thought to be destroyed during WWII. A muddy copy existed for years.Roger recounts how the negative surfaced and was used for restoration during the 1990s. The underrated thriller "Peeping Tom" was dismissed when it was released in 1960. Years later, Martin Scorsese helped revive the film, and it received great acclaim. The film's director, Michael Powell met Scorsese's editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, and later married her.
All of this is examined in an enjoyably readable fashion. After finishing it, you may find youself wanting to revisit old favorite movies, or discovering ones you have not seen before, but will want to rent. I certainly did. This book is indispensable for any film buff.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than a journeyman. Who knew?, June 13, 2005
By 
Steve Schwartz (New Orleans, LA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Great Movies (Paperback)
I've been watching Roger Ebert on TV for years and occasionally read his column. I always thought he had his critical head screwed on straight (when it came to American movies in particular -- he's not seduced by the Literary or someone's notion of High Culture) even when I disagreed about this or that movie. However, I never thought of him as anything other than capable, before I read those two books. Ebert writes beautifully and, for me, re-awakens my experience of the movies he talks about. He clearly knows a lot about film vocabulary (far more than I do) and has read widely beyond his chosen field. These essays, one after another, have knocked me over. In the cases of movies I haven't seen, I now have GOT to see them.

I'm putting these next to my Bazins, Agee, and Kaels.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for film lovers, December 11, 2003
This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
First, I must admit that I'm not always Ebert's biggest fan. He tends to review films with an overly favorable eye. His year-end summary books always get me arguing with his points-of-view.
Therefore, I was completely surprised when, after receiving this book as a gift, I fell completely in love with this book. This book shows an author completely in love with the movies. Here's a man who just wants so badly to share his favorites with his readers. The reviews are beautifully written and completely engaging. Instead of arguing about his point-of-view, I was again reminded of what a great writer Ebert is.
While this book is written so that it can be picked and put back down as a reference, I found myself tearing through it in one sitting. I've referred back to it countless times. This goes up on the shelf with Pauline Kael's works.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Needs a sequel, March 20, 2002
By 
Eric Gomez (Sherman Oaks, California USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Great Movies (Hardcover)
If you love movies you have to get this book. And, I really recommend this book to all those people who think that movies started with Titanic. So many people out there today like movies but they watch all the wrong movies. Then there are those who love movies and can't stand what is out in the mutliplex right now. This book is for both because it showcases 100 great movies. I've seen about 65 of the movies in this book and I love each and every one of them. My two personal favorites are Citizen Kane and Ikiru. Back to the subject. The book is a love letter to great movies because it isn't written by someone who tries to find fault with everything, but rather someone who truly loves movies. In over 100 years there have been literally 1000s of movies made. The true masterpieces stand out because they are not only great, but because they were also made with love... love of story, love of the look and the love of storytelling. If you take anything from this book it should be that there are great movies out there that didn't cost $100 million to make, don't have a 1000 special effects per shot, and don't drive the narrative past you at the speed of light because they fear that you'll get bored. These are the great movies of our time, and we might debate which ones should, or shouldn't be on some arbitrary list made by a committee, but we can't debate that there is something special about each and every one of them. Movies today don't seem to have that love in them anymore. They're made by committees that are more interested in product tie-ins than storytelling. Go, get this book, rent the movies in it and get an education in the art of film... if you truly call yourself a film lover. Get away from the new releases aisle for once and look for movies that are the masterpieces of the artform. If your only used to watching movies like Armageddon or Titanic, or worse yet Pearl Harbor, then your probably not going to like these movies. Why? Because all you know is whoosh bang and not substance. Your film palette is burnt by the Big Mac movies you have consumed over the years. Yet, there is still hope for you. Get this book and get some taste. Get to know the movies that don't leave you as soon as you blink. Get to know movies that inspire you, entertain you, and linger inside your heart.
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The Great Movies
The Great Movies by Roger Ebert (Paperback - November 11, 2003)
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