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How to be a Film Critic

Brett Fletcher
The list author says: "While majoring in writing at the University of Texas at Austin, I took film classes as a hobby. They were fun, but never matched my own journey that led me to become a film critic. So I made a list of the books and films I learned the most from.

I've noticed if some people don't "get" a particular classic film, they avoid classics altogether. I'm trying to avoid that here by choosing more accessible films; like Touch of Evil instead of Citizen Kane. You can always watch the harder films later."
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
"This is a fabulous intro into classic movies. It covers silents, westerns, musicals, noirs and much more. It talks about how film evolved and the history behind landmark films. Though it only does American movies, you'll still have plenty of recommendations to rent. MUST VIEW for serious movie buffs. The journey stops around the 70s when Scorsese hit it big."
Making Movies
Making Movies
"Roger Ebert said this was the one book everyone should read about movies. I agree. It's a fascinating read about the technical process of film making. Easy to read and you get some neat stories from Sidney Lumet (Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Serpico). Much more engaging than film textbooks."
Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert
Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert
"This includes the reviews for every movie of the year Ebert chose since 1967-2005, special documentaries and overlooked masterpieces. That alone will teach you a lot. Add the interviews, profiles and special articles and you have one of the best books on film ever written."
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
"Pauline Kael was the Roger Ebert back in the 60s (Ebert was just starting then). This book covers her most controversial few years as a critic where she got fired for her Sound of Music review and panned Kubrick. She's opinionated as hell, but makes many good observations. She practically defines film criticism."
Film Art: An Introduction with Tutorial CD-ROM
Film Art: An Introduction with Tutorial CD-ROM
"If you want a real textbook that breaks down film making into complex terms, this one is good. It has a lot of illustrations and covers a wide array of films. The writing is a step above most textbooks as well. Note: the included DVD is pretty worthless."
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
"Skip Birth of a Nation for now, it can be frustrating for novice silent film viewers. Orphans is a better D.W. Griffith intro. There's no racism, the story is interesting and the cross-cutting is better. This is what got me (and a lot of others) into silent films."
City Lights: The Chaplin Collection (Two-Disc Special Edition)
City Lights: The Chaplin Collection (Two-Disc Special Edition)
"Slapstick has aged best of all silent films. Not my favorite Chaplin (Modern Times is) but superb in its own right. Contains probably the finest final scene ever filmed as well."
The Complete Metropolis [Blu-ray]
The Complete Metropolis [Blu-ray]
"Maybe my favorite silent film. Definitely a classic work that gave birth to the sci-fi genre we know and love today. Its story is convoluted, but the visuals and ideas are so great you won't care."
Battleship Potemkin [Blu-ray]
Battleship Potemkin [Blu-ray]
"This can be a chore for some, considering it's literally Soviet propaganda. But it's interesting and is important to understand in how the possibilities in film evolved. Lots of scholarly articles on this one."
Film Form: Essays in Film Theory
Film Form: Essays in Film Theory
"This is the guy that separates film experts from movie buffs. If you know about him and his theories, congrats! He can be quite boring sometimes and don't sweat it if you skip him. If you like him, look into his contemporaries for more film theory."
Nosferatu (The Ultimate Two-Disc Edition)
Nosferatu (The Ultimate Two-Disc Edition)
"The real start of horror films. Not really scary today, but it has an eerie creepiness to it and contains many important film techniques. An absolute classic everyone must see and a good F.W. Murnau intro."
Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 1 (The Public Enemy / White Heat / Angels with Dirty Faces / Little Caesar / The Petrified Forest / The Roaring Twenties)
Warner Gangsters Collection, Vol. 1 (The Public Enemy / White Heat / Angels with Dirty Faces / Little Caesar / The Petrified Forest / The Roaring Twenties)
"Little Caesar (1930) came first, but James Cagney defined the 30s gangster and gets the full treatment here. Also, Bogart's first film appearance is in The Petrified Forest. All good films; the set needs Scarface (1932) though."
Columbia Best Pictures Collection (11 Feature Films)
Columbia Best Pictures Collection (11 Feature Films)
"Sprinkle in a few classics: 1934 It Happened One Night 1938 You Can't Take It with You 1949 All the King's Men 1953 From Here to Eternity 1954 On the Waterfront 1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai 1962 Lawrence of Arabia 1966 A Man for All Seasons 1968 Oliver! 1979 Kramer vs. Kramer 1982 Gandhi"
All Quiet on the Western Front (Universal Cinema Classics)
All Quiet on the Western Front (Universal Cinema Classics)
"My pick for greatest war movie. It has everything: pre-war life, boot camp, rookies in combat, experienced troops, shell-shocked troops, love and post-war life. Truly magnificent."
Double Indemnity (Universal Legacy Series)
Double Indemnity (Universal Legacy Series)
"Once you hit noir, there's no going back. This is perhaps the best and most relevant noir to watch. Plus, it's an intro in director Billy Wilder--one of the greats."
TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Murder Mysteries (The Maltese Falcon / The Big Sleep / Dial M for Murder / The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946)
TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Murder Mysteries (The Maltese Falcon / The Big Sleep / Dial M for Murder / The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946)
"The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are the best private eye noir films. They defined Bogie and are landmarks. Great next steps for noir lovers. Will lead you to Bogie's expansive career including Casablanca, Treasure of Sierra Madre and many others."
Psycho (Collector's Edition)
Psycho (Collector's Edition)
"No better Hitchcock to start with. The man practically defined suspense and perfected many film techniques. From here, check out Vertigo, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Strangers on a Train and Notorious at least."
AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa (The Criterion Collection)
AK 100: 25 Films of Akira Kurosawa (The Criterion Collection)
"Maybe the greatest director that ever lived. Seven Samurai is easily one of the greatest films ever made. Add classics like Rashomon, Ran, Ikiru, Yojimbo, Red Beard and you get the idea. Without Kurosawa, we might not have westerns or Star Wars. For advanced viewers, check out Yasujiro Ozu."
Touch Of Evil (50th Anniversary Edition)
Touch Of Evil (50th Anniversary Edition)
"A lot of people start with Citizen Kane and don't get it. I recommend Touch of Evil. It's not as revolutionary, but funner and more accessible. Save Citizen Kane and maybe even The Third Man for when you know more."
La Strada (The Criterion Collection)
La Strada (The Criterion Collection)
"The most accessible Fellini. I still honestly don't "get" Fellini but am liking him more. Loving film is a journey: sometimes it takes multiple views or time to appreciate some things."
The 400 Blows (The Criterion Collection)
The 400 Blows (The Criterion Collection)
"I can't think of a better French film to start with. Essential to understanding the films influenced by it. Imagine if Charles Dickens directed a movie and you get the idea. Probably the Citizen Kane of French films."
Breathless (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Breathless (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
"Considered the film made tomorrow. Basically, it was so far ahead of it's time no one could believe it. Nowadays, it seems very Quentin Tarantino-ish. Good intro to French New Wave which would require many list to finish."
The Seventh Seal (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Seventh Seal (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
"Ingmar Bergman loved to ask the hard questions about love, life and God's silence. The Seventh Seal is Woody Allen's favorite movie and will, hopefully, make you watch ever Bergman film in existence. Very important director."
A Streetcar Named Desire (Original Director's Version)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Original Director's Version)
""The Hays Code" censored films for a long time to make them "morally acceptable." Streetcar was the first real rebellion against the code for more freedom in discussing sex and violence. Not to mention Brando and Leigh's masterclass acting showcase."
Bonnie and Clyde (Blu-ray Book Packaging)
Bonnie and Clyde (Blu-ray Book Packaging)
"Bonnie and Clyde was the nail in the coffin of The Hays Code though. It marked a new era of freedom in Hollywood, which led to many masterpieces. One of the most important American films ever made."
Stanley Kubrick Collection (Lolita / Dr. Strangelove / 2001: A Space Odyssey / A Clockwork Orange / Barry Lyndon / The Shining  / Full Metal Jacket)
Stanley Kubrick Collection (Lolita / Dr. Strangelove / 2001: A Space Odyssey / A Clockwork Orange / Barry Lyndon / The Shining / Full Metal Jacket)
"Every Kubrick movie is a masterpiece. Anyone who tells you different, just doesn't get it yet. Every film is different and employs different techniques. May take multiple viewings or research to understand. But oh so worth it."
Mean Streets (Special Edition)
Mean Streets (Special Edition)
"Not many have seen Scorsese's first real film (Who's That Knocking was a student film). It employs a lot of regular Scorsese themes. If you watch his movies in order, you'll see him experiment and perfect cinema. Truly one of the greats."
The Searchers [Blu-ray]
The Searchers [Blu-ray]
"Considered the greatest Western ever made and John Wayne's favorite role. I think certain side stories slow things down, but the main plot is unmissable. Contains some of the most beautiful cinematography ever. Good intro into John Wayne and director John Ford. See also The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence."
The Wild Bunch [Blu-ray]
The Wild Bunch [Blu-ray]
"No director ever captured violence and outlaws like Sam Peckinpah. He had a sixth sense about how to make viewers feel the action and employs interesting themes about children, honor and friendship in this one. Peckinpah was a true cinematic rebel."
Hoop Dreams (The Criterion Collection)
Hoop Dreams (The Criterion Collection)
"Probably the finest documentary ever made. Proves documentaries can stand toe-to-toe with fiction films. There are lots of great docs out there, I just don't have room to list them here."