Entertainment Weekly

Stay Connected

Subscribe

Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content
Oscars 2017
The Latest News and Insider UpdatesDon't Miss

Article

Roger Ebert's Favorite Movies

Posted on

Bonnie and Clyde, 1967
Director: Arthur Penn
Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway
Why Ebert Loved It: ”A milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance. It is also pitilessly cruel, filled with sympathy, nauseating, funny, heartbreaking, and astonishingly beautiful.”

The Battle of Algiers, 1968
Director: Gillo Pontecorvo
Cast: Brahim Hadjadj, Jean Martin
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It may be a deeper film experience than many audiences can withstand: too cynical, too true, too cruel and too heartbreaking.”

Z, 1969
Director: Costa-Gavras
Cast: Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintignant
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It is no more about Greece than The Battle of Algiers was about Algeria. It is a film of our time. It is about how even moral victories are corrupted. It will make you weep and will make you angry. It will tear your guts out.”

Five Easy Pieces, 1970
Director: Bob Rafelson
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black
Why Ebert Loved It: ”The movie is joyously alive to the road life of its hero. We follow him through bars and bowling alleys, motels and mobile homes, and we find him rebelling against lower-middle-class values even as he embraces them.”

The Last Picture Show, 1971
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges
Why Ebert Loved It:The Last Picture Show has been described as an evocation of the classic Hollywood narrative film. It is more than that; it is a belated entry in that age — the best film of 1951, you might say.”

The Godfather, 1972
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It is significant that the first shot is inside a dark, shuttered room. The story views the Mafia from the inside. That is its secret, its charm, its spell.”

Cries and Whispers, 1973
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Envelops us in a red membrane of passion and fear. We slip lower in our seats, feeling claustrophobia and sexual disquiet, realizing that we have been surrounded by the vision of a filmmaker who has absolute mastery of his art.”

Scenes From a Marriage, 1974
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Cast: Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson
Why Ebert Loved It: ”In this almost heartbreaking masterpiece, Bergman has dealt with his fear that all men are, indeed, islands. The film took him four months to make, he has said, but a lifetime to experience.”

Nashville, 1975
Director: Robert Altman
Cast: Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin
Why Ebert Loved It: ”The most complete expression yet of not only the genius but also the humanity of Altman, who sees people with his camera in such a way as to enlarge our own experience. Sure, it’s only a movie. But after I saw it I felt more alive…”

Small Change, 1976
Director: François Truffaut
Cast: Jean-François Stévenin, Virginie Thévent
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Truffaut recreates childhood, and yet he sees it objectively, too: He remembers not only the funny moments but the painful ones.”

3 Women, 1977
Director: Robert Altman
Cast: Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek
Why Ebert Loved It: ”To act in a story like this must be a great deal more difficult than performing straightforward narrative, but Spacek and Duvall go through their changes so well that it’s eerie, and unforgettable. So is the film.”

An Unmarried Woman, 1978
Director: Paul Mazursky
Cast: Jill Clayburgh, Alan Bates
Why Ebert Loved It: ”We have to believe at every moment that life itself is being considered here. But the movie has to be funny, too. I’ve been reviewing movies without ever feeling the need to use dumb lines like ‘You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.’ But I did cry, and I did laugh.”

Apocalypse Now, 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Years and years from now, when Coppola’s budget and his problems have long been forgotten, Apocalypse Now will still stand, I think, as a grand and grave and insanely inspired gesture of filmmaking.”

The Black Stallion, 1980
Director: Carroll Ballard
Cast: Kelly Reno, Mickey Rooney
Why Ebert Loved It: ”The first hour of this movie belongs among the great filmgoing experiences. It is described as an epic, and earns the description.”

My Dinner With Andre, 1981
Director: Louis Malle
Cast: Andre Gregory, Wallace Shawn
Why Ebert Loved It: ”We find ourselves visualizing what Gregory describes, until this film is as filled with visual images as a radio play — more filled, perhaps, than a conventional feature film.”

Sophie’s Choice, 1982
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Cast: Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline
Why Ebert Loved It: ”There is hardly an emotion that Streep doesn’t touch in this movie, and yet we’re never aware of her straining. This is one of the most astonishing and yet one of the most unaffected and natural performances I can imagine.”

The Right Stuff, 1983
Director: Philip Kaufman
Cast: Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn
Why Ebert Loved It:The Right Stuff joins a short list of recent American movies that have an ambitious reach through time and subject matter, that spend freely for locations or special effects, but that consider each scene as intently as an art film.”

Amadeus, 1984
Director: Milos Forman
Cast: Tom Hulce, F. Murray Abraham
Why Ebert Loved It: ”This movie is nothing like the dreary educational portraits we’re used to seeing about the Great Composers. This is Mozart as an eighteenth-century Bruce Springsteen, and yet (here is the genius of the movie) there is nothing cheap or unworthy about the approach.”

The Color Purple, 1985
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey
Why Ebert Loved It: ”A great, warm, hard, unforgiving, triumphant movie, and there is not a scene that does not shine with the love of the people who made it.”

Platoon, 1986
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Here is a movie that regards combat from ground level, from the infantryman’s point of view, and it does not make war look like fun.”

House of Games, 1987
Director: David Mamet
Cast: Lindsay Crouse, Joe Mantegna
Why Ebert Loved It: ”I have seen so many films that were sleepwalking through the debris of old plots and second-hand ideas that it was a constant pleasure to watch House of Games.”

Mississippi Burning, 1988
Director: Alan Parker
Cast: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe
Why Ebert Loved It: ”This is the best American crime movie in years — it is an important statement about a time and a condition that should not be forgotten.”

Do the Right Thing, 1989
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Danny Aiello, Rosie Perez
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It comes closer to reflecting the current state of race relations in America than any other movie of our time.”

GoodFellas, 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Most films, even great ones, evaporate like mist once you’ve returned to the real world; they leave memories behind, but their reality fades fairly quickly. Not this film, which shows America’s finest filmmaker at the peak of his form.”

JFK, 1991
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman
Why Ebert Loved It: ”The facts, such as they are, will continue to be elusive and debatable. JFK is a brilliant reflection of our unease and paranoia, our restless dissatisfaction. On that level, it is completely factual.”

Malcolm X, 1992
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Lee is not interested in congratulating the black people in his audience, or condemning the white ones. He puts human beings on the screen, and asks his audience to walk a little while in their shoes.”

Schindler’s List, 1993
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Why Ebert Loved It: ”The movie is 184 minutes long, and like all great movies, it seems too short.”

Hoop Dreams, 1994
Director: Steve James
Cast: William Gates, Arthur Agee
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.”

Leaving Las Vegas, 1995
Director: Mike Figgis
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue
Why Ebert Loved It: ”If there are two unplayable roles in the stock repertory, they are the drunk and the whore with a heart of gold. Cage and Shue make these clichés into unforgettable people.”

Fargo, 1996
Director: Joel Coen
Cast: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It rotates its story through satire, comedy, suspense and violence, until it emerges as one of the best films I’ve ever seen.”

Eve’s Bayou, 1997
Director: Kasi Lemmons
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Jurnee Smollett
Why Ebert Loved It: ”If it is not nominated for Academy Awards, then the Academy is not paying attention. For the viewer, it is a reminder that sometimes films can venture into the realms of poetry and dreams.”

Dark City, 1998
Director: Alex Proyas
Cast: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland
Why Ebert Loved It: ”A great visionary achievement, a film so original and exciting, it stirred my imagination like Metropolis and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Being John Malkovich, 1999
Director: Spike Jonze
Cast: John Cusack, Catherine Keener
Why Ebert Loved It: ”So endlessly inventive that I started grinning at the way it kept devising new ways to surprise me. Most movies top-load their bright ideas in the first half hour; this feature is a continuing cascade.”

Almost Famous, 2000
Director: Cameron Crowe
Cast: Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Oh, what a lovely film. I was almost hugging myself while I watched it.”

Monster’s Ball, 2001
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry
Why Ebert Loved It: ”What a shock to find these characters freed from the conventions of political correctness, and allowed to be who they are: weak, flawed, needful, with good hearts tested by lifetimes of compromise.”

Minority Report, 2002
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell
Why Ebert Loved It: ”The movie turns out to be eerily prescient, using the term ‘pre-crime’ to describe stopping crimes before they happen; how could Spielberg have known the government would be using the same term this summer?”

Monster, 2003
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci
Why Ebert Loved It: ”What Charlize Theron achieves isn’t a performance but an embodiment. This is one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema.”

Million Dollar Baby, 2004
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman
Why Ebert Loved It: ”How deep it goes, what emotional power it contains, I cannot suggest in this review, because I will not spoil the experience of following this story into the deepest secrets of life and death.”

Crash, 2005
Director: Paul Haggis
Cast: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Not many films have the possibility of making their viewers better people; anyone seeing Crash is likely to leave with a little more sympathy for people not like themselves.”

Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ariadna Gil, Sergi López
Why Ebert Loved It: ”One of the greatest of all fantasy films, even though it is anchored so firmly in the reality of war.”

Juno, 2007
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It begins with the pacing of a screwball comedy and ends as a portrait of characters we have come to love. The film has no wrong scenes and no extra scenes, and flows like running water.”

Synecdoche, New York, 2008
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It is what goes on every day of our lives, made visual by the inspired set design, rooms on top of rooms…with the protagonist trying to satisfy, or direct, or obey or evade, or learn from, or receive solace from, the people in all of the rooms.”

The Hurt Locker, 2009
Director: Kathryn Bigelow / Bigelow is one of three female directors represented here
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Bigelow builds with classical tools. She evokes suspense, dread, identification. The film is a triumph of theme and execution, and very nearly flawless.”

*Ebert listed his choices in these years alphabetically, but Synecdoche, New York and The Hurt Locker claimed the top two spots on his Best of the Decade lineup.*

The Social Network, 2010
Director: David Fincher
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Has the rare quality of being not only as smart as its brilliant hero, but in the same way. It is cocksure, impatient, cold, exciting and instinctively perceptive.”

A Separation, 2011
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami
Why Ebert Loved It: ”It is specifically Iranian, but I believe the more specific a film is about human experience, the more universal it is.”

Argo, 2012
Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston
Why Ebert Loved It: ”Who in their right mind would believe a space opera was being filmed in Iran during the hostage crisis? Just about everyone, it turns out. Hooray for Hollywood.”

Comments