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10 Great Movies That Roger Ebert Hated

18 February 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Casey Coit

movies Roger Ebert hated

Roger Ebert was one of the greatest American film critics of all time. His reviews kept the movie-going public informed for years. His reviews were insightful, intelligent and funny (for evidence of this last one, see his review of “Deuce Bigalow European Gigolo”). Even after he lost his ability to talk, his love of film persisted and he continued to enlighten the public.

Nevertheless, Ebert was not a machine. He was a man with his own subjectivity and on occasion, his opinions and perspective did not match the audience’s. This list attempts to illustrate this fact by providing ten films that Ebert gave negative reviews to (meaning below three stars). This list attempts to illuminate certain aspects of the film that Ebert perhaps misinterpreted or missed altogether.

 

1. Straw Dogs (1971, Sam Peckinpah)

Ebert’s Rating: 2 Stars

Straw Dogs

Ebert seems to have problems with stories of violence that demystify ideas of masculinity. That being said, one does not go into a Sam Peckinpah film expecting to see a romantic story. His films are filled with blood and brutality that force the viewer to question the true nature of violence and machismo.

“Straw Dogs” represents the finest example of this. Ebert claimed that it was a step back from Peckinpah’s 1969 masterpiece “The Wild Bunch”. He claimed “Peckinpah’s theories about violence seem to have regressed to a sort of 19th century Kipling machismo …

The most offensive thing about the movie is its hypocrisy; it is totally committed to the pornography of violence, but lays on the moral outrage with a shovel.” The film, however, ultimately represents a controversial reflection on manhood and the political upheaval occurring during the 1970s.

The story concerns David, a mathematician played by Dustin Hoffman and his young wife Ann (Susan George), who retreat to a small English town in order to escape being drafted in the Vietnam War as well as the social and political turmoil going on in the US.

The conflict arises when the local men of the town begin to taunt and inevitably harm the couple. David is ridiculed for his peevishness and cowardly manner. His disposition is juxtaposed with the other men and one sees how macho stereotypes are subverted.

The other men are drunk, slovenly, and vulgar individuals, yet they are considered true men, while David is a kind, smart intellectual and is mocked for being so. Things change when the men rape David’s wife and begin to escalate their aggression.

The film ends in a bloody battle with David defending his house from the men. He sees what it means to be a “man” in the townspeople’s eyes, and that involves him becoming some type of animal. The viewer ponders the nature of manliness and its consequences. What kind of ideal is manliness if it leads to gratuitous violence?

This was on the minds of many as the Vietnam War was in full swing. The film also shows how the violence of the 60s and 70s was all-encompassing. David and Ann try to escape it, yet are enveloped in it.

What Ebert missed was how the film’s character development related to these socio-political changes. He failed to see how the film used violence to show the dangers of the macho stereotype. “Straw Dogs” represents Peckinpah presenting pro-active questions that Ebert seemingly did not consider.

 

2. An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis)

Ebert’s Rating: 2 Stars

An American Werewolf in London

This classic monster movie was one of the first modern horror films to blend dark comedy with scares. It would be followed by classics like “The Evil Dead” and its sequel. The film captures the perfect middle ground between these two genres and the result is one that leaves the viewer engaged throughout.

Time after time, the film subverts the viewers’ expectations and leaves one anticipating whether the next scene will make them jump or laugh. This was also most people’s first encounter with makeup master Rick Baker. The film follows a pair of American tourists (David Naughton and Griffin Dunne) in England. One night they are attacked by a mysterious beast, killing one and (you guessed it) turning the other into a werewolf.

Ebert claimed that this combination failed to blend successfully. He also claimed the film lacked character development. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The main character, David, after becoming a werewolf, goes through a major crisis over whether to keep living. He changes in his outlook on humanity and friendship and he sees the value of human life. He is a complex character.

 

3. Fight Club (1999, David Fincher)

Ebert’s Rating: 2 Stars

fight-club

It’s hard to fault Ebert for this one. “Fight Club” was such a polarizing film when it was first released. Yet, it’s difficult to see why Ebert disliked it. From his response it seems as if he found it pertinacious. The film follows an unnamed protagonist, a catalogue-flipping office drone, as he meets Tyler Durden, a mysterious stranger who shows him how he has strayed from the real world. He does this through the act of fighting.

Through fighting, he learns how to actually feel again. This escalates as he gains followers, leading to more anarchistic activities. He stated, “the message in ‘Fight Club’ is like bleeding scraps of Socially Redeeming Content thrown to the howling mob … It’s a thrill ride masquerading itself as philosophy.” This seems to be a little harsh. Granted, “Fight Club” is somewhat flawed and even a bit pretentious.

Take Durden’s overwritten monologues and the way it sometimes can be didactic as it sledgehammers its message to the audience (“the things you own, own you”). But look at it another way. Does it matter? Here I embody the cynicism of a Gen-Xers shown in the film. The movie’s message is strong enough to overcome its didacticism. This is illustrated in the fact that the film is so pertinent a decade and a half later.

Furthermore, look at the equally quotable film “Network”. “Fight Club” is similar to it in many respects. They are both satires. They are both overwritten to some degree (Siskel and Ebert both agreed upon this). They both test the limits of their subjects. “Network” tests the limits of television and greed in its industry.

Similarly, in “Fight Club”, the protagonist tests his own humanity and values of society concerning materialism and multinational corporate greed. Yet it seems that Ebert felt that “Fight Club” strayed away from its central message and got lost in a macho bloodbath.

 

4. Harold and Maude (1971, Hal Ashby)

Ebert’s rating: 1.5 Stars

harold-and-maude-1971

It’s almost impossible to think of the 70s without images of Hal Ashby’s films coming to mind. Films such as “The Last Detail”, ”Shampoo”, ”Bound For Glory”, “Coming Home”, and ”Being There”. But his under the radar cult classic “Harold and Maude” seems to grow in popularity each year.

One can clearly see its influences on the films of Wes Anderson, Diablo Cody, and Charlie Kaufman. Yet, upon its release, Roger Ebert dismissed it. He criticized Bud Cort’s acting and the trajectory of the film. The film follows a depressed, death-obsessed young man named Harold (Cort) whose life changes drastically when he meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), who teaches him to live life to the fullest.

The film combines cynicism with genuine heart, surreal situations with fully realized characters, and Ashby’s distinct visual style with a script full of dark comedy and genuine pathos. And let’s not forget about Cat Stevens. It is hard not to like this film.

 

5. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973, Sam Peckinpah)

Ebert’s Rating: 2 Stars

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

Perhaps this film should not be on this list considering the original theatrical version that was put out by the studio received mixed to negative reviews. Yet I have no doubt that Ebert saw Peckinpah’s intended version (later released on DVD) and chose not to reevaluate it.

The film is very much like a traditional Peckinpah film. There’s violence, quick editing, and more violence. However, there is one difference, which is the acting.

Peckinpah manages to coax great performances out of a cast that includes music legends Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan, as well as veteran actor James Coburn. Kristofferson plays Billy the Kid as a cocky, folk anti-hero. His performance is one of grace and keeps the viewer grinning the whole time.

Coburn brings great complexity to his role as Pat Garrett, a man who is has great respect for Billy but also takes his role as sheriff very seriously. He knows he must be the man to take the Kid down.

The film also has a great score by Dylan that adds a sense of melancholy to the quieter moments. Ebert criticized the story for being boring and too simple. It may have been boring with other actors, but the cast brings a sense of vitality and complexity to their roles that Ebert missed.

 

 

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  • Steven Fox

    I can see why he didn’t like Donnie Darko, Gladiator, Pat Garrett and Reservoir Dogs, but the other movies on this list offer something very unique and refreshing when they came out.
    I think it has something to do with the acting most of all, becasue they do have some really strong scripts/directing, but acting is not really top notch.

  • george peter

    Stardust Memories, most probably one of the finest works of Woody Allen – 2 stars…

  • Patrick Hill

    What stands out the most is that half of those are great “cult” films, and loved accordingly. And like many cult films, though far from all, they are very intellectual at their core. Maybe that’s part of Ebert’s difficulty here, not letting himself connect to more than either its parts or even sum of it, it’s an idea. Sometimes looking too far for meaning makes you miss it entirely imo.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Actually, I’ve always thought that this Ebert guy was not a particularly clever or “intellectual” person. He was just some guy who loved the good old Hollywood movies, that’s it. In fact, I am not even sure how much he knew and understood about world cinema.

      • Justin Cider

        He knew a lot. Doesn’t mean he’s always right. He did write the screenplay for “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”.

        • V.C. Privitera

          @Justin:
          Hahaha…I always think this when dealing with Roger Ebert & his Film Reviews

      • John-Andrew Murphy

        Ebert was a well-known Chicago intellectual, and he was famous for his sharp writing and wit. He was incredibly well-versed in cinema and he loved film. He knew his subject matter. But you’re right that he was a guy who loved movies, even the ones he didn’t necessarily review well.

        • Vincenzo Politi

          “A well-know Chicago intellectual”: please! He was just a guy with a Master degree who started writing film reviews. I admit he ‘re-invented’ the genre of cinema criticism and he had a newer and fresher approach: under this respect, he was a genius of communication. However, this does not make him a ‘Chicago intellectual’, but only a highly communicative guy. If you read any of his reviews, you’ll notice that the first half is a big spoiler of the actual movie and the second half is just a bunch of his personal impressions. Some bloggers in the internet come across as more cultured and subtler than him. Like many ‘intellectuals’ of the 80s, Ebert owed his fame to television, that’s it.

          • John-Andrew Murphy

            Wow. From what you just wrote I can deduce that you’re not much more than a keyboard intellectual. Roger Ebert wrote for newspapers. He wrote for the masses under editorial guidelines. He wasn’t going to write dissertations on film. Ebert was widely regarded in Chicago as a solid intellectual and all-around great person. He was embraced by both the literati and the general population. He was well-known to be an avid reader with an incredible mind. It would behoove you to step down from the pedestal you built for yourself and realize that your ego and own pretentiousness are preventing you from listening to others. Ebert was highly influential. You? I’ve never heard of you. So cut the crap.

          • Vincenzo Politi

            “So cut the crap”: how intellectual of you, LOL! You confuse “being famous” with “being an intellectual”. He was what he was: as you said, someone who wrote for newspapers and for the masses. He couldn’t have written “dissertations” on film and in fact he did not, even when he published his own books (under little or no editorial guidelines). The other things you say are not even arguments: “he was regarded as an intellectual in Chicago”, “he was influential”, “he was embraced by both the literati and the general population”… but who says so? how do you know these things? words of mouth? or are you one of those Chicago literati who embraced him? Come on…

    • DFW EMS

      Since when are “cult films” intellectual at their core? All that “cult film” means is that they have a cult following, meaning niche-interest fan base … and fan cultures are often (if not always) NOT rooted in any intellectual rigor.

      Perhaps you mean “art film” (a problematic term) which do tend to be more “intellectual.” But, then, none of these are really art films either. Even the Hitchcock is decidedly NOT an “art film;” though I suppose it is guided by certain “intellectual” interests such as continuity for its own sake.

      In any event, I don’t think Ebert necessarily cared about these distinctions. He appears to have very much followed the tides of change as Hollywood shifted.

  • Chrisychipz

    He also didn’t like A Clockwork Orange

    • John W. Thackery

      Ebert had reservations about Clockwork at the time of its release, like many critics, it was initially very polarizing (like many of Kubrick’s works). But he did around to it eventually, as stated in his review in 1987: @4:20

    • John W. Thackery

      And in 1980, both Siskel and Ebert agreed that Malcolm McDowell deserved an Oscar nomination for Clockwork, @15:35
      siskelandebert(dot)org/video/DAYO7OO369GK/Sneak-Previews–Great-Performances-that-Oscar-Ignored-1980

    • DFW EMS

      … which is more universally accepted as a major work by film historians and critics than a great number of the films on this list.

    • Jeff Simon

      ! Probably didn’t like a bit of the old Ultra Violence.

  • Ozz Wald

    He also didn’t like The Usual Suspects

  • I can understand (more or less) why he had given low ratings to great movies. What I can’t understand is why people make such a great fuss over the criticism of someone who did not work or shed any sweat for making one of those great movies. He is as much of a critic and a fan of film as me and anyone who else who reads this site. His ratings don’t matter and should not be used as an orientation for rating a piece of work he never even dreamed of creating. Maybe he was an authority in this criticism field, but he was not and will not be an authority in filmmaking.

  • Christian Perez

    He was far from “hating” the majority of the films on this list and you failed to mention that he reevaluated Donnie Darko upon the release of the director’s cut which he awarded three stars. The majority of his reviews on these films are middle of the road evaluations, not outright hatred. A two star rating when it is on a four star scale is not a condemnation of the film and actually shows that there was much he did enjoy. Not only is the title of this list very misleading but the evaluations of his criticisms seem off too by only using snippets to further your off-base point. Yeah, he wasn’t raving about the films on this list but his thoughts were valid and I feel you’d be hard pressed to find someone who actually read the full review ( and wasn’t just focused on the star rating) and couldn’t at least see where he was coming from.

    • Jeff Simon

      I will give Roger Ebert credit. Ebert would reexamine films he had previously rendered a verdict on and reevaluate them. I don’t see that a whole lot these days.

  • TomWaitsDisciple

    2.5/4 stars isn’t hate…idiot(s).

  • gustavomda

    Also Blue Velvet

    • DFW EMS

      Yup. Ebert was no radical and it is easy to see how Lynch puts some off at first.

  • Adam Jones

    Donnie Darko is trash though

  • Wait a minute. Ebert actually liked the director’s cut of Donnie Darko. He was wrong about most of these films but Gladiator, yeah he was right about that film. It was overrated.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Way overrated. Basically, the Gladiator is Brave Heart in Roman costumes and some glitters in the cinematography.

    • DFW EMS

      I am surprised that anyone could consider Gladiator a major work in film history. Though perhaps this author’s definition of “great film” is based on criteria I don’t grasp.

      • Some of the authors who contribute to the site are morons. They pretend to be intellectuals but in reality, they’re idiots. Of course, they would probably say “why don’t you make a better list”?

        It takes time and a lot of thought and research to do this right. I did a list last summer and I’m still pondering about what films I left out.

        • DFW EMS

          It’s not overly difficult to gather filmographies from reputable film scholars, but it’s true… there is no authoritative list. That said, I suppose a cross-section of filmographies coming from the BFI, the AFI and the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board would do the trick. (Maybe Criterion should get a vote too.) Personally, I prefer the film historian/archivist’s benefit of hindsight over major film festival winners – but if you add those selections to the others and note the ones that are repeatedly selected, that probably roughly represents a consensus view of which films are “great films” (or at least historically significant.)

    • Wyatt W.B

      Overrated doesn’t mean bad.

      • It had a few moments but I still think the film fucking sucks.

  • andyklimactic

    Fight Club is a satire of consumerism but ALSO a satire of anti-consumerism.

    Albeit, it’s less evident in the film than in the book, but I always read Tyler as annoyingly preachy on purpose.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      You nailed it! Many naive viewers even think that Tyler is a good, revolutionary, liberating positive character: they do not realise that Tyler is actually bad and that you are not supposed to follow the example he sets!

      • Jeremías Buitrago

        You are in the moral trap, thinking about being good or being evil. You are a good person if you do what society thinks it’s good and you’re bad if you do what society think is bad. My point here is that, if you follow every moral point that the consumist society build around legallity and morality, you’ll never understand Tyler’s philosophy. Yes, he’s methods are extreme but he’s a game changer. And a change will always be extreme. He’s trascend the morality and social shit being a fucking Ubermentzsch, and took every tool he can to do a better world, following he’s point of view. That’s why the character divide the reviews. I didn’t read the book, but sometimes artist create something bigger than they want to create. Tyler is the face of people who knows that the society and the capitalist sytem works because of the manipulation of the ignorance and stupidness of the people. Maybe even Palaniuhk and Fincher ignore what they created. Maybe Brad Pitt ignore that too. Tyler is a nietszchean superhero, with some lights of Kropotkin, Bakunin and Stirner philosophy. And that is what the character become, ignoring the superficial and soft concepts of good and bad. Sorry for the bad english!

        • Vincenzo Politi

          That’s how many people have interpreted Tyler, but that’s exactly why I think they were wrong. A ‘Nietzschean ubermensch’ will only act to realise his desires and to increase his own personal happiness. Tyler, by contrast, has a sort of ‘resentment’ against wealth and consumerism – ‘resentment’ being the feeling that, for Nietzsche, creates the ‘slave morality’, not the ‘master morality’. If you are an ubermensch, you free yourself from what society think is good or bad; indeed, following Nietzsche, you go beyond the very notions of good and evil. Tyler does not go beyond the notions of good and evil. He gives to these notions his own personal meaning, he thinks that he knows what things are really good and what things are really evil, but he is not capable of liberating himself from thinking that things must necessarily be either ‘good’ or ‘evil’. Because he cannot go beyond the good vs. evil way of thinking, he becomes a preacher – and, I would say, a rather ridiculous preacher! – who starts preaching around his own versions of goods and evils. And remember that, as Nietzsche says in The Geneaology of Morals, the ‘priest’ epitomizes the slave mentality. (Towards the end of the movie, all the members of the fight club are mindlessly and mechanically repeating what Tyler said, as if they were mentally manipulated, as if they were being brainwashed by a cult leader. Avoiding the brainwash of consumerism by being brainwashed by another set of moral values imposed as if they were almost mystical truth is not exactly ‘liberating’.)The REAL ubermensch of Fight Club is actually his main character, who is able to go beyond the ‘religion of consumerism’ AND ‘Tyler’s religion’.

          • Jeremías Buitrago

            And that’s why i mention anarchist philosophy and philosophers. Tyler gets a vision about the ‘real world’, broke that reality and become a change factor, because he knows (in his point of view) what is “better” for a man.
            I think that in philosophy, while the concepts are created by the ages and the people who lived in those ages, they’re made to use them in a dinamic way. What i want to express with that personal opinion is this: Tyler has such of ‘ubermenschean’ things, but is not the Nietzsche concept in his completely teoric form, because that is impossible. Looking in a weberian form, the concepts are ideal types, and the reality modifies the ideal types to create the personality of people. So, yes, you’re really nailed it in looking what an ubermensch is, but in reality, it would be always different because of the simple thing that the reality are so dinamic.
            Passing that, Tyler is the representation of two ideas: the ubermensch and the ‘anarchist revolutionary’. Yes, he’s not the entirely concept of those ideas. He’s a mix, he’s the projection of those ideas, living in the end of the 20th century and living the life that he lived.
            Tyler got his ubermenschean stuff in the control of the reality, and in the management of the eternal return. He ‘knows’ that life and reality is what he thinks, so he trascends the barrier and change the whole thing. If he looks like a preacher, it’s because he don’t want to stay in his place, looking ‘how real world killed humanity’. That’s when we can moving forward the traditional ubermensch and create a new type of man. Maybe more realistic or not, but a man who are conscious about the change he want to lead.
            And we cannot forget the fact that Tyler is just a face of a person who has two faces. That leave us with some kind of reflections. For example, we can assume that every person has something like Tyler in his mind, or that the people are unconsciously carrying a hate for what they apparently love: the order and the consumist system. Off course that his two faces are generated by schizophrenia or something like that, so we can question us if the only way to take a look and be a part of the reality and change it is with mental disorders. My point here is remark that the main character is also Tyler, because he’s part of ‘The Narrator’. The Narrator will become a type of ubermensch just after he can overcome Tyler, but not by actually killing him like the movie metaphorically expose, but absorb him. Becoming one person of those two different sides.

            Besides all of that, we can all have different opinions. I don’t want to make a statement and i’m really sorry for my first commentary, because it can see as an arrogant afirmation or something. I really enjoy this type of talk and also think that you’re such an interesting person to discuss. Again, sorry for my bad english

          • Vincenzo Politi

            Dear Jeremias, no need to apologise for your English, which is as good as mine. I still disagree with you, although I am not even sure whether I have understood all the parts of your lasts comment. My point is that Tyler looks like a world-changing super-hero but he is just a stupid preacher and all the people who follow him are just as brainwashed as all the followers of a “cult leader”. Beside, the whole “change the world” thing is absolutely hypocritical. The people Tyler speaks to are a bunch of upper-middle-class males, from good social backgrounds, with good jobs and careers. Not even a single one of them actually quit his job! They all like their check at the end of the of the month and they will never quite their jobs to become “liberated”. In other words, they will continue to earn money, spend it on consumeristic goods and then complain about consumerism. They may go around doing some violent act and destroying some buildings here and there, but that’s just some childish way to keep you thinking that you are actually changing things, whereas you are not changing anything at all. For me, the genius side of this movie is that it anticipates all the bland hypocrisy of the hipster-ish culture.

          • HindsiteGenius

            I like your viewpoint. The main character (or characters if you will) has a lot in common with Hoffman’s character in Straw Dogs in that they use violence to reclaim their masculinity. Fight Club in particular uses an underground militant group to achieve Tyler’s greater vision.

            From my understanding from interviews in various journals when the book was released in the 90s, Palahniuk was not channeling Nietzsche in any way and I don’t get the idea he studied or read much Nietzsche prior to writing Fightclub.

            Palahniuk I think was more trying to show a group of men together doing manly things almost like how you and your buddies can take over a country if you get together and just do it, or you can sit around and shop the Ikea catalogue. He seemed at the time to be trying to write a new literature made for young future middle managers needing to feel like men in a society in which they perceive as stripping them of their primal natural instincts. His thoughts were that most popular literature is written for women and Fight Club was a response to that. The theme of fathers is also relevant in that if you have no father or your father was a failure you can find a father figure in a military type hierarchy and that will help make you a man. But you still have to go to work.

            It’s kind of a bad movie if you re watch it. The one vision of the future he gives borders on Neo Luddism but you cant ever tell with Tyler.

            In the end I suppose we got our great war, and we got our great depression just they wanted.

          • Vincenzo Politi

            What you say about the intention behind the novel (i.e., creating a sort of “white-collars men literature”) is correct. However, please remember that we are talking about the movie here. I am not sure whether David Fincher, who made the movie, had the same intentions of Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the novel. I think that perhaps Fincher has been subtler and trickier than Palahniuk. To begin with, and in relation to my previous comments, many of the movies of David Fincher are full of upper-middle class, bourgeois people with “first world problems”. Fincher really puts the finger against the monstrous life led by people who don’t have to care about money because they have it already. For instance, the whole movie Panic Room revolves around a recently divorced woman who can afford to buy a a four-story brownstone with a panic room in the centre of Manhattan; the Social Network is really about a privileged kid; the characters in Gone Girl have all the money and material possessions they need, but they are still unsatisfied and they do awful things out of their lunacy, dissatisfaction and perhaps even boredom. Fight Club follows the same line: it’s just about a bunch of white collars with good jobs and good salaries who are bored and dissatisfied, who have the money to buy what they want but then they complain about what they’ve bought, who decide to follow a new “cult” as a way out to their boredom – but, as I said in my previous comment, none of them is going to quit their job! I don’t know whether this element of “social critique of the upper-class” is as strong in the novel as it is in the movie. Another trick that Fincher plays in the movie is that, while Tyler and the Narrator are supposed to embody a renewed ideal of masculinity, in the end they just end up resembling a gay couple. They live together and do stuff together like a couple; apart from Marla, who is actually sort of despised by the Narrator at the beginning, there are not so many women going in and out what is supposed to be a bachelor pad; the Fight Club itself is nothing less than a “men only” underground club, which resembles, in style and secrecy, the underground gay clubs of the ’80s; the Narrator is evidently jealous when Tyler begins to have new favourites within the Fight Club. These homoerotic elements are present in the novel, but Fincher has put a special emphasis on them. Not many people notice or recognise them though; in a sense, like many other things in the movie, homoeroticism is just “subliminal”. Of course, the joke is on the viewer, or in some viewers anyway: some chauvinistic ultra-macho homophobic viewers who think that Tyler is a new symbol of (straight) masculinity do not even notice that actually Tyler has the same life-style of the gay people that those viewers perhaps despise! About the Nietzschean reading of the film: perhaps, neither Palahniuk nor Fincher read Nietzsche or tried to “channel” his philosophy, but that does not really matter. A writer or a director may end up exploring some themes and concepts which were discussed by some thinkers of the past, without necessarily having a direct knowledge of those thinkers.

  • Mark Chiddicks

    he was right about Rope – its a failed experiment

    • Vincenzo Politi

      yeah, right!

    • DFW EMS

      You’re overstating. It isn’t my favorite Hitchcock either, but it still succeeds in achieving what it sets out to do and is an indispensable film in film history.

  • Robert Colontonio

    fuck roger ebert. i don’t ever listen to what they say.They all think they have so much better taste than they actually do. Critics are just like monday morning quarterbacks. they can’t actually do these things but they can criticize the hell out of it.

    • garden variety

      Meanwhile everybody just swallows bullshit pop films afraid to open things up and actulally challenge something?

      • DFW EMS

        Some people feel that their taste in entertainment is threatened by critics (who might actually know more about film than they do). No one is stopping them from enjoying whatever movies they want to, but still they feel some need to lash out anyways. It’s difference between someone who leaves the cinema with a friend and says “That felt great!” and someone who says, “What did you think?” If I had to choose a movie-going buddy, I’d much prefer having someone who doesn’t feel like their pleasure is threatened by hearing each others’ thoughts.

  • Vincenzo Politi

    “The Gladiator” is an awful, awful, awful movie and “Donnie Darko” is really nothing special. Amazingly enough, though, this list is missing Davi Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” which, notoriously, Ebert hated, giving it only 1 star!

    • garden variety

      You can have your personal delusions, but gladiator is not even close to being awful, especially when you consider the different combined aspects of film making. Darko was also very good.

      • Vincenzo Politi

        yeah, speaking of personal delusions… Come on, even the reproduction of Rome was completely wrong in the Gladiator! How careless can you be to make a movie settled in ancient Rome and not checking how ancient Rome actually looked like and were things were supposed to be situated (and still are situated)?

    • V.C. Privitera

      From one Italian to another:
      I wholeheartedly AGREE with Gladiator…
      I remember when the film had been released, people could NOT stop talking about how great Gladiator was, making the entire thing out to be one of the greatest Films of all time. People would praise how great the Acting, Special-Effects, and Violent-Fighting Sequences were as if this were some groundbreaking venture into new territory of Cinema.
      Maybe all the “hype” is why I just didn’t and still can’t even remotely get into the film to see what others have…..I’ve given Gladiator countless chances by watching the film every-so often throughout the years and each time, I’m still left with disappointment.
      Firstly, the story itself is just too relative to “Spartacus,” and while others may not care with the comparisons; in my opinion, for a Film to absorb such a wide range amount of Acclaim & Praise for a story that’s not only so simple, but inevitably already been told in the same format….I don’t know, I just find it to be quite lazy in creativity.
      The characters aren’t even interesting enough to watch for a full viewing, which is well over 2hrs worth. Although, Russell Crowe does stand-out and executes his acting ability for his role….the rest of the characters & even story just seemed to be more than flat and wasted focus to fill time with.
      The film reminds me of when Frank Miller’s “300” was released and how Audiences had built up such a fan-filled-favored excitement over the film’s delivery of Content & Quality…and again I had the same experience with that film like I had with Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator.”
      Sure, as always with Film, it’s all a matter of Personal Taste, but sometimes I’m just shocked more at the fact that people can find something to be as great as they’re making it out to be, ultimately finding myself disappointed with my own experience…it’s just odd.
      Ironically, I am a huge fan of the recent Television Series “Spartacus,” which obviously rehashes the same famous story…I think what I like about the Series more than say the Films “Gladiator” & “300,” is that I didn’t go into the Series with this Higher-Raised-Expectation, I knew that the show would be a bit of an Exploitation-for-Exploitation’s sake type of a deal….so while there’s plenty of ridiculous over-the-top plot points or even some over-acting, it’s the fact that I can watch the Series as simple pure Entertainment and not something of substantial artistic substance.

      • Vincenzo Politi

        Not to mention the fact that people praised the Gladiator for the reproduction of Ancient Rome and then, in the very last shot, you can see the river Tevere right beside the Colosseum… where in reality there are actually KILOMETRES between the Colosseum and the river Tevere. I mean… come on! The plot is lazy and derivative: you already know how the film is going to end after the first five minutes. The characters are mono-dimensional. AT LEAST, try to impress me with an impeccable reconstruction of Rome… but nope, not even that. What did they do? They put the river nearby the Colosseum, because it looked nice. And all the Americans who have no idea of where the Colosseum is, and who not even care, were all “Oooooh” and “Aaaaaaah” and “Wooooow”.

        • V.C. Privitera

          Hahaha….yeah, as an Italian-American, I can honestly say I was more disappointed with the whole CGI-Special Effects of the Colosseum, sure it was only the year 2000, but how people were so impressed with a “cartoon” looking sad excuse of a bad representation of such an iconic historic landmark….especially after The Matrix had catapulted the use of Special-Effects/CGI for Cinema on a much smaller budget comparatively, just one year prior.
          Quite odd, how Scott & company were able to execute a better format for effects with Kingdom of Heaven 5 years later.
          But yeah, the whole story for Gladiator is just flat & weak….a child could conceptualize the plot.

  • agraciotti

    “a minor work from Hitchcock”?? Rope is my favorite Hitchcock.

    • Veronica Clarke

      Same.

  • V.C. Privitera

    Thanks for this list…
    I’ve always found myself being quite the loner in terms of my opposition to Critics, especially Roger Ebert.

    I get that Critics are basically failed screenwriters & filmmakers, they take up a job that affords them the ability to be some part of the Film Industry, but really, in my opinion:
    I honestly think a majority of these cats just like & want the attention by completely denouncing film(s) that maybe just don’t suit their own personal “taste”…..specifically Roger Ebert.

    Obviously, everyone is entitled to their own individual opinion, but when Critics become the set standard in which Films are even marketed as either being “thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down,” I can’t help but find it something of a nuisance than being helpful.

    So, whenever advertisements & previews say a film is either really great or absolutely horrible…even from a credible source; the problem is each & every individual has their own personal preference to what they may or may not find enjoyable or entertaining.

    So, there’s just an annoyance when Critics can “pan” a film that is otherwise well recieved by the audience, that’s when the “people” have spoken….but the sad thing is that there are a lot of people that would sadly miss out on even viewing such and the blame falls to the Critics.
    *And the same Vice-Versa…like when a film is Praised, but turns out to be mediocre or overrated. (Which is usually the Category I fall into).
    I guess it’s really no different than say Award shows like the Oscars and how everybody always has disagreements with the final decisions.

    Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert were 2 peas in a pod when they were the Authority amongst the Mainstream Critics. Sure, they would debate each other every so often, but usually they were synergetic in their opinions.
    *Richard Roeper on the other hand, actually seemed to be on another plain in terms of his choices & opinions in opposition to Ebert’s.

    All this is why presently, I personally try my best to go into a film that is well-praised with “lowered expectations” than to do otherwise, cause having these preconceived notions beforehand can become difficult to not already have a sense of jaded cynicism.

    My only argument I’d bring up against just one particular film from Roger Ebert’s long list of “bad reviews” of otherwise “good films” or films that aren’t as bad as Ebert makes them out to be is essentially the original 1978 exploitation film of “I Spit On Your Grave”
    Ironically, I discovered the film browsing a DVD store back in 2009 (a couple years before the Remake)…I never heard of the film before, so finding the DVD was based on…well…the cover of the box featuring the chick’s backside holding a knife and the fact the plot summary along with some underground “cult-critic” critiques (yeah, I broke my rule, since it’s “Exploitation”)….but the main thing I saw as a major draw was not just that this was some highly controversial film from its day for its explicit content, but that there was/is also a whole Documentary Section solely geared towards the specific distaste & hatred from both Gene Siskel & Roger Ebert surrounding the Film’s extreme content & even artistic value…
    Siskel & Ebert put a lot more effort than just a bad review for “I Spit On Your Grave” than what seems to be any other film throughout their entire careers as ‘the’ Elite of National Critics. Even going far beyond just their standard review, since of I recall, I believe Gene Siskel had put out a petition to try and block the release of the film for any theatrical release, at least in the U.S.
    Going so far as basically writing a “Thesis” on how detrimental the film is to the morals & standards on society as a whole.

    >>>>So What’s My Argument<<<<

    Simple…..

  • Jeff Simon

    Unfortunately, Roger Ebert was a dedicated liberal Beta Male. He also hated _Once Upon a Time in the West_; possibly the greatest Western ever made. Definitely the best by Sergio Leone. If you didn’t see things the way Ebert saw them, there was something wrong with you. Ebert would have felt very comfortable with this lecture prone Presidential Administration.

  • SCParegien

    The film he actually hated was Blue Velvet. He reassessed it later and called it a work of genius. Gladiator is a mess. I hate it.

  • SCParegien
  • Hesham Emad Fathy

    There is (The Usual Suspects) Too, 1.5 Stars.

  • roger

    Reservoir Dogs original ? Tell that to John Woo…

  • Ana

    I’ve never understood the reverence with which Ebert is seen. From what I’ve read of his work, he seems to be entirely overrated as a film critic. (The fact that he didn’t rate Reservoir Dogs highly seals it for me!)

  • Ted Wolf

    In Ebert’s defense, he championed many movies that would have never found a commercial outlet and got people seeing movies that weren’t necessarily the typical studio offering.

  • Diana Brown

    Ebert was fair and square with each and everyone one of the films. Fight Club got the following after its release largely due to the philosophy presented – Ebert pointed out that Fight Club is one of those films with endings which erase all that was presented before, rightly pointing out the dangers and the needlessness of such things. He was a legend.

  • Dave

    In future, you might want to include links to Ebert’s reviews

  • Untamed

    I remember reading Ebert’s review of Harold & Maude the day after I saw it. Oh, he hated it alright, and I was furious with his insensitivity to its ground breaking character study and charm. I didn’t read his reviews for more than a year after that. But I eventually forgave him and now realize he was deep in his alcoholism at the time.