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Essential Film Criticism Books for Any Film Lover’s Shelf

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No cinephile’s bookshelf is complete without a well-curated selection of film criticism books to complement their robust movie library. After all, criticism exists to enhance our understanding of art, and really any creative endeavor. The art of film criticism is almost as old as film itself, and has evolved just as film has over the past century or so.

The below selection of film criticism classics includes a wide variety of literature that helps enhance the filmgoing experience, from in-depth histories of specific films to exhaustive analysis of filmmakers and actors; from essay collections of famed critics to histories of film movements and eras. They’re both historical and contemporary, with original release dates spanning nearly eight decades. These books aren’t only covering classics, either — sometimes the zero-star reviews about notorious flops are just as illuminating as thoughtful takes on some of film’s most revered movies.

See our selection of best film criticism books below.

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“The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael : A Library of America Special Publication”

There have been many collections of Pauline Kael’s work, but a great deal of them — “For Keeps” and “I Lost it at the Movies” included — are hard to find or out of print. This 2016 collection features the sharply opinionated New Yorker critic’s takes on “The Godfather,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Last Tango in Paris,” and more seminal works, and spans her entire career.

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“Negative Space: Manny Farber On The Movies”

Another seminal and divisive critic with a very distinct style of prose, Farber, an accomplished painter, deconstructs films and scenes with a unique eye. His definition of “termite art,” as opposed to “white elephant art,” opened up a whole new discourse around appreciating the aesthetic greatness of B movies and genre films that don’t necessarily telegraph their artistic intent with the literalism and obviousness of “prestige” efforts. This collection comes with seven essays he wrote with his wife, the artist Patricia Patterson, along with an in-depth interview.

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“Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth” by A.O. Scott

Longtime “New York Times” film critic Scott examines the discipline of criticism as a whole, using his own work as a lens to demonstrate how criticism allows creativity to thrive. This particular volume was inspired by the author’s own Twitter feud with Samuel L. Jackson, following Scott’s pan of “The Avengers.” Everyone’s a critic, because critical thinking informs all aspects of life, from art to politics and everything in between.

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“Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: The Modern Era”

Maltin stopped updating his annual movie guides a few years ago, but the 2015 edition serves as a capstone of sorts and includes nearly 16,000 entries of essential information on films from the modern era — box office record-breakers, cult classics, and complete bombs alike.

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“I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie” by Roger Ebert

Yes, you should definitely add any volume from Ebert’s “The Great Movies” collection to your bookshelf. But just as important as the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic’s raves are the scathing takedowns that, in many cases, are even more fun than the movies themselves. This is the first best-selling collection of Ebert’s one-star (or less) reviews, followed by the equally entertaining “Your Movie Sucks” and “A Horrible Experience of Unbearable Length: More Movies That Suck.”

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“Murder and the Movies” by David Thomson

In his latest volume, film historian Thomson investigates film’s obsession with murder and what that says about us as viewers through the lens of classics including “Strangers on a Train,” “The Godfather,” and “The Shining.” (Also shelf-worthy: The most recent update of his comprehensive “The Biographical Dictionary of Film.” )

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“Seduction: Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood” by Karina Longworth

The creator of the essential film podcast “You Must Remember This” reminds readers that the film industry’s obsession with sex and power predates the #MeToo movement. Before Harvey Weinstein there was Howard Hughes, and “Seduction” shows how Hughes’ wielded his power via the stories of ten women who had relationships with the mogul.

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“Hollywood Black” by Donald Bogle

Bogle’s overview of Black filmmaking, from the silent era through “Black Panther,” tells the history of Black Hollywood, including its films, stars, and filmmakers, and includes a foreword by the late John Singleton.

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“From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, Third Edition” by Molly Haskell

Originally published in 1974, the latest update to Haskell’s classic piece of feminist film criticism was released in 2016. It includes an insightful investigation into the way women are portrayed on screen versus their status in society, plus a new introduction about how Haskell’s views have evolved since its initial publication.

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“What is Cinema?” by André Bazin

This foundational text of film studies comes from one of film criticism’s most influential voices, the French critic Bazin, who championed filmmakers such as Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, and Roberto Rossellini.

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“From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film” by Siegfried Kracauer

This defining history of German expressionist film, first published in 1947, examines how the Weimar Republic produced such politically charged work as “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “M,” “Metropolis,” and “The Blue Angel.”

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“Pictures at a Revolution” by Mark Harris

Harris focuses on the best picture nominees at the 1967 Academy Awards — “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “The Graduate,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Doctor Doolittle,” and “Bonnie and Clyde” — to show how the cultural revolution of the 1960s changed Hollywood forever.

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“Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas” by Glenn Kenny

Kenny’s history of Scorsese’s classic mob movie arrives on Sept. 15, just in time for the 30th anniversary of Martin Scorsese’s seminal 1990 film. This behind-the-scenes story features interviews from Scorsese and star Robert De Niro and sheds light on why the film’s legacy has endured over the past three decades.

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“Make My Day: Movie Culture in the Age of Reagan” by J. Hoberman

“Make My Day” chronicles the relationship between politics and cinema in Reagan’s 1980s, and is the third volume in Hoberman’s trilogy (after “The Dream Life,” about the 1960s, and “An Army of Phantoms,” about American movies in the first decade of the Cold War).

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“Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor” by Amy Nicholson

Nicholson investigates the career of the all-American superstar, from his first role (in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Outsiders”), his rise to super-stardom in the ’80s (in “Top Gun” and beyond), and his enduring status as modern-day action hero (in the “Mission Impossible” series).

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“David Lynch: The Man from Another Place” by Dennis Lim

Lim digs into the career of the director not by trying to de-mystify his mysterious mind, but by embracing the strangeness of the multi-hyphenate artist.

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“Movies That Mattered: More Reviews from a Transformative Decade” by Dave Kehr

Film critic Dave Kehr’s work is compiled in this second volume of criticism, compiled from his time at the Chicago Reader and Chicago magazine between 1974 and 1986, which features some of the in-depth, nuanced essays for which Kehr is known.

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Returning the Gaze: A Genealogy of Black Film Criticism, 1909-1949 by Anna Everett

“Returning the Gaze” is an exploration of Black film criticism, from the first half of 20th   century. The book shares film commentary through the writings of W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston, in addition to pieces written during the Great Depression, and the pre-and-post-war era. The book looks at how Black media pushed back against racist themes in film, and called attention to the use of lynching footage as examples of both a commercial, and callous, act of exploitation.

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Regarding Film Criticism and Commentary by Stanley Kauffman

Released in 1993, this collection of writings from late critic Stanley Kauffman includes films from major established directors, musings on cinematic adaptations of Mozart’s operas, and independent cinema, in addition to exploring changing public attitudes towards film as an art form.

Ambiguity and Film Criticism: Reasonable Doubt by Hoi Lun Law

As the title suggests, Hoi Lun Law’s book makes a case for ambiguity on film and why it’s a vital concept to cinema. Broken into two parts, the book features seven chapters that include: “Difficulty of Reading, “Depth of Suggestion, “and “Threat of Insignificance.”

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The best film books, by 51 critics

Which are the most inspirational five books about film ever written? This was the question we asked 51 leading critics and writers, and their answers are printed here in full.

☞ Read Nick James’ introduction ☞ See the top five

  • Sight & Sound reviews the latest film books every month.

Geoff Andrew , Michael Atkinson , Peter Biskind , Edward Buscombe , Michael Chanan , Tom Charity , Ian Christie , Michel Ciment , Kieron Corless , Mark Cousins , Paul Cronin , Chris Darke , Maria Delgado , Richard Dyer , Olaf Möller , Christoph Huber , Lizzie Francke , Philip French , Chris Fujiwara , Graham Fuller , Charlotte Garson , Tom Gunning , Philip Horne , Kevin Jackson , Nick James , Kent Jones , Richard T. Kelly , Mark Le Fanu , Toby Litt , Brian McFarlane , Luke McKernan , Geoffrey Macnab , Adrian Martin , Peter Matthews , So Mayer , Henry K Miller , Kim Newman , Geoffrey Nowell-Smith , Michael O’Pray , John Orr , Nick Roddick , Jonathan Romney , Jonathan Rosenbaum , Sukhdev Sandhu , Jasper Sharp , Iain Sinclair , David Thompson , David Thomson , Kenneth Turan , Catherine Wheatley , Armond White Updated: 8 May 2020

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This is an unabridged version of the Film Book poll published in the June 2010 issue of Sight & Sound

Jean-Pierre Melville

Jean-Pierre Melville

Index of contributors

Geoff Andrew Michael Atkinson Peter Biskind Edward Buscombe Michael Chanan Tom Charity Michel Ciment Kieron Corless Mark Cousins Paul Cronin Chris Darke Maria Delgado Geoff Dyer The Ferroni Brigade Lizzie Francke Philip French Chris Fujiwara Graham Fuller Charlotte Garson Tom Gunning Philip Horne Kevin Jackson Nick James Kent Jones Richard T. Kelly Mark Le Fanu Toby Litt Brian McFarlane Luke McKernan Geoffrey Macnab Adrian Martin Peter Matthews Sophie Mayer Henry K. Miller Kim Newman Geoffrey Nowell-Smith Michael O’Pray John Orr Tim Robey Nick Roddick Jonathan Romney Jonathan Rosenbaum Sukhdev Sandhu Jasper Sharp Iain Sinclair David Thompson David Thomson Kenneth Turan Catherine Wheatley Armond White

Geoff Andrew

Head of film programme, BFI Southbank, UK

Note : Publication dates are for first edition only, except where specified. However, votes for a particular title are collected together no matter what the edition (with the exception of Geoff Dyer’s voting for all five editions of David Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of Film).

Signs and Meaning in the Cinema Peter Wollen, Secker & Warburg, 1969

A Biographical Dictionary of Film David Thomson, Secker & Warburg, 1975

Hitchcock’s Films Robin Wood, A.S. Barnes & Co, 1965

The Making of Citizen Kane Robert L. Carringer, University of California Press, 1985

Mamoulian Tom Milne, Thames & Hudson, 1969

Michael Atkinson

Critic, USA

The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 Andrew Sarris, Doubleday, 1968

A Biographical Dictionary of Film David Thomson

Vulgar Modernism J. Hoberman, Temple University Press, 1991

Agee on Film: Reviews and Comments James Agee, McDowell, Obolensky, 1958

Magic and Myth of the Movies Parker Tyler, Simon & Schuster, 1970

PLUS: Cahiers du cinéma: The 1950s Edited By Jim Hillier Confessions of a Cultist   Andrew Sarris The Phantom Empire   Geoffrey O’Brien Durgnat on Film   Raymond Durgnat Science Fiction Movies   Philip Strick The Hollywood Hallucination   Parker Tyler Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies   Manny Farber The Shadow of an Airplane Climbs the Empire State Building   Parker Tyler Film as a Subversive Art   Amos Vogel Dictionary of Films   Georges Sadoul Cinema: A Critical Dictionary Edited By Richard Roud On the History of Film Style   David Bordwell City of Nets   Otto Friedrich Visionary Film   P. Adams Sitney Hitchcock   François Truffaut Who the Devil Made It   Peter Bogdanovich Signs and Meaning in the Cinema   Peter Wollen

Peter Biskind

Author/critic, USA

The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era Thomas Schatz, Pantheon Books, 1988

I Lost It At the Movies Pauline Kael, Little, Brown, 1965

Final Cut Steven Bach, William Morrow, 1985

Indecent Exposure David McClintick, William Morrow, 1982

A Life Elia Kazan, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988

↑  Back to contributors’ list

Edward Buscombe

Signs and Meaning in the Cinema Peter Wollen

The founding work of so-called Screen theory – which is where I came in, although it has now left me behind, or me it – is still a pretty enjoyable read today. Back in 1969 when it was first published, it was, like Martin Peters, ten years ahead of its time.

Hitchcock’s Films Robin Wood

Its opening sentence – “Why should we take Hitchcock seriously?” – strikes just the right note of courteous provocation in its determination to reorient our view of popular cinema. Although I disagree with much of it, Wood always demands to be taken seriously.

The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 Andrew Sarris

The Bible of the dedicated cinephile when it was first published in 1968, and still an invaluable route map of what needs to be seen.

Horizons West: Studies in Authorship in the Western Jim Kitses, Thames & Hudson, 1969

Here I have to declare an interest, in both senses: an enduring love of the Western, and a role in editing the much-expanded second edition of 2004. The best book of criticism bar none on the most important film genre.

The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era Thomas Schatz

First published in 1988, and thus the only one of my choices not first published in the 1960s (showing my age). A marvellously subtle and informative account of the way the Hollywood film industry worked in its heyday and a book I wish I’d been able to write myself.

Michael Chanan

Academic, UK

The Technique of Film Editing Karel Reisz and Gavin Millar, Focal Press, 1953

This is the book that taught me about film language – not just the nuts and bolts of how it works, but the aesthetics. But I forgot that I’d read it (as an undergraduate, when I was first thinking of making films) until many years later, when I first started teaching film and rediscovered it. Now I recommend it to all my students, whether they’re interested in practice or theory.

The World Viewed Stanley Cavell, Viking, 1971

A book I found so captivating I devoured it in a single night. As a postgrad studying aesthetics, I was enthralled to find an English-language philosopher who understood cinema! At the end I felt it had said practically everything it needed to say. An exaggeration, of course, but for a while I was convinced.

The Camera and I Joris Ivens, International Publishers, 1969

Like all autobiographies, Ivens’ leaves certain things out, but it’s a great testimony to political commitment and full of wisdom about the nature of documentary, which Ivens calls “a creative no-man’s land”. Very inspiring.

Hitchcock François Truffaut, Simon & Schuster, 1967

I enjoyed this immensely, though largely because it seemed to me to explain why I didn’t really care much for Hitchcock.

Histoire économique du cinéma Pierre Bachlin, La Nouvelle Edition, 1947

I found this browsing for second-hand film books in Paris at the very moment I was first trying to figure out how the film industry worked. Bachlin was a Marxist, and this was the first rigorous analysis of the industry I’d discovered that made real sense to me. It seems symptomatic that the book has never been translated into English – neither has the film writing of the Italian Marxist Umberto Barbaro (which I read in the translation published in Cuba by the ICAIC).

Tom Charity

Lovefilm and, Canada

Hitchcock François Truffaut

These were the most inspirational books to me as a film student (as was Truffaut’s The Films in My Life). If the first edition of Robin Wood’s study hadn’t been so seminal for me, I would now choose Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, because it shows how critical engagement is a lifetime’s process, always evolving as we mature. The Hitchcock interview book has probably inspired more film books than any other, including, I assume, the entire Faber ‘Directors on Directors’ series.

This is Orson Welles Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, HarperPerennial, 1992

This is probably my favourite of the many books on Welles.

John Ford: The Man and His Films Tag Gallagher, University of California Press, 1986

Substantially revised in 2007 and made available for free download, this is exemplary film criticism, a book Ford would have delighted in deriding yet kept close by his bed, I’m sure.

But let’s have the original 1975 edition, when it was really something.

Ian Christie

Professor of Film History, Birkbeck, UK

Frank Kermode defined the ‘classic’ in literature as a work that can be endlessly re-interpreted, according to the needs and interests of successive generations. These are the books that I find myself returning to again and again, usually finding new information and insights that I hadn’t previously noticed.

Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Cinema Jay Leyda, Allen & Unwin, 1960

Surely one of the greatest books about a national cinema ever written? Leyda spent several years in the USSR in the mid-30s, studying at the world’s first film school, and assisting Eisenstein on his eventually banned film, Bezhin Meadow. And those ‘witnessed years’, as he calls them, are the fulcrum of the book. But the whole sweep of Russian cinema up to the years just after Stalin’s death are vividly chronicled by Leyda. We may know much more today about what really happened, but Leyda’s judgements were shrewd and his sheer enthusiasm is still infectious.

The book that every young film snob carried around or even memorised in the early 70s – just in case you might catch a rare Edgar Ulmer B movie in a rep cinema (yes, that’s how we saw films maudits in those days). Sarris’ classification of directors on different levels – from the ‘Pantheon’ to ‘Lightly Likeable’, via ‘Expressive Esoterica’ and ‘Less than Meets the Eye’ is imprinted on my attitude to American cinema, and I still have to argue in my head with Sarris’ unforgettably snappy put-downs. Sarris was far more influential than Chabrol, Truffaut and co., I’m sure, in shaping the British politique des auteurs.

What is Cinema? André Bazin, translated by Hugh Gray, University of California Press, 1967 (Volume 1) and 1971 (Volume 2)

This may be a poor translation of Bazin, inadequately edited, but it was my generation’s first contact with cinema’s greatest post-war critic-philosopher and the godfather of the French New Wave. After first swallowing Bazin whole, I turned against his Catholic humanism, but I find myself returning to him almost every week to check something, to argue with him, and often to agree.

Circles of Confusion Hollis Frampton, Visual Studies Workshop, 1983

Frampton wasn’t just the high priest of ‘structural cinema’, with his cerebral but playful masterpieces, Zorns Lemma and (nostalgia), but a superb essayist on classic photography and on the ontology of film as “the last machine”. This long-unfindable book (now revived in a new edition) brings together essays that can stand alongside those of Borges, Barthes and just about anyone who helped shape it.

A Life in Movies Michael Powell, Heinemann, 1986

After years of professional disappointment, Michael Powell decided to write a passionate no-holds-barred autobiography that would tell the story of cinema as the 20th century’s folk art from the standpoint of one who had helped shape it. There’s still no film autobiography to match it for style, audacity and insight – and it deserves to be recognised as one of the 20th century’s great memoirs. Apart from conveying what it felt like to be at the top of the game (and sliding to the bottom in the second, equally fascinating volume, Million Dollar Movie), it also provides dozens of shrewd judgements on film-makers who are only now being discovered.

Five is not enough! It leaves no room to mention Ray Durgnat’s crucial book, A Mirror for England, that staked a claim for British cinema when few film enthusiasts in Britain cared; or Rachael Low’s pioneering seven-volume history of British cinema from the very beginning to, alas, only 1939, although Low is a treasure trove of discoveries still being made. Or Dan Talbot’s eclectic Film: An Anthology (1966), a stirring alternative to Ernest Lindgren and Paul Rotha, which first introduced me to writings by Manny Farber, Parker Tyler, Gilbert Seldes and Erwin Panofsky. Peter Wollen’s Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, as elegantly written as it was groundbreaking, made semiotics exciting and revealed the political and wider aesthetic context of film. And what about the writing that was never in book form when it was most influential? How many Xeroxes of Laura Mulvey’s ‘Visual Pleasure’ Screen article have I passed on, along with essays by P. Adams Sitney, Annette Michelson and many others, before film books became common?

Michel Ciment

Editor, Positif, France

What is Cinema? André Bazin

An anthology of the best French film critic of the 1940s and ’50s.

A groundbreaking interview book and a model of its kind.

A Life Elia Kazan

The best autobiography (with Bergman’s) of a theatre and film director.

Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood Todd McCarthy, Grove Press, 1997

A perfect example of the critical biography: informed, never complacent, analytical and with a superb knowledge of the industry background.

Viv(r)e le cinéma Roger Tailleur, Institut Lumière, 1997

Personal Views: Explorations in Film Robin Wood, Gordon Fraser, 1976

Two volumes of selected film criticism by two inspirational critics, from France and England respectively.

Kieron Corless

Deputy Editor, Sight & Sound

Abel Ferrara Nicole Brenez, University of Illinois Press, 2006

Poétique du cinématographe Eugène Green, Actes Sud, 2009

Notes on the Cinematographer Robert Bresson, Editions Gallimard, 1975

Fassbinder’s Germany Thomas Elsaesser, Amsterdam University Press, 1996

Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies Manny Farber, Da Capo Press, 1998 (expanded edition)

Mark Cousins

Critic and filmmaker, UK

Who the Devil Made It?: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors Peter Bogdanovich, Alfred A. Knopf, 1997

The Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema Edited By Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, BFI, 1994

Notes on the Cinematographer Robert Bresson

Currents in Japanese Cinema Tadao Sato, Kodansha Int, 1982

Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis Barry Salt, Starword, 1983

Paul Cronin

Writer / filmmaker, UK

On Directing Film David Mamet, Viking, 1991

A beautiful, idiosyncratic articulation of the job of the film director. Eisenstein for the new millennium.

The Technique of Film Editing Karel Reisz and Gavin Millar

There is no better explanation of what it’s all about. Theory and practice intersect at craft.

My Life and My Films Jean Renoir, Collins, 1974

Autobiography and common sense.

Film: A Montage of Theories Edited Richard Dyer, MacCann, E.P. Dutton, 1966

A definition of film theory: anything written about the cinema.

Film as a Subversive Art Amos Vogel, Random House, 1974

Because he has spent the past 60 years opening up new worlds to us.

Chris Darke

The Republic Plato

Cinema was invented in the fourth century BC with the Myth of the Cave, a thought experiment illustrating the hard-won virtues of education via a parable of perception and knowledge. Socrates’ mise en scène depicts underground captives facing a wall on which the light of a fire casts lifelike shadows, which they mistake for reality. The question of whether we should believe our eyes (or any of our senses) is dramatised in a setting that uncannily predicts cinema. The Cave is the first work of film theory, and considerably more readable than most examples of the genre written since.

Illuminations Walter Benjamin, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1955

For ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), a jazz standard of an essay that writers have riffed on (and ripped off) ever since. Benjamin was one of the first people to grapple with the question of how art is transformed by technology, supposedly sacrificing ‘aura’ for accessibility. A modernist rapture over the possibilities of the film image – deathlessly described as “an orchid in the land of technology” – is palpable throughout.

In his clarity of expression and the way he develops theoretical ideas from specific examples, Bazin was a truly great writer on cinema. Two essays from the 1940s are irreplaceable, ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’ and ‘The Myth of Total Cinema’, both setting film in art’s longue durée. Should one want to get a handle on the thorny philosophical question of ‘faith’ in the image in the digital era, Bazin is the first go-to guy…

The Society of the Spectacle Guy Debord, Buchet-Chastel, 1967

…and Debord is the second. Platonic mistrust of mere appearances goes into late-1960s overdrive here, but Debord’s analysis remains astonishingly prescient given that the spectacle – described as “the other side of money” – is now the element we live in. And while cinema is inevitably compromised by its fundamental role in this state, it should be remembered that Debord was also a master of the found-footage film.

The Invention of Morel Adolfo Bioy Casares, Editorial Losada, 1940

There’s no shortage of novels deserving of a place on the shelf, including Shoot! Or the Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio by Luigi Pirandello (1916), pretty much everything by Don DeLillo, and Me, Cheeta by James Lever (2008). Three rules for great novels about film: 1) they needn’t be ‘great novels’; 2) they should concern themselves less with the intrigues of filmmaking than with cinema as a metaphor for the modern condition; 3) they must remain resolutely unfilmable. Which ought to rule out The Invention of Morel, the inspiration for Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad. Bioy Casares was a friend and collaborator of Borges, and his 1940 fantasy shares his quizzically metaphysical character and was inspired by the author’s Louise Brooks fixation. A fugitive finds his way to an unnamed island, discovers he has unexpected company, sees two suns rise, and observes how, with the aid of Dr Morel’s magical machine, space and time can be irretrievably altered. Borges called the plot “perfect” – if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

Maria Delgado

Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema Andrei Tarkovsky, The Bodley Head, 1986

Poetry as cinema, cinema as poetry. One of the best books on artistic endeavour and the craft of film-making. Just beautiful.

Out of the Past: Spanish Cinema After Franco John Hopewell, BFI, 1986

The first book to really explore what had happened to Spanish cinema post-Franco, rooting the argument in a discussion of how film-making had functioned under El Caudillo’s dictatorship. Still indispensable.

Letters François Truffaut, translated by Gilbert Adair, Faber & Faber, 1989

A funny, droll, incisive, idealistic and perceptive collection of letters to friends and collaborators, colleagues and film-makers he admired (and fell out with).

The Brechtian Aspect of Radical Cinema Martin Walsh, edited by Keith Griffiths, BFI, 1981

I picked it up as an undergrad and never looked back.

Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society Richard Dyer, BFI, 1986

The first edition was published in 1986 and changed the way I thought about film acting and stardom.

I would restrict my choice to the various editions (the fifth, I believe, is forthcoming) of David Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of Film. I’m sure some future scholar will produce an admirable thesis comparing the changes in – and evolution of – what has come to be, along with everything else, a vicarious and incremental autobiography. In that context, even Thomson’s diminishing interest in cinema – or current cinema at any rate – becomes a source of fascination. The Dictionary is not only an indispensable book about cinema, but one of the most absurdly ambitious literary achievements of our time. It deserves a shelf to itself.

The Ferroni Brigade aka Christoph Huber & Olaf Moller

Critics, Austria/Germany

Dictionnaire du cinéma Edited by Jacques Lourcelles, Laffont, 1993

The only general dictionary we trust: absolutely partisan while commendably catholic in its scope and taste – just check out the list of auteurs worth discussing more deeply at the very end of the second edition from 2003.

Lignes d’ombre: une autre histoire du cinéma soviétique (1926-1968) Edited by Bernard Eisenschitz, Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta, 2000

Histoire du cinéma Naz i Francis Courtade and Pierre Cadars, Eric Losfeld/Éditions Le Terrain Vague, 1972

Two tomes that (should have, at least) changed the way we think about film history; two attempts to understand the (extra)ordinary in film cultures deemed totalitarian and therefore artistically irrelevant by our unquestioning middlebrow culture and its collaborators high and low.

Enciclopédia do Cinema Brasileiro Edited by Fernão Ramos and Luiz Felipe Miranda, Senac São Paulo, 2000

Anschluß an Morgen and Das tägliche Brennen Elisabeth Büttner and Christian Dewald, Residenz Verlag, 1997 and 2002

Two exemplary ways of making sense of a national film culture: the first is an encyclopedia that invites the seeker to find his or her own way through a labyrinth of myriad relationships; the second offers creative criss-cross readings of topoi and obsessions through various decades, genres and political systems. We consider these approaches preferable to the common and-then-and-then histories, as these are usually too industry-development-keyed – i.e. disinterested in spheres like documentary cinema, the avant garde, sponsored films, amateur praxis, etc, which we consider all equal in importance and interest.

Mauritz Stiller och hans filmer 1912-1916 Gösta Werner, Norstedt, 1969

Leo McCarey: sonrisas y lágrimas Miguel Marías, Nikel Odeon, 1999

The value of the late Gösta Werner’s work lies in its author’s age: he was old enough to have seen many a Stiller work now (considered) lost, meaning his memories are probably as close as we’ll ever get to these films. Marías’ McCarey monument is of interest and dear to us as an instance where the best analysis of an essential oeuvre was written and published in a language other than that of the auteur in question.

Soshun: Früher Frühling von Ozu Yasujiro Helmut Färber, Eigenverlag des Autors, 2006

Red Cars y David Cronenberg, Volumina, 2006

Put them in your apartment and feel the atmosphere change for the better. Soshun is the most outstanding piece of film analysis in decades – based on only the first few minutes of the subject’s work.

Zur Kritik des Politischen Films: 6 analysierende Beschreibungen und ein Vorwort “Über Filmkritik” Peter Nau, DuMont Buchverlag, 1978

Der lachende Mann: Bekenntnisse eines Mörders Walter Heynowski and Gerhard Scheumann, Verlag der Nation, 1966

Criticism and agitation, reflection and documentation, theory and praxis.

Lizzie Francke

Development Producer, UK Film Council, UK

On Film-making Alexander Mackendrick, Faber & Faber, 2004

The Cinema Book Edited by Pam Cook, BFI, 1985

Suspects David Thomson, Secker and Warburg, 1985

Philip French

Critic, Observer, UK

Film Roger Manvell, Pelican, 1944

There was only a handful of books on the cinema when I and my contemporaries (now aged 70+) became cinephiles after World War II: Paul Rotha’s seminal The Film Till Now (1930 and never updated by its author); Alistair Cooke’s lively anthology of criticism, Garbo and the Night Watchmen; several theoretical works (Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Spottiswoode, Balázs, Arnheim); some dull sociological studies; and Manvell’s Pelican paperback Film. First published in 1944 and constantly revised over the next decade, Manvell’s marvellous book covered all aspects of cinema and was the one book that all of us owned. Affordable, deeply serious, clearly written, it gave us our first filmographies, 15 frame blow-ups from Battleship Potemkin and a cinematic canon that we eagerly accepted and then rebelled against.

When this original paperback appeared in 1965, the first full-length study of Hitchcock in English, I wrote in my Observer review: “It is an important publication that sets an altogether new standard for critical books on the cinema in this country.” Revised and augmented several times (most recently in 1989), it remains unsurpassed and is the high-water mark of auteurist criticism, with Andrew Sarris’ taxonomic masterpiece The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 a close runner-up.

The Parade’s Gone By Kevin Brownlow, Secker & Warburg, 1968

Few people have done so much to revive interest in silent cinema and none has written so well about it as Brownlow. This beautifully produced book, the first and most essential volume in a trilogy on American cinema before the coming of sound, is based entirely on evidence gathered at first hand and mostly illustrated by photographs from the author’s own collection. It’s an informative delight to read and look at and the kind of thing that gives passionate enthusiasm a good name.

The Film Encylopedia Edited by Ephraim Katz, Crowell, 1979

First published in 1979, this is by some way the best, most wide-ranging single-volume reference book on the cinema ever written. Entirely the work of one man, an Israeli documentarist resident in New York, it has been updated, though sadly not improved, since Katz’s untimely death at the age of 60 in 1992. It should be kept within easy reach by anyone interested in the cinema, whether writer or film fan.

The Last Tycoon F. Scott Fitzgerald, Scribner, 1941

The cinema as a subject for fiction has attracted serious writers ever since Luigi Pirandello’s Shoot! was published in 1915, and there are 50 or 60 examples on my shelves, gathered over the years for a book I’ll now never write. The best novel of recent years is Theodore Roszak’s astonishing Flicker (1991), while the finest on British cinema is Christopher Isherwood’s Prater Violet (1945), but greatest of all is Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon, left unfinished at his death in 1940 and superbly edited by his friend Edmund Wilson.

Chris Fujiwara

Rivette: Texts and Interviews Edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum, BFI, 1977

A manifesto for a revolutionary cinema, this compact selection of talks with and essays by Jacques Rivette includes his seminal text on Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

Godard on Godard Jean-Luc Godard, edited and translated by Tom Milne, Secker & Warburg, 1972

It may not always be obvious from reading Godard’s early reviews that the writer would become a film-making giant, but it’s clear he could inspire five or six others to do so.

Every page of this slim volume – the Pascal’s Pensées of film – is filled with riches. Opened at random: “To your models: ‘You must play neither someone else, nor yourself. You have to play no one’”; “Neither director, nor film-maker. Forget that you’re making a film”; “Slow films in which everyone gallops and gesticulates; quick films in which people hardly move”; “Your film must be like the one you see while shutting your eyes.”

It launched and defined an era of cinephilia in the United States.

Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies Manny Farber

The only reason I list this edition instead of 2009’s Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings is that the smaller collection is the one I spent years marveling at, puzzling over and taking comfort from as from a favourite food.

Graham Fuller

The Parade’s Gone By Kevin Brownlow

The History of World Cinema David Robinson, Stein and Day, 1973

The Haunted Screen Lotte Eisner, Le Terrain Vague, 1952

Suspects David Thomson

Working on The Movie, a multi-volume history of the cinema published in weekly parts at the start of the 1980s, I found the first four books on this list not only remarkable for their scholarship and practical use, but as sources of magic – Eisner’s not least because of the dread-heavy stills and the electrifying chapter on G.W. Pabst and Louise Brooks, since exceeded only by ‘Lulu and the Meter Man’ in Thomas Elsaesser’s Weimar Cinema and After. Though in need of updating, Robinson’s History is unequalled as a single-volume narrative primer on cinema’s evolution. The Parade’s Gone By is the most accessible of Brownlow’s great books about silent film, though I could as easily have picked The War, the West and the Wilderness and Behind the Mask of Innocence.

Thomson’s Dictionary was a revelation when it first appeared 35 years ago because it doubled as a work of reference and (brilliant) criticism – it remains indispensable. Thomson was a historian writing like a novelist and so it was logical that he would eventually weave fiction with history in the serpentine Suspects, from which one can learn more about the iconography of film noir than from many worthy textbooks.

That’s five – and still I’m missing The BFI Companion to the Western and Hollywood Babylon.

Charlotte Garson

Critic, Cahiers du cinéma, France

Encompasses all film book categories: interview, yes, but also memoir, monograph, theory, picture book…

It’s always fruitful to go back to Bazin’s writings, less as a theoretician than as a critic (with theoretical intuitions that are sometimes hazardous).

The first film book I ever read.

Eric Rohmer Pascal Bonitzer, Cahiers du cinéma, 1991

Along with Bazin’s unfinished Jean Renoir this is one of the best monographs I know on any director.

Film: A Sound Art Michel Chion, Columbia University Press, 2003

Godard au travail: Les années 60 by Alain Bergala A wealth of documents, but also Alain Bergala’s ever-clear, precise prose on one of the film-makers he knows best. (Also, in French: Nul mieux que Godard, an anthology published by Cahiers du cinéma on Godard and edited by Bergala.)

La Maison et le monde by Serge Daney The anthology (in two volumes) of the Cahiers and Liberation French critic offers a panoramic view of the changes French criticism went through from the 1960s to the ’90s.

My Life and My Films by Jean Renoir

Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film by Jean Cocteau

The ‘I’ of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History, and Aesthetics By William Rotman

John Ford hors-série , Cahiers du cinéma

Mikio Naruse by Jean Narboni

Sul cinema By Roland Barthes , edited by Sergio Toffetti Only in Italy are Barthes’ writings on film collected!

Tom Gunning

Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, University of Chicago, USA

Film Form Sergei Eisenstein, edited and translated by Jay Leyda, Harcourt Brace, 1949

Visionary Film P. Adams Sitney, OUP, 1974

The World Viewed Stanley Cavell

From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film Siegfried Kracauer, Princeton University Press, 1947

Philip Horne

Prater Violet Christopher Isherwood, Methuen, 1945

The best novel I know on the film-making process, set in the 1930s and dealing (as if from the experience of ‘Christopher’ himself) with the career of Austrian director Friedrich Bergmann, whose genius is thrillingly evoked.

One of the great landmarks, a meeting of two film cultures, two languages, two personalities – full of omissions and evasions, but richly suggestive, and a demonstration that criticism and creation can enter into a significant dialogue.

A Life in Movies Michael Powell

Powell was a major film-maker who could write and who cared immensely and generously for literature and art – this magnificently vivid, self-dramatising yet wonderfully responsive first volume of his memoirs brings to life one eccentric but steely Englishman’s journey to greatness.

Adventures of a Suburban Boy John Boorman, Faber & Faber, 2003

Like Powell, Boorman can write like a dream as well as direct films like Point Blank and Deliverance “in a state of grace”, and this wise, intensely sympathetic, informative, amusing, moving account of his globe-spanning trajectory from Carshalton via L.A. to Galway is a classic.

After three decades of use, it’s an old companion, rather taken for granted and occasionally irritatingly prejudiced (eg on Ford), as well as funny and endlessly suggestive about avenues to explore; but whatever reservations it inspires (and expresses) it’s a grand example of appreciative, impassioned, intelligent, encyclopaedic criticism that shaped a generation or two of film watchers.

Kevin Jackson

Godard on Godard Jean-Luc Godard

A thrilling confection of passionate advocacy, youthful extremism, ardent love and lofty disdain. The one film book I crammed into my suitcase to keep me company when I went to live abroad for a couple of years; every dip into its pages offered something to think about, wonder at or silently dispute. So what if it borders on eccentricity, and then crosses the borders? It turns up the old mental rheostat every time. Well worth it even if you don’t much care for his films, and all the more so if you do.

Doesn’t everyone enjoy these interviews? Highly informative when read innocently, highly entertaining when read for the implied drama: the hero-worshipping young man (who is no dummy, mind), paying court to the urbane old master who seems to give so much away, and yet, cunning trickster/shaman that he is, really yields nothing that could be used in court against him. The dialogue as artform.

Reeling Pauline Kael, Little, Brown, 1977

Or almost any of her collections, really, but wasn’t she at her best when she had plenty of movies to love? And wasn’t the 1970s the period of cinema she loved best? This was the volume that made a god awful 26-hour greyhound bus trip to New York seem bearable – in fact, time well spent. It doesn’t matter if you don’t admire all her raving and comminations; she is almost always a gas, and brought to film criticism an addictive combination of driven, garrulous intensity and loose-limbed, slangy intimacy. Has anyone ever managed that balance as well?

A miracle. How could anyone – especially someone with a boring day job, and before the video/DVD age – have seen so much, noticed so much, understood so much, remembered so much at such a young age… and then written about it in a prose style of such idiosyncratic verve, lyricism and aphoristic pith? Not just one of the best film books, one of the best later 20th-century books of criticism of any medium. A monument.

Madame Depardieu and the Beautiful Strangers Antonia Quirke, Fourth Estate, 2007

Plus one: this lightly fictionalised memoir of film criticism, love affairs and the quest for beauty and perfection is so funny that it often makes you bark with laughter. Plus two: it is also an achingly serious discussion about why movies can be so potent, about the way they shape our fantasy lives and so our real lives, about how it really does matter whether or not you can love Withnail & I. Plus three: Quirke has an effortless knack for the mot juste; eat your liver, Flaubert. A potent and delicious cocktail.

Editor, Sight & Sound

Like most people in the unique position of foreknowledge of what others have said, I have avoided the choices that now seem obvious in this survey. My list is therefore devised partly to champion books neglected by everyone else.

A Mirror for England: British Movies from Austerity to Affluence Raymond Durgnat, Faber & Faber, 1970

I first encountered Durgnat’s seminal book by proxy in the stirring poetic quotes from it that turned up regularly in the reviews of old British films in London listings magazines. It was out of print by the time I wanted to buy it, but I found a copy on my first trip to New York in 1982 (along with Kings of the Bs), devoured it, then lent it to a friend and never saw it (or him) again. So it’s as mysterious a treasure for me as, say, any film seen and loved years ago and not re-encountered since – though of course there’s a copy in the BFI library just three floors down from my office. Call it deferred gratification.

Melville on Melville Edited by Rui Noguera, translated by Tom Milne, Secker & Warburg, 1971

This most inspiring of interview texts is at least as fine a demonstration as Truffaut’s Hitchcock of why the Q&A format is so often more revealing than the mediated profile article or book. As befits his flinty films, Melville is a pugnacious, affectionate and slightly melancholy observer: sanguine and unequivocal about the daring with which his films were made. He gives a cool insight too into the rich inheritance of pre-war French cinema that declined post-war into the cinéma du papa so decidedly trashed by Truffaut. Towards the book’s end, Melville says, “I estimate the final disappearance of cinemas to take place around the year 2020.” Let’s hope he’s not right.

The New Wave: Truffaut, Godard, Chabrol, Rohmer, Rivette James Monaco, OUP, 1976

Again, for me this book was about self-education. Not at all professionally involved in film when I bought it, I wanted something to help a London art student get more out of the films of Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol and Rivette. And if it was as puzzling in its way as some of the films seemed at the time, then that only intrigued me more, as any introduction to so important a subject should.

The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy Robert B. Ray, Harvard University Press, 1995

Judging from this survey few, if any, colleagues seem to share my enthusiasm for Ray’s attempts to break out of the cul-de-sacs of postmodern film theory, but I find his use of surrealist randomising and brainstorming games to generate new perspectives on classic Hollywood and other material stimulating, imaginative, informative and very entertaining, both here and in his more recent The ABCs of Classic Hollywood.

The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium Gilberto Perez, The John Hopkins University Press, 1998

In recent decades there has been no more cogent a rethinking of the physical and psychological experience of film as it evolved, both as a technology and as an artform. I want to read it again, soon.

Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber Manny Farber, Library of America, 2009

King Vidor, American Raymond Durgnat and Scott Simmon, University of California Press, 1988

The American Cinema Andrew Sarris

Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage Stanley Cavell, Harvard University Press, 1981

These are the books that I’ve lived with the longest (excepting Farber On Film), so I suppose they’re the ones that have had the most profound effect on me.

Richard T. Kelly

Fun in a Chinese Laundry Josef von Sternberg, Secker & Warburg, 1965

My Last Breath Luis Buñuel, Jonathan Cape, 1983

Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film Jean Cocteau, J.B. Janin, 1946

Mark Le Fanu

Academic / critic, Denmark

The books that most influence you tend to come early in one’s life – whether one likes it or not, everyone is a product of their generation. I started reading about cinema in the late 1960s, the heyday of auteurism: the books that I read then formed my taste and have marked me as a certain kind of cinephile and, 40 years on, after the great adventure (or misadventure) of theory, that is still how I would define myself.

The opening revelation in my case was the discovery of the late Robin Wood’s writings, specifically the five or six beautiful monographs he wrote around that time on contemporary film-makers, so let me single out Bergman (Praeger, 1969). Wood’s patient, unpedantic, exegetical prose remains for me the permanent model of how to do these things.

Next, an interview book: Jon Halliday’s extended conversation Sirk on Sirk: Interviews with Jon Halliday (Secker & Warburg, 1971) hints at profound connections between European and American cinema and the sophisticated passage between the two cultures – connections deepened and cemented by my more or less simultaneous discovery of Andrew Sarris’ extraordinary handbook (compact and encyclopaedic at the same time) The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 . Over the years this little volume must surely have been the Bible for many of us.

Another bible (can there be two?) that has never left my desk is David Thomson’s A Biographical Dictionary of Film . Readers of Sight & Sound will need no introduction to Thomson’s stunningly erudite film scholarship – for over 30 years he has been a leading contributor to this journal.

Alas, only one more book! There are so many wonderful writers out there. Should I opt for something from my collection written by Geoffrey O’Brien? Or Pauline Kael? Or Robert Warshow? Or André Bazin? Or either of the two wise Gilberts (Perez and Adair)? No, it is going to be François Truffaut’s collection of essays The Films in My Life (translated by Leonard Mayhew, Simon & Schuster, 1978). The peerless lucidity of his writing about cinema is underscored by a profound moral passion. Indeed, this is true about all the writers on film that I admire most – even the aesthetes and dandies.

Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema Andrei Tarkovsky

Tarkovsky is my all-time favourite director. But while this is fascinating, I sometimes find his statements frustratingly evasive. Or to the point but about very vague subjects: “Time”. Everything’s a lot clearer in the films. Yet this is what he had to say about them, and that makes it uniquely valuable.

Notes: On the Making of Apocalypse Now! Eleanor Coppola, Simon & Schuster, 1979

For a while I became obsessed with what must have been the best-documented disaster shoot in film history. I had the photo of Francis Ford Coppola pointing a revolver at his head up on my office wall the whole time I was writing Corpsing.

Louise Brooks Barry Paris, Hamish Hamilton, 1989

This depressed the hell out of me, but it’s a great read. Louise Brooks was one of the few actresses with absolute integrity. This may have something to do with why she also had the most vivid screen presence.

Lulu in Hollywood Louise Brooks, Hamish Hamilton, 1982

And she could write, too.

Quay Brothers Dictionary Michael Brooke

In the absence of a full book on my favourite contemporary film-makers, this pamphlet that came with the DVD Quay Brothers: The Short Films 1979-2003 will do very well. I’m still following up all the references to writers, artists and poster designers.

Brian McFarlane

Academic, Australia

Agee on Film: Reviews and Comments James Agee

I loved his willingness to find excitement in unexpected places, to do justice to merit when he found it and to write in such a strongly personal voice.

Ealing Studios Charles Barr, Cameron & Tayleur/David & Charles, 1977

This still seems to me the definitive account of the ethos of a studio. Lucid, rigorous and utterly readable.

David Lean: A Biography Kevin Brownlow, Richard Cohen Books, 1996

The best biography of a film-maker I’ve ever read. An enthralling account of a man enraptured by cinema, written by another man enraptured by cinema.

Typical Men: The Representation of Masculinity in British Cinema Andrew Spicer, I.B. Tauris, 2001

Gives a whole new perspective on the phenomenon of male stardom in British film, wears its theory lightly and is written with wit and perception.

Infuriating and stimulating by turns, this is an idiosyncratic inclusion. It leaves out Phyllis Calvert and includes Audie Murphy, which enrages me, but I read it from cover to cover.

Luke McKernan

Curator, Moving Image, British Library, UK

Spellbound in Darkness Edited by George C. Pratt, University of Rochester, 1966

A loving anthology, with commentary, on the silent cinema. An invitation to discovery on every page, and perhaps the best title for any film book yet published.

The British Film Catalogue, 1895-1970 Denis Gifford, David & Charles, 1973

The nearest we have to a British national filmography was created not by any institute or university but by one man.

Ealing Studios Charles Barr, 1977

A classic analysis of a film studio’s output in terms of nation, society and politics. There is no better stimulus to look at films seriously.

The Pleasure Dome Graham Greene, Secker & Warburg, 1972

Greene’s film reviews from the 1930s are filled with sharp observations and haunting turns of phrase no other critical anthology can match.

The Cinematograph in Science, Education and Matters of State Charles Urban, The Charles Urban Trading Company, 1907

Written at the dawn of cinema, an inspirational manifesto for film as an educative medium.

Geoffrey Macnab

The richness of Powell’s autobiography lies in its scope and its colour. On the one hand, it’s a fantastically useful resource for anyone interested in British film history. Powell offers vivid portraits of his colleagues and collaborators, many of them émigrés. This is a gossipy and very colourful memoir, full of anecdotes and asides about Powell’s romantic life and his sometimes vexed relationships with studio bosses. On the other hand, it is also a self-portrait by a brilliant and uncompromising English film-maker.

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies Martin Scorsese and Michael Henry Wilson, Faber & Faber, 1997

Published to accompany a BFI documentary, this is a beautifully illustrated and very sharp-eyed tour through a century of American cinema by a true obsessive. Scorsese is as interested in Allan Dwan, Phil Karlson, Jacques Tourneur and Sam Fuller as he is in the bigger-name directors.

Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges: His Life in His Words Preston Sturges, Simon & Schuster, 1990

Sturges’ autobiography is as well written, droll and well observed as his best films.

The Magic Lantern Ingmar Bergman, translated by Joan Tate, Hamish Hamilton, 1987

There’s a wild streak of perversity to Bergman’s autobiography. He is honest and self-lacerating about his own foibles and equally caustic about those of others. Morbidity and lyricism run side by side as he lays bare his demons.

An Autobiography of British Cinema Brian McFarlane, Methuen, 1997

This book is easy to undervalue. At first glance it looks like a series of nostalgic, fireside chats with actors and film-makers from the good old days of British cinema. However, no one else was doing these interviews. Thirteen years on, many of the 180 interviewees have died. McFarlane did future British historians an extraordinary service by capturing their reminiscences.

Adrian Martin

Critic, Australia

Theory of Film Practice Noël Burch, Secker & Warburg, 1973

A book that opens minds to formalism in the fullest and most supple way. Burch has changed his position many times since 1967 (when the chapters first appeared in Cahiers du cinéma), but there is still much to excite in these pages.

The Memory of Tiresias: Intertextuality and Film Mikhail Iampolski, University of California Press, 1998

So you think you know what intertextuality is? Iampolski, a pre-eminent contemporary Russian theorist, gives a dazzling demonstration of how, when, where and why films quote other films (and other media) and why we should care. A book so far ahead of its time we haven’t caught up with it.

The Material Ghost: Films and Their Medium Gilberto Perez

The long tradition of sensitive film aesthetics (it would once have been called film appreciation), from Béla Balázs to V.F. Perkins, finds its apotheosis in Perez’s superb book, as fully literary as it is analytical. Has anyone ever written this beautifully about Dovzhenko, Renoir or Straub-Huillet?

Deadline at Dawn: Film Criticism 1980-1990 By Judith Williamson, Marion Boyars, 1992

Journalist-critic heroes play out, on a weekly or even daily basis, the tension between the pressure to publish an instant response and the background resource of a lifetime’s reflection. Bazin, Daney, Rosenbaum and a dozen others fill this role admirably, but my vote is for Britain’s own Judith Williamson, whose books of collected reviews from the 1980s and ’90s are an unending inspiration.

Poetics of Cinema Raúl Ruiz, Dis Voir, 1995 (volume 1) and 2007 (volume 2)

Writings on film by film-makers form a generally undervalued genre. Among the many candidates – from Eisenstein, Tarkvosky and Pasolini to Alexander Kluge, Marcel Hanoun and Alexander Mackendrick – Ruiz’s ongoing Poetics of Cinema project stands out for its intellectual generosity, its luminous storytelling, its sly wit and its surrealist vision of what cinema could still become.


Method Sergei Eisenstein, Museum of Cinema, Eisenstein-Centre, 2002

A casual observer might think we have much or most of Eisenstein’s writings in English, but the complete assemblage of his lifelong two-volume project Method has only appeared in Russian (and German) over the past decade. It will forever change the way we regard his life, work and thought. Fortunately, thanks to the gifted Russian-Australian scholar Julia Vassilieva, this project is on the way.

De la figure en général et du corps en particulier: L’invention figurative au cinéma Nicole Brenez, De Boeck, 1998

English-language film cultures have kept pace with French aesthetic philosophers like Jacques Rancière and Alain Badiou, but forgot to check where film analysis itself went in France after the heyday of semiotics. Here’s the answer: the most radical, innovative and inventive tome of cinema study in the past quarter-century, boldly proposing a ‘figural’ approach that combines meaning with emotion, history with imagination. Brenez is our greatest living critic.

Im/Off: Filmartikel Frieda Grafe and Enno Patalas, Hanser, 1974

Emerging from Filmkritik magazine in the late 1950s, this lively pair shaped much future German-language film culture to come with their analyses, programming, teaching and restoration work. Grafe (1934-2002), in particular, combined a crisp, evocative, Barthesian style with a rigorous eye and brilliant mind. This book is among the key chronicles of the 1960s and ’70s revolutions in cinema and film criticism.

Viv(r)e le cinéma Roger Tailleur

Francophiles, in general, know a lot about Cahiers du cinéma (and the whole artistic-intellectual culture that goes with it) and almost nothing about Positif (ditto). The saddest lacuna of all is Roger Tailleur (1927-85), an extraordinary prose stylist and encyclopaedic brain who, on a good day, makes Manny Farber seem like Harry Knowles. This selection, lovingly assembled by Positif comrades Michel Ciment and Louis Seguin, and containing classic essays on Bogart, Antonioni, Hawks and Marker, really just scratches the surface of Tailleur’s remarkable oeuvre – a true thinking-person’s cinephilia.

Kantuko Ozu Yasujiro Shigehiko Hasumi, Chikuma Shobo, 1983

Hasumi’s analytical method is deceptively simple: he takes us through the facts, limpidly described, of the everyday world of Ozu’s films – the walking, sitting, dressing, banal chit-chat – in order to arrive at often devastating revelations of this master director’s sensibility at work. Few critics give us such a concrete sense of what Godard once called “the evidence”. Cahiers du cinéma published a French version in 1998; we English readers are still waiting.

Peter Matthews

Agee on Film: Reviews and Comment James Agee

The greatest American film reviewer of the 1940s is a neglected figure these days, no doubt as his lofty humanist standards are out of tune with our own cynical resignation to ‘entertainment’. Ever the disappointed idealist, Agee offered grudging praise to such compromised efforts as Meet Me in St. Louis and Double Indemnity in long, delicately cadenced sentences that would never survive the copy editor now. Yet he was equally a master of the short demolition job (Princess O’Rourke: “An unobtrusive raising of the window, and the less said the better”), while his clairvoyant appreciation of Zéro de conduite almost single-handedly put Jean Vigo on the map in the English-speaking world. Though he could get it wrong (as in his cranky dismissal of Citizen Kane), Agee’s intense moral engagement with cinema sets him far above critics who merely get it right.

Katharine Hepburn: Star as Feminist Andrew Britton, Studio Vista, 1995

The competition isn’t fierce, but this book remains easily the best serious full-length study of a star. Shunning the high road of 1970s ‘apparatus theory’, with its curiously self-defeating notion that pleasure is an ideological error, Britton champions Hollywood icons as authentic sources of emotional and political inspiration. Hepburn’s fey, tomboyish persona may not have been radical exactly, but its very oddity created a worrying disturbance in her films that even the ritual clinch at the end didn’t entirely pacify. Stars back then embodied vital social contradictions – one doubts whether the featureless pretty people of contemporary celebrity would repay so subtle and scrupulous a treatment.

The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium Gilberto Perez

This volume has already become a milestone in film criticism, and it isn’t hard to see why. For one thing, Perez magnificently vindicates the beauty of illusionism – a salutary attitude after decades of academic militancy that judged it a ruling-class plot. But even more crucially, he understands how every general theory of cinema must start from its concrete particulars as an artform. The book is really about nothing beyond the author’s own infinite sensitivity to the implications of style. Has anyone else been quite so astute regarding the poetics of the shot/reverse shot (in Straub-Huillet’s History Lessons) or the uses of stasis (in Dovzhenko’s Earth)? A work of transcendent intelligence.

These aphoristic memos from the legendary director are often as inscrutable as Zen Buddhist koans, yet reflecting on them can produce a similar enlightenment. Bresson’s notorious contempt for acting is explained here in the distinction he draws between cinematography (pure writing with images) and mere cinema (still beholden to the mimetic fakery of theatre). The professional player counterfeits truth vaingloriously, whereas the amateur or ‘model’ simply reveals a soul. Essential reading for anyone curious about the physics and metaphysics of film, this slender volume can be profitably revisited over a lifetime.

Sirk on Sirk: Interviews with Jon Halliday Edited by Jon Halliday

A book that revolutionised film studies. Douglas Sirk’s erudite exchanges with Halliday in 1971 turned his previous reputation as a merchant of lachrymose piffle upside down by revealing he had been a cool ironist all along. Universal loved the Panglossian optimism of the title All That Heaven Allows, but Sirk knew what it really meant (‘heaven is stingy’) and proved the point with a mise en scène that systematically undercuts its own chocolate-box display of luxury. Through his sophisticated apologia for melodrama, a despised genre was propelled into the academic spotlight where it has remained ever since.

I could as easily have picked William Rothman’s Documentary Film Classics, Robin Wood’s Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, Stanley Cavell’s Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage or Paul Schrader’s Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. I haven’t included André Bazin’s What is Cinema? because it sits in a class by itself.

Sophie Mayer

Decreation Anne Carson, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005

Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film Jean Cocteau

Essential Deren: Collected Writings on Film Maya Deren, edited by Bruce McPherson, Documentext, 2005

Queer Edward II (annotated screenplay) Derek Jarman, BFI, 1991

When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender and Cultural Politics Trinh T. Minh-ha, Routledge, 1991

Henry K. Miller

Let’s Go to the Pictures Iris Barry, Chatto & Windus, 1926

A product and record of the years when cinema first came to be ‘taken seriously’ in Britain, to use the conventional phrase. Barry was a cinephile pioneer among the literati, and one of film culture’s seminal figures. Very little was outside her scope. Sample observation: “Every habitual cinemagoer must have been struck at some time or another by the comparative slowness of perception and understanding of a person not accustomed to the pictures: the newcomer nearly always misses half of what occurs. To be a habitué makes one easily suggestible through the eye, quick at observing manners, gestures and tricks of expression.”

The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema Jean Mitry, Indiana University Press, 1997

Overflowing with riches, it’s something of a scandal that Mitry’s summa went untranslated until the 1990s while the canon was packed by scores of philosophers manqués.

Films and Feelings Raymond Durgnat, Faber & Faber, 1967

Hard to pick just one Durgnat. Films and Feelings makes it because its extended chapter on the history of Franco-Anglo-American film criticism, ‘Auteurs and Dream Factories’, has yet to be bettered.

The Studio John Gregory Dunne, Farrer, Straus & Giroux, 1969

This account of a year at Twentieth Century Fox during the dying days of the dream factory is the best of the ‘inside Hollywood’ books by dint of Dunne’s peerlessly dry prose.

Cinema: A Critical Dictionary Edited by Richard Roud, Secker & Warburg, 1980

The single best reference work on the cinema I’ve dipped into, this ought to have become standard household issue. Having assembled an all-star team of contributors – from Jean-Andre Fiéschi to Robin Wood to P. Adams Sitney – editor Roud (an S&S mainstay) himself jumps in at the end of each entry to register the extent of his disagreement.

An Illustrated History of the Horror Film Carlos Clarens, Putnam, 1967

The first film book I ever bought – or nagged my parents to buy me – and still a model of genre history/criticism, teasing out bigger narratives from the mosaic achievements of individual films.

Kings of the Bs: Working Within the Hollywood System Edited by Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn, Dutton, 1975

Full of important things, like Manny Farber on Val Lewton and Roger Ebert on Russ Meyer, and evaluations of previously obscure films (Thunder Road) and film-makers (Sam Katzman).

Looking Away: Hollywood and Vietnam Julian Smith, Scribner, 1975

A study that manages to say a lot of fascinating, illuminating things about its subject even though it labours under the handicap that when it was published (1975) Hollywood had made almost no films about the Vietnam War.

Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents Stephen Thrower, FAB Press, 2007

A huge study of independent American horror films of the 1970s and ’80s, this is a rare book that tells me things I didn’t already know. A monumental achievement, and it’s only the first part.

Science Fiction Movies Philip Strick, Octopus, 1976

Strick, a long-time S&S commentator, was one of the sharpest writers on science fiction in film and literature. This was one of a series of disposable illustrated books, but proved that the wordage between the stills needn’t just be rehashed press releases. Like all books I go back to, it has solid information, wide-ranging insight and an elegant, precise, wry prose style.

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith

Academic and writer, UK

Qu’est-ce que le cinéma? (What is Cinema?) André Bazin, Editions du Cerf, 1958-62

Four little volumes of essays and reviews written in the 1940s and 1950s, published posthumously, that were absolutely formative for the film-makers of the nouvelle vague and for critics ever after. The selective and not very good English translation as What is Cinema? may have done more harm than good in reach-me-down film studies courses. A much better translation of most of the key essays has recently been published (What is Cinema?, edited and translated by Timothy Barnard, Montreal: Caboose, 2010), but for copyright reasons is available only in Canada.

A Bazin antidote. Harbinger of the theory boom of the 1970s, but much more readable than most of what followed.

Thoughts and opinions of the most important and revolutionary film-maker of the past 50 years. Beautifully edited and translated, but it unfortunately stops just before 1968. For Godard’s later thinking, avoid books and watch his extraordinary Histoire(s) du cinéma (1998).

For a reference book, am I allowed to put forward The Oxford History of World Cinema, despite being its editor (OUP, 1996)? If debarred, then the 2000 edition of the Time Out Film Guide, being less bulky than it has since become.

Michael O’Pray

Visionary Film P. Adams Sitney

Magisterial. It was written over 30 years ago, yet remains the most lucid and critically coherent account of American avant-garde film.

A World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film Stanley Cavell, Harvard University Press, 1971

The most sophisticated marriage of philosophy and film written. Brimming with ideas and beautifully written.

Stargazer: The Life, World and Films of Andy Warhol Stephen Koch, Marion Boyars, 1991

Still the best book on Warhol’s cinema. A cool gaze at a cool world.

My Last Breath Luis Buñuel

Surrealism, not as a set of dogmas, but as a life lived.

Durgnat on Film Raymond Durgnat, Faber & Faber, 1976

So sharp and so readable.

This is as sharp, witty and lacerating as all his best pictures; Buñuel’s observing eye turned into an act of reflective writing on his own life.

L’Imaginaire Jean-Paul Sartre (mistranslated as The Psychology of the Imagination), Gallimard, 1940

This is the book of books that helped me develop a cinematic eye.

Memoirs of the Beijing Film Academy Ni Zhen, National Publishers of Japan, 1995

Charts the rise of the Fifth Generation out of nowhere to astonish the world.

Ingmar Bergman Jacques Aumont, Cahiers du cinéma, 2003

In which the French critic says it all and shows us that further Bergman books must lie in new detail or a broader window on the film world.

Film Journal Eve Arnold, Bloomsbury, 2001

A masterpiece of stills photography that captures the world behind the movie camera, culminating in her extraordinary on-set pics of Marilyn and The Misfits.

Critic, Daily Telegraph, UK

The Aurum Film Encyclopedia Edited by Phil Hardy, Aurum, 1983-98

This guide to the horror (1983 edition), science fiction (1984) and Western (1984) genres is addictive, exhaustive and unsurpassed.

Reeling Pauline Kael

My favourite Kael collection because the period it covers (1973-75) coincides with so many of her true passions.

Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism Jonathan Rosenbaum, University of California Press, 1995

No one else seems to get the point of film criticism as well as Rosenbaum, or to pursue it with such prickly independence.

Dirk Bogarde: The Authorised Biography John Coldstream, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004

This grasping of a unique career and life is an absolute model of diligence and wisdom.

The Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood Julie Salamon, Delta, 1992

Outstrips even Steven Bach’s Final Cut as an appalled account of big-budget catastrophe.

Nick Roddick

André Bazin’s What is Cinema? introduced me to a different way of thinking about film and Christian Metz’s [two-volume] Essais sur la signification au cinéma (Klincksieck, 1968 and 1972) took things to a whole new level – even if the air up there was sometimes a little too thin to breathe.

In an entirely different context, a trio of Hollywood autobiographies – Sterling Hayden’s Wanderer (Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), Raoul Walsh’s Each Man in His Time: The Life Story of a Director (Farrer, Straus & Giroux, 1974) and Sam Fuller’s A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002) – confirmed that, even within the studio system, there were different lives being lived and different stories being told.

So, in a quite different but unforgettable way, did Kenneth Anger’s scurrilous Hollywood Babylon (J.J. Pauvert, 1959), which should be prescribed reading on every po-faced film course.

One that got away: Hugh Fordin’s MGM’s Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit (Da Capo, 1996), which I lent to someone in 1976 and never saw again.

But if there is one book to rule them all, it is Peter Wollen’s Signs and Meaning in the Cinema . The revised and enlarged edition of 1972 is the most concise, lucid and inspiring introduction to thinking about film ever written.

Jonathan Romney

Critic, Independent on Sunday, UK

Deadline at Dawn Judith Williamson

This is an exemplary collection, with a superb opening essay on the importance of resisting complicity with the culture supermarket. Its key statement, provocative but true: asking a critic what films to go to is as inappropriate as asking a geographer where to go on holiday.

Devant la recrudescence des vols de sac à main, cinéma, télévision, information Serge Daney, Aléas, 1997

This was my first exposure to the complexity, provocation and sometimes perversity of this French critic, a champion of cinephilic promiscuity and a brilliant expander of small, seemingly inconspicuous details into troubling symptoms. The title is what they used to warn audiences about in French cinemas: “Given the increase in handbag thefts…”

Flicker Theodore Roszak, Summit, 1991

Dan Brown avant la lettre for film buffs and those who tolerate their obsessions, Roszak’s novel is the best airport thriller ever, a passionate mythomanic celebration of cinema and its possible secret histories and, incidentally, a prescient forecast of the satanic-brat film-making generation of Gaspar Noé, Harmony Korine, Eli Roth et al. If ever I were to use the term ‘unputdownable’…

Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles David Thomson, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996

Biography as something close to picaresque fiction. At once imaginative myth-making and insightful, demystifying critical essay.

The Phantom Empire Geoffrey O’Brien, W.W. Norton & Company, 1993

A sui generis reimagining of film history – a poetic treatise, cultural delirium and phenomenological evocation of the mysterious, multiform rapture of watching. O’Brien’s prose textures alone bear testimony to the power of film to galvanise the creative impulse.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

Films and Feelings Raymond Durgnat

This first collection by the most thoughtful, penetrating, and far-reaching of UK film critics ever remains scandalously overlooked and undervalued. Conceivably more ideas per page can be found here than in the work of any other English-language critic, and Durgnat’s grounding in surrealism and the school of Positif is merely one of the starting points for an exploratory critical intelligence that is nonetheless quintessentially English.

I also prize the expanded original, Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard of 1985 – it’s only the first of two volumes, but still a doorstop at 638 pages. The shorter English version of this seminal collection of criticism and interviews may be only 292 pages, but Tom Milne’s translation and commentary are exemplary, and there’s no other volume of criticism from Cahiers du cinéma that has influenced me as deeply. (The main reason, incidentally, why I haven’t selected any collections in French by André Bazin or Serge Daney is the absence of any fully satisfying volume in the first case and too many possible candidates in the second.)

More Than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts James Naremore, University of California Press, 2008 (revised and expanded edition)

Although it’s hard to arrive at a single title by my favourite academic film critic (my second choice would probably be the updated edition of The Magic World of Orson Welles), this is probably the most enjoyable, edifying, and rereadable of Naremore’s books – and certainly the best study of noir ever published.

After much internal debate, I’ve opted for this essential collection over the far heftier Farber on Film because this includes the lengthy and indispensable interview Farber and Patricia Patterson gave to Richard Thompson in 1977, whereas the other volume, even though it sports the almost accurate subtitle The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber, contains only excerpts from it.

Romantic Comedy in Hollywood: From Lubitsch to Sturges James Harvey, Alfred A. Knopf, 1987

Before arriving at this 720-page definitive compendium, I came very close to selecting the 1977 640-page The Compound Cinema: The Film Writings of Harry Alan Potamkin by a leftist intellectual of the 1920s and ’30s with a truly international grasp of cinema – and the first critic ever to write about film cults. But I keep returning to Harvey’s judicious book even more often.

Sukhdev Sandhu

Channel 4 Guide to François Truffaut Channel 4, 1984

As all who recall the glory days of the fanzine will know, great, life-changing literature often comes through the front door in a self-addressed envelope. This small booklet, issued as a pedagogic aid of sorts, is a reminder of a time when terrestrial television scheduled whole series dedicated to individual arthouse directors (at prime time!) – series that would initiate ignorant schoolboys like me into the joys of world cinema.

Geoff Dyer once wrote: “Spare me the drudgery of systematic examinations and give me the lightning flashes of those wild books in which there is no attempt to cover the ground thoroughly or reasonably.” Bresson’s slender collection of jottings and aphorisms (“The ejaculatory force of the eye”; “The terrible habit of theatre”; “Don’t run after poetry: it penetrates unaided through the joins”) is a witty example of the virtues of brevity.

100 Modern Soundtracks Philip Brophy, BFI, 2004

It doesn’t have the most compelling title, and this kind of synoptic volume is usually far less than the sum of its parts, but Brophy is a terrifically incisive and generative thinker about the possibilities of Ear Cinema, audio-delving into films as diverse as India Song and I Spit on Your Grave to create what he calls a “Braille for the deaf”.

As a film writer, my knee-jerk position is to use the word ‘studio’ as shorthand for greed, enervated groupthink, imaginative inertia, capitalism, western imperialism, evil itself. Sometimes, especially after you’ve just stumbled out of the remake of Clash of the Titans, that seems an intellectually responsible position. Mostly though, as this fastidiously researched and elegantly argued rebuff to auteurism shows, it’s not: the complex mesh of marketing, production and management enabled as much as it retarded the creation of the best US cinema of the mid-century.

An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema, 1896-1937 Zhang Zhen, University of Chicago Press, 2006

As the years trundle by, I’m more and more embarrassed by the parochialism of my filmic knowledge. Of Bollywood and Nollywood and Latin American cinema I know a bit, but not as much as I ought. As for Chinese film, well, this superb history, in which Zhang spotlights the teeming interplay between movies, photography and architecture in early 20th-century Shanghai, performs the function of all the best literature: it leaves you ravenous for more.

Jaspar Sharp

Midnight Eye, UK

The Japanese Film: Art and Industry Joseph L. Anderson and Donald Richie, Princeton University Press, 1959 (expanded edition 1982)

Although only covering developments prior to the 1960s, this is still the most essential publication out there on Japanese film.

The Imperial Screen: Japanese Film Culture in the Fifteen Years’ War, 1931-45 Peter B. High, University of Wisconsin Press, 2003

An exhaustive and fascinating account of how the Japanese film industry was mobilised during the war years.

From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film Siegfried Kracauer

Its arguments as to how Germany’s national cinema portended the rise of Nazism might seem a bit oversimplified, but this book still provides a fascinating insight into the rise and fall of one of the world’s greatest film industries.

A Pictorial History of Horror Movies Denis Gifford, Hamlyn, 1973

I owe my obsession with cinema to being given a copy of this at the age of ten.

Mondo Macabro: Weird & Wonderful Cinema around the World Pete Tombs, St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998

The book that really opened my eyes to some of the more obscure corners of global film culture.

Iain Sinclair

Proving you don’t need to rehash the plot (it’s only there to secure financing). And for that essay ‘White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art’. And for the undeceived appreciation of Sam Fuller. Rescues, with painterly intelligence, a defunct form.

Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life David Caute, Faber & Faber, 1994

Begins with the balance sheet: accountancy, documentation, polemic. The cultural connections of that period, from Brecht to Pinter, nicely fixed.

Knotty meat. A good place from which to steal.

Film at Wit’s End: Essays on American Independent Film-makers Stan Brakhage, Polygon, 1989

Generous evaluations of his peers by the inspirational film poet.

Nouvelle Vague, The First Decade Raymond Durgnat, Motion, 1963

Provocative, opinionated and a little crazy. I read this one until it fell apart, pre-viewing in my imagination films I had not yet seen and might never see. A fine example of literature as catalogue.

David Thompson

Critic/documentarian, UK

A Discovery of Cinema Thorold Dickinson, OUP, 1971

Reeling By Pauline Kael Film as a Subversive Art By Amos Vogel

I would also add a complete set of Sight & Sound – no kidding!

David Thomson

Critic/author, USA

I don’t think this has been equalled as a record of a life in show business desperate to get into art.

Final Cut Steven Bach

The most candid and complete account of a film, and a famous disaster – which looks better every time you see it.

David O. Selznick’s Hollywood Ronald Haver, Bonanza, 1980

The most beautiful film book.

This is Orson Welles Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Endlessly fascinating, a book of record that is bursting to be a novel.

The Deer Park Norman Mailer, Putnam, 1955

Mailer had so many great insights about film and they start in this 1955 novel.

Kenneth Turan

Critic, LA Times, USA

Picture Lillian Ross, Rinehart, 1952

A terrific piece of journalism and a landmark in the history of American non-fiction writing, this look at how John Huston made The Red Badge of Courage remains the ultimate Hollywood behind-the-scenes story.

The Pat Hobby Storie s F. Scott Fitzgerald, Scribner, 1962

The great American novelist turned his attention to a Hollywood he knew well for this collection of short stories about a washed-up screenwriter, which retain their relevance and punch to this day.

For US critics of a certain age this is the most obvious choice, but there is no overestimating the impact its English-language exploration of auteur theory had on serious filmgoers and critics.

The book that almost single-handedly revived serious interest in the long-reviled world of silent film.

King Cohn: The Life and Times of Harry Cohn Bob Thomas, Putnam, 1967

A deliciously gossipy biography of Harry Cohn, the feared and reviled head of Columbia Pictures. As comedian Red Skelton said of the man’s well-attended funeral, “It proves what Harry always said: ‘Give the public what they want and they’ll come out for it.’”

Catherine Wheatley

Critic/Academic, UK

Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger

Postcards from the Cinema Serge Daney, P.O.L Editions, 1994

Subtitles: On the Foreignness of Film Atom Egoyan and Ian Balfour, MIT Press, 2004

Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture and Film Giuliana Bruno, Verso, 2002

The Cinema Book Pam Cook

Armond White

Critic, New York Post, USA

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Pauline Kael, Litte, Brown, 1968

A treasure chest of critical art anchored to her ‘Notes on Movies’ – a personal, inspiring history of cinema without a single received idea.

A one-man tour de force that cements the case for the auteur theory.

Heavenly Bodies: Stars and Society Richard Dyer

The one true advance from pop criticism into academic thought, yet that still relates to pop, pleasure and real life.

The only example of a great film era (the 1970s) meeting a worthy, attentive journalist. Includes her essential ‘On the Future of Movies’ essay, a timeless cri de coeur.

The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World Armond White, Overlook Press, 1995

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A pantheon of one’s own: 25 female film critics worth celebrating - image

A pantheon of one’s own: 25 female film critics worth celebrating

Miriam Bale , Anne Billson , Mark Cousins , Jemma Desai , Bryony Dixon , Jane Giles , Pamela Hutchinson , Nick James , Violet Lucca , So Mayer , Henry K Miller , Nathalie Morris , Nick Pinkerton , Jonathan Romney , Jonathan Rosenbaum , Claire Smith , Kate Stables , Francine Stock , Isabel Stevens , Matthew Sweet , Ginette Vincendeau , Thirza Wakefield , Ben Walters , Catherine Wheatley , Rob Winter

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Andrew Sarris, 1928-2012

1963 and all that: Raymond Durgnat and the birth of the Great British Phantasmagoria - image

1963 and all that: Raymond Durgnat and the birth of the Great British Phantasmagoria

Henry K Miller

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The 29 Best Movies Based on Books in 2021

Now's the perfect time to read the 900-page Dune!

peter rabbit, white tiger, dune

Whether you enjoy a  good page-turner  or love seeing an  excellent adaptation , there are a ton of  2021 films  to look forward to that draw inspiration from really good stories. Among the many offerings this year, we've got films about Cruella De Vil's backstory ( yes please, Emma Stone ), a firsthand account of a prisoner from Guantánamo Bay, an exploration of India's caste system, and the inner life of Marilyn Monroe. One thing that's great about this list: It features a number of books I was less familiar with, which means there might be some new literature on here that you can get and read before the film comes out. That way, you can be prepared when you head to the movie theater (or maybe stay home and watch it on your TV, given the current circumstances). So grab your Kindle—or even go all the way and get  an actual book !—and pull up these riveting reads. Then get ready to love, loathe, or otherwise pass judgment on these 2021 on-screen adaptations, ahead. 

1. 'House of Gucci'

Nobody can stop talking about  House of Gucci , starring Lady Gaga and Adam Driver, which tells the story of the Gucci family (murder and all!) and is based on the  title of the same name . The film is set to premiere in November.

2. 'Nomadland'

Based on  Jessica Bruder's book  of the same title,  Nomadland  won the Academy Award for Best Picture and Chloé Zhao, the film's director, won Best Director. The film stars Frances McDormand as a nomad who leaves her hometown and travels across the United States after her husband dies. The movie officially premiered on streaming outlets in the U.S. on February 19, 2021.

3. 'Cruella'

The highly-anticipated Disney prequel is based on the character from  101 Dalmatians  before she becomes the puppy-coat-wearing villain we all know. I'm still not totally sure how they're going to get the character to "wearing dog fur makes sense!" but at least they're not doing what prequels sometimes do—tone down her evil. Cruella says it best herself: "I was born brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad."

4. 'The White Tiger'

An adaptation of Aravind Adiga's Booker Prize-winning  book of the same name , Balram Halwai (played by Adarsh Gourav) is the titular "white tiger" born once every generation. He's brilliant and ambitious—and his work for a wealthy Indian family leads to fascinating, tragic consequences.

5. 'The Mauritanian'

Mohamedou Ould Slahi wrote  this 2015 memoir  while he was being imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay as a suspected 9/11 terrorist, despite never being formally charged with any crime. Definitely read the gripping best-seller before you watch the film, which stars Tahar Rahim, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Jodie Foster. The movie was released in theaters on February 12.

6. 'The United States vs. Billie Holliday'

Johann Hari's  Chasing the Scream  is a fascinating look at some of the most horrific stories from the War on Drugs, undermining everything we think we know about that campaign. One of those stories comes to life in this biographical drama about Billie Holliday as she's targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics. With the amazing Andra Day as Holliday, it's a riveting, honest, and devastating watch.

7. 'To All the Boys: Always and Forever'

I mean. The first two movies are just so cute, and so beloved, that watching the final movie was never in question. Lara Jean and Peter navigate "together forever" in the face of college and the potential of a long-distance relationship. (Ah, the problems of youth!) It's worth noting that  Always and Forever, Lara Jean   has a few key differences, if you're a fan of the book series.

8. 'Those Who Wish Me Dead'

Michael Koryta's book , about a 14-year-old on the run after he witnesses a horrific murder, came to the big screen in May 2021. Directed by  Sicario 's Taylor Sheridan, it also features the return of Angelina Jolie as a mysterious, isolated ex-firefighter. The book goes quickly and is absolutely worth it as you wait for the film.

9. 'Without Remorse'

One of the most anticipated movies of 2021 (which is also a spinoff of the film series),  Without Remorse  is based on the 1993  Tom Clancy book  of the same name. All of Clancy's books are page-turners, but even by that standard this is an intense rollercoaster of a read. Michael B. Jordan, the best in everything, graced our TV screens as the iconic Mr. Clark via Amazon Prime in April.

10. 'Cherry'

The story of an unnamed soldier-turned-addict-turned-bank robber became  a national bestseller  that's now a Russo brothers film starring Tom Holland. It's also, incredibly, based on the experiences of the author Nico Walker, who (spoiler alert) wrote the novel while he was in prison for bank robbery. It's riveting to read.

11. 'The Dig'

The book  is a fictionalized telling of the Sutton Hoo dig, a critically important excavation of Anglo-Saxon artifacts. The film looks like it's  a pretty faithful telling  of the real-life participants involved, and we might see it make the rounds in upcoming awards circuits. If archaeology is your thing, the book is terrific.

12. 'Chaos Walking'

Another Tom Holland movie, this is based off of the first book in Patrick Ness's  Chaos Walking  series:  The Knife of Never Letting Go . The premise is  so  compelling—Todd lives on a planet of only men, where are their thoughts can be heard and seen out loud. Then he meets a girl who's apparently crash-landed on his home (Daisy Ridley, post- Star Wars ). This film has gone through a number of delays, but the books are apparently pretty riveting if the idea interests you.

13. 'French Exit'

In a darkly comedic novel by famed author Patrick deWitt, widow Frances Price escapes her New York pennilessness to live in Paris with her son. The film is garnering  positive reviews  thus far, particularly for Michelle Pfeiffer bringing the caustic Frances to life. The film was out in March.

14. 'Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway'

Technically, this is only loosely based on the beloved children's  Peter Rabbit  series, and it's a direct sequel to the first  Peter Rabbit  (2018). But, if you love bunnies and cute antics and Rose Byrne as Beatrix Potter, give the film a watch when it's released in June. And if you have kids,  definitely  get the books.

15. 'Infinite'

The Reincarnationist Papers   centers around a secret society that can recall their past lives, and the young man who discovers them. This upcoming film by director Antoine Fuqua reimagines the premise as a man (Wahlberg) begins to realize he's hallucinating his past lives. Both sound equally compelling, TBH.

16. 'Fatherhood'

The book by Matthew Logelin, titled  Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love , tells the story of losing his wife to a pulmonary embolism...27 hours after she gave birth to their daughter. So both the book and the movie, with Kevin Hart in the lead role, promise to be absolute tearjerkers.

17. 'Monster'

If you've never read the  Pulitzer Prize-winning novel  by Walter Dean Myers, go rent or buy it now: A 17-year-old teenager is charged with felony murder, and a terrifying trial ensues that has much to say about race in America.  Netflix acquired the rights to the film  in November 2020, after it originally debuted at Sundance in 2018. Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jennifer Hudson, Jeffrey Wright,   Jharrel Jerome,   John David Washington, and Jennifer Ehle are among the stars.

18. 'Finding You'

This one will hopefully translate into rom-com gold:  There You'll Find Me  by Jenny B. Jones follows teen Finley (Rose Reid) who's headed to Ireland after her brother's death. At the same time, film star Beckett (Jedidiah Goodacre) is also in Ireland filming a movie. Sparks fly, naturally. What happens?? Read the book, so you'll be ready for this on-screen romance!

19. 'The Last Letter From Your Lover'

This one also sounds like a fascinating read/watch: A journalist stumbles upon old letters between two star-crossed lovers, and becomes obsessed with finding out what happened between the pair. Felicity Jones, Shailene Woodley, and (Mr. Taylor Swift himself) Joe Alwyn star in what will likely be a passionate romantic drama, with plenty of period-appropriate fashion to ogle as well. If you're dying to know how it ends,  here's the novel .

20. 'The Power of the Dog'

Kristen Dunst and Jesse Plemons join Benedict Cumberbatch in this tale of love and revenge. Two brothers work on a farm, barely tolerating each other—until one of them gets married, and the other one decides to burn their relationship to the ground.  Thomas Savage's story  has been compared to a modern-day Greek tragedy. It will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September.

It's not just an old, cult-favorite movie:  Dune  started life as a  classic novel  sometimes considered to be the best sci-fi epic ever written. Denis Villeneuve ( Blade Runner 2049 ) is the perfect director to bring this trippy, terrifying, totally unique vision to life. It's headed to theaters and streaming in October.

22. 'The Last Duel'

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are teaming up again to adapt this  fascinating nonfiction book  about the last judicial duel held in France, a.k.a. "the duel to end all duels." Adam Driver and  Jodie Comer  also star, so I'm definitely watching. But the real event's just as interesting, so the book's worth the read regardless of whether you plan on watching the film. It will be released on October 15.

23. 'Mothering Sunday'

Olivia Colman and Josh O'Connor—yes, the Queen and Prince Charles themselves—are back at it with Colin Firth and Odessa Young in this adaptation.  Mothering Sunday   is a short read about English maid Jane Fairchild meeting with her upper-class lover on what might be the most important day of her life. No spoilers! The film is set for release on November 19.

24. 'Deep Water'

Deep Water  has most recently made headlines for its stars, Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, briefly becoming an IRL couple (they met on set,  apparently !). But  the fictional story  is some  Gone Girl -level stuff. Author Patricia Highsmith (who also brought the talented Mr. Ripley to life) writes a story about a miserable married couple. One of the wife's lovers disappears—did her jealous husband do it? This one will now be released in January 2022.

25. 'Death on the Nile'

Agatha Christie fans unite:  Death on the Nile , arguably one of her most compelling mystery novels, is getting the superstar treatment. The film is a follow-up to 2017's  Murder on the Orient Express  with Kenneth Branagh reprising his role as Hercule Poirot. It's the story of a deadly love triangle: A woman steals her BFF's boyfriend. Someone dies. And everyone has a motive. If you absolutely can't wait to figure out who did it (it's  such  a cool twist), read the novel first—you'll have plenty of time. After being delayed several times due to COVID-19, the film will now be released on February 11, 2022.

26. 'Clifford the Big Red Dog'

Everyone's favorite enormous pooch will be voiced by none other than David Alan Grier in this live-action adaptation of  the book series . Expect for the story to go through some modernizing for today's young audience, with Darby Camp to star as the misfit teen who needs help from her brightly colored canine pal. The movie was originally supposed to premiere in September, but it's looking like it will have a 2022 premiere date.

27. 'The Stars at Noon'

Nicaragua in the 1980s is the setting for  The Stars at Noon , which details the relationship between an American woman and an Englishman. Neither of them are exactly as they seem at first glance, and they become involved in "sinister plots." Claire Denis directs, and Robert Pattinson (who worked with Denis on  High Life ) and Margaret Qualley are set to star in the film planning to release in 2022 now. 

28. 'Blonde'

And that's not the only film based on a book de Armas is starring in.  Blonde , the adaptation of  Joyce Carol Oates' novel  about Marilyn Monroe, is the film icon at her most vulnerable. This is the perfect work for adaptation: an imagining of Monroe's rich inner life and a retelling of her impressive accomplishments in a male-dominated film industry. No official release date has been given, but at this point it's expected to premiere in 2022.

29. 'The Nightingale'

Apparently inspired by true events, Kristin Hannah's  The Nightingale  tells the story of two French sisters who get caught up, in different ways, in World War II. The Goodreads Best Historical Novel of the Year was bound to be adapted—and real-life sisters Dakota and Elle Fanning are playing the lead roles. It's not coming out until December 2022 now, so you'll have plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the subject matter.

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The 100 Greatest Film Books of All Time

The 100 Greatest Film Books of All Time 

THR’s list of must-read tomes — determined by a jury of more than 300 Hollywood heavyweights including Steven Spielberg, David Zaslav, Liza Minnelli and Ava DuVernay — proves there’s one topic the supposedly reading-averse industry can’t get enough of: itself.

By Scott Feinberg

Scott Feinberg

Executive Editor of Awards

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There has long been an assumption that people in the movie business — and Hollywood specifically — aren’t exactly well read. “Millions to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots,” Herman Mankiewicz telegrammed Ben Hecht upon his arrival out West in 1926. Meanwhile, 2023 awards contender American Fiction includes the laugh line, “Nobody in Hollywood reads. They get their assistants to read things and then summarize them. The whole town runs on book reports.”

But THR , suspecting that’s painting with too broad a brush, and aware that many usually busy people had some time on their hands during the first simultaneous strike of actors and writers in 63 years, reached out to hundreds of distinguished members of the global film community and asked them to share their picks for the greatest books related to film — autobiographies, biographies, novels, how-to, making-of and every other sort — factoring in quality, impact and influence. They each received a “ballot” listing some 1,200 notable titles, plus slots for write-ins.

Among the 322 respondents were directors (including Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay, Oliver Stone, John Waters and Celine Song); actors (Liza Minnelli, Alec Baldwin , Laura Dern, Colman Domingo and Sarah Paulson); producers (Jerry Bruckheimer and Amy Pascal); writers (Tom Stoppard, Paul Schrader and John Mulaney); executives (David Zaslav, Sherry Lansing, Michael Barker, Tom Rothman and Bela Bajaria); documentarians (Ken Burns, Sheila Nevins and Errol Morris); animators (Floyd Norman); composers (Nicholas Britell); agents (Toni Howard); the heads of the Academy, Academy Museum, Golden Globes, BAFTA, MPA, AFI, American Cinematheque, Black List, Alamo Drafthouse theater chain and Sundance, Toronto and Karlovy Vary film festivals; journalists (Maureen Dowd, Graydon Carter, Roxane Gay, David Remnick, Lynn Hirschberg, Michael Wolff and Lawrence O’Donnell); film critics; academics; and, yes, a host of top authors of film books.

There have previously been “greatest film books” surveys of some of these constituencies, but never all of them, and never of this size and scope. It’s with the hope that THR readers will be inspired to check out these books and learn more about the art form and business that we cover that we proudly present — in order from fewest votes to most — the 100 greatest film books of all time ( click here for a printable checklist ), as chosen by the people who would know best.

98 (tie).  Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer

98 (tie) Transcendental Style in Film Paul Schrader University of California 1972 Criticism

By Paul Schrader 1972 • University of California Press • Criticism/Theory/Essay 16 votes

The man who would go on to write Taxi Driver , co-write Raging Bull and write and direct First Reformed penned this study of spirituality in film as his UCLA film school thesis. It zeroes in on three filmmakers whose work, he argues, investigates the “mystery of existence.” Read it here .

Related reading: The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film , by Stanley Cavell

98 (tie).  Haywire: A Memoir

98 (tie) Haywire Brooke Hayward Knopf 1977 Autobiography

By Brooke Hayward 1977 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 16 votes

The daughter of agent/producer Leland Hayward and actress Margaret Sullavan, aided by famous family friends whose memories she solicited, reflects on what became of her seemingly picture-perfect family: her father left, her brother was institutionalized, her mother and sister committed suicide and she was left a single mother desperate to spare her kids from similar heartbreak. It was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Read it here .

Related reading: A Private View , by Irene Mayer Selznick

98 (tie). Film as a Subversive Art

98 (tie) Film as a Subversive Art Amos Vogel Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1974 Criticism

By Amos Vogel 1974 • Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd • Criticism/Theory/Essay 16 votes

The founder in the ’40s of New York’s Cinema 16 film society and co-founder in the ’60s of the New York Film Festival, Vogel “exerted an influence on the history of film that few other non-filmmakers can claim,” according to his New York Times obit. In this volume, he continued his life’s work of highlighting non-mainstream films that he felt deserved a larger audience. Read it here .

Related reading: I Seem to Live: The New York Diaries, 1950–1969: Volume 1 and I Seem to Live: The New York Diaries, 1969–2011: Volume 2 , by Jonas Mekas

88 (tie).  Wishful Drinking

88 (tie) Wishful Drinking carrie fisher Simon and Schuster 2008 Autobiography

By Carrie Fisher 2008 • Simon & Schuster • Autobiography 17 votes

Fisher, in her first memoir, adapted from a 2006 one-woman stage show, the Hollywood survivor wryly comments on growing up the daughter of two eccentric movie stars, being cast in Star Wars at 19 and struggling with alcoholism, addiction and mental illness. “I feel very sane about how crazy I am,” she says at one point, and at another “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” Read it here .

Related reading: Shockaholic , by Carrie Fisher

88 (tie).  Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination

88 tie Walt Disney The Triumph of the American Imagination neal gabler Knopf 2006 Biography

By Neal Gabler 2006 • Alfred A. Knopf • Biography 17 votes

There have been many Disney biographies, but none as well researched or written as this one. It lays out how Uncle Walt came to drawing as an escape from a joyless childhood, goes in-depth on the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs , captures how the man and his studio were forever changed by a 1941 strike and reveals that it wasn’t until Disneyland opened that he ever had much financial security. Read it here .

Related reading: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life , by Ollie Johnston & Frank Thomas

88 (tie).  Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies

88 tie Negative Space Manny Farber Studio Vista 1971 Criticism

By Manny Farber 1971 • Studio Vista • Criticism/Theory/Essay 17 votes

This collection of 45 pieces that Farber wrote for The Nation or Artforum between the late ’40s and the early ’70s showcases his independent thinking (he gravitated to unpretentious “termite art”) and unique style of writing. NPR said it’s “on every critic’s bookshelf, and it’s amazing how often it’s been quoted, borrowed from, strip-mined or used as a launching pad.” Read it here .

Related reading: Farber on Film: The Complete Film Writings of Manny Farber , by Manny Farber, edited by Robert Polito

88 (tie).  The Moon’s a Balloon

88 tie The Moon’s a Balloon david niven Hamish Hamilton 1971 Autobiography

By David Niven 1971 • Hamish Hamilton • Autobiography 17 votes

In the laugh-out-loud — and factually suspect — first installment of his memoirs, the British Oscar-winning actor and bon vivant reflects on his delinquent childhood, abbreviated military service and rise to prominence in pre-WWII Hollywood. It became a huge bestseller. Read it here .

Related reading: Bring on the Empty Horses , by David Niven

88 (tie).  A Killer Life: How an Independent Film Producer Survives Deals and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond

88 tie A Killer Life Christine Vachon, with Austin Bunn Simon and Schuster 2006 Autobiography

By Christine Vachon, with Austin Bunn 2006 • Simon & Schuster • Autobiography 17 votes

This third book by the giant of indie cinema, which derives its name from her production company Killer Films, addresses why she abandoned early directing aspirations, discusses her work with Todd Haynes and the evolution of queer cinema and recounts challenges she encountered while guiding to fruition great indie films like Boys Don’t Cry and Far from Heaven . Read it here .

Related reading: Shooting to Kill: How an Independent Producer Blasts Through the Barriers to Make Movies that Matter , by Christine Vachon

88 (tie).  The Friedkin Connection: A Memoir

88 tie The Friedkin Connection William Friedkin Harper 2013 Autobiography

By William Friedkin 2013 • Harper • Autobiography 17 votes

The New Hollywood filmmaker, who died in August, dishes on the challenges of making classics like The French Connection and The Exorcist (and his regrets for risking people’s safety), his infamous ego and stubbornness (he passed on Star Wars ) and a 1980 heart attack that made him look at things differently. Read it here .

Related reading: Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of a Hollywood Groundbreaker , by Stephen Galloway

88 (tie).  David O. Selznick’s Hollywood

88 tie David O. Selznick’s Hollywood Ron Haver Knopf 1980 Coffee Table

By Ron Haver 1980 • Alfred A. Knopf • Coffee Table 17 votes

Haver, the longtime director of LACMA’s film department, was obsessed with Gone with the Wind — he saw it some 150 times at a time before it was easily accessible — and worshipped Selznick. He devoted five years to this massive book, which the LA Times called “as elaborate as any Selznick production,” and which reportedly cost $1 million to print. Read it here .

Related reading: GWTW: The Making of Gone with the Wind , by Gavin Lambert

88 (tie).  Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir

88 tie Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir Eddie Muller St. Martin’s Griffin 1998 Coffee Table

By Eddie Muller 1998 • St. Martin’s Griffin • Coffee Table 17 votes

Employing amusing slang and gorgeous stills and posters to highlight relevant films and people both well-known and underappreciated, the “czar of noir” — now film fest curator and a TCM host — tells the story of a genre of post WWII films that has a French name, but is primarily American. Read it here .

Related reading: King of the Bs: Working Within the Hollywood System , by Charles Flynn & Todd McCarthy

88 (tie).  Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators

88 tie Catch and Kill Ronan Farrow Little, Brown 2019 History

By Ronan Farrow 2019 • Little, Brown and Company • History 17 votes

Farrow documents his efforts to expose Harvey Weinstein’s sexual crimes, recalling obstruction from employers, intimidation from Weinstein allies and conversations with his sister, who has alleged that she was sexually abused, about how to interact with other survivors. His reporting helped to launch the #MeToo movement and won him a Pulitzer Prize. Read it here .

Related reading: She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement , by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

88 (tie).  Cassavetes on Cassavetes

88 tie Cassavetes on Cassavetes Ray Carney Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2001 Interview

By Ray Carney 2001 • Faber & Faber • Interview/Oral History 17 votes

Carney conducted 400 hours of interviews with Cassavetes and then, after the indie filmmaking trailblazer’s 1989 death, spent more than a decade interviewing everyone who knew and worked with him, getting to the bottom of his desire to make films, production techniques and disinterest in mainstream success. The author describes his book as “the autobiography Cassavetes never lived to write.” Read it here .

Related reading: Robert Altman: The Oral Biography Book , by Mitchell Zuckoff

83 (tie).  The Star Machine

83 tie The Star Machine Jeanine Basinger Knopf 2007 History

By Jeanine Basinger 2007 • Alfred A. Knopf • History 18 votes

During Hollywood’s Golden Age, studios more or less owned the actors and actresses they had under contract, changing their names and appearances, shaping their on and off screen images, building them up or throwing them aside. Basinger gets into the mechanics of how that star system worked, using in-depth case studies like Lana Turner, Tyrone Power and Deanna Durbin. Read it here.

Related reading: The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine , by E.J. Fleming

83 (tie).  The Making of The Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Studio Power in the Prime of MGM — and the Miracle of Production #1060

83 tie The Making of The Wizard of Oz Aljean Harmetz Publisher 1977 Making of

By Aljean Harmetz 1977 • Alfred A. Knopf • Making Of 18 votes

This pioneering “making of” book dissects all of the elements that resulted in an MGM classic. Harmetz, who’d become the New York Times ’ Hollywood correspondent, interviewed dozens of surviving cast and crew and emerged with incredible stories — why “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut, where the ‘Munchkins’ were found, how the studio hid Garland’s physical maturation, how the Wicked Witch ‘melted,’ etc. Read it here .

Related reading: The Making of Casablanca: Bogart, Bergman and World War II , by Aljean Harmetz

83 (tie).  The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

83 tie The Conversations Michael Ondaatje Knopf 2002 Interview

By Michael Ondaatje 2002 • Alfred A. Knopf • Interview/Oral History 18 votes

The novelist Ondaatje and the sound/film editor Murch met and hit it off during the making of the film version of The English Patient and conducted five “conversations” over two years about how Murch confronted various challenges over the course of his illustrious career. John Boorman wrote, “This book should be required reading for anyone working in film.” Read it here .

Related reading: A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away: My Fifty Years Editing Hollywood Hits ― Star Wars, Carrie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Mission: Impossible and More , by Paul Hirsch

83 (tie).  Conversations With the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute and Conversations at the American Film Institute With the Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation

83 (tie) Conversations With the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age at the American Film Institute and Conversations at the American Film Institute With the Great Filmmakers: The Next Generation George Stevens Jr. Knopf Doubleday 2006, 2012 Oral History

By George Stevens Jr. 2006 & 2012 • Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group • Interview/Oral History 18 votes

Stevens, the son of a legendary director and founder of AFI, presents, with commentary, transcribed highlights from seminars held there with filmmakers — many but not all American. The first volume features pearls of wisdom from the likes of Harold Lloyd, Federico Fellini and Satyajit Ray, the latter from younger legends including George Lucas, Meryl Streep and Steven Spielberg. Read it here .

Related reading: The Men Who Made the Movies , by Richard Schickel

83 (tie). By Myself

83 (tie) By Myself Lauren Bacall Knopf • 1978 • Autobiography

By Lauren Bacall 1978 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 18 votes

Betty Joan Perske, “a nice Jewish girl from New York,” was discovered by Howard Hawks at 19, changed her name and became a star thanks to her sultry turn in To Have and Have Not opposite Humphrey Bogart, who she’d marry. This memoir, which recounts her many ups and downs before and after, including Bogie’s death and a relationship with Frank Sinatra, was chosen for a National Book Award. Read it here .

Related reading: The Lonely Life , by Bette Davis

76 (tie). Valley of the Dolls

76 tie Valley of the Dolls Jacqueline Susann Bernard Geiss Associates 1966 Novel

By Jacqueline Susann 1966 • Bernard Geis Associates • Novel 19 votes

Susann’s first novel, which follows three young women with showbiz dreams whose lives take unexpected turns, not least because of “dolls” (a nickname for upper and downer pills), was described by The Washington Post as a “trash read” and “everything that is wrong with America” — but it was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 22 weeks, spawned a 1967 film and has sold 31 million copies. Read it here .

Related reading: Dolls! Dolls! Dolls!: Deep Inside Valley of the Dolls, the Most Beloved Bad Book and Movie of All Time , by Stephen Rebello

76 (tie).  Spike Lee’s Gotta Have It: Inside Guerrilla Filmmaking

76 tie Spike Lee’s Gotta Have It Spike lee Fireside 1987 Making of

By Spike Lee 1987 • Fireside Books • Making Of 19 votes

Spike Lee’s 1986 feature directorial debut She’s Gotta Have It put him on the map. This is the story — derived from a diary that he kept during the year and a half he worked on the film, as well as a Billboard interview — of how he hustled and defied considerable odds (and a photo lab that threatened to auction off his negatives unless he settled his debts) to see it through. Read it here .

Related reading: Do the Right Thing: A Spike Lee Joint , by Spike Lee with Lisa Jones

76 (tie). Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency

76 tie Powerhouse James Andrew Miller HarperCollins 2016 Oral History

By James Andrew Miller 2016 • HarperCollins • Interview/Oral History 19 votes

Miller, our most impressive oral historian since Studs Terkel (he’s also chronicled SNL , ESPN and HBO), got some of Hollywood’s tightest-lipped people — CAA agents past and present, including Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer — to open up, revealing the intelligence, ambition and greed at the center of an operation that caused studios to spend wildly on talent, changing the types of movies it made financial sense to make. Read it here .

Related reading: Who Is Michael Ovitz? The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Most Powerful Man in Hollywood , by Michael Ovitz

76 (tie). My Lunches With Orson: Conversations Between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles

76 tie My Lunches With Orson edited by peter biskind Metropolitan 2013 Interview

Edited by Peter Biskind 2013 • Metropolitan Books • Interview/Oral History 19 votes

As in This Is Orson Welles , Welles is in conversation with a younger filmmaker, this time at tape-recorded lunches at Ma Maison during the last three years of his life. Bloated by overconsumption and ego but deflated by the industry, he is at his wackiest: rude to Richard Burton, spouting conspiracies about the Nazis killing Carole Lombard and fearful of contracting AIDS from a hug.

Related reading: Afterglow: A Last Conversation with Pauline Kael , by Francis Davis

76 (tie). Montgomery Clift: A Biography

76 tie Montgomery Clift A Biography patricia bosworth Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1978 Biography

By Patricia Bosworth 1978 • Harcourt Brace Jovanovich • Biography 19 votes

Bosworth, who profiled Hollywood types in magazines and books for decades, did her best work crafting this portrait of a gifted actor who was sexually conflicted and was haunted after a car accident robbed him of his once flawless beauty. She spent five years on the project and, as the New York Times noted, “seem[ed] to have talked to everybody who ever had anything to do with Clift.” Read it here .

Related reading: Rainbow: Stormy Life of Judy Garland , by Christopher Finch

76 (tie).  Hollywood: The Oral History

76 tie Hollywood: The Oral History Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson Harper 2022 Oral History

By Jeanine Basinger & Sam Wasson 2022 • Harper • Interview/Oral History 19 votes

This brick of an 800-page book features quotes pulled from hundreds of seminars held at AFI over the decades, which are masterfully curated so as to create the appearance of a conversation between people from across the professions of the film industry about a variety of times and themes. The New York Times described the authors’ work as “structural origami.” Read it here .

Related reading: People Will Talk , by John Kobal

76 (tie).  Hawks on Hawks

76 tie Hawks on Hawks Joseph McBride University of California 1982 Interview

By Joseph McBride 1982 • University of California Press • Interview/Oral History 19 votes

McBride met Hawks in 1970 and, at the urging of François Truffaut, convinced him to sit for several interviews over seven years for a Hitchcock/Truffaut -style book about his half-century career. Hawks memorably discusses his attraction to stories about male friendship and to strong female characters, and his perplexing The Big Sleep (“I wasn’t going to explain things, I was just going to try and make good scenes”). Read it here .

Related reading: Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood , by Todd McCarthy

72 (tie).  Scorsese on Scorsese

72 tie Scorsese on Scorsese Ian Christie and David Thompson Faber and Faber 1989 Interview

By Ian Christie & David Thompson 1989 • Faber & Faber • Interview/Oral History 21 votes

Three interviews in England and another in Scotland, all conducted in 1987, provide the majority of material in this profile of one of America’s most significant filmmakers of the past 50 years. The master speaks about growing up in Little Italy, his cinematic influences and the making of all of his films through The Last Temptation of Christ . Read it here .

Related reading: A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies , by Martin Scorsese & Michael Henry Wilson

72 (tie).  Rebel Without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player

72 tie Rebel Without a Crew Robert Rodriguez Dutton 1995 Making of

By Robert Rodriguez 1995 • Dutton • Making Of 21 votes

Best known today for the Spy Kids franchise, Rodriguez started out as indie as you can get, raising money for his 1992 Spanish-language debut feature El Mariachi by participating in medical studies. It ultimately sold to Columbia, grossed seven figures and put him on the map. This book draws from his old diary and includes his full screenplay.

Related reading: Thinking In Pictures: The Making of the Movie Matewan , by John Sayles

72 (tie).  Mommie Dearest

72 tie Mommie Dearest Christina Crawford William Morrow 1978 Autobiography

By Christina Crawford 1978 • William Morrow & Co. • Autobiography 21 votes

A year after the death of Joan Crawford, one of the biggest stars in Hollywood history, came this shocking book, authored by an adopted daughter who she had disinherited, alleging that Crawford had been mentally unstable and abused her during her childhood. (“No wire hangers, ever!”) Disputed by some of Crawford’s other children, it was nevertheless made into a 1981 narrative film. Read it here .

Related reading: Joan Crawford: A Biography , by Bob Thomas

72 (tie). A Life in Movies

72 tie A Life in Movies Michael Powell Knopf 1987 Autobiography

By Michael Powell 1987 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 21 votes

One of the greatest British filmmakers shared this detailed account of his first 43 years, which discusses his childhood, breaking into the movies under Alfred Hitchcock, working for Alexander Korda and making The Red Shoes for J. Arthur Rank, while living a colorful life outside of work. He died three years later, but the second installment of his memoirs was finished by his widow, Thelma Schoonmaker. Read it here .

Related reading: Million-Dollar Movie: Volume II of a Life in Movies , by Michael Powell

69 (tie).  George Hurrell’s Hollywood: Glamour Portraits, 1925-1992

69 tie George Hurrell’s Hollywood Mark A. Vieira Running Press 2013 Coffee Table

By Mark A. Vieira 2013 • Running Press • Coffee Table 22 votes

Coffee table books don’t come more stunning than this one, thanks both to the images taken by Hurrell, a game-changing portrait photographer, and the presentation of them by Vieira, a photographer in his own right and the author of more than a dozen impressive books. The author and subject actually met and worked together on a book project back in 1975; Hurrell died in 1992. Read it here .

Related reading: Photographs , by Annie Leibovitz

69 (tie). 5001 Nights at the Movies

69 tie 5001 Nights at the Movies pauline kael Holt, Rinehart and Winston 1982 Criticism

By Pauline Kael 1982 • Holt, Rinehart and Winston • Criticism/Theory/Essay 22 votes

While some prefer Kael’s longform work, many a film lover struggling to decide what to watch next has made great use of this collection of her short capsule reviews that appeared in The New Yorker ’s “Goings On About Town” section. The New York Times declared that they “read like mini-Barthes essays: provocative, polished and idiosyncratic.” Read it here .

Related reading: Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark , by Brian Kellow

69 (tie). 85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards

69 tie 85 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards robert osborne Abbeville 2013 History

By Robert Osborne 2013 • Abbeville Press Publishers • History 22 votes

The first book by Osborne, an actor turned journalist (he wrote for THR ), was 1965’s Academy Awards Illustrated , a dispassionate history of the organization behind the Oscars, which then enlisted him to write its official history, which was released in 1979. The last of his six updates to that one was published in 2013, by which time he was a beloved TCM host. He died in 2017. Read it here .

Related reading: The Academy and the Award: The Coming of Age of Oscar and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences , by Bruce Davis

66 (tie). Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of Independent American Cinema

66 tie Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes john pierson Hyperion 1996 Business

By John Pierson 1996 • Hyperion • Business 23 votes

Pierson, a producer’s representative, explains how he has helped filmmakers with no profile at the time to get their work made, sold and seen by the world, sharing stories about Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It , Moore’s Roger & Me and Linklater’s Slacker , plus Hoop Dreams , Clerks and many others. Chats with Kevin Smith serve as interstitials between chapters. Read it here .

Related reading: How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime , by Roger Corman with Jim Jerome

66 (tie).  Shock Value: A Tasteful Book About Bad Taste

66 tie Shock Value John waters Dell 1981 Autobiography

By John Waters 1981 • Dell • Autobiography 23 votes

The Baltimore-based “Pope of Trash,” the subject of a new exhibit at the Academy Museum, herein shares the stories behind his early films like Pink Flamingos , and the worldview that has guided his unusual work: “To me, bad taste is what entertainment is all about. If someone vomits watching one of my films, it’s like getting a standing ovation.” Read it here .

Related reading: Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder , by John Waters

66 (tie). Film Form and The Film Sense

66 tie Film Form and the Film Sense sergei eisenstein Meridian 1959 Criticism

By Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Jay Leyda 1959 • Meridian Books • Criticism/Theory/Essay 23 votes

Eisenstein, in his 54 years, made six films, most notably 1925’s Battleship Potemkin , which was highly influential on other filmmakers. His influence also extended to his writing: The Film Sense , a 1942 essay, discussed montage. Film Form , comprised of 12 essays of theory and analysis, followed in 1949. Years later, they were translated and combined this book, which The New York Times called “essential reading.” Read it here .

Related reading: Beyond the Stars: The Memoirs of Sergei Eisenstein , by Sergei Eisenstein, edited by Richard Taylor, translated by William Powell

64 (tie).  Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting

64 tie Story robert mckee HarperCollins 1997 How to

By Robert McKee 1997 • HarperCollins • How To 24 votes

As was memorably portrayed by Brian Cox in Adaptation , McKee is a real character who teaches a massively influential seminar on screenwriting that was the basis for this book, which every screenwriter has on his or her shelf. In case you haven’t heard, he hates voiceover narration and loves “inciting incidents.” Read it here .

Related reading: Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need , by Blake Snyder

64 (tie). The Great Movies , The Great Movies II , The Great Movies III and The Great Movies IV

64 tie The Great Movies, The Great Movies II, The Great Movies III and The Great Movies IV Roger Ebert Three Rivers; University of Chicago 2003-2016 Criticism

By Roger Ebert 2003, 2006, 2011 & 2016 • Three Rivers Press (first two) and University of Chicago Press (second two) • Criticism/Theory/Essay 24 votes

These collections of incisive and personal essays that Ebert wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times allow admirers of his writing and thinking to read what are essentially his reviews of standout films that predated his career as a critic, as well as his fresh evaluations of standout films that he had previously written about. The final edition was published after his death. Read them here , here , here and here .

Related reading: The Great Films: Fifty Golden Years of Motion Pictures , by Bosley Crowther

61 (tie).  Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood

61 tie Without Lying Down cari beauchamp Scribner 1997 Biography

By Cari Beauchamp 1997 • Scribner • Biography 25 votes

Beauchamp, a PI turned politico turned prolific writer on Hollywood, shines a seminal light on women who carried considerable weight in nascent Hollywood, especially Marion, who was Hollywood’s highest-paid screenwriter, won two screenwriting Oscars (and used them as doorstops) and knew everyone. The title comes from Marion’s lifelong search “for a man to look up to without lying down.” Read it here .

Related reading: Off with Their Heads!: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood , by Frances Marion

61 (tie).  Something Like an Autobiography

61 tie Something Like an Autobiography Akira kurosawa Iwanami Shoten 1983 Autobiography

By Akira Kurosawa, translated by Audie E. Bock 1983 • Iwanami Shoten • Autobiography 25 votes

In a memoir modeled after Jean Renoir’s My Life and My Films , the Japanese master behind Rashomon and The Seven Samurai gets candid about childhood struggles, the suicide of the older brother who introduced him to films, his country’s hesitance to embrace him and his philosophy that “There is nothing that says more about its creator than the work itself.”  Read it here .

Related reading: The Japanese Film: Art and Industry , by Joseph L. Anderson & Donald Richie

61 (tie). My Autobiography

61 tie My Autobiography Charlie chaplin Simon and Schuster 1964 Autobiography

By Charlie Chaplin 1964 • Simon & Schuster • Autobiography 25 votes

Arguably the greatest creative force Hollywood has ever known, and one of the most famous men who ever lived, wrote his memoir while in exile from the U.S. due to the Red Scare. In the massive bestseller, he recounts his Dickensian childhood, the origin of his Little Tramp character and, with questionable accuracy, interactions with virtually every famous person of his time.

Related reading: The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me , by Lillian Gish

59 (tie). My Last Sigh

59 tie My Last Sigh Luis Bunuel Knopf 1983 Autobiography

By Luis Buñuel, translated by Abigail Israel 1983 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 26 votes

With the tremendous and uncredited assistance of his go-to screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, the most celebrated Spanish filmmaker ever offers musings on his life and work, but also on booze, death and dreams. A surrealist whose career began with a film in which an eyeball is sliced open, he declares, “I love dreams, even when they’re nightmares, which is usually the case.” And he took his last sigh that same year.  Read it here .

Related reading: Every Man for Himself and God Against All: A Memoir , by Werner Herzog, translated by Michael Hoffmann

59 (tie). The Last Mogul: Lew Wasserman, MCA and the Hidden History of Hollywood

59 tie The Last Mogul Dennis McDougal Crown 1998 Biography

By Dennis McDougal 1998 • Crown • Biography 26 votes

McDougal, formerly of the L.A. Times , conducted 200 interviews to determine how a man who came from nothing grew MCA into the world’s largest talent agency, ran the Universal studio and became the most powerful person in Hollywood history. Some aspects of his story are less savory than others, and the preface begins: “Lew Wasserman did not want this book published.”  Read it here .

Related reading: The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business , by Frank Rose

57 (tie).  The Studio

57 tie The Studio John Gregory Dunne Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1969 Business

By John Gregory Dunne 1969 • Farrar, Straus and Giroux • Business 27 votes

Dunne managed to secure unrestricted access to the 20 th Century Fox lot for a full year, spanning May 1967 through May 1968, during which the business was rapidly changing. His portraits of studio chief Richard Zanuck, Doctor Dolittle producer Arthur P. Jacobs and others provide an unparalleled look into the lives and creative considerations of Hollywood power players of the time.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Magic Factory: How MGM Made An American in Paris , by Donald Knox

57 (tie). Godard on Godard

57 tie Godard on Godard jean-luc godard, edited by tom milne Viking 1972 Criticism

By Jean-Luc Godard, translated and edited by Tom Milne 1972 • Viking Press • Criticism/Theory/Essay 27 votes

This portrait of Godard, a film critic (for Cahiers du Cinéma and elsewhere) before he was a filmmaker (ushering in the French New Wave), gathers reviews and essays that he wrote about other filmmakers and their work as well as interviews that he himself later gave about his own films. The included works collectively span 1950 through 1967.  Read it here .

Related reading: Everything Is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard , by Richard Brody

51 (tie). Notes: The Making of Apocalypse Now

51 tie Notes Eleanor Coppola Simon and Schuster 1979 Making of

By Eleanor Coppola 1979 • Simon & Schuster • Making Of 28 votes

Francis Ford Coppola encouraged his wife to film a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now , which years later came out as Hearts of Darkness . But first, she made a book of the notes she took throughout the chaotic shoot, which saw one star show up hugely overweight and another suffer a heart attack, was delayed by weather and military conflicts and went way over budget and schedule.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Cleopatra Papers: A Private Correspondence , by Jack Brodsky & Nathan Weiss

51 (tie). From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film

51 tie From Caligari to Hitler Siegfried Kracauer Princeton University 1947 Criticism

By Siegfried Kracauer 1947 • Princeton University Press • Criticism/Theory/Essay 28 votes

Kracauer, a critic who fled Germany in 1933, looks back on films of the Weimar era for clues about how the Nazis rose to power and argues that “through an analysis of the German film, deep psychological dispositions predominant in Germany from 1918 to 1933 can be exposed,” he wrote. Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called it “the most ambitious attempt to use films as a historic source.”  Read it here .

Related reading: Hollywood’s Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles , by Laura B. Rosenzweig

51 (tie). The Devil Finds Work

51 tie The Devil Finds Work james baldwin Dial 1976 Criticism

By James Baldwin 1976 • Dial Press • Criticism/Theory/Essay 28 votes

The great writer and thinker reflects on the role that movies played in his life and thoughts — as a kid (he was comforted that Bette Davis also had bulging eyes), as an adult moviegoer (sniffing at naïve films about race like In the Heat of the Night ) and as a screenwriter (recounting his attempt to script a film about Malcolm X).  Read it here .

Related reading: The Bluest Eye , by Toni Morrison

51 (tie). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock

51 tie The Dark Side of Genius donald spoto Little, Brown 1983 Biography

By Donald Spoto 1983 • Little, Brown and Company • Biography 28 votes

The first of many biographies penned by Spoto, published three years after the Master of Suspense’s death, reflects the inner conflict of an author who greatly admired the filmmaker’s twisted work, but who also recognized that it was to some degree reflective of his own repressed and sadistic behavior towards certain collaborators, especially The Birds and Marnie star Tippi Hedren.  Read it here .

Related reading: Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho , by Stephen Rebello

51 (tie). The Citizen Kane Book

51 tie The Citizen Kane Book Pauline Kael Little, Brown 1971 Making of

By Pauline Kael 1971 • Little, Brown and Company • Making Of 28 votes

This book includes Citizen Kane ’s shooting script but is primarily notable for including Kael’s 50,000-word essay “Raising Kane,” which first ran in back-to-back issues of The New Yorker in 1971. In it she argues that Herman J. Mankiewicz, not Orson Welles, deserved primary credit for the film’s screenplay. Her claims, which were fueled by Welles ex-pal John Houseman, were later challenged by a host of other journalists.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Making of Citizen Kane , by Robert L. Carringer

51 (tie). Cinema Speculation

51 tie Cinema Speculation quentin tarantino Harper 2022 Criticism

By Quentin Tarantino 2022 • Harper • Criticism/Theory/Essay 28 votes

The Oscar-winning filmmaker’s second book in a two-book deal (following his novelization of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ) is, as the New York Times put it, “as much a filmgoing memoir as a work of criticism,” exploring the movies of the 1970s that shaped him. He champions unsung titles ( Rolling Thunder ), takes issues with classics ( Taxi Driver ) and even pays homage to a favorite film critic (Kevin Thomas).  Read it here .

Related reading: The Films in My Life , by François Truffaut

50.  This Is Orson Welles

50 This Is Orson Welles peter bogdanovich and orson welles, edited by JOnathan Rosenbaum HarperCollins 1992 Interview

By Peter Bogdanovich & Orson Welles, edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum 1992 • HarperCollins • Interview/Oral History 29 votes

Welles, an admirer of Bogdanovich’s biography of John Ford, urged Bogdanovich, who was a quarter-century younger and on the rise in Hollywood, to write a similar book with him. Their conversations, which address things like the butchering of Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons , began in 1969 and continued intermittently over 15 years, during which both men experienced personal and professional ups and downs.  Read it here .

Related reading: John Ford , by Peter Bogdanovich

48 (tie). Sculpting in Time: The Great Russian Filmmaker Discusses His Art

48 tie Sculpting in Time andreY tarkovsky University of Texas 1987 Autobiography

By Andrey Tarkovsky, translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair 1987 • University of Texas Press • Autobiography 30 votes

This collection of writings, lectures, interviews and stills, which was published shortly after Tarkovsky died of cancer at the age of 54, addresses the inspirations, challenges and meaning of the seven feature films that he completed in his lifetime — which had prompted widespread questions and debate among many cineastes — and his complex feelings about the Soviet Union.  Read it here .

Related reading: Kuleshov on Film: Writings by Lev Kuleshov , by Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov, edited by Ronald Levaco

48 (tie). Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War

48 tie Five Came Back mark harris Penguin Press 2014 History

By Mark Harris 2014 • Penguin Press • History 30 votes

Harris’ sophomore effort, like Pictures at a Revolution , centers on five central elements, this time not films, but A-list Hollywood directors who served during World War II, namely Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler. It brilliantly explores how they and their filmmaking were changed by their time overseas.  Read it here .

Related reading: Hollywood Independents: The Postwar Talent Takeover , by Denise Mann

47. Get Shorty

47 Get Shorty elmore leonard Delacorte 1990 Novel

By Elmore Leonard 1990 • The Delacorte Press • Novel 31 votes

The great American crime novelist, who spent years working in Hollywood before becoming a household name, tells the story of Chili Palmer, a loan shark who pitches an idea for a movie to a producer from whom he has come to collect a debt, in this dark-as-night comedy. It was made into a 1995 film starring John Travolta and, in 2017, a TV series.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Black Dahlia , by James Ellroy

46. Naming Names

46 Naming Names victor s. navasky Viking 1980 History

By Victor S. Navasky 1980 • Viking Press • History 32 votes

Navasky, the longtime editor of The Nation , embarked on a “moral detective story” to figure out why the Hollywood blacklist happened and how it impacted people, spending seven years conducting 187 interviews with people who were blacklisted (such as Dalton Trumbo) and who named names (including Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg). It won a National Book Award.  Read it here .

Related reading: Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist , by Paul Buhle & Patrick McGilligan

45. Life Itself

45 Life Itself roger ebert Grand Central 2011 Autobiography

By Roger Ebert 2011 • Grand Central Publishing • Autobiography 33 votes

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, battling cancer that would kill him in 2013, reflects, in characteristically beautiful prose, on falling in love with the movies, his relationship with his late TV sparring partner Gene Siskel (“how meaningless was the hate, how deep was the love”) and the support of his loving wife, Chaz (“a wind pushing me back from the grave”). Steve James adapted the book into a 2014 documentary.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography , by Sidney Poitier

44. Lulu in Hollywood

44 Lulu in Hollywood louise brooks Knopf 1982 Autobiography

By Louise Brooks 1982 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 34 votes

Like a comet, this American actress with a trademark black bob burned brightly (she was one of the biggest stars of the 1920s, especially in the German films Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl ) and then was gone — until she resurfaced late in life as a writer. This collection of essays captured the frustrations of being a liberated woman in early Hollywood.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Kindness of Strangers , by Salka Viertel

43. Notes on the Cinematograph

43 Notes on the Cinematograph robert bresson Gallimard 1975 Criticism

By Robert Bresson, translated by Jonathan Griffin 1975 • Éditions Gallimard • Criticism/Theory/Essay 35 votes

The French filmmaker, a hero to the New Wave filmmakers who followed, shares a wide variety of notes, ideas and philosophies — some more profound than others — about film-related topics ranging from silence versus sound to professional actors versus nonprofessional “models.” It offers a lot for filmmakers to contemplate.  Read it here .

Related reading: Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov , by Dziga Vertov, translated by Kevin O’Brien

42.  A Biographical Dictionary of Cinema [aka The New Biographical Dictionary of Film ]

42 The New Biographical Dictionary of Film David Thomson Martin Secker and Warburg Ltd. 1975 Criticism

By David Thomson 1975 • Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd • Criticism/Theory/Essay 36 votes

One of the most prolific authors of books on film, Thomson, a Brit who has long lived in America, is best known for this giant and often updated tome, which is comprised of thousands of biographical sketches about people associated with film in one way or another. His takes are often contrarian, and always thought-provoking.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood , by David Thomson

38 (tie).  Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies and Bucks: An Interpretative History of Blacks in American Films

38 tie Toms, Coons, Mulattos, Mammies and Bucks donald bogle Viking 1973 Race

By Donald Bogle 1973 • Viking Press • Gender/Race/Sexuality 37 votes

Now a veteran professor and frequent TCM guest widely regarded as the preeminent scholar on African Americans in film, Bogle made his first mark with this landmark examination of the stereotypical ways in which Black people have been portrayed throughout film history. It was described by the New York Times as “a quietly revolutionary book.”  Read it here .

Related reading: Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films , by Arthur Dong

Read an excerpt from Bogle’s new book, Lena Horne: Goddess Reclaimed .

38 (tie).  The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography

38 tie The Name Above the Title Frank Capra Macmillan 1971 Autobiography

By Frank Capra 1971 • Macmillan • Autobiography 37 votes

Capra, a three-time best director Oscar winner, writes about immigrating from Italy, growing up in poverty and, against all odds, becoming a Hollywood filmmaker responsible for all-American classics like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life . It’s a great read, but many details now seem suspect; indeed, the New York Times declared that it “appears to have been a lie practically from beginning to end.”  Read it here .

Related reading: Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success , by Joseph McBride

38 (tie).  Hit and Run: How Jon Peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood

38 tie Hit and Run Nancy Griffin and Kim Masters Simon and Schuster 1996 Business

By Nancy Griffin & Kim Masters 1996 • Simon & Schuster • Business 37 votes

Griffin and Masters, co-workers at Premiere (Masters is now at THR ), teamed up to tell the story of the Japanese company Sony taking over the Hollywood studio Columbia and then entrusting it to a pair of eccentric producers (they attended therapy together, the book reports) who presided over flop after flop, and whose massive compensation and eventual kiss-off money jolted Hollywood’s economic ecosystem.  Read it here .

Related reading: High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess , by Charles Fleming

38 (tie). The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood

38 tie The Big Goodbye sam wasson Flatiron 2020 Making of

By Sam Wasson 2020 • Flatiron Books • Making Of 37 votes

Wasson, at just 42, has already written seven outstanding books, none better than this examination of the making and cultural context of this 1974 masterpiece directed by Roman Polanski and produced by Robert Evans, both of whom spoke with him for the book. His research reveals that writer Robert Towne had an uncredited collaborator and that Polanski changed Towne’s ending to reflect his own fatalism after Sharon Tate’s murder.  Read it here .

Related reading: Rock Me on the Water: 1974 — The Year Los Angeles Transformed Movies, Music, Television and Politics , by Ronald Brownstein

37. Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film

37 Down and Dirty Pictures peter biskind Simon and Schuster 2004 History

By Peter Biskind 2004 • Simon & Schuster • History 38 votes

Having written about the ’70s in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls [#2], Biskind employs a similarly chatty style to tell the story of the rise and decline of the indie film boom of the ’90s, setting the scene with 1989’s sex, lies and videotape , which premiered at Robert Redford’s Sundance and was distributed by the Weinsteins’ Miramax, both of which are central players throughout.  Read it here .

Related reading: Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film , by Emanuel Levy

36. Who the Devil Made It

36 Who the Devil Made It peter bogdanovich Ballantine 1997 Interview Oral history

By Peter Bogdanovich 1997 • Ballantine Books • Interview/Oral History 39 votes

Bogdanovich, who grew up obsessed with classic films, interviewed legendary filmmakers both before and after he became an A-list director himself. This volume compiles his smart conversations with 16 of them, including Hitchcock and Howard Hawks, the latter of who said of his taste in directors, “I liked almost anybody that made you realize who in the devil was making the picture.”  Read it here .

Related reading: Who the Hell’s in It: Conversations with Hollywood’s Legendary Actors , by Peter Bogdanovich

35.  What Is Cinema? [Volumes 1 and 2]

5 What Is Cinema andre bazin University of California 1967 1971 Criticism

By André Bazin, translated by Hugh Gray 1967 & 1971 • University of California Press • Criticism/Theory/Essay 40 votes

Bazin, a French film critic who co-founded Cahiers du Cinéma and championed “objective reality” (forcing a viewer to decide what’s important via methods like deep focus), opines in volume one about “Ontology and Language” and “Cinema and the Other Arts” and in volume two about “Cinema and Sociology” and “Neorealism: An Aesthetic of Reality.” He died at just 40 of leukemia.  Read it here .

Related reading: Signs and Meaning in the Cinema , by Peter Wollen

34. Postcards From the Edge

34 Postcards From the Edge carrie fisher Simon and Schuster 1987 Novel

By Carrie Fisher 1987 • Simon & Schuster • Novel 42 votes

In a debut novel that was clearly shaped by her own battles with alcoholism and addiction, Fisher tells the story of Suzanna Vale, an actress who recently suffered a drug overdose and is struggling to get her life together. “It’s like I’ve got a visa for happiness, but for sadness I’ve got a lifetime pass,” she remarks at one point. Fisher later adapted it into the screenplay for a 1990 film.  Read it here .

Related reading: American Dream Machine , by Matthew Specktor

32 (tie). Play It as It Lays

32 tie Play It as It Lays joan didion Farrar, Strauss and Giroux 1970 Novel

By Joan Didion 1970 • Farrar, Straus and Giroux • Novel 43 votes

Inimitable Didion’s second novel centers on Maria, an L.A.-based actress and single mother whose daughter is institutionalized and who is having an existential crisis of her own, often driving the highway, seemingly in search of something. Deeply haunting (“I know what nothing means, and keep on playing”), it was adapted into a 1972 film and was chosen in 2005 as one of Time’ s 100 best English-language novels since 1923.  Read it here .

Related reading: Less Than Zero , by Bret Easton Ellis

32 (tie). Agee on Film [Volumes 1 and 2]

32 tie Agee on Film james agee McDowell, Obolensky 1958 1960 Criticism

By James Agee 1958 & 1960 • McDowell, Obolensky • Criticism/Theory/Essay 43 votes

Considering that he died of a heart attack at just 45, it’s remarkable how much great work Agee did in his lifetime. Volume one contains film reviews he wrote for Time and The Nation (they required completely different styles) and volume two contains his three screenplays ( The African Queen and The Night of the Hunter among them). And he also wrote Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Pulitzer Prize winner A Death in the Family .  Read it here .

Related reading: The Pleasure Dome: Graham Greene — The Collected Film Criticism 1935-1940 , by Graham Greene, edited by John Russell Taylor

30 (tie.)  The Player

30 tie The Player Michael Tolkin Atlantic Monthly Press 1998 Novel

By Michael Tolkin 1988 • Atlantic Monthly Press • Novel 44 votes

Inspired by the Iran-Contra hearings to contemplate “the modern sociopath,” Tolkin set his black-as-coffee comedy in the business in which he grew up (his father, Mel, was a top TV writer) and worked with great frustration, and around Griffin Mill, a neurotic studio exec who fears that his job may be in jeopardy — and turns to murder. It was adapted by Robert Altman into a cameo-filled 1992 film.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Return of the Player , by Michael Tolkin

30 (tie). Picture: A Story About Hollywood

30 tie Picture LILLIAN ROSS Rinehart and Company 1952 Making of

By Lillian Ross 1952 • Rinehart & Company • Making Of 44 votes

The New Yorker staff writer spent more than a year in Hollywood chronicling the MGM production The Red Badge of Courage from start to finish — observing director John Huston on set, tensions between execs Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary at the studio and speaking with Loew’s chief Nick Schenck in New York — for a five-part series in the magazine, which was later turned into this book.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Jaws Log , by Carl Gottlieb

29. Indecent Exposure: A True Story of Hollywood and Wall Street

29 Indecent Exposure david mcclintick HarperCollins • 1982 • Business

By David McClintick 1982 • HarperCollins • Business 46 votes

McClintick, a Wall Street Journal reporter, broke the story of “the Begelman affair” — when Columbia Pictures production president David Begelman forged checks and embezzled money, but was protected by his superiors — and then expanded it into a book that was unlike any before it, and became the model for many that have subsequently tried to capture the corrupting influence of money and power in Hollywood.  Read it here .

Related reading: Outrageous Conduct: Art, Ego and the Twilight Zone Case , by Stephen Farber & Mark Green

28. City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s

28 City of Nets otto friedrich Headline 1988 History

By Otto Friedrich 1988 • Headline Book Publishing • History 47 votes

Friedrich, a film journalist and historian as well read as any, herein gathers the most amusing stories about a decade of cinema that was shaped by World War II and the Europeans who fled Hitler for America, the House Committee on Un-American Activities’ investigations into Hollywood, and more. The New York Times described it as “extraordinarily readable.”  Read it here .

Related reading: Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling , by David Bordwell

27. Memo From David O. Selznick: The Creation of Gone With the Wind and Other Motion Picture Classics, as Revealed in the Producer’s Private Letters, Telegrams, Memorandums and Autobiographical Remarks

27 Memo From David O. Selznick rudy beHlmer Viking 1972 Business

By Rudy Behlmer 1972 • Viking Press • Business 49 votes

Daniel Selznick, one of the legendary producer’s sons, enlisted Behlmer, a film journalist, to review his late father’s papers, including memos dictated to secretaries throughout his half-century career, which Behlmer curated and contextualized in this book. In the age of email, barring another Sony hack, it’s hard to imagine we’ll ever again get such a window into how filmmaking decisions large and small are made.  Read it here .

Related reading: Memo from Darryl F. Zanuck: The Golden Years at Twentieth Century-Fox , by Rudy Behlmer

26. In the Blink of an Eye

26 In the Blink of an Eye walter murch Silman-James 1995 How to

By Walter Murch 1995 • Silman-James Press • How To 51 votes

Murch, one of the all-time great editors of film and sound — his credits include all three Godfather films, American Graffiti , The Conversation and Apocalypse Now  — expanded a 1988 lecture that he gave in Australia into this book-length manifesto about editing “on the fly.” His thesis: that humans blink when they move from one thought to another, so cuts should do the same.  Read it here .

Related reading: When the Shooting Stops… the Cutting Begins , by Robert Karen & Ralph Rosenblum

25. The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco

25 The Devil’s Candy Julie Salamon Houghton Mifflin 1991 Making of

By Julie Salamon 1991 • Houghton Mifflin • Making Of 54 votes

A Wall Street Journal film critic, Salamon wanted to write a modern version of Lillian Ross’ Picture (#30), a landmark 1950s chronicle of a film from conception through aftermath. Brian De Palma invited her to do that with The Bonfire of the Vanities , his big-screen adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel about Wall Street, which turned out to be an unmitigated disaster, but provided the author with a wealth of priceless material.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made , by Greg Sestero

22 (tie).  The Last Tycoon

22 tie The Last Tycoon f. SCott Fitzgerald Scribner 1941 Novel

By F. Scott Fitzgerald, finished by Edmund Wilson 1941 • Charles Scribner’s Sons • Novel 55 votes

More than a decade after The Great Gatsby , Fitzgerald was writing for the movies and widely regarded as washed-up. He began writing a book about Monroe Stahr, a Thalberg-like “boy wonder” who understood “the whole equation of pictures,” in which he famously noted, “There are no second acts in American life.” Had he not died of a heart attack in 1940, at just 44, and lived to see the reception of this book, he’d have been proved wrong.  Read it here .

Related reading: The Disenchanted , by Budd Schulberg

22 (tie).  Conversations With Wilder

22 tie Conversations With Wilder cameron crowe Knopf 1999 Interview

By Cameron Crowe 1999 • Alfred A. Knopf • Interview/Oral History 55 votes

The product of a friendship that emerged after Crowe tried to get Wilder to cameo in Jerry Maguire , this Hitchcock/Truffaut -inspired book features two journalists-turned-filmmakers — one in his 40s, the other in his 90s — dissecting the latter’s life (he almost directed Schindler’s List as a tribute to his mother, who died in the Holocaust) and films (e.g., Brief Encounter inspired The Apartment ).  Read it here .

Related reading: Conversations With Brando: 10 Days on Brando’s Island , by Lawrence Grobel

22 (tie). The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies

22 tie The Celluloid Closet vito russo Harper & Row 1981 Gender Sexuality

By Vito Russo 1981 • Harper & Row • Gender/Race/Sexuality 55 votes

Russo, a film critic and gay activist, adapted his lecture about film depictions of gays and lesbians — as objects of ridicule or fear who almost always wound up dead — into a trailblazing book. Shortly before dying of AIDS he said, “I know that after I’m dead my book is going to be on a shelf someplace and that some sixteen-year-old kid who’s going to be a gay activist will read my work and carry the ball from there.”  Read it here .

Related reading: Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema , 1930-1934 , by Thomas Doherty

20 (tie).  Goldwyn: A Biography

20 tie Goldwyn: A Biography a. scott berg Knopf 1989 Biography

By A. Scott Berg 1989 • Alfred A. Knopf • Biography 56 votes

Offered unprecedented archival access by Samuel Goldwyn Jr., Berg spent nine years reading everything and interviewing everyone (Wyler! Hepburn! Olivier!) associated with the man who was the top independent producer during Hollywood’s golden age. The story of his journey from Schmuel Gelbfisz in Poland to Oscar winner shows that those who underestimated him because of his famous ‘Goldwynisms’ were sorely mistaken. Read it here .

Related reading: Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer , by Scott Eyman

20 (tie). Final Cut: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of Heaven’s Gate

20 tie Final Cut steven Bach William Morrow 1985 Business

By Steven Bach 1985 • William Morrow and Company • Business 56 votes

Indecent Exposure [#29] showed that the public had an appetite for stories about the business of film, so, at the urging of William Goldman, Bach, a United Artists exec, kept notes during the making of UA’s Heaven’s Gate , Michael Cimino’s first pic after The Deer Hunter , when he was at his most arrogant and indulged. The film became one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood history and resulted in the sale of the studio — and this book. Read it here .

Related reading: Final Cut: The Making and Breaking of a Film , by Paul Sylbert

19. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide [annually updated]

19 Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide leonard maltin Signet 1969 Criticism

By Leonard Maltin 1969 • Signet Books • Criticism/Theory/Essay 57 votes

On the basis of impressive fanzines he’d been writing, Maltin was contracted to write the first edition of this collection of short reviews — which included then hard-to-find information like runtimes — when he was just 17. It began with 8,000 entries and was initially updated every few years, then annually after its amiable author became the on-air critic for Entertainment Tonight in 1982, until the internet killed it off in 2014. Read it here .

Related reading: The Film Encyclopedia , by Ephraim Katz

18. Hollywood Babylon

18 Hollywood Babylon kenneth anger J.J. Pauvert 1959 Potpourri

By Kenneth Anger 1959 • J.J. Pauvert • Potpourri 58 votes

Before supermarket tabloids and TMZ, celebrity gossip was harder to come by, hence the popularity of this chronicle of celeb affairs, murders and suicides, which the New York Times said was “without one single redeeming merit.” Penned by an underground filmmaker, it became a bestseller, spawned a sequel and has been largely debunked (no, Clara Bow didn’t sleep with the entire USC football team and Jayne Mansfield wasn’t decapitated). Read it here .

Related reading: Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars , by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg

17. The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era

17 The Genius of the System thomas Schatz Pantheon 1988 History

By Thomas Schatz 1988 • Pantheon • History 59 votes

A rebuttal of sorts to the auteur theory, this deeply researched book lays out the argument that, at least during Hollywood’s Golden Age, films were the product of no individual, but rather of studios with military-like hierarchies and units. He presents compelling case studies from the MGM, Selznick International, Universal and Warner Bros. studios. Read it here .

Related reading: The Hollywood Studios: House Style in the Golden Age of the Movies , by Ethan Mordden

16.  The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968

16 The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968 andrew sarris Dutton 1968 Criticism

By Andrew Sarris 1968 • Dutton • Criticism/Theory/Essay 60 votes

Village Voice critic Sarris had been exposed to the Cahiers du Cinéma crowd’s auteur theory — that the director is a film’s primary author — during a year in Paris and brought it to America with this slim volume. A prized possession of a generation of young stateside cineastes, it forced reevaluations of many filmmakers by separating them into categories like “Pantheon” and “Less Than Meets the Eye,” infuriating Pauline Kael in the process. Read it here .

Related reading: Talking Pictures: Screenwriters in the American Cinema , by Richard Corliss

15. Mike Nichols: A Life

15 Mike Nichols A Life mark harris Penguin Press 2021 Biography

By Mark Harris 2021 • Penguin Press • Biography 61 votes

Harris, who got to know Nichols late in the filmmaker’s life (he died in 2014), received the blessing of Nichols’ family to write about him, which led to people like Meryl Streep, Robert Redford and Elaine May going on the record about him. The book explores the man’s considerable character flaws, while marveling at the enormity of his journey from Germany (he left ahead of the Nazis’ rise) to the top of Broadway and Hollywood. Read it here .

Related reading: Seduced by Mrs. Robinson: How The Graduate Became the Touchstone of a Generation , by Beverly Gray

14. From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

14 From Reverence to Rape molly haskell New English Library 1974 Gender Sexuality

By Molly Haskell 1974 • New English Library • Gender/Race/Sexuality 67 votes

Haskell, then a film critic at The Village Voice , argues in this book that depictions of female characters were far more complex during Hollywood’s Golden Age than in the years that followed: “Here we are today, with an unparalleled freedom of expression and a record number of women performing, achieving, choosing to fulfill themselves, and we are insulted with the worst — the most abused, neglected and dehumanized — screen heroines in history.” Read it here .

Related reading: The Casting Couch and Other Front Row Seats: Women in Films of the 1970s and 1980s , by Marsha McCreadie

13. The Day of the Locust

13 The Day of the Locust nathanael west Random House 1939 Novel

By Nathanael West 1939 • Random House • Novel 68 votes

This Depression-set downer about people living on the margins of Hollywood — the town and the business — is regarded as the finest work by West, who began working in Hollywood as a screenwriter in 1933, and who died in a car crash in 1940, at just 37. The L.A. Times called it “the single best-achieved, and most oracular, piece of fiction the city has inspired.” Read it here .

Related reading: Some Time in the Sun: The Hollywood Years of F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Nathanael West, Aldous Huxley and James Agee , by Tom Dardis

12. The Parade’s Gone By…

12 The Parade’s Gone By … kevin brownlow Knopf • 1968 • History

By Kevin Brownlow 1968 • Alfred A. Knopf • History 74 votes

For this authoritative chronicle of silent cinema, Brownlow, while still in his 20s, tracked down and interviewed stars like Pickford, Keaton and Gish, and key behind-the-scenes contributors like D.W. Griffith’s film editor, to provide insights about that era’s films and filmmaking methods. In 2010, he became the first film preservationist ever awarded an honorary Oscar. Read it here .

Related reading: Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture , by Peter Kobel

11. What Makes Sammy Run?

11 What Makes Sammy Run budd schulberg Random House 1941 Novel

By Budd Schulberg 1941 • Random House • Novel 75 votes

Schulberg was 27 when he wrote his debut novel, the story of a New York office boy who moves to Hollywood, changes his name to Sammy Glick and claws his way to the top. Industry leaders regarded it as an attack and ostracized its author, who’d later name names before HUAC and then write — and win an Oscar for — his self-defense, On the Waterfront . Read it here .

Related reading: Moving Pictures: Memories of a Hollywood Prince , by Budd Schulberg

10. Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood

10 Pictures at a Revolution Mark Harris Penguin Press 2008 History

By Mark Harris 2008 • Penguin Press • History 77 votes

This first book by Harris, who was an Entertainment Weekly columnist at the time, chronicles an inflection point in Hollywood history through the journeys to the screen and to the Oscars of the five 1967 movies that wound up nominated for best picture, some representing the old Hollywood fighting to hold on ( Doctor Dolittle and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner ) and others a new one bursting onto the scene ( Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate ). The New York Times hailed it as a “landmark” achievement. Read it here .

8 (tie).  Making Movies

8 tie Making Movies sIdney lumet Knopf 1995 Autobiography

By Sidney Lumet 1995 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 79 votes

“I am sometimes asked if there is ‘one book’ a filmgoer could read to learn more about how movies are made and what to look for while watching them,” Roger Ebert once wrote. “This is that book.” Lumet, who started in live TV before helming films like 12 Angry Men , Dog Day Afternoon and Network , shares the techniques and philosophy that he adopted over the course of his career (“Good style, to me, is unseen style… style that is felt”) and explains why directing, in his view, is “the best job in the world.” Read it here .

Related reading: Chasing the Light: Writing, Directing and Surviving Platoon, Midnight Express, Scarface, Salvador and the Movie Game , by Oliver Stone

8 (tie). Elia Kazan: A Life

8 tie Elia Kazan: A Life Elia Kazan Knopf 1988 Autobiography

By Elia Kazan 1988 • Alfred A. Knopf • Autobiography 79 votes

In this giant tome, one of the great directors of stage ( Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire ) and screen ( A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront ), a man equally revered and hated during his lifetime, reflects, in great depth, on the people he worked with, including Marlon Brando and James Dean, and slept with, such as Marilyn Monroe; the decisions that shaped his life and career, like naming names during the McCarthy era; and, as much as he was able, his complicated self. Read it here .

Related reading: Additional Dialogue: Letters of Dalton Trumbo, 1942-1962 , by Dalton Trumbo, edited by Helen Manfull

7. You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again

7 You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again Julia Phillips Random House 1991 Autobiography

By Julia Phillips 1991 • Random House • Autobiography 80 votes

Look up “tell-all” in the dictionary and you’ll find this rollicking account from a producer of The Sting (for which she became the first woman ever to win the best picture Oscar), Taxi Driver and Close Encounters of the Third Kind who then became a cokehead and alcoholic, squandered her fortune and, facing financial ruin, decided to dish on the people at the center of the New Hollywood, including herself. She was drugged out of her mind during her Oscar acceptance speech, missed her mom’s funeral, and the list goes on. The book, which one producer described as “the longest suicide note in history,” spent 13 weeks atop the New York Times bestseller list. Read it here .

Related reading: Monster: Living Off the Big Screen , by John Gregory Dunne

6. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood

6 An Empire of Their Own Neal Gabler Crown 1988 History

By Neal Gabler 1988 • Crown • History 81 votes

One of showbiz’s greatest chroniclers, in his first book (he later wrote outstanding biographies of Disney, Winchell and Streisand), addresses the familiar claims that “the Jews run Hollywood” by explaining how Eastern European immigrants like Cohn, Fox, Laemmle, Mayer, Warner, Thalberg, Zukor and the Warner brothers came to the business at a time when it wasn’t fashionable, tried to assimilate and, “by creating their idealized America on the screen … reinvented the country in the image of their fiction.” Read it here .

Related reading: Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting , by J. Hoberman & Jeffrey Shandler

5. I Lost It at the Movies

5 I Lost It at the Movies Pauline Kael Little, Brown 1965 Criticism

By Pauline Kael 1965 • Little, Brown and Company • Criticism/Theory/Essay 86 votes

The first of many volumes by arguably the most well-known film critic of all time, it’s comprised of reviews and essays that she wrote between 1954 (the year after she first reviewed a film) and 1965 (before she began writing for The New Yorker and became a household name). Her famous contrarian streak was already evident in her withering takedown of West Side Story . Richard Schickel, reviewing the book — which went on the become a bestseller — in The New York Times , wrote, “Miss Kael may have lost something at the movies, but in her book we have found something — the critic the movies have deserved and needed for so long.” Read it here .

Related reading: Reeling: Film Writings, 1972-1975 , by Pauline Kael

4. The Kid Stays in the Picture

4 The Kid Stays in the Picture robert evans Hyperion 1994 Autobiography

By Robert Evans 1994 • Hyperion • Autobiography 123 votes

Against all odds, a 64-year-old who was widely regarded as a has-been became a folk hero after the publication of this endlessly quotable memoir of an only-in-Hollywood life (and the audio-cassette and documentary versions of it that followed). Evans dishes on his rise from women’s clothing salesman to bit actor defended by Darryl F. Zanuck against people who wanted him out of a movie (hence the title of his book and his fascination with moguldom) to a Hollywood producer and studio chief married to the biggest movie star of the day — followed by a fall and a rise again. Is it all true? You bet your ass it isn’t. But is it irresistible? You’re goddamn right it is. Read it here .

Related reading: When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead: Useful Stories From a Persuasive Man , by Jerry Weintraub with Rich Cohen

3. Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

3 Adventures in the Screen Trade william goldman Warner Books 1983 How to

By William Goldman 1983 • Warner Books • How To 139 votes

One of the most respected and highly paid screenwriters in Hollywood history, who was best known for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid , All the President’s Men , Marathon Man and The Princess Bride , candidly explains how the business works, discusses obstacles that he encountered during his career and illustrates how a screenplay comes together. Even 40 years after its publication, the book remains famous for its admonishment about the industry’s ability to predict box office success, and most other things: “Nobody knows anything.” Read it here .

Related reading: Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade , by William Goldman

2. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood

2 Easy Riders, Raging Bulls Peter Biskind Simon and Schuster 1998 History

By Peter Biskind 1998 • Simon & Schuster • History 140 votes

Premiere ’s former editor spent six years examining under the microscope the “New Hollywood” — which he defined as spanning Bonnie and Clyde (1967) through Raging Bull (1980) — by speaking with most of the key figures who had been a part of it decades earlier and survived to tell the tale, or as much of it as they could remember after considerable consumption of drink and drugs. It’s packed with juicy stories but not with citations, so its veracity has been questioned. (Steven Spielberg told Roger Ebert, “Every single word in that book about me is either erroneous or a lie.”) But the book — which spawned a 2003 documentary — is impossible to put down. Read it here .

Related reading: The Movie Brats: How the Film Generation Took over Hollywood , by Lynda Myles & Michael Pye

1. Hitchcock [aka Hitchcock/Truffaut ]

1 Hitchcock/Truffaut François Truffaut Simon & Schuster 1967 Interview Oral history

By François Truffaut, translated by Helen G. Scott 1967 • Simon & Schuster • Interview/Oral History 143 votes

Often emulated but never equaled, this volume is the product of 50 hours of interviews conducted over a week in August 1962, when a young French master picked the brain of an old British master who was undervalued in America, but who the Frenchman, like other Cahiers du Cinéma alums, regarded as “the greatest director of films in the world.” Truffaut, a former critic, came thoroughly prepared, and coaxed out of Hitch information about his life and films that few if any others could have. At a time when old movies were hard to revisit, the accompanying frame enlargements were particularly appreciated. Kent Jones made a 2015 doc about this book. Read it here .

Related reading: The American Friend , by Serge Toubiana

SAVE THE DATE: You’re invited to an historic gathering at AFI FEST featuring 15 authors of books on this list in conversation with THR ’s Scott Feinberg. Among those who will be in attendance at 4 p.m. on Oct. 28 inside TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood: A. Scott Berg, Cameron Crowe, Nancy Griffin, Aljean Harmetz, Leonard Maltin, Kim Masters, Dennis McDougal, James Andrew Miller, Eddie Muller, John Pierson, George Stevens Jr., Michael Tolkin, Christine Vachon, Mark A. Vieira and Sam Wasson. Admission is free if you RSVP in advance at .

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe .

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John bailey, ‘ordinary people’ cinematographer and former film academy president, dies at 81, matthew lillard on “humbling and exciting” ‘five nights at freddy’s’ success and creating authentic experiences for fans, ‘the walk’ review: ‘honeyland’ director’s effective fusion of political urgency and poetic creativity, david fincher’s ‘the killer’ kicks off opening night of renovated egyptian theatre, emerald fennell is “so proud of everyone” who participated in the actors strike, ‘the marvels’ filmmaker nia dacosta on advice from james gunn, tessa thompson.


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Here are the movies we can't wait to watch this fall

Clockwise from top left: Invisible Beauty , Foe , All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt , The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes , My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 and Nyad. Magnolia Pictures; Amazon Studios; A24; Murray Close/Lionsgate; Focus Features; Liz Parkinson/Netflix hide caption

Here are the movies we can't wait to watch this fall

September 19, 2023 • With Hollywood on strike for most of the summer, we check in on the new releases for the fall. Our critics share their recommendations for more than 25 films coming out between now and Thanksgiving.

Pop Culture

What's making us happy: recommendations from 'pop culture happy hour'.

November 10, 2023 • Each week, the guests and hosts on Pop Culture Happy Hour share the movies, TV shows, books, articles, podcasts and songs that are bringing them joy.

Barbra Streisand says she's not a diva - she's a director

Barbra Streisand on her life and legacy in My Name is Barbra. Terry Fincher/Express/Jeff Fusco/Getty Images hide caption

It's Been a Minute

Barbra streisand says she's not a diva - she's a director.

November 10, 2023 • The season of the celebrity memoir is upon us. In just the past few months Britney Spears, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington, and more have showered us with bombshells and revelations about their origin stories and private lives. Despite those heavy hitters and the crowded field they occupy, the celebrity memoir our host Brittany Luse coveted most is that of the singular Ms. Barbra Streisand.

'The Marvels' is a light comedy about light powers

Iman Vellani, Brie Larson, and Teyonah Parris in The Marvels . Laura Radford/Marvel Studios hide caption

Pop Culture Happy Hour

'the marvels' is a light comedy about light powers.

November 10, 2023 • The new movie The Marvels is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's breezier outings, full of energy and jokes and zappy light powers. Brie Larson returns as Captain Marvel, and sees her teaming up with newer characters, Monica Rambeau (played by Teyonah Parris) and Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani). They must team up when their powers become entangled and cause them to switch places whenever they try to use them.

Fran Drescher tells NPR the breakthrough moment that ended the Hollywood strikes

SAG-AFTRA leader Fran Drescher. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

Interview highlights

Fran drescher tells npr the breakthrough moment that ended the hollywood strikes.

November 9, 2023 • The longest strike in history by actors against film and TV studios has finally ended. SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher says there is a "new dawn."

What happens when a hit man misses his mark? 'The Killer' is about to find out

Michael Fassbender plays an assassin on the run in The Killer. Netflix hide caption

What happens when a hit man misses his mark? 'The Killer' is about to find out

November 9, 2023 • The mundane becomes mesmerizing in David Fincher's dark comedy, which tracks every detail of a hit man's routine: the scheduled naps, the fast-food runs, the yoga stretches he does to stay limber.

Nicolas Cage becomes Frumpy Krueger in 'Dream Scenario'

Nicolas Cage in Dream Scenario . A24 hide caption

Nicolas Cage becomes Frumpy Krueger in 'Dream Scenario'

November 9, 2023 • In the new film Dream Scenario , Nicolas Cage plays a man who unwittingly starts showing up in other people's dreams. NPR speaks with writer and director Kristoffer Borgli.

In 'Dream Scenario,' Nicolas Cage gets a dream role

Nicolas Cage in Dream Scenario. A24 hide caption

In 'Dream Scenario,' Nicolas Cage gets a dream role

November 9, 2023 • In the trippy new A24 absurdist comedy Dream Scenario , Nicolas Cage plays a schlubby, unremarkable biology professor. Suddenly and inexplicably, he starts appearing in the dreams of people around the world. This phenomenon brings him a weird and difficult-to-manage kind of fame for a while–until the dreams turn into nightmares.

4 takeaways from Disney's earnings call

Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World Resort on March 3, 2022, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Disney Dreamers hide caption

4 takeaways from Disney's earnings call

November 8, 2023 • The Walt Disney Co. announced its fourth quarter and yearly earnings on Wednesday. Revenues for the quarter and year grew 5% and 7%, respectively.

Actors and studios make a deal to end Hollywood strikes

Outside Fox studios in Los Angeles, production assistant Allie Palm and SAG-AFTRA actress Desiree Woolfolk say they can't wait to get back to work. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

Actors and studios make a deal to end Hollywood strikes

November 8, 2023 • SAG-AFTRA workers have been on strike since July, when they joined screenwriters on their strike. Now, if the performers approve their new deal, Hollywood may soon come to life again.

Sandra Oh and Awkwafina are perfect opposites in 'Quiz Lady'

Awkwafina and Sandra Oh in Quiz Lady . 20th Century Studios hide caption

Sandra Oh and Awkwafina are perfect opposites in 'Quiz Lady'

November 8, 2023 • The movie Quiz Lady is a fun new take on the classic comedic trope of polar opposites: Awkwafina plays Anne, an uptight, lonely trivia nerd. Her sister Jenny, played by Sandra Oh, is the outgoing, perpetual screw up. Together, they must set aside their differences to try and win a TV game show and save Anne's kidnapped dog.

Sofia Coppola imagines Priscilla's teen years, living at Graceland with Elvis

Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi are Priscilla and Elvis Presley in Sofia Coppola's new film. A24 hide caption

Sofia Coppola imagines Priscilla's teen years, living at Graceland with Elvis

November 6, 2023 • "I felt like my role was just to explain her experience," Coppola says of her new film, Priscilla . The filmmaker also has a new book, Archive , which collects documents from her eight movies.

Lawsuit claims Russell Brand sexually assaulted woman on the set of 'Arthur'

Russell Brand at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in central London on March 12, 2013. Joel Ryan/Invision/AP hide caption

Lawsuit claims Russell Brand sexually assaulted woman on the set of 'Arthur'

November 4, 2023 • The plaintiff — referred to as Jane Doe — claimed Brand followed her into a bathroom and assaulted her as a crew member guarded the door from the outside.

We asked Hollywood actors and writers to imagine the strikes on screen

Actor Jason George is on the negotiating team with SAG-AFTRA: "It's a heist movie" he says. Mandalit del Barco/NPR hide caption

We asked Hollywood actors and writers to imagine the strikes on screen

November 4, 2023 • Some striking writers and actors told us it would be a rom-com. Others suggested a mystery, an alien abduction movie, or even a heist flick!

Meg Ryan on what romance means to her — and why her new movie isn't really a rom-com

Meg Ryan is back on the big screen after a break from acting. Amy Sussman/Getty Images hide caption

Main Character of the Day

Meg ryan on what romance means to her — and why her new movie isn't really a rom-com.

November 3, 2023 • The queen of rom-coms plays with the genre in What Happens Later.

'Priscilla' takes the romance out of a storied relationship

Cailee Spaeny and Jacob Elordi in Priscilla . A24 hide caption

'Priscilla' takes the romance out of a storied relationship

November 3, 2023 • The new film Priscilla tells the story of Elvis Presley's wife, but it's not a by-the-book biopic. Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, the movie shows how Priscilla (Cailee Spaeny) and Elvis (Jacob Elordi) first meet, fall in love, get married, and eventually split in the early '70s. But it's also a moodier look at the way Priscilla is walled off, isolated from family, and kept at a distance from his life of superstardom.

In 'Priscilla,' we see what 'Elvis' left out

Cailee Spaeny is impressively convincing in the role of adolescent Priscilla, depicting a high school senior isolated from others at Graceland. Sabrina Lantos hide caption

In 'Priscilla,' we see what 'Elvis' left out

November 2, 2023 • Sofia Coppola's glistening take on Priscilla Presley's life with Elvis is immersive and sad. But who exactly IS Priscilla, anyway?

With 'Five Nights at Freddy's,' a hit horror franchise is born

Josh Hutcherson and Piper Rubio in Five Nights at Freddy's. Patti Perret/Universal Pictures hide caption

With 'Five Nights at Freddy's,' a hit horror franchise is born

November 1, 2023 • In the new movie Five Nights At Freddy's, Josh Hutcherson plays Mike, a down-on-his-luck security guard who winds up getting hired to keep an eye on a family-friendly theme restaurant that's gone out of business. It also happens to be haunted by murderous animatronic mascots. The film is based on the hugely successful video game series, and now it's a box-office sensation.

A priest explains what 'The Exorcist' tells us about evil

Priests, played by Max von Sydow and Jason Miller, try to help a possessed child in The Exorcist, from 1973. Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images hide caption

A priest explains what 'The Exorcist' tells us about evil

October 31, 2023 • After half a century, The Exorcist is still considered one of the scariest movies ever made. But one priest says it's a movie deeply concerned with faith, and responding to evil.

Scream time: Has your kid been frightened by a horror movie trailer?

Horror trailers can be scary for kids — and avoiding them is hard, especially around Halloween. Gerard Launet/Getty Images hide caption

Scream time: Has your kid been frightened by a horror movie trailer?

October 30, 2023 • Ads for horror movies and TV shows seem to be everywhere around Halloween — including during shows that kids might be watching. Avoiding them is a challenge.

'You talkin' to me?' How Scorsese's 'Killers of the Flower Moon' gets in your head

Lily Gladstone, left, plays Mollie Kyle in Killers of the Flower Moon, directed by Martin Scorsese, right. Apple TV+ hide caption

'You talkin' to me?' How Scorsese's 'Killers of the Flower Moon' gets in your head

October 30, 2023 • In his elder years, Martin Scorsese seems to be questioning his complicity as a filmmaker. He's not renouncing his prior artistic choices but he's cognizant of how the world around him has shifted.

In 'The Holdovers,' three broken people get schooled

Dominic Sessa, Da'Vine Joy Rudolph and Paul Giamatti star in The Holdovers. Focus Features hide caption

In 'The Holdovers,' three broken people get schooled

October 30, 2023 • In the funny, melancholic and weirdly moving new film, The Holdovers , Paul Giamatti plays a widely disliked teacher at a prestigious New England boarding school in 1970. He's forced to look after the boys who can't go home for the Christmas break, including one kid (Dominic Sessa) who's a particular pain in the butt. The film is directed by Alexander Payne, and also stars Da'Vine Joy Randolph as the school cook, who's spending the first Christmas without her son.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Turns 30

Costumed revellers dressed as characters from the film "The Nightmare Before Christmas" walk down Essex Street on Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts. It's been 30 years since The Nightmare Before Christmas first hit theaters. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

Consider This from NPR

The nightmare before christmas turns 30.

October 29, 2023 • The Nightmare Before Christmas is back in theaters, celebrating its 30th anniversary. The film, directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton, was not a smash hit upon its release, but has become something of a holiday classic over the years. And while there is some debate as to whether it counts as a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie, its spooky themes draw many viewers back to the film every October.

'Friends' star Matthew Perry dies at age 54

Matthew Perry died on Saturday at age 54 at his Los Angeles home, multiple outlets report. The actor is pictured in 2009 at the L.A. premiere of The Invention of Lying . Matt Sayles/AP hide caption

'Friends' star Matthew Perry dies at age 54

October 28, 2023 • Perry, who won an Emmy nod and enormous fame for his starring role as Chandler Bing in the hit sitcom, was found dead at his Los Angeles home, authorities said.

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‘The Rainbow’ Review: Yasunari Kawabata’s Quiet Revolution

The minimalist writer rendered the changes of postwar japan with an elegant spareness..

Brad Leithauser

Nov. 10, 2023 11:24 am ET


Yasunari Kawabata was not the first modern Japanese novelist to be translated into English, but for many American readers he introduced a nation’s literary sensibility. When he was awarded the Nobel prize in 1968, he became the first Japanese laureate, an ascendancy that coincided with a cresting wave of exports from his country to the West—steel and cars and transistor radios, movies and toys and art. It’s no surprise that Kawabata was viewed as a benchmark: Here it was, the modern Japanese novel.

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The first to arrive was “Snow Country,” in 1956, followed by “Thousand Cranes,” in 1958. Both novels were translated by Edward G. Seidensticker, whose introduction to “Snow Country” sought to assist Western readers who might find its trappings—country inns and geishas, kimonos and sake cups—disorienting. Seidensticker pointed out Kawabata’s ties to Japanese poetry: This was prose of a sere, haiku-like delicacy and suggestiveness, with much implied and little specified.

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14 Book-to-Movie Adaptations We Can't Wait to See in 2022

Whether you’re someone who simply waits for the movie or a reader excited to see their favorite stories play out on the big screen, 2022 promises a stellar slate of films based on popular books.

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Not every entry on the list has a definite release date in 2022 yet but check back here as the year rolls along for updates on these highly anticipated films.

Death on the Nile (Now Playing)

Premiering in February, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s murder mystery Death on the Nile brought audiences campy fun with a packed cast including Gal Gadot, Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Rose Leslie, Letitia Wright, and returning Murder on the Orient Express star Tom Bateman. (Armie Hammer is also a major player; the movie was made prior to his scandal.) The film follows the passengers of a luxury cruise ship under the investigation of Branagh’s Detective Poirot for the murder of a wealthy heiress. Catch this one in theaters right now.

Deep Water (March 18)

An upcoming psychological thriller starring Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas, Deep Water is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel from 1957 about an open marriage with deadly consequences. Euphoria creator Sam Levinson will pen the updated script and bring his HBO star Jacob Elordi along for the ride filled with twisted mind games and murder. Distributed by Hulu, Deep Water will be released shortly for streaming on March 18.

Watch on Hulu

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Bullet Train (July 15)

Based on Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka's novel of the same name, Bullet Train is an action thriller about five assassins who realize that their targets are all on the same high-speed train. The ensemble cast, helmed by Hobbs & Shaw director and John Wick executive producer David Leitch, will feature Brad Pitt, Joey King, Andrew Koji, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry, Zazie Beetz, Masi Oka, Michael Shannon, Logan Lerman, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Sandra Bullock. After a few short delays, Bullet Train will arrive in theaters on July 15.

Where the Crawdads Sing (July 22)

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Written by Delia Owens, the popular novel about intertwining storylines connected by a North Carolina marsh topped The New York Times Best Sellers list for a remarkable total of 32 non-consecutive weeks throughout 2019 and 2020. Olivia Newman, winner of SXSW’s Audience Award for her 2018 boxing film, First Match , will direct the decade-spanning story of troubling relationships and accusations of murder. Normal People ’s Daisy Edgar-Jones and Sharp Object ’s Taylor John Smith are also set to star in the upcoming adaptation, which will hit theaters on July 22.

The Gray Man (July)

premiere of radius and g4 productions' "before we go"   red carpet

Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo will head The Gray Man , a CIA action mystery film starring Ryan Gosling as a black ops mercenary and Chris Evans as the CIA agent trying to bring him down. Ana de Armas will also have a featuring role in the Mark Greaney adaptation, which was reported to be Netflix’s most expensive film yet. The (estimated) $200 million project has yet to receive a release date, but the spy thriller is expected to be available for streaming come July.

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Salem’s Lot (September 9)

alfre woodard

Stephen King’s 1975 horror novel about a writer who returns to his hometown only to find that it’s being preyed upon by an evil vampire will receive its first film adaptation this year, backed by The Conjuring creator James Wan and It screenwriter Gary Dauberman. “It's so fun to play around with vampires and make something truly scary,” Dauberman told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2019 when the project was first announced. “I haven't seen that in a long, long time.” The Lewis Pullman and Alfre Woodard starring film is set to hit theaters on September 9 and will be available to stream on HBO Max in late October, right in time for spooky season.

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret (September 16)

premiere of roadside attractions' "forever my girl"   arrivals

The 1970 Judy Blume adaptation, which was in a studio bidding war for over a year, will finally make it to the big screen for families and children of all ages this fall. Centering on a young girl who struggles with puberty and her religious identity (her mother is Christian, her father is Jewish), Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret has been a favorite for young pre-teen readers ever since its release over 50 years ago. Starring 13-year-old Abby Ryder Fortson, the Rachel McAdams and Benny Safdie-assisted family comedy will hit theaters on September 16.

She Said (November 18)

the imdb studio at acura festival village on location at the 2020 sundance film festival day 2

Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan will star in She Said , the highly anticipated biopic about the two New York Times journalists–Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey–who exposed Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual misconduct against women in Hollywood. Brooklyn Nine-Nine ’s Andre Braugher will also appear as NYT’s executive editor Dean Baquet. Directed by Maria Schrader, who helmed the Netflix miniseries Unorthodox , She Said will be released in theaters on November 18.

Killers of the Flower Moon (November)

26th annual screen actors guild awards inside

Martin Scorsese’s follow-up to 2019’s The Irishman ( which we loved ) finds him reuniting with frequent collaborators Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio for a story right up the violent gangster fan’s alley: FBI thriller Killers on the Flowers Moon . Focusing on the murders of Osage Nation Native Americans in the 1920’s after oil was discovered on their ancestral land, the film will bee based on David Grann's retelling of alleged true events. The film will also feature Jesse Plemons, as well as country singers Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. Though no official date has been announced, the film is expected to be released sometime in November.

White Noise (TBA)

adam driver

Another film about a dangerous train, this Noah Baumbach directed story—based on the beloved 1985 Don DeLillo novel—will star Adam Driver and Greta Gurwig as a married couple devastated by "The Airborne Toxic Event," a train accident that spews chemical waste all over their hometown. Yuck! (Adam Driver last appeared in Baumbach’s Marriage Story , while Lady Bird director Greta Gurwig has been married to the filmmaker since 2011.) The Netflix film, which will also grace us with a role for rapper André 3000, has yet to receive an official 2022 release date.

Blonde (TBA)

ana de armas

Ana de Armas is set to have a big year, moving from Deep Water and The Gray Man to Blonde , the hotly anticipated Marilyn Monroe biopic. Adapted from the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Blonde offers a highly fictionalized version of the ‘50s sex symbol and Hollywood star. The film is also set to feature other fun celebrity impressions such as Bobby Cannavale as baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, Adrien Brody as playwright Arthur Miller, and Caspar Phillipson reprising his brief Jackie role as former President John F. Kennedy. Andrew Dominik of 2012’s Killing Them Softly will direct for Netflix, though the streaming service has yet to announce when the film will premiere in 2022.

My Policeman (TBA)

harry styles

Heartthrob Harry Styles is out to ruin relationships with the upcoming sensual romance film My Policeman which tells the story of a bisexual cop caught between two lovers on the coast of Brighton, England in the ‘50s. Emma Corrin, who played Princess Diana on The Crown , will play one of Styles’s love interests, while UK theater actor Dave Dawson will portray an art curator who entices him into having a passionate affair. Filming just wrapped last summer, so a 2022 release is likely around the corner.

Persuasion (TBA)

henry golding

Fans searching for (even) more period piece romances will have to look no further than Jane Austen’s Persuasion , which is being adapted for Netflix as British theater actress Carrie Cracknell’s directorial debut. The promising romance between Fifty Shades ’ Dakota Johnson and Crazy Rich Asians ’ Henry Golding should be enough to entice viewers to the pre-Victorian tale of a woman seeking a second chance at love, though Netflix has yet to set a release date.

Watch on Netflix

The Wonder (TBA)

florence pugh

Starring Florence Pugh of Black Widow and Little Women fame, The Wonder is based on Emma Donoghue’s novel of the same name, about an 1862 Irish community of women who believe that they’ve gained magical powers through extreme fasting. Pugh plays a nurse who visits the girls and investigates their claims, unraveling a psychological mystery. Set to premiere on Netflix later this year, the streaming service has not yet announced when the 2022 film will premiere.

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Josh Rosenberg is an Assistant Editor at Esquire, keeping a steady diet of one movie a day. His past work can be found at Spin, CBR, and on his personal blog at

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Best Movie Guides & Reviews Books of 2023

Wilson Cook Avatar

Movie Guides & Reviews Books are essential for movie enthusiasts who want to stay up-to-date with the latest releases and make informed decisions about what to watch. These books provide comprehensive reviews of films, as well as recommendations based on genre and theme. They also include detailed information about the cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scenes insights. Whether you're a casual moviegoer or a die-hard film buff, Movie Guides & Reviews Books are a valuable resource for anyone looking to enhance their cinematic experience.

* Our editing teams independently research, review, and recommend the best products based on extensive data analysis; if you click on the product links, we may earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

At a Glance: Our Top Picks

Star Wars: Complete Locations Cover

Top 10 Movie Guides & Reviews Books

Star wars: complete locations.

Star Wars: Complete Locations is a visual guide that takes readers on a journey through the various worlds and locations in the Star Wars galaxy. With over 50 full-color cross-section artwork and 3-D maps, readers can explore the intricate details of cities, landscapes, and battle sites. The book also includes new cross-section artwork from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Published by DK, this book is a must-have for any Star Wars fan who wants to dive deeper into the universe. Overall, this book is an excellent addition to the Star Wars franchise, providing in-depth knowledge and stunning visuals that will surely satisfy any fan.

But Have You Read the Book?: 52 Literary Gems That Inspired Our Favorite Films (Turner Classic Movies)

But Have You Read the Book? is a must-read for both film enthusiasts and book lovers. Turner Classic Movies presents a collection of 52 classic films and the literary works that inspired them. The author Kristen Lopez examines what makes these works exceptional adaptations, whether faithful to the book or not. The book is engaging and informative, taking the reader on a tour of various routes from page to film. The essays are impressively entertaining and erudite, with a fine reading list to follow. If you're a big reader who loves movies, this cleverly designed anthology is irresistible.

Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia

Star Wars enthusiasts will love Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia by DK, a comprehensive pictorial guide to the Star Wars universe. The book covers everything from characters and creatures to technology and geography, featuring more than 2,500 images. The book is organized into sections for easy navigation and includes a full history of galactic politics, the Jedi Council, and the Empire. The book is a celebration of all things Star Wars and is a must-have addition to any fan's collection.

Avatar The Way of Water The Visual Dictionary

Avatar The Way of Water The Visual Dictionary Cover

Dive into the world of Avatar: The Way of Water with this visually stunning guide. The book, created in collaboration with James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment and written by experts who worked on the film, provides exclusive details about the characters, creatures, vehicles, weapons, and locations of Pandora. With a foreword by Sigourney Weaver, this book is a must-have for Avatar fans of all ages. The book is unique in its comprehensive and detailed coverage of the latest adventure in Pandora, making it a perfect gift for any fan of the franchise.

The Star Wars Archives. 1977-1983. 40th Ed

The Star Wars Archives. 1977-1983. 40th Ed Cover

The Star Wars Archives. 1977–1983. 40th Ed. is a must-have for any Star Wars fan. This book, made with the full cooperation of Lucasfilm, takes you through the making of the original trilogy, providing fresh insights into the creation of a unique universe. Complete with script pages, production documents, concept art, storyboards, on-set photography, stills, and posters, this is the authoritative exploration of the original saga as told by its creator. The book also includes a narration by George Lucas himself. It's a fascinating read that offers a glimpse into the making of one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time.

The World of Avatar: A Visual Exploration

The World of Avatar: A Visual Exploration Cover

The World of Avatar: A Visual Exploration is a celebration of James Cameron's Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time. This book offers a glimpse into the majestic world of Pandora, its unique geology, flora and fauna, and the customs and beliefs of its people, the Na’vi. It combines original movie stills and artwork with stunning imagery from Cirque du Soleil’s Avatar-inspired show and Disney World’s Pandora—The World of Avatar. With a foreword by Avatar star Zoe Saldana and an introduction by producer Jon Landau, this book concludes with a "sneak peek" of Avatar 2, fueling excitement for its release in December 2022. The World of Avatar is a must-have for fans of the franchise and anyone who appreciates the art of film and video books.

Godzilla: The Ultimate Illustrated Guide

Godzilla: The Ultimate Illustrated Guide Cover

Godzilla: The Ultimate Illustrated Guide is a must-read for any fan of the iconic monster. This book provides an in-depth look at the history of Godzilla, from its early days in black and white to the modern-day blockbusters. The book includes fascinating facts and figures, as well as stunning illustrations that bring the monster to life. The author, Graham Skipper, is a lifelong fan of Godzilla and his passion for the subject shines through in the book. Overall, this is an excellent reference work that is both informative and entertaining.

Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe An Official Timeline

Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe An Official Timeline Cover

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is vast and complex, but fear not! Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe An Official Timeline is here to guide you through it all. This filmmaker-endorsed guide, created in collaboration with Marvel Studios, provides answers to the biggest questions about the MCU, from its beginning to the present day. With exclusive infographics, illuminating timelines, and stunning movie stills, this book is a must-have for any MCU fan. The book is written by notable entertainment journalists Anthony Breznican, Amy Ratcliffe, and Rebecca Theodore-Vachon. This is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the superhero comics and graphic novel category.

The New York Times Book of Movies: The Essential 1,000 Films to See

The New York Times Book of Movies: The Essential 1,000 Films to See Cover

The New York Times Book of Movies is a collection of reviews for the 1,000 most important, popular, and influential movies of all time. The book includes critiques of beloved Hollywood milestones from Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles. It also features lists of best films by category and year, as well as unique recommendations and sidebars for the modern viewer. This book is an excellent resource for movie buffs and students who want to learn more about cinema history and its evolution. Overall, The New York Times Book of Movies is a relevant and indispensable gift and reference, particularly in an era when most people rely on the internet for information.

Star Wars: The Essential Atlas

Star Wars: The Essential Atlas Cover

The Star Wars: The Essential Atlas is a comprehensive guide that maps the entire galaxy of the Star Wars universe. This fully illustrated, full-color guide is a galaxy-spanning trove of vital statistics and information ranging from astronomical and geographical to historical and political. It includes dozens of detailed maps and charts, pertinent data, and accompanying facts on the Empire, the Clone Wars, the adventures of Han Solo, the Sith Wars, and much more. This book is the ultimate gateway to space fantasy’s most brilliantly imagined and endlessly intriguing galaxy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. what is the most trusted movie review site.

IMDb. IMDB is the most popular movie site with a user-generated rating feature. It provides all the necessary information like reviews, ratings, images, videos, etc. that you may need to decide if the movie is worth watching or not.

2. Is there a Goodreads for movies and TV shows? is an app allowing you to track which movies you are watching. It can also be used as Goodreads for movies and shows allowing you to find what to watch.

3. Who is the best movie reviewer?

Arguably the most famous U.S. film critic of all time, Roger Ebert reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for nearly fifty years. With former television partner Gene Siskel, Ebert popularized the basic "thumb's up" or "thumb's down" rating system.

During our movie guides & reviews book research, we found 1,200+ movie guides & reviews book products and shortlisted 10 quality products. We collected and analyzed 20,990 customer reviews through our big data system to write the movie guides & reviews books list. We found that most customers choose movie guides & reviews books with an average price of $19.10.

Wilson Cook is a talented writer who has an MFA in creative writing from Williams College and has published more than 50 books acquired by hundreds of thousands of people from various countries by now. He is an inveterate reading lover as he has read a vast amount of books since childhood.


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Editors’ choice

9 New Books We Recommend This Week

Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.

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I know, I know, today is Nobel Day in the literary world , so I won’t be the one to tear you away from Jon Fosse’s haunting Scandinavian struggles with art and mortality . But once you’ve finished the final volumes of his “Septology” (published last year in the United States, and a finalist for the 2022 National Book Award in translation), why not kick back and cleanse your mental palate with a book about the ultimate unknowability of the nature of reality?

No, seriously! That would be William Egginton’s “The Rigor of Angels,” which examines how giants in three different fields (physics, philosophy and literature) have approached that topic, and, like Fosse’s work, it asserts a genuine hypnotic power. That’s one of our recommended books this week. And — fear not — if you’re in the mood for something lighter, we also recommend a history of the French Riviera, a biography of the great Texas novelist Larry McMurtry and new fiction by Jennifer Weiner, among other things. Happy reading.

—Gregory Cowles

LARRY McMURTRY: A Life Tracy Daugherty

The first comprehensive biography of the Texas novelist McMurtry portrays a man who loved to hold court in literary circles but felt most at home on an open plain. Daugherty’s entertaining chronicle covers his prolific writing life, his long career as a bookseller and his time in Hollywood.

books and movies review

“The only thing that meant more to McMurtry than his relationships was his writing. This book is a study in vocation.”

From Dwight Garner’s review

St. Martin’s | $35

DOPPELGANGER: A Trip Into the Mirror World Naomi Klein

After she was repeatedly confused online with the feminist scholar turned anti-vaxxer Naomi Wolf, Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine” and other progressive books, turned the experience into this sober, stylish account of the lure of disdain and paranoia.

books and movies review

“There is something hopeful in this project, in its sheer intellectual ambition and range, its effort to pick apart and decipher the absurdities and ironies of our political derangement, which almost no other writer could pull off.”

From Katie Roiphe’s review

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $27

ONCE UPON A TIME WORLD: The Dark and Sparkling Story of the French Riviera Jonathan Miles

Once isolated by its rugged terrain, the French Riviera became the world’s playground with the arrival of trains, which bore artists, socialities, thought-leaders and royals to its pristine beaches and stunning landscapes. Miles conjures the area’s glamour and endless fascination.

books and movies review

“Reading this breathtaking account of the transformations of the French Riviera over the last two millenniums is like riding shotgun with a racecar driver in the Monaco Grand Prix.”

From Liesl Schillinger’s review

Pegasus | $29.95

THE BREAKAWAY Jennifer Weiner

Abby Stern is hungry for a meaningful career, a boyfriend who doesn’t count her every bite and a mother who lets her be herself. When she’s invited to lead a cycling expedition, she jumps at the chance — and finds the sustenance and fuel she deserves.

books and movies review

“Sexy and suspenseful and so much fun, even as it asks us to imagine lives unconstrained by convention or the Supreme Court. It’s the lobster roll you get with mayo and melted butter — because why choose?”

From Catherine Newman’s review

Atria | $28.99

THE RIGOR OF ANGELS: Borges, Heisenberg, Kant, and the Ultimate Nature of Reality William Egginton

Challenging, ambitious and elegant, this mind-expanding book explores nothing less than “the ultimate nature of reality” through the work of three figures: the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, the German quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg and the 18th-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

books and movies review

“The beauty of this book is that Egginton encourages us to recognize all of these complicated truths as part of our reality, even if the ‘ultimate nature’ of that reality will remain forever elusive.”

From Jennifer Szalai’s review

Pantheon | $30


Hertz’s debut is a brutal and probing look at one man’s search for justice after being sexually abused for years as a child. Through his story, the novel asks: What does justice look like? Can it look like vengeance? And at what cost does retribution come?

books and movies review

“Hertz has managed to tell a story of queer healing with all the narrative force of a thriller and the searing fury of an indictment. It’s an achievement of language, of style.”

From Charlie Lee’s review

Simon & Schuster | $26.99

THE LIGHTS: Poems Ben Lerner

After receiving plaudits for his recent novels, Lerner returns to poetry with an expansive new collection whose multiple voices carry on an internal debate tournament about what poems ought to do or be.

books and movies review

“It takes a poet to invent characters who argue that ‘the voice must be sung into existence.’ It takes a novelist to honor so many perspectives, histories and intimacies in one book. ... A multistory dream house for contemporary American readers.”

From Srikanth Reddy’s review

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $26


This polyphonic novel traces one family’s reckoning after the patriarch dies in a fire, as his widow, a Nigerian immigrant, considers returning to her home country and the entire family re-examines the circumstances of their lives.

books and movies review

“This is a novel that encourages us to stand in life’s burning doorways, and to think long before we walk away or walk through.”

From Tiphanie Yanique’s review

Pantheon | $28

NORTH WOODS Daniel Mason

Mason’s novel looks at the occupants of a single house in Massachusetts over several centuries, from colonial times to present day. An apple farmer, an abolitionist, a wealthy manufacturer: The book follows these lives and many others, with detours into natural history and crime reportage.

books and movies review

“This is fiction that deals in minutes and in centuries, that captures the glory and the triviality of human lives. The forest and the trees: Mason keeps both in clear view in his eccentric and exhilarating novel.”

From Rand Richards Cooper’s review

Random House | $28

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

Barbra Streisand’s 970-page memoir, “My Name is Barbra,” is a victory lap past all who ever doubted or diminished her, our critic writes .

Rebecca Yarros drew on her experience with chronic illness and life in a military family to write “Fourth Wing,” a huge best seller that spawned a spicy fantasy series .

Dann McDorman, the executive producer of “The Beat With Ari Melber,” gave up writing fiction in his 20s. Now, he’s publishing his first novel at age 47 .

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

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Music & Drama » Film, Cinema & TV

The best books on film criticism, recommended by andrew sarris.

The legendary American critic, Andrew Sarris , sounds off on auteurism, his own career and the value of the traditional film-writing canon over internet innovations such as IMDB. He picks the best books on film criticism.

Interview by Eve Gerber

The best books on Film Criticism - Agee on Film by James Agee

Agee on Film by James Agee

The best books on Film Criticism - The Immediate Experience by Robert Warshow, Stanley Cavell and Lionel Trilling

The Immediate Experience by Robert Warshow, Stanley Cavell and Lionel Trilling

The best books on Film Criticism - What is Cinema? Volume 1 by André Bazin

What is Cinema? Volume 1 by André Bazin

The best books on Film Criticism - Negative Space by Manny Farber

Negative Space by Manny Farber

The best books on Film Criticism - The New Biographical Dictionary of Film by David Thomson

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film by David Thomson

books and movies review

1 Agee on Film by James Agee

2 the immediate experience by robert warshow, stanley cavell and lionel trilling, 3 what is cinema volume 1 by andré bazin, 4 negative space by manny farber, 5 the new biographical dictionary of film by david thomson.

Before we talk about film criticism’s golden era, let me ask a question about its future: Do you think the paring of print payrolls, the proliferation of viewer reviews, and the emergence of Internet aggregators, like Metacritic, will spell an end to serious criticism? And if serious criticism no longer pays, what will fuel the arguments among cinephiles that used to occur under theatre marquees (at least in Woody Allen movies)?

I disagree with those who say film criticism is in crisis. There might be fewer people looking for a fight; it might be less polemical than it was when subscribing to a certain film theory could make you a marked man among your fellow critics. But I think as long as filmmakers keep making great work – like The King’s Speech – the work will resonate and we will continue to wrestle with it.

As a professor of film, I find that my students appreciate their predecessors and have greater access to good writing on film than people of previous generations.

Let’s move on to that writing, starting with James Agee. He is best remembered for his sober social reporting and his posthumously-published Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family . Agee on Film assembles essays he wrote about film during the 1940s.

I read Agee in high school. He was deeply humanistic. He was an inspiring force for me as well as for many other critics. He was a message critic, very much concerned with what film said, and very sociologically oriented.

“Before the auteurists, Hitchcock was considered trivial. Now the notion that Hitchcock’s body of work was important is not so controversial.”

As someone who experienced so much success writing about topics other than film, he brought a great deal of style and a great deal of prestige to film criticism. I’ll give you an anecdote: When I was at Columbia, I applied for a creative writing course. During a personal interview with Professor F W Dupee, a legendary literary critic, I was asked what I wanted to write, and I said film criticism. He said: ‘Oh no, you don’t want to do that.  We’ve already lost Jim Agee to movies. He was a good writer until Hollywood got to him.’ That was the attitude that people had. But Agee blazed a path that other great writers would follow.

Let’s move on to The Immediate Experience, a collection of criticism by Robert Warshow, who died in 1955. His analyses of the archetypes of mid-century cinema, including cowboys and gangsters, were so canonical that this collection was published in 1962 and then republished in 2002.

He died at a very young age – he was 37 – but he had a tremendous influence on many contemporary critics. You read him to get a different slant on film and criticism. He took movies as they were, and didn’t ask them to bear the weight of social messages.

Warshow focused on the ‘immediate experience’ of the viewer – how a movie moved a man. He, in fact, preferred the term ‘movie’ to the more highfalutin ‘film’. He suggested that we should judge films based on the emotional effect they have on us.

He concentrated on films that were not fashionable and directors that were not fashionable.  He was a great champion of the B-picture and the action picture, movies that were dismissed by mainstream critics. He didn’t look down on films because of their genre. He had a tremendous effect on people in academe. He made people rethink films and rethink what made a great film. When you read him today, what he wrote still jumps off the page.

The next collection you chose, if we go in chronological order, has a very different point of view. This is What is Cinema by André Bazin, France’s most esteemed film critic .

Bazin was the antithesis of Russian film theorist and director Sergei Eisenstein, who posited that film didn’t become film until it was sliced up and served montage-style.  Eisenstein advocated for the collision of images and conflict of classes in films. Bazin believed that films should be smooth, and needn’t be so socially weighty; he felt that films should have a realism to them. He focused on mise-en-scène, as opposed to montage.

Bazin was one of the founders of the Cahiers du Cinema, which popularised the auteur theory of film.

You are credited – and were at times blamed – for importing Bazin’s theory of auteurism to the States. Can you explain the theory and how it influenced the course of film criticism?

Auterism acknowledged that the director was the dominant personality in films and that films reflected a director’s vision. That was how it changed the trajectory of criticism. It was accused of ignoring every other contributor and technician involved in film – unfairly so.

Auteurism helped us understand that a director’s work should be judged on its artistry rather than its subject matter. Before I became familiar with the work of Bazin, I felt that film had to be ambitious and socially conscious to be valuable. Bazin and Cahiers helped me realise that cinema was sui generis , that film didn’t have to prove its social relevance, and that film should be judged on its own terms.

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But back then, bucking mainstream American criticism and showing appreciation for commercial pictures was a risky proposition. My first review (for The Village Voice) was of Psycho ; because I treated Hitchcock as a major artist, and Psycho as a masterpiece, I got a major, major amount of hate mail. Before the auteurists, Hitchcock was considered trivial. Now the notion that Hitchcock’s body of work was important is not so controversial.

Let’s move on to the work of a very different critic. Manny Farber (the author of Negative Space) wrote about film for Time, The Nation, and Artforum from the late 40s through the early 70s. 

Manny Farber was the ultimate iconoclast. He pointed out the ways in which some of the most revered directors of the era, such as John Huston, were pretentious and insensitive to the medium. At times he would underrate people who were overrated. On the other hand, he brought to broader attention some directors who had previously been dismissed as insignificant, such as Samuel Fuller. Like Warshow, Farber uplifted action movies.

Some credit Faber with creating a prose style that matched the fluidity of film. 

He was a great writer. I think his reviews read better now than they did at the moment he wrote them.

Farber is remembered for favouring what he called ‘termite art’, art which burrowed into its subject matter in a down-to-earth way, over ‘white elephant art’, which pretentiously trumpeted its own importance. Did his focus on the value of ‘termite art’ alter perceptions of popular cinema? 

Farber took unpretentious films seriously, and encouraged others to do so too. He influenced not just filmgoers, but also filmmakers. He had the same kind of influence on the new directors of the 70s that Bazin had on the Nouvelle Vague of the 60s. I think the cinema of Spielberg and Scorsese was much influenced by Farber.

Your final choice is The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, by David Thomson. It was first published in 1975, and a fifth edition just came out in October. Tell me why you selected this over other reference works. 

This volume is a compendium of biographical profiles of just about every major figure in film. But it is really much more than a movie reference book; Thomson writes better than almost any other encyclopaedic critic. And he writes with a great deal of humour. He packs a lot into each entry in his Dictionary. 

Thomson is a great analyst of acting. He did the same thing with actors that Bazin did with directors: he ennobled their work and made us all see how cinema depends on them.

Why is Thomson’s work still worth reading in the age of IMDB? Why is any of this criticism still worth reading?

The work of these critics is just much more nuanced than what you can find on Internet movie databases. Agee, Bazin, Faber, Warshow, and Thomson still make great reading today. They don’t just broaden our knowledge of film; they deepen it.

Are today’s critics serving more as consumer guides?

All critics were in some sense consumer guides. There is nothing wrong with being a consumer guide. I know that the term is used in derogation. But the best writers were also the best consumer guides.

March 9, 2011

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Andrew Sarris

Andrew Sarris

Andrew Sarris was a film critic and professor of film studies (1969–2010) at Columbia University. In 1960 Sarris began writing for the Village Voice. Sarris outlined his radical approach to film criticism in the essay “Notes on the Auteur Theory” (1962). He also applied the approach in his influential book The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929–1968 (1968). Sarris left the Village Voice in 1989 to write for the New York Observer, where he remained for 20 years.

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Den of Geek

63 Film Books That Are Well Worth Your Time

Looking for good books about the movies to read? We've got a bumper selection of recommendations right here...

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This article originally appeared on  Den of Geek UK.

A confession. I actually started writing this article in 2013, and the reason you’ve only reading it now is that I’ve made sure I’ve read every book on this list, save for one or two where I’ve marked otherwise. As such, what you’re getting is a very personal list of recommendations. Each of these books has at least something to it that I think is of interest to someone wanting to learn more about film – or just enjoy stories of movie making.

I’ve tended to avoid picture books, with one exception, as these ones I’ve chosen are all intended to be chock-full of words, to relax with at the end of a long day. Which is what I did. There are one or two notable omissions, as I’m still working through a pile of books (sorry, Sidney Lumet). I’ll keep adding recommendations to the list though as I find more books I think are worth checking out. Please add your own recommendations in the comments!

Also, I should note, I’ve also avoided books that tend to be more academic. None of these are for a film studies course. All are designed for mortals like me to read.

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Some of these are out of print, and some are quite tricky to track down. Others are widely available, none of them should break the bank. They’re listed in alphabetical order, by author’s surname.

Without further ado…

Vic Armstrong – The True Adventures Of The World’s Greatest Stuntman

About half way through movie stunt legend Vic Armstrong’s memoir, I found myself wondering if it’d been a better book were it a biography rather than an autobiography. Yet I still enjoyed it, and Armstrong offers an angle on the movies that’s not often discussed.

He talks about the rise of his career in movie stunt work, sharing his views on the proliferation of CG in more recent times (the Bond movie Die Another Day gets particular criticism). Also, his stories of doubling for Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom in particular are very good value. You’ll learn lots from the book, even if it’s not always the easiest to read.

Buy  The True Adventures Of The World’s Greatest Stuntman on Amazon

Steven bach – final cut.

Here, I defer to my colleagues.  Final Cut   charts to the story of the infamous production of Heaven’s Gate . Ryan charted 10 stories of excess from the filming of the movie, gleaned from Bach’s excellent book, right here . And Aliya penned a piece about this book specifically here .

Buy Final Cut on  Amazon

John badham – i’ll be in my trailer.

Director John Badham has written a pair of books on directing movies, of which this one is the best for my money. It’s written in a dip in and out style, and that’s the best way to enjoy it too, I think. Badham is a man who’s candid that he’s learned from his mistakes on movie sets, and he’s got lots of advice for potential directors, generously illustrated with compelling examples from his own career.

Buy  I’ll Be In My Trailer  on Amazon

Peter biskind – down and dirty pictures.

In theory, this was supposed to do for the independent cinema boom of the 1990s what Easy Riders Raging Bulls (below) did for the films and filmmakers of the 1970s. As equally as contentious as its forerunner, Down And Dirty Pictures didn’t quite gel as well for me personally, yet there’s an awful lot to feast on here. And as you come to expect from Biskind’s film writing, you get a hell of a list of films to check out once you’re done.

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Buy  Down And Dirty Pictures  on Amazon

Peter biskind – easy riders raging bulls.

There have been many conversations about just how close to the mark the many stories that Peter Biskind explores in Easy Rides Raging Bulls are. But one thing is fairly certain: that by the time you get to the end of his gossip-y book, you’ll have a list of films to watch that’s comfortably in double figures (assuming you’ve not seen them before, of course).

Biskind’s book is a hugely, hugely entertainment journey though the rise of directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Hal Ashby and Brian De Palma. Funny, wildly entertaining, and one of the most wonderful journeys through 1970s cinema in print form.

Buy  Easy Riders Raging Bulls  on Amazon

Brian blessed – absolute pandemonium.

First piece of advice: get the audiobook. Blessed reads it himself. Second piece of advice: head to the chapters on Flash Gordon , and the making of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace . Utter gold.

Blessed’s new memoir also covers his landing the role of Fancy Brown in Z Cars , and takes in his theatre work as well. The film stuff is strong enough to earn it a place on this list, though. Best not to read Absolute Pandemonium while sipping a drink would be my strong advice. The number of laugh-out-loud moments in here is high.

Buy  Absolute Pandemonium  on Amazon

Bernie brillstein – where did i go right you’re no one in hollywood unless someone wants you dead.

The fact that the late Bernie Brillstein wasn’t a household name, particularly in the UK, just adds to the surprise of his 1999 autobiography. For Brillstein was instrumental in the careers of people such as Jim Henson, John Belushi and Gilda Radner. As a manager and producer, he had access to lots of behind the scenes stories, and he shares many of them, from a slightly different perspective than many others can offer. He has interesting stories to tell, and tells them very, very well.

Buy  Where Did I Go Right?  on Amazon

Billy crystal – still foolin’ em.

A warm, witty collection of essays from actor, writer, director, comedian and Oscar-host Billy Crystal. Plenty to enjoy here, too, with my favourite being the story of how Charles Bronson slammed the phone down on Crystal, insulted, after being offered Jack Palance’s role in City Slickers . The film for which Palance would finally win his Oscar…

Buy  Still Foolin’ Em  on Amazon

Michael deeley – blade runners, deer hunters & blowing the bloody doors off.

An insightful read this, and (relatively) rare in that it gives a producer’s-eye view of some very big and important movies. Michael Deeley’s stories are happy to poke at a few old wounds, and he’s a man who doesn’t pull his metaphorical punches.

Inevitably, that means you get a very one-sided version of events behind the scenes of films such as Blade Runner , The Italian Job , and The Deer Hunter . But once you settle into the fact that it’s a very subjective tale – as more autobiographies should arguably be – then it’s an entertaining book to read. Just one you’re aware that you might not be getting the full picture from.

Buy  Blader Runners, Deer Hunters & Blowing The Bloody Doors Off on Amazon

Helen de winter – what i really want to do is produce.

What differentiates some film books is the enviable access they’d had to the right people. That’s certainly the case with Helen de Winter’s comprehensive What I Really Want To Do Is Produce . In it, she tries to get to the bottom of what film producing is about, and how to break into it. And in doing so, she talks to the likes of Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Lawrence Bender, and Lord Of The Rings producer Bob Shaye.

Each has different approaches to their job, and de Winter takes time to find out about them, then present the information in a digestible way. No shortage of good anecdotes, too…

Buy  What I Really Want To Do Is Produce  on Amazon

Kirk douglas – i am spartacus.

Kirk Douglas has penned many books , but I thought I Am Spartacus was really quite something. It’s an economical piece of work, that in turn tells the story of Douglas producing and starring in Spartacus , whilst also helping break the Hollywood blacklist.

The blacklist side of the story comes from the hiring of Dalton Trumbo (now the subject of a biopic starring Bryan Cranston), and that’s arguably the best bit of the book. His stories of visiting Trumbo, living in Hollywood exile, are expertly told.

But then so is the story of changing directors on Spartacus , and coming to work with Stanley Kubrick. It won’t take too long to read I Am Spartacus , but it’s very much worth the effort.

Buy  I Am Spartacus  on Amazon

Susan dworkin – making tootsie: a film stud y.

A little bit dry this one, perhaps, but still an interesting book, and one given a new audience by it being made available on Kindle. It digs into the making, as you can probably guess, of Sydney Pollack’s comedy classic, and in particular the intensity with which star Dustin Hoffman approached the lead role. It’s a brief read, coming in well shy of 200 pages, but delivers very much on the promise of its title.

Buy  Making Tootsie: A Film Study  on Amazon

Joe eszterhas – hollywood animal.

A very long, sometimes rambling, but very often utterly gripping autobiography of screenwriter Joe Eszterhas. The meat for movie fans will be in his candid description of the rise and fall of his screenwriting career ( and we touched on just a fraction of that here ). We get the expensive script sales, the arguments, taking on the most powerful man in Hollywood at the time (agent Mike Ovitz) and the making of some of the movies themselves.

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What we also get is Eszterhas’ complex upbringing, his marriages, his battle with the bottle, and often a picture painted of a not very nice man. Comfortably one of the longest books on this list, it’s worth sticking with it through its slower parts, not least because it’s an insightful glimpse of Hollywood in the ’80s and ’90s.

Buy  Hollywood Animal  on Amazon

Robert evans – the kid stays in the picture.

From the heady heights of heading up Paramount in the 1970s, to a fast fall from the top fuelled by excess, Robert Evans has quite a tale to tell. Across two books, he both tells it very well, and in a very tired way. So stick with the first, the engrossing The Kid Stays In The Picture . It leaves him on the verge of what would prove to be an unsuccessful comeback – The Saint and Sliver were on his slate at the time – but his stories from behind the scenes of Love Story and The Godfather , for instance, are engrossing.

Robert Evans is clearly a man in love with himself, by the tone of his prose. Plus you won’t be left in much doubt that he’s led something of a sleazy life. Yet for some reason, books about ’70s Hollywood rarely fail to deliver. This is no exception.

Buy  The Kid Stays In The Picture  on Amazon

Corey feldman – coreyography: a memoir.

Corey Feldman has lived more lives in his time on Earth already than many of us will ever manage, and his open, revealing memoir is pretty frank about them. It’s heavily movie-centric, going behind the scenes on the likes of The Goonies and The Lost Boys , before detailing his current run of DTV productions. But it’s most haunting for the stories of what it’s like being a child star, with a very pushy parent. Difficult to read at times, as it should be, Feldman puts his heart and soul onto the page in a very strong book.

Buy  Coreyography: A Memoir  on Amazon

Angus finney – the egos have landed.

Palace Pictures was, at one stage, the biggest force in UK cinema. At a point where the British film industry was in the doldrums, Palace – in the ’80s and ’90s – managed to get films such as The Company Of Wolves and The Crying Game through the system.

But the methods Palace used – with films heading into production before full financing was in place – led to a house of proverbial cards the eventually came tumbling down. Angus Finney’s book captures some of that. And whilst its still leaves the door open for perhaps a more definitive tome on the Palace era, it’s a fascinating snapshot of a very British riches to rags story.

Buy  The Egos Have Landed  on Amazon

Charles fleming – high concept: don simpson and the hollywood culture of excess.

This doesn’t feel like the definitive telling of uber-producer Don Simpson’s life. Perhaps if his one-time business partner Jerry Bruckheimer ever writes an autobiography, then there’ll be a little less varnish.

Still, Fleming does a solid job charting the rise and premature death of Top Gun and Days Of Thunder producer Don Simpson. There’s a lot more excess charted than there is movie insight delivered, and it might have worked best as a series of articles rather than a book. But it’s hard not to get something out of High Concept .

Buy  High Concept  on Amazon

Michael j fox – lucky man.

As you might expect, Michael J Fox’s first memoir focuses on his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease, and the way he has fought from that point. Lucky Man is also intertwined with some candid conversation about his movie career, and the choices that he made. For instance, Fox details signing a three picture deal with Universal Pictures in the early 1990s, and how that proved to be a good idea only in the short term.

Fox’s voice is engrained through Lucky Man , and it’s a rounded, moving and very human piece of work.

Buy  Lucky Man  on Amazon

Hadley freeman – life moves pretty fast.

You don’t have to spend long with Google to find articles from people on why movies of a particular era mattered to them so much. What makes Hadley Freeman’s terrific Life Moves Pretty Fast stand out is that not only does she come up with interesting reasons as to why her films of choice worked so well, but that she’s woven that in alongside chats with some of the people behind them.

Her choices are fiercely mainstream too. And given how the bookshelves of Waterstones have a habit of creaking under the weight of academic dissections of less well known features, Life Moves Pretty Fast is all the more accessible for celebrating such ultimately successful films.

Buy  Life Moves Pretty Fast  on Amazon

Caseen gaines – we don’t need roads: the making of the back to the future trilogy.

An unofficial guide to the putting together of the Back To The Future films, albeit with enough access to key personnel to give it a bit of extra lift. If there’s a flaw with Gaines’ well-researched and likeable book, it’s that it gives the sequels – which arguably have enough stories of their own to fill a book – quite short shrift. A pity, as many of the tales of the first film are already well known. Still, Gaines is a passionate host, and it’s hard not to be swept along by his love and enthusiasm for his subject matter.

Buy  We Don’t Need Roads  on Amazon

William goldman – adventures in the screen trade.

Not for nothing is William Goldman’s Adventures In The Screen Trade known as one of the very best books about film ever written. It’s the book in which Goldman came up with the phrase “nobody knows anything” to describe how people keep trying to predict the ingredients for a successful movie. Yet the pages are dripping with stories that are gold dust for self-respecting movie nerds. Superbly written, as you’d expect, decades on, Goldman’s book is still hard to beat.

Buy  Adventures In The Screen Trade  on Amazon

William goldman – which lie did i tell.

A sequel of sorts to Adventures In The Screen Trade , Which Lie Did I Tell? brings thing a little more up to date. Published in 2001, it covers Goldman’s work on films such as The Chamber , Maverick , and Misery . Plus it’s got plenty of tips for wannabe-screenwriters, and some superb analysis of what does and doesn’t work on film.

Buy  Which Lie Did I Tell?  on Amazon

Richard e grant – with nails.

The film writing of Richard E Grant is something to be cherished, not least because he published his outstanding movie diaries – With Nails – whilst very much at his most in-demand.

Grant turns his witty, critical eye to the likes of Hudson Hawk (his account of this one being a particular delight), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a movie you can feel him aching to like slightly more than he ultimately did) and L.A. Story . As a snapshot of ’90s movie-making, it’s pretty much unparalleled, all the better for us not having to wait 20 years until these stories spilled out.

Grant’s subsequent film book, The Wah Wah Diaries , is also worth a look – an incisive and intelligent look at making his debut movie as director, Wah Wah .

Buy  Richard E Grant  on Amazon

Nancy griffin and kim masters – hit & run.

A spiky, terrifically-written look at when Peter Guber and Jon Peters ran Columbia Pictures in the early 1990s. In particular, the superb insight into just what went wrong with the infamous Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Last Action Hero is reason enough to pick the book up.

As with many Hollywood true stories, it’s so bizarre and far-fetched there are moments of pinch-yourself madness in here. And yet, it seems, it was all true. One of the best books out there about 1990s Hollywood.

Buy  Hit & Run  on Amazon

Peter guber and peter bart – shoot out.

The astonishing era at Paramount Pictures in the 1970s has been richly covered in film books, but there’s room in producer and eventual Sony studio head Peter Guber for a few more tales.

Shoot Out – which was turned into a television series – was published in 2003, and thus it doesn’t cover his more recent career heading up Mandalay Entertainment. But between him and former Variety editor Peter Bart, there’s enough behind the scenes meat here to warrant seeking out a copy.

Buy  Shoot Out  on Amazon

Don hahn – brain storm.

Not ostenisbly a movie book, Don Hahn’s Brain Storm is nonetheless bursting with movie anecdotes, of particular interest to animation fans. Hahn, the producer of films such as The Lion King and Beauty And The Beast , has put together a book that gets across ways to make your work more creative, and how to capture that spirit in others. But the bonus here is in the proverbial margins, as Hahn offers tips and examples from across his movie making career.

Buy  Brain Storm  on Amazon

Jane hamsher – killer instinct.

Whether you came to love or loathe Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers , the story behind bringing it to the screen is worth a read. There’s the fact that original screenwriter Quentin Tarantino became, er, ‘not a fan’ of the way his story was being treated. There’s the moment where Stone caught one particular shot, with the added incentive of free goodies if he did. And there’s ultimately the story of young producers biting off, at first, seemingly more than they can chew, and eventually steering one of the 90s’ most controversial movies to the screen.

Buy  Killer Instinct  on Amazon

Mark harris – scenes from a revolution.

A really, really satisfying read this one, that takes the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1967, and charts how each had their part to play in shaping the future of Hollywood. Harris is an excellent guide, from the tittle-tattle behind the scenes of the bloated Dr. Dolittle , to the struggles just to get Warner Bros to fully back Bonnie & Clyde .

Wonderfully researched and a joy to read, Harris’ Five Came Back also comes strongly recommended.

Buy  Scenes From A Revolution  on Amazon

Peter hanson and paul robert herman – tales from the script.

It’s the level of access that Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman has enjoyed that makes Tales From The Script such a vital book for wannabe screenwriters. It’s packed with anecdotes about the film industry, and in particular, how the development process dilutes and in many cases weakens the ideas that have got a film interesting a movie studio in the first place. Contributions come from the likes of Frank Darabont, the late Nora Ephron, William Goldman and Shane Black, amongst many others.

Buy  Tales From The Script  on Amazon

Dade hayes and jonathan bing – open wide: how hollywood box office became a national obsession.

Box office analyis used to be purely for film trade magazines, now it’s a meal feasted on by thousands of websites and publications. The 2006 book Open Wide dug into this, and it’s at its best when it zeroes in on a trio of movies as they approach their release in summer 2003. The films? Terminator 3 , DreamWorks’ Sinbad , and Legally Blonde 2 .

It’s interesting to read just how far in advance the film companies concerned knew they had problems, or otherwise (especially DreamWorks, in this instance). And whilst Open Wide can be tough to get through at times, when Hayes and Bing devote their attention to those three movies, the results are excellent.

Buy  Open Wide  on Amazon

Robert hofler – party animals.

Or to give it its full title: Party Animals – A Hollywood Tale Of Sex, Drugs And Rock ‘n’ Roll Starring The Fabulous Allan Carr .

Penned by Robert Hofler, this biography charts the rise of producer Allan Carr, whose name adorns most infamously both Grease and the Village People movie musical, Can’t Stop The Music . Oh, and Grease 2 .

It’s a story of parties, excess and famous names, although it does feel like – a harsh criticism for a biography, granted – this is a very familiar tale. However, the stories of some of Carr’s parties alone make for good reading, and we also get an insightful glimpse at the insecurities beneath a one-time big name producer.

Buy  Party Animals  on Amazon

David hughes – tales from development hell.

An update to his earlier book, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made , the trick to David Hughes’ excellent Tales From Development Hell is that he’s dug deep to find the real stories behind fabulous-sounding movies that never happened. His book charts the battles behind Darreon Aronofsky’s Batman , Ridley Scott’s Crisis In The Hot Zone , and productions that have since been realized, including Indiana Jones 4 and the now-in-development Sandman .

In the last addition, he also adds a chapter where he discusses his own screenwriting, and this too proves to be insightful and well worth reading. The structure of the book makes it one to easily dip and out of, too.

Buy  Tales From Development Hell  on Amazon

Anjelica huston – watch me: a memoir.

As with many memoirs on this list, Huston’s latest book, Watch Me , talks around the movies as much as about them. Yet there are real gems in here, not least her working with her father, John Huston, on his last film.

Huston manages to be open and engaging without being snarky and nasty, and her writing is perceptive and captivating. I found myself breezing through this one, and enjoying it, in next to no time.

Buy  Watch Me: A Memoir  on Amazon

Brian jay jones – jim henson: the biography.

Inevitably covering Henson’s early work, experimental shorts and television breakthrough with the likes of The Muppets and Sesame Street , there’s also no shortage of material here for movie nerds to feast on.

In particular, it’s hard not to applaud as Henson delves into The Dark Crystal , without any semblance of a completed script in place. Then there’s the sheer ambition in The Muppet Movie and Labyrinth . It’s an exhaustive biography, but crucially not a rose-tinted one. It’s a richly rewarding read, too.

Buy  Jim Henson: The Biography  on Amazon

Dave itzkoff – mad as hell.

I’ve a real soft spot for books that go into forensic detail about the making of just one film. But even without that, David Itzkoff’s superb dissection about the making of Sidney Lumet’s classic Network would be a must-read.

New interviews and archive material are skilfully woven together, and the end result is a wonderful piece of work, about a really wonderful movie. Credit, too, for focusing so heavily on screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky.

Buy  Mad As Hell  on Amazon

Rebecca keegan – the futurist: the life and films of james cameron.

Aided by having access to her subject, Rebecca Keegan has here put together a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the movie career of James Cameron, right up to the release of Avatar . It’s got a lot to cover in its near-300 pages, and if there’s a frustration, it’s that the production of each of Cameron’s movies feels like it deserves a book of this ilk in its own right.

Still, Keegan absolutely doesn’t short-change you when it comes to anecdotes about the man himself. Our favourite? On the set of True Lies , Cameron barking at Arnold Schwarzenneger “would you rather have Paul Verhoeven directing this?”. Priceless.

Buy  The Futurist  on Amazon

Mark kermode – it’s only a movie.

Mark Kermode has done a trilogy of books thus far that are his broader takes on cinema (as opposed to, for his instance, his excellent BFI tome on Silent Running ). I’ve enjoyed the other two – Hatchet Job and The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex – a lot. But It’s Only A Movie just about edges them for me.

Ostensibly an autobiography, it’s actually Kermode talking about his upbringing through films. As such, he paints a picture of growing up with double bills, the excitement of discovering new filmmakers, his love of horror and – as you’d expect – The Exorcist . It’s a witty, immensely readable piece of work.

Buy  It’s Only A Movie  on Amazon

Michael kuhn – one hundred films and a funeral.

A little bit clinical this one, but if you like your film books nerdy, and with a managerial focus, then it’s worth at least checking a local library for. After all, it’s the only book on this list that attempts to break down the mechanics of budgeting a motion picture. Furthermore, the story of how Kuhn helped build up Polygram Films in the UK – and in particular his hand in turning Four Weddings And A Funeral into a success, is rewarding. Not always the easiest to get through, but there’s the kind of nuggets in here you don’t find elsewhere.

Buy  One Hundred Films And A Funeral  on Amazon

Nicole laporte and stephen hoye – the men who would be king.

The ambitious plan by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to set up the first major Hollywood movie studio since United Artists enjoyed some success. Still, over 20 years on, DreamWorks is a different beast to the one it once was. Nicole LaPorte and Stephen Hoye’s chatty history goes through the creation of the studio, and how it stumbled through its early days before hitting success with the likes of Gladiator and American Beauty .

Russell Crowe infamously called at least one of its facts to account around the time of the book’s publication, but it’s still a decent read, that pulls together much of the early DreamWorks story.

Buy  The Men Who Would Be King  on Amazon

John leguizamo – pimps, hos, playa hatas and all the rest of my hollywood friends.

Dear John Leguizamo: please write more books.

Rare amongst his peers for writing an honest, candid and hilarious book about the people around him whilst still working with some of them, his 2006 book is quite brilliant. The Steven Seagal anecdote from the set of Executive Decision alone justifies the book’s existence. As you might expect, that’s the proverbial tip of a quite wonderful proverbial iceberg.

Buy  Pimps, Hos, Playa Hatas And All The Rest Of My Hollywood Friends on Amazon

Art linson – what just happened bitter hollywood tales from the front line.

Also subsequently made into a film, What Just Happened? sees producer Art Linson taking us through his world of movie-making, and the difficulties that lie wherein. It’s not an easy book to read in one sitting, giving that Linson jumps around an awful lot. But he does have things to say about the making of movies such as Fight Club , the underrated The Edge , and Great Expectations , that make this an intriguing tome for those interested in ’90s Hollywood.

Buy  What Just Happened?  on Amazon

David mamet – bambi vs godzilla.

Perhaps not quite the great film book you’d expect and hope for from David Mamet, Bambi Vs Godzilla is nonetheless a useful look at the Hollywood system. This time, it’s primarily from Mamet’s screenwriting and occasionally directing perspective, and he shares his bemusement at many parts of the filmmaking process. You might not quite get as much out of the book as you’d hope, but I still quite enjoyed it.

Buy  Bambi Vs Godzilla  on Amazon

Garry marshall – wake me when it’s funny.

Marshall, the director of films such as Pretty Woman and Beaches , has written two memoirs, but I confess I’ve only read this one. It was worth it, though. The book explores his rise to prominence through his work writing, producing and directing on the liks of Happy Days and Mork & Mindy . It then takes in his movie career (albeit, given when the book was written, stopping in the 1990s).

Marshall’s an entertaining storytelling, but I also liked very much his detailed stories, of how he went about getting certain scenes to work. Good stuff.

Buy  Wake Me When It’s Funny  on Amazon

Jack matthews – the battle of brazil.

A wonderfully-researched tale of Hollywood horror, that, of course, is also true. The Battle Of Brazil is the story of how Terry Gilliam and Universal Pictures came to butt heads over the director’s richly acclaimed 1985 movie, Brazil .

The book covers the story of the studio’s fight with the filmmaker, and the infamous putting together of the ‘Love Conquers All’ cut of the movie. Furthermore, there’s Gilliam’s campaign to persuade Universal to release a movie that was picking up awards, even if nobody could see it.

The book also features the director’s cut of the screenplay. An astonishing story, excellently told by Matthews.

Buy  The Battles of Brazil  on Amazon

Simon mayo and mark kermode –  the movie doctors.

Don’t be fooled! What looks like it may just be a tie-in book to their excellent Wittertainment Radio Five Live film review programme, Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode have put together a thumping good film book instead. Capturing the tone of their excellent radio show whilst finding (lots of) space for detailed film essays, quick recommendations and lots of film chatter, it’s a beautifully presented, absorbing piece of work.

Buy The Movie Doctors  on Amazon

Mike medavoy – you’re only as good as your next one.

The co-founder of Orion Pictures, and one-time head of TriStar, Mike Medavoy has had his fingers in an awful lot of film pies. Films greenlighted on his watch include The Terminator , The Silence Of The Lambs , Cliffhanger , and Sleepless In Seattle .

His book, subtitled 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films And 100 For Which I Should Be Shot , is a little scattergun. But, not for the first time on this list, he offers a snapshot of what it was like to be making movies, and getting them through the system, across the 1970s through to the 1990s. He’s a strong guide, too, with enough insight and access to put across an account with real substance to it.

Buy  You’re Only As Good As Your Next One  on Amazon

Ryan north – b^f: the novelization of the feature film.

A book that no Back To The Future fan should be without. Originally posted as a Tumblr blog, what Ryan North has done here is taken the utterly bizarre original novelization of Back To The Future by the late George Gipe, and done a forensic scene by scene comparison with the film.

The star of the show is North, though, thanks to his breathlessly funny writing style. Rarely has such a factual dissection induced such mirth. Given the structure of the book – an assembling of the aforementioned Tumblr posts – it’s best to read this one in pieces, rather than in one go.

Buy  B^F: The Novelization Of The Feature Film on Amazon

Lynda obst – hello, he lied: and other truths from the hollywood trenches.

Producer Lynda Obst has written a couple of books about working in Hollywood, but this one is probably the best of them. It’s more aimed at those wanting to work in the business, or get advice on surviving it. But for outsides, Obst still has interesting tales to tell. Her insight into how, for instance, the movie Crisis In The Hot Zone failed to materialize is eye-opening.

Buy  Hello, He Lied  on Amazon

David a price – the pixar touch.

One part the making of a technology company, another part the story of John Lasseter’s thirst to make animated films, David A Price’s The Pixar Touch is a terrific read. In particular, Lasseter’s drive to make massive, film-changing breakthroughs in digital animation.

Yet Price doesn’t neglect the Pixar culture, the Steve Jobs influence (and doubts), and the ultimate battles with Disney. It’s an enthralling read, and well worth pairing with Ed Catmull’s Creativity Inc for a fuller look at the life and times of Pixar, and how it came to be.

Buy  The Pixar Touch  on Amazon

Robert rodriguez – rebel without a crew.

How far would you go to get your first feature funded? In the case of Robert Rodriguez – now best known, of course, for the likes of Spy Kids and the Sin City films – he’d sell his body to medical science.

Rebel With A Crew charts Rodriguez trying to get his first full feature – the micro-budget El Mariachi – funded and made. In his extremely candid book, he’s as open about the technical challenges he faced in the edit as he is the lengths he’d go to in order to secure finance. It’s a captivating, outstanding read.

Buy Rebel With A Crew  on Amazon

Jake rossen – superman vs hollywood.

It stops before we get to the current era, as Zack Snyder takes cinematic ownership of the Superman screen franchise, but Jake Rossen’s history of Hollywood’s flirtation with the Man of Steel is still perhaps the best account out there.

The book tries to do an awful lot, but finally comes into its own when it moves onto the Salkinds, and how they brought the first four Superman films to the screen. In particular, the challenges of making the first two back to back, and the subsequent fallout with director Richard Donner. We then get the Superman III and Superman IV problems dissected.

The Death Of Superman Lives movie picks up the later story slightly better, but this is still an empassioned account of how Hollywood has dealt with a comic book icon.

Buy  Superman Vs Hollywood  on Amazon

Danny rubins – how to write groundhog day.

Less a great book perhaps, more a really, really interesting one. For what sets Rubins’ story of taking his idea to the movies apart is he charts the before, middle and after of its development. All from the writers’ perspective. On top of that, you get the original script for Groundhog Day that Rubins wrote, which is notably different, before it went through the system.

Rubins is open about the process he went through, and about what director Harold Ramis brought to it (eventually sharing screenwriting credit). It’s not a textbook, though, rather that Rubins puts a very human perspective on what happened. His book, especially considering the classic movie that came out at the end of it, rewards the time you give it.

Buy  How To Write Groundhog Day  on Amazon

Julie salamon – the devil’s candy.

The real gift of Julie Salamon’s superb telling of the making of the movie The Bonfire Of The Vanities is that she has you absolutely rooting for it. Accepting that the movie was a notorious early 90s Hollywood bomb (eclipsed in Bruce Willis’ career soon after when the knives came out for Hudson Hawk ), Salamon is a patient, diligent observer. She charts how one of the most compelling books of its time was chewed up by the Hollywood system, with director Brian De Palma desperately trying to shape a worthwhile picture at the end of it all.

The Devil’s Candy has been described as the greatest book on the making of a film ever written. I couldn’t personally call that. But I can tell you it’s surely a candidate…

Buy The Devil’s Candy  on Amazon

Michael sellers – john carter and the gods of hollywood.

Andrew Stanton’s John Carter movie seems resigned to living – in the minds of some – in the annals of Hollywood failures. The hugely expensive blockbuster had a muddled released, and the film certainly had problems. Yet few people have got to the heart of quite what happened as effectively as Michael Sellers.

Sellers takes the project from its early stages, through to the botched marketing campaign and its eventual release. He has a perspective on it, given that he ran a John Carter fan site that was clearly doing a better job of selling the film than Disney was. Once or twice, perhaps, his focus shifts a little more towards his site than the key task in hand. But that’s a minor grumble, in what turns out to be a riveting account of how a film that Hollywood had been trying to bring to the screen for 100 years fell at the release hurdle.

Buy  John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood  on Amazon

Robert sellers – very naughty boys , hellraisers.

Robert Sellers is the author of a bunch of fascinating, quite gossipy film books, each of which are written in an accessible, non-academic way. That’s not to sell them short. Sellers is clearly fascinated with his subjects, and that can’t help but come across on the page.

His best? Well, I’m going for two.

Firstly, the rise of Handmade Films is charted in Very Naughty Boys . Founded by George Harrison, Handmade had an at-times guerilla approach to getting movies made, and amongst the productions it’d be responsible for were Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Time Bandits . There’s an inevitable fall to the rise part of the story, yet Sellers has a style that takes you through 1980s British moviemaking, as if you and he have drinks on the table, and he’s telling a very, very good story.

The same style permeates Hellraisers , his charting of the movie and drinking careers of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed. Some of the stories he manages to uncover beggar belief, and Sellers writers about them in a warm and entertaining way.

Buy  Very Naughty Boys   and   Hellraisers  on Amazon

Dawn steel – they can kill you but they can’t eat you.

The late Dawn Steel was one of the first women to ever run a Hollywood movie studio, heading up Columbia Pictures in the late 1980s, before setting up Steel Pictures and making films such as Cool Runnings .

Steel’s memoir is a candid one, most notably for her recollection of discovering Paramount Pictures had fired her, just as she’d given birth to her daughter. Steel died tragically young, at just 51 years old. Her excellent book is a fitting tribute to her work.

Buy They Can Kill You But They Can’t Eat You  on Amazon

James b stewart – disneywar: the battle for the magic kingdom.

The boardroom battles behind the scenes at Disney in the 1990s and early 2000s left the company in a position ripe for saving – which the merger with Pixar arguably properly kickstarted. The tragic death of Frank Wells in the early 1990s led to a power struggle of sorts between Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, with the latter eventually leaving to co-found DreamWorks.

DisneyWar is a book that tries to chart all of this – and there’s both a biography and an autobiography of Michael Eisner that has a go, less successfully – and as a consequence, it does get bogged down in boardroom politics. But it’s surprisingly entertaining, and would also set the scene for a film in its own right. It also goes a long way to explaining why Disney rose and fall so dramatically across 20 or so years.

Buy  DisneyWar  on Amazon

Drew struzan and david j schow – the art of drew struzan.

I’ve tried to focus this list more on text-driven books than visual ones, but I’ll make an exception for the brilliant The Art Of Drew Struzan . The reason? Because alongside the draft poster designs for many iconic movies, the text – from Struzan and David J Schow – bothers to take us through why some ideas were rejected, why some made it through, and what Struzan’s thought process was. A real gem.

Buy The Art of Drew Struzan  on Amazon

Sharon waxman – rebels on the backlot.

A really fascinating book this one, that looks at how six films and six filmmakers at the end of the 1990s came to alter the Hollywood studio system. The filmmakers cover David O Russell, Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher and Spike Jonze, amongst others. Waxman has access to most of her subjects too, and in particular, the story of how Being John Malkovich made it through the Hollywood system by simply barely being noticed is a fascinating one. An excellent book.

Buy  Rebel On The Backlot  on Amazon

Jerry weintraub – when i stop talking, you’ll know i’m dead.

The late Jerry Weintraub’s resume is testament to the fact that, at one time, he was one of Hollywood’s biggest producers. That said, his book isn’t one of a man with scores to settle. Rather, it’s a guided tour through Weintraub’s life and the entertainment industry, with few passages likely to make headlines, but the coherent whole adding up to a gently intriguing tale.

Buy When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead  on Amazon

Mara Wilson – Where Am I Now?: True Stories Of Girlhood and Accidental Fame

Not a pure film book, but Mara Wilson’s excellent memoir recounts her early experiences as a child actor, and how that conflicted with the personal tragedy she was going through at the same time. Furthermore, it’s an intelligent, wonderfully-written piece of work, that follows Wilson’s decision to move away from acting, and why…

Buy  Where Am I Now?  on Amazon

Andrew yule – hollywood a go-go: an account of the cannon phenomenon.

A tricky book to track down at a decent price (it was a lucky charity shop find for me), Hollywood A Go-Go was first published in 1987, when the rise and demise of Cannon Films was still fresh, and a little less nostalgic (the excellent documentary film Electric Boogaloo certainly had a lot more affection).

At the heart of the story is the fractious relationshop between Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and Yule doesn’t disappoint in his relaying of their tale. It’s very much worth the effort to track this one down.

Buy Hollywood A Go-Go on Amazon

A few others worth mentioning, that i’ve read and nearly put on the main list….

Gavin Edwards – Last Night At The Viper Room

Michael Uslan – The Boy Who Loved Batman

Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi – Time Of My Life

Tom Shone – Blockbuster

And I’m about to start reading My Indecision Is Final . Expect to see that on the main list soon…

Lead image: BigStock

Simon Brew

Simon Brew | @SimonBrew

Editor, author, writer, broadcaster, Costner fanatic. Now runs Film Stories Magazine.

The 14 Best Movies Based on Books Coming Out in 2022 You Definitely Should Watch

Kerry Washington and Charlize Theron as magical professors? Say less.

preview for Persuasion trailer (Netflix)

So whether you’re looking to watch something historical , something sexy , or even something giving ~ spooky vibes ~, you’re sure to find a flick for your viewing pleasure out of this list of the best movies based on books. What are you waiting for? Check ’em out!

Deep Water is an erotic thriller adapted from the 1957 Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name. IRL exes Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas star as a married couple who play mind games with one another while those around them face the consequences too.

Release date: On Hulu starting March 18

Fans of period pieces have a new Jane Austen adaptation to look forward to this year. In Persuasion , Dakota Johnson stars as Anne Elliot, a woman who reunites with her ex-fiancé and considers a second chance at love. Cosmo Jarvis and Henry Golding costar.

Release date: On Netflix starting July 15

Bullet Train

The upcoming thriller Bullet Train is based on Japanese author Kōtarō Isaka’s novel of the same title. It’s about five assassins who realize their assignments are intertwined while on a high-speed train. Some of the ensemble cast includes Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock, Joey King, Bad Bunny, Zazie Beetz, and Bryan Tyree Henry.

Release date: In theaters July 15

Where the Crawdads Sing

Delia Owens’s immensely popular 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing will hit theaters this summer. It follows two stories: one about a girl growing up in rural North Carolina in the ’50s and ’60s and the other about the murder of a young man. The film stars Daisy Edgar-Jones, Taylor John Smith, David Strathairn, and Harris Dickinson.

Release date: In theaters July 22

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

premiere of universal pictures' "a dog's journey" red carpet

Judy Blume’s classic young adult novel is being adapted into a movie starring Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, Kathy Bates, and 13-year-old Abby Ryder Fortson in the title role. It’s about a young girl who explores how religion fits into her life while also dealing with everything that comes with puberty.

Release date: In theaters September 16

The School for Good & Evil

Best friends Sophie and Agatha—played by Sophia Anne Caruso and Sofia Wylie, respectively—are suddenly at odds when they find themselves navigating the magical world of an enchanted school that helps both heroes and villains to hone their skills. Based on Soman Chainani’s best-selling fantasy series, the all-star cast also includes Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Michelle Yeoh, and Laurence Fishburne.

Release date: On Netflix in September

2019 film independent spirit awards red carpet

Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan star in She Said , which is about the two New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, who broke the story of the sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Kantor and Twohey’s book came out in 2019.

Release date: In theaters November 18

Killers of the Flower Moon

This is an image

Director Martin Scorsese teams up with frequent collaborators Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro once again for Killers of the Flower Moon . Based on David Grann’s nonfiction book of the same name, it’s about the FBI investigation of several Osage Nation members’ murders in the 1920s.

Release date: On Apple TV+ in November

It seems Ana de Armas will have a good 2022 because the actor will also star as the leading lady in Blonde , the film adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s 2000 historical novel inspired by the life of Marilyn Monroe. Bobby Cannavale will play Marilyn’s second husband, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, and Adrien Brody was cast as Marilyn’s third husband, playwright Arthur Miller.

Release date: On Netflix starting September 23

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

24th british independent film awards in london

Based on the once-banned 1928 book by D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover stars Emma Corrin as a wealthy woman who starts an affair with a working-class man played by Jack O’Connell.

Release date: On Netflix, TBD 2022

White Noise

moët and chandon at the 77th annual golden globe awards inside

White Noise , based on the book of the same name by Don DeLillo, stars Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig as a couple who have to survive after a train accident causes chemical waste to spread throughout their town.

The Luckiest Girl Alive

the imdb studio at acura festival village on location at the 2020 sundance film festival day 2

After much anticipation, ( Cosmo alum) Jessica Knoll’s 2015 best-selling novel will finally hit the small screen and star none other than Mila Kunis as the leading role. The story is about New Yorker Ani FaNelli, who appears to have it all—from a stellar career to an equally fabulous wardrobe to an even hotter fiancé with a dream wedding lined up. But skeletons from her past creep up on her when a crime documentarian approaches Ani about a devastating event that happened while she was in high school. Justine Lupe, Finn Wittrock, and Connie Britton also star in the film.

the wonder florence pugh as lib wright in the wonder cr christopher barrnetflix © 2022

Florence Pugh stars in The Wonder , based on the novel by Emma Donoghue. The psychological thriller is set in Ireland in 1862 and focuses on the phenomenon of “fasting girls,” in which multiple young girls in the Victorian period claimed they had special powers and could survive for long stretches of time without eating. Florence plays a nurse who visits one of the girls.

The Nightingale

elle and dakota fanning

Dakota and Elle Fanning costar in their first joint movie ever, if you can believe it! They will play French sisters during World War II during the Nazi occupation in a film based on The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah.

Release date: In theaters, TBD 2022

l r iman vellani as ms marvelkamala khan, brie larson as captain marvelcarol danvers, and teyonah parris as captain monica rambeau in marvel studios' the marvels photo courtesy of marvel studios © 2023 marvel

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35 Best Movies Based on Books That Are Actually Worth Watching

By Anna Moeslein

35 Best Movies Based on Books That Are Actually Worth Watching

There are a lot of movies based on books. There are very few good movies based on books.

That's not a knock on Hollywood–it can be challenging to fit a novel's worth of plot and character development into a few hours of entertainment. That's why the best films based on books often feel more like a companion piece than a true retelling of a best-selling paperback. Some, like the 2019 movie adaptation of Little Women , play with the story or add in new scenes to appeal to a modern audience. Others benefit from the glitz and glam that Hollywood brings. Netflix's film version of To All the Boys I've Loved Before , for example, comes with an engaging soundtrack that elevates the romance onscreen.

Below you'll find some of the best movies based on books available for streaming right now. We also included the real-life novels that inspired them so you can add to your reading list. No chance of boredom here. (Need more? We've also got a guide to the best movies based on romance novels .)

All products featured on Glamour are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Lady Chatterley's Lover.  Jack O'Connell as Oliver Emma Corrin as Lady Constance in Lady Chatterley's Lover. Cr. Parisa...

1. Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2022)

The book: Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

D.H. Lawrence's novel about an affair between a gamekeeper and an upper-class woman is notorious for its explicit descriptions of sex—so much so that the book was banned for obscenity in several countries. Onsreen, stars Emma Corrin and Jack O'Connell have a natural chemistry that only adds to the steaminess.

Available to stream on Netflix

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE Keira Knightley 2005  Focus Featurescourtesy Everett Collection

2. Pride and Prejudice (2005)

The book: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's classic story of love and bad first impressions has been adapted many times over. But this film version, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, takes a more realistic approach than other film versions. As a result, enemies turned lovers Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy come to life onscreen.

Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK from left KiKi Layne Stephan James 2018. ph Tatum Mangus © Annapurna Pictures Courtesy...

3. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

The book: If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

James Baldwin's 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk , about a young woman trying to clear the name of her boyfriend after he was wrongfully accused of a crime in New York, is an incredible read. So only someone with a vision like Barry Jenkins, who wrote and directed this adaptation, could bring it to the big screen. The Oscar-nominated film received numerous awards, including a best supporting actress win for Regina King's performance.

Available to stream on Hulu

The book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum  What can be said about The Wizard of Oz that you don't already...

4. The Wizard of Oz

The book: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

What can be said about The Wizard of Oz that you don't already know? The 1939 classic starring Judy Garland enhances L. Frank Baum's children's fantasy novel through its innovative use of Technicolor, memorable performances, and a beloved score that includes “Over the Rainbow.”

Available to stream on Amazon Prime Video

LITTLE WOMEN from left Laura Dern as Marmee Meryl Streep as Aunt March Florence Pugh as Amy 2019.

5. Little Women (2019)

The book: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

There's a reason Little Women has been adapted for film seven times. Louisa May Alcott's semiautobiographical novel about sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy has stood the test of time, and it's still just as relatable now as it was in 1868, when it was published. The most recent remake stars Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Saoirse Ronan and is arguably the best interpretation of Alcott's story.

Available to buy on Amazon Prime Video

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6. Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

The book: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Where do we even begin with this one? The fashion! The romance! The drama! Constance Wu and Henry Golding lead the romantic comedy about a Chinese American woman who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend's family. Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. His family is one of the richest and well-known families in the country, and his mother is not exactly welcoming of her son's new romance.

Available to stream on HBO Max

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7. Gone Girl (2014)

The book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

We could write a dissertation about Gone Girl, and it still wouldn't be long enough to dive into the complicated issues tackled in the movie. Here's what you need to know: The David Fincher–directed mystery movie is about a husband who becomes a suspect in his wife's disappearance. The thriller tackles parenting, manipulation, misogyny, and most of all, marriage. When it comes to movie adaptations of books, this is near the top of the list.

A SIMPLE FAVOR from left Henry Golding Anna Kendrick 2018. ph Peter Iovino. ©Lionsgatecourtesy Everett Collection

8. A Simple Favor (2018)

The book: A Simple Favor: A Novel by Darcey Bell

Nothing's simple about A Simple Favor . Perhaps the best part of the crime thriller is Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick's odd yet enthralling dynamic. You'll be scratching your head from start to finish as you try to figure out what exactly is going on in the film.

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY from left Kate Winslet Emma Thompson 1995. ph © Columbia Pictures  courtesy Everett Collection

9. Sense and Sensibility (1995)

The book: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Another Jane Austen movie makes the list because…well, there are just so many good adaptations of her work. Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet lead this film about a sensible and reserved older sister, Elinor, and her romantically inclined and eagerly expressive younger sister, Marianne.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA Anne Hathaway Meryl Streep Emily Blunt 2006

10. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The book: The Devil Wears Prada: A Novel by Lauren Weisberger

Meryl Streep plays the coldest, scariest, most intimidating boss at the fictional fashion magazine Runway . Anne Hathaway's character is clueless and unfashionable, and fancies herself a serious journalist. Their characters clash yet somehow find a way to work together. The movie is elevated by the performances, and you might find yourself surprisingly moved at the end.

Image may contain Human Person Clothing Apparel Hat Whoopi Goldberg and Face

11. The Color Purple (1985)

The book: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The story of Celie (played by Whoopi Goldberg) is one that will stay with you. The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker and portrays the problems Black women faced during the early 20th century, including domestic violence, poverty, racism, and sexism. Celie's journey spans a 40-year time period.

Image may contain Goldie Hawn Human Person Hair Suit Coat Clothing Overcoat Apparel Bette Midler Blonde and Teen

12. The First Wives Club (1996)

The book: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith

We love everything about this movie: the acting, the humor, and the friendship of three reunited friends. The film follows the women, played by Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, and Diane Keaton, deciding to get revenge on their ex-husbands after the death of a close friend.

Image may contain Lana Condor Human Person Bag Handbag Accessories Accessory Purse and Sitting

13. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

The book: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Laura Jean and Peter Kavinsky's romance is sure to go down as one of this generation's most popular love stories. The trilogy of teen romantic comedy books by Jenny Han turned Netflix movies are popular for a reason. Yes, there are some common tropes used in the plot. However, the film adaptations somehow still feel fresh, unique, and effortlessly heartwarming.

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX Rupert Grint Daniel Radcliffe Emma Watson 2007

14. The Harry Potter series (2001–2011)

The book: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Who could have known that the boy who lived would start an international phenomenon? Readers and audiences of all ages have been obsessed with the Wizarding World for decades, and it's easy to see why: The friendship, the magic, the excitement and the humor are as enthralling in the movies as they are in the books.

Available to stream on Peacock

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person and Octavia Spencer

15. Hidden Figures (2016)

The book: Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

If you're in the mood for a feel-good movie, then look no further. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe star in this movie about the three Black women who worked at NASA during the early years of the space program. They were an integral part of launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit. This true story is most likely not one you learned about in school.

Available to stream on Disney+


16. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The book : The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lecter, who famously asks Jodi Foster's character, “Well, Clarice…have the lambs stopped screaming?” If you don't know what that means, there's only one way to find out: Queue up the classic thriller for movie night.

THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY Matt Damon Jude Law Gwyneth Paltrow 1999

17. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

The book: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This sexy classic is actually part of a series about the Tom Ripley, a social-climbing mimic who will lie, cheat, and even murder his way up the ranks of wealthy midcentury Manhattanites. The movie features Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, and Jude Law at their golden, glowy, youthful best, and a striking performance from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

IT from left Jack Dylan Grazer Jaeden Lieberher Chosen Jacobs Wyatt Oleff Sophia Lillis Jeremy Ray Taylor Finn Wolfhard

18. It (2017)

The book: It by Stephen King

This chilling horror classic has terrified generations. In a small New England town, a group of unlikely friends find themselves caught in the clutches of a mysterious shape-shifting killer who takes the form of whatever you fear most.

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Human Person Heather Matarazzo Tie Accessories Accessory Suit Coat and Overcoat

19. The Princess Diaries (2001)

The book: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

The ultimate glow-up! Mia Thermopolis is an awkward, nerdy high school outcast who discovers she's actually royalty in this modern twist on the Cinderella story. Peppered with observations about friendship, love, and growing up, the books are as funny as the movie. The young adult book series, written like a diary, will make you fall even more in love with Mia than the film adaptation did. Don't be surprised if you find yourself wanting to wear Doc Martens after reading.

Image may contain Kieu Chinh Lauren Tom Human Person Tamlyn Tomita Food Meal Rosalind Chao Restaurant and Tsai Chin

20. The Joy Luck Club (1993)

The book: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Chinese American immigrant experience is explored in detail in this adaptation of Amy Tan's novel, which follows a group of women living in San Francisco's Chinatown as they support one another through heartbreak and triumph.

THE PRINCESS BRIDE from left Wallace Shawn Robin Wright Andre the Giant 1987 TM  Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film...

21. The Princess Bride (1987)

The book: The Princess Bride by Willam Goldman

This beloved classic is like five fairy tales combined into a sparkling family comedy that's much easier to follow than the book it's based on. Featuring a host of quirky character actors and quotable lines, this is essentially a meme factory from before there was such a thing. Don't fight Grandpa; it's time for a love story (you'll get that reference once you watch the movie).

ELECTION Reese Witherspoon 1999

22. Election (1999)

The book: Election by Tom Perrotta

This dark comedy about the ruthlessness of politicians features a breakout performance from a young Reese Witherspoon and taught a generation to recognize the Tracy Flicks in their lives. It's become a catchword often hurled unfairly at women with ambition, but it also accurately describes the kind of earnest yet hollow striving we see in so many people, no matter their gender, today.

The Shawshank Redemption

23. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The book: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

The highest-rated movie on IMDb, this classic is parodied (and homaged) all over the place, a favorite of both fans and critics. It's a drama, to be sure, but as far as prison stories go, watchable and even a little hopeful.

ATONEMENT James McAvoy Keira Knightley 2007. ©Focus Featurescourtesy Everett Collection

24. Atonement (2007)

The book: Atonement: A Novel by Ian McEwan

Beware: This story is a bummer. Though famous for its library sex scene and the debut of a young Saoirse Ronan, Atonement is mostly a war story, and a devastating one at that. No one gets away clean in this tale of love, loss, lies, and regret.

JURASSIC PARK from left Laura Dern Sam Neill 1993. ph Murray Close  © Universal Studios  courtesy Everett Collection

25. Jurassic Park (1993)

The book: Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton

This blockbuster keeps getting rebooted for a reason: It's just cool to watch dinosaurs chase people! Yes, there's a lesson here about overstepping the bounds of science and hubris in the face of nature, but mostly, T-Rex go chomp-chomp.

Image may contain Human Person Clothing Apparel Suit Coat Overcoat Performer and Artur Rojek

26. The Godfather trilogy (1972–1990)

The book: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The greatest achievement in the history of American cinema? This crime epic has been praised for its performances, filmmaking, quotable lines, and archetypal characters. It's rich with symbolism and history, but actually a straightforward and pleasant watch. Never meandering or slow, the story is gripping, if devastating.

The White Tiger

27. The White Tiger (2021)

The book: The White Tiger: A Novel by Aravind Adiga

This film adaptation of Aravind Adiga's 2008 novel follows a man named Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav, in his first leading role) who was born into poverty and uses his wit and cunning to build a successful career as an entrepreneur.

THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY Andra Day as Billie Holiday 2021. ph Takashi Seida  © Paramount Pictures  Courtesy...

28. The United States vs. Billie Holiday (2021)

The book: Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari

Andra Day was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress for her portrayal of legendary singer Billie Holiday in this biographical film, which was based in part on Johann Hari's book about the history and impact of drug criminalization.

Image may contain Furniture Brie Larson Hammock Human and Person

29. Room (2015)

The book: Room by Emma Donoghue

Both the book and the film adaptation of this intense story follow a kidnapped young woman and her son, who we learn was born in captivity. When they finally escape their abuser, the child gets to experience the outside world for the first time in his life.

EMMA Anya TaylorJoy as Emma Woodhouse 2020. © Focus Features  courtesy Everett Collection

30. Emma (2020)

The book: Emma by Jane Austen

Jane Austen's novel, about a spoiled heiress who amuses herself by meddling in the lives of her neighbors, has been adapted to film before. But the 2020 version, starring Anya Taylor-Joy in the titular role, is one of the best thanks to its excellent casting, whimsical costume and set design, and modern approach to the source material.

The book Emma by Jane Austen  Yes Emma again One of Jane Austens best books it also inspired this comingofage teen...

31. Clueless (1995)

Yes, Emma again! One of Jane Austen’s best books, it also inspired this coming-of-age teen comedy starring Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Brittany Murphy, and Paul Rudd. Says screenwriter and director Amy Heckerling, “I loved [ Emma ] when I read it in college—it’s the most modern story with the most perfect character, the most lovable, flawed person that you’re rooting for. Then I looked at what could make the bones for the present day high school teenagers, and if I ever thought like, wait, how would this happen, I would just go back to Emma and there were the answers.”

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER from left Logan Lerman Ezra Miller Emma Watson 2012. ph John Bramley©Summit...

32. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Movie adaptations across all genres exist, and that includes YA Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, and Logan Lerman lead this coming-of-age drama about a shy teenager experiencing the many highs and lows of freshman year of high school.

The book The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien  Epic fantasies naturally translate well to the big screen but nobody...

33. The Lord of the Rings series (2001–2003)

The book: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Epic fantasies naturally translate well to the big screen, but nobody does it like this movie series . And now you can follow up your rewatch by diving into Rings of Power, a new TV show that's set thousands of years before the events of The Lord of the Rings .

The book Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon by Wang Dulu  Directed by Ang Lee this epic was a critical and commercial success...

34. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

The book: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Wang Dulu

Directed by Ang Lee, this epic was a critical and commercial success with 10 Oscar nominations, including one for best picture and a win for best foreign language film.

The book The Paddington books by Michael Bond  We didn't think Paddington a beloved fictional character in children's...

35. The Paddington movies (2014, 2017)

The book: The Paddington books by Michael Bond

We didn't think Paddington, a beloved fictional character in children's literature, could get any cuter—and then we saw him on the big screen. In fact, Paddington 2 ranks among our favorite movie sequels of all time. If you can watch it without crying…how?

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Screen Rant

10 best movies based on books according to rotten tomatoes.

There have been a ton of great movies over the decades that have been based on books. These are the best according to Rotten Tomatoes.

A book or novel being made into a movie is one of the greatest honors the readers and the author can receive. After all, it's a chance for the story to get its own face or standard interpretation. Often, the most successful movies are also based on novels and already established stories in the literary world.

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It just so happens that there are a ton of them already that are good ones. There way too many novels that won awards and their movies, in turn, have also received the same accolade and recognition; it's hard to know which ones are the best. Luckily, Rotten Tomatoes has its own metric for determining the cream of the crop, here they are, the 10 of the highest-rated films based on novels.


Can't go wrong with James Bond. It's the magnum opus of famed spycraft writer Ian Fleming. Among all the James Bond novels that got adapted into movies,  Goldfinger  is the highest-rated film adaptation.

It's where the suave Bond (Sean Connery back then) had to go tooth and nail against Auric Goldfinger, essentially a modern caricature of King Midas in Greek mythology. Still, it's a little debatable how well this film holds up today.

Before Steven Spielberg's  Jaws  movie, the open ocean wasn't a meat grinder where every dorsal fin breaking the surface meant death. That's who significant  Jaws 's impact was on film-- it launched a whole new genre of horror involving sharks.

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The whole film was also based on a 1974 novel of the same name by author Peter Benchley. Without these two visionaries in their respective disciplines of art, shark horror probably never would have become a thing and sharks wouldn't be painted in such a murderous light.


Often considered as director Francis Ford Coppola's best film,  The Godfather  brought the Mafia into the spotlight like never before. It did help that the cast consisted of a bunch of heavyweights in the industry from the method-acting master Marlon Brando to the rising Al Pacino (back then).

Part of the credit, of course, goes to the novel of the same name written by Mario Puzo. It was among the top crime novels in literary history thanks to its accurate and detailed portrayal of how the Mafia works as well as their family dynamics.


As expected, there just had to be a French movie here. That would be  My Life as a Zucchini  or in French  Ma Vie de Courgette released back in 2017. It's a foreign language film that tells the story and the struggles of orphans in France along with their abusive relationships with their former families.

RELATED:  10 Children's Books That Still (Somehow) Haven’t Been Adapted Into Movie or TV Franchises

The film heartily captures this phase of childhood in Icare's (the protagonist) life as told in the 2002 novel  Autobiographie d'une Courgette   by author Gilles Paris. Likewise, it aims to realistically evoke the situation of orphans in France.


Back when Kevin Spacey was just a good actor in the eyes of the public, he gave everyone a performance of the decade in 1997's  L.A. Confidential . The cop crime drama movie also proudly utilizes the triumvirate of Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce as the three of them get stuck in a web of betrayal and lies involving their very own police department.

The movie rightfully did justice to its source material, which was the award-winning neo-noir crime novel of the same name by James Ellroy. It's too bad the film went up against  Titanic  in the same year and lost the Best Picture award.


The Night of the Hunter  which was adapted from the novel of the same name by author Davis Grubb, was considered by some as the second-best movie of all time-- second only to the legendary  Citizen Kane.

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It follows the same story as the novel where a recently released ex-convict named Harry Powell attempts to seduce and marry the widow of his former cellmate in hopes of finding the $10,000 that he hid in the household. It plays well on the good old-fashioned good vs. evil trope of storytelling and combined with the unique hybrid cinematography style at the time, it became a monumental movie.


The first  How to Train Your Dragon  was a huge hit among people of all ages back in 2014 and was so successful, it spawned a trilogy and even ended on a high note. Meanwhile, it had its own cartoons and even video games about dragons and Vikings.

All of those wouldn't have been possible without the book series which the movies were based upon. The  How to Train Your Dragon  books by Cressida Cowell was a series of 12 children's books telling a different story about Hiccup, something that the film builds upon.


No person's childhood is complete without having watched or heard of the story of Pinnochio, the sentient Italian doll. He's pretty much become the standard lesson for honesty among children. No other cartoon successfully re-imagined the puppet than Disney's 1940  Pinnochio  movie.

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It was a masterpiece back then and remains so now as one of the most entertaining retellings of  The Adventures of Pinocchio  by Italian author Carlo Collodi. The films did take liberties with the storyline, of course, but its story remains timeless and valuable to children.


Leave No Trace  is a film about a father and his daughter as they struggle to go off the grid and coexist with a problem the dad is facing. The twist is that they didn't even need to, but the father was suffering from PTSD induced by his military service.

The film is a heartwarming take on the same story as told by the novel  My Abandonment  from author Peter Rock. Moreover, the film serves as an important reminder of the PTSD awareness and how the family can help with such an affliction.


Finally, we have  Frankenstein,  one of the oldest films based on a novel. Coincidentally, the source material of the same name is also one of the oldest novels dating back from 1818 by Mary Shelley.

To that end, 1931's  Frankenstein  movies is a tale of classic horror regarding the tragic beginning and ending of Frankenstein's monster. To this day, no other horror creature or novel has been more iconic or widely known, except maybe Dracula-- a topic for another time.

NEXT:  10 Of The Worst Book-Adaptation Movies, Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes

books and movies review

‘The Marvels’ First Reactions Praise ‘Short and Sweet,’ ‘Astonishingly Wacky’ Film: ‘Exactly What a Comic Book Movie Should Be’

brie larson

Marvel has finally unveiled its latest tentpole, “ The Marvels ,” and film journalists are calling the Nia DaCosta-directed tentpole a “short and sweet,” “astonishingly wacky” film that’s “full of girl power.”

Although many have been hesitant about the superhero movie’s potential, with a few already predicting “The Marvels” as a box office bomb — a surprising number of positive reactions poured in on social media Tuesday night. Washington Post reporter Herb Scribner described the film as “exactly what a comic book movie should be,” while “Deep Dive” host Erik Voss called it “astonishingly wacky.”

My early #TheMarvels review — —Yes. So much yes. —This film is so much fun and exactly what a comic book movie should be. It’s funny, silly, short and sweet, action-packed. Loved the cosmic sci-fi moments. Plenty of MCU interconnectivity without being overbearing. —We will… — Herb Scribner (@HerbScribner) November 8, 2023
THE MARVELS is an astonishingly wacky film. I had a lot of fun. Iman Vellani was born to be an MCU star. She elevates a tangled story into a Marvel nerd’s dream. Sometimes that dream wavers out of sync. But it sticks the landing. My non-spoiler review will go up on NR tomorrow! — Erik Voss (@eavoss) November 8, 2023

“The Marvels” features the return of Brie Larson ‘s Captain Marvel, whose 2019 standalone movie grossed $1.1 billion. “The Marvels” not only serves as a sequel to “Captain Marvel” but also to the Disney+ series “WandaVision,” “Ms. Marvel” and “Secret Invasion.” Larson’s Carol Danvers is forced to team up with Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) after they begin swapping places when they use their light-based powers. The trio link up with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to stop a Kree warrior hellbent on finding a new home for her people.

“It’s hilarious, action-packed & full of girl power,” Pop Culture Planet founder Kristen Maldonado wrote on X . “There was a great balance of the team, while dropping shocking bombs that will change EVERYTHING.”

#TheMarvels is the most fun I’ve had watching a superhero movie in a while! It’s hilarious, action-packed & full of girl power. Kamala was a stand out & so many moments surprised me. There was a great balance of the team, while dropping shocking bombs that will change EVERYTHING. — Kristen Maldonado (@kaymaldo) November 8, 2023

“The Marvels” arrives amid a shaky year for the comic book movie genre. Marvel’s own “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and DC’s “The Flash” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” all flopped at the box office. The James Gunn-directed “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ($845 million worldwide) was a success for Marvel, but “superhero fatigue” appears quite real at the moment.

Some were a bit more critical about “The Marvels,” with Collider’s Nate Richard saying that “the story is a huge mess with an underutilized villain and an underwhelming finale.” Andrew J. Salazar from DiscussingFilms said the MCU feature “feels like it lost its battle in the editing room,” adding that “scenes don’t flow into each other [and] you can’t tell when the first act or second act begins.”

I went into #TheMarvels with extremely low expectations and it wasn't half bad. Iman Villani and Teyonah Parris are easily the highlights. Love their chemistry with Brie Larson. Unfortunately, the story is a huge mess with an underutilized villain and an underwhelming finale. — Nate Richard (@NateKnowsMovies) November 8, 2023
Despite everyone on screen trying their best, #TheMarvels feels like it lost its battle in the editing room. Scenes don't flow into each other & you can't tell when the first act or second act begins. There's a few really dope scenes but studio interference might be to blame. — Andrew J. Salazar (@AndrewJ626) November 8, 2023

All in all, however, there appears to be a glimpse of hope for “The Marvels,” as most critics praised the 105-minute runtime, DaCosta’s direction and the chemistry between the three female leads.

“Female Avengers team-up movie packs in chuckles, cats, hairballs, and musical sequences. Much more episodic than a cinematic endeavor, but I think that’s its greatest strength,” Variety ‘s senior awards editor Clayton Davis wrote. “Great post-credits. Loved my leading lady trio. Great visual effects.”

#TheMarvels worked for me. Female Avengers team-up movie packs in chuckles, cats, hairballs, and musical sequences. Much more episodic than a cinematic endeavor, but I think that's its greatest strength. Great post-credits. Loved my leading lady trio. Great visual effects. Jersey… — Clayton Davis (@ByClaytonDavis) November 8, 2023

“‘The Marvels’ is a good time at the movies. Definitely not everything works, and there are two cringe-inducing sequences that threaten to derail the whole thing,” wrote Clarence Moye, film and TV editor at Awards Daily. “BUT DeCosta can direct action sequences, it’s never boring, and the leads are all very good.”

#TheMarvels is a good time at the movies. Definitely not everything works, and there are two cringe-inducing sequences that threaten to derail the whole thing. BUT DeCosta can direct action sequences, it’s never boring, and the leads are all very good. 👍 — Clarence Moye (@ClarenceMoye) November 8, 2023

“‘The Avengers’ movies are these epic conclusions to chapters of storytelling, whereas this is a team-up within the narrative that we didn’t necessarily expect for Marvel,” producer Mary Livanos added about what makes “The Marvels” stand out. “Usually, you wait for characters to show up all together in ‘Avengers’ movies. We were excited to design a team-up featuring characters that women from all walks of life could relate to.”

“The Marvels” is set to open in theaters Nov. 10 from Disney. Check out more first reactions to the film below.

#TheMarvels is a solid MCU outing. Even though it doesn't break the mold, and its villain isn't anything remarkable, the movie is a ton of fun, and the leading trio are wonderful together. Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel remains an absolute pleasure to watch—more of her, please. — Russ Milheim – The Direct (@RussMilheim) November 8, 2023
Nia DaCosta’s #TheMarvels is a delight! The power-swapping plot is cool & all, but the real fun comes from the stellar chemistry between Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris & Iman Vellani. Low stakes aside, it delivers some of Marvel’s best action & comedy to date! See it with a crowd 👀 — Dempsey Pillot (@DempseyPillot) November 8, 2023
it’s no secret i adore captain marvel and wandavision, so #TheMarvels is something i knew I’d have fun with. brie larson, teyonah parris, and iman vellani’s chemistry made this one for me — they had superb comedic timing together but also beautifully worked in the touching scenes — Nora Dominick (@noradominick) November 8, 2023
Pleased, but not exactly surprised to report that The Marvels is solid and a big step up from some of the studio’s other “Something Big Is Coming” projects as of late. Review in the morning — Charles PM (@CharlesPulliam) November 8, 2023
#TheMarvels is short & sweet 💕 plenty of laughs 😂 & action 👊 I went in hoping it wouldn’t be TOO bad & ended up with a smile on my face the whole time 😄 TONS of surprises big & small (NOT just the end credit scenes) – avoid spoilers! Review tomorrow 12pm EST #MCU #Marvel — Grace Randolph (@GraceRandolph) November 8, 2023
We just saw #TheMarvels – full review tomorrow, but it’s one of the most surprising movies of the year, bringing fresh air to the MCU, as well as some jaw dropping moments that will have audiences screaming. Don’t sleep on this movie! – Connor Webber/Attractions Magazine — Attractions Magazine (@Attractions) November 8, 2023
NO CAP…Tain, 😏 the #TheMarvels isn’t the train wreck the media has been pushing it to be. Sure, the story can be uneven at times & the villain isn’t memorable but #MsMarvel and #MonicaRambeau carried this film and also made #CaptainMarvel a more interesting. This is better — Movie Files (@MovieFilesLive) November 8, 2023
#TheMarvels flies higher, further and faster than the first movie! Iman Vellani, take a bow. Easily the most fun I've had watching a Marvel movie since Spider-Man: No Way Home. — Aaron Perine (@SumitLakeHornet) November 8, 2023
#TheMarvels is so much fun, action-packed goodness, but genuinely hilarious and exciting to watch from start to finish. I love my girls so much and seeing them fight all three together truly is so special. Higher, further, faster baby! — Rachel Leishman (@RachelLeishman) November 8, 2023
#THEMARVELS is short, sweet, and a hell of a lot of fun. The main trio is a blast together and it's great to have action sequences that are exciting again. Probably the most charmed I've been by a MCU film since No Way Home, and I can't wait to see what this film leads to… — Ross Bonaime (@rbonaime) November 8, 2023
#TheMarvels is a winner Not a perfect winner But a light, breezy, entertaining blockbuster that delivers a satisfying team up! Brie Larson really SHINES as Captain Marvel (Finally), Iman continues to be a shining Star as Kamala Khan, & Teyonah Paris knocks it out as Rambeau! — Zach Pope (@popetheking) November 8, 2023
Nia DaCosta’s #TheMarvels is a great time at the movies! It’s well paced & full of frantic, hilarious energy. I even liked it more than 2019’s #CaptainMarvel . This thing moves! The location-swap action is a blast & the end credits scene is 😱 . I’m definitely a fan. Iman… — Erik Davis (@ErikDavis) November 8, 2023
With #TheMarvels , Nia DaCosta brings a much-needed shot in the arm the MCU's needed for a long time. The film's brevity is its biggest superpower, stripping back to basics with amazing chemistry between leads (Vellani's a STAR) and creative action without world-building baggage. — Julian Singleton (@gambit1138) November 8, 2023

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Black Book Reviews

books and movies review

... a riveting World War II resistance thriller with a runaway pace and a gripping sense of peril.

Full Review | Jan 7, 2023

books and movies review

A genuinely epic war drama.

Full Review | Sep 8, 2022

books and movies review

Black Book may be Paul Verhoeven's most visceral film, and that's saying something.

Full Review | Jan 17, 2022

Verhoeven as a director has always blended arthouse and grindhouse aesthetics perfectly, and Black Book is a singular epic.

Full Review | Sep 10, 2021

books and movies review

Carice van Houten is a particularly strong lead, sucking the audience into her morbid world of perpetual torture and misfortune.

Full Review | Original Score: 8/10 | Nov 24, 2020

books and movies review

The film manages to turn German occupied Holland circa 1944 into a fast-paced thrill ride without sacrificing the emotional core and very real human toll.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4 | Jul 6, 2019

books and movies review

... [Director Paul Verhoeven] revels in cinema's powers of deception, to conceal and then reveal reality, to cover subversive ideas inside the armour of genre.

Full Review | Oct 2, 2017

Seven years after he disappeared with the whimper that was Hollow Man, Paul Verhoeven has returned with what may be his best film.

Full Review | Apr 7, 2015

books and movies review

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5 | Nov 16, 2011

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Nov 16, 2011

books and movies review

The handsomely mounted, heedlessly pulpy modernist World War II thriller that "The Good German" and "Valkyrie" failed to be - a dizzying rush of daring rescues, sexual intrigue, treachery, betrayal, gunfights, hasty conclusions and harrowing consequences.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/4 | Sep 25, 2010

It's the last thing a Verhoeven film should be: tasteful

Full Review | Aug 27, 2009

books and movies review

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Aug 7, 2008

books and movies review

A slick, thrilling, trashy, melodramatic and serialesque soap opera adventure which conceals the complex tale of moral ambiguity beneath.

Full Review | Apr 18, 2008

books and movies review

While gleefully turning all prior war movie stereotypes on their heads, Verhoeven opts for the bizarre theory that ravishing designing women and lots of sex can change the course of world history.

Full Review | Mar 6, 2008

books and movies review

There are a lot of plot twists at the end of the film, maybe too many, but it will keep you guessing.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Jan 15, 2008

books and movies review

Verhoeven simplesmente mantém sua obsessão habitual com sexo e violência (geralmente combinando os dois), mas sem qualquer sofisticação narrativa ou visual.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Jan 12, 2008

It's engaging as an espionage thriller and as a story of courage and determination.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Jan 5, 2008

(...) A uno le parece estar viendo más un detrás de cámaras que una película en serio, esperando que el director grite "corten" en cualquier momento y que el equipo aplauda por lo bien que salió la toma.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Oct 30, 2007

books and movies review

Mature WWII drama taps into base human instinct.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Oct 22, 2007

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Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever Hardcover – October 24, 2023

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  • Print length 352 pages
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  • Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • Publication date October 24, 2023
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ G.P. Putnam's Sons (October 24, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0593540158
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0593540152
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.22 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.25 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • #10 in Movie History & Criticism
  • #38 in Rich & Famous Biographies
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Matt singer.

Matt Singer is the editor and film critic of ScreenCrush and a member of the New York Film Critics Circle. He won a Webby Award for his work on the Independent Film Channel’s website. His latest book is Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel and Ebert Changed Movies Forever. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and two daughters.

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Review: 'The Killer' falls gloriously into the right hands with director David Fincher

Are we lucky? We are, indeed.

Michael Fassbender in a scene from "The Killer."

In the wrong hands, a gun-for-hire movie can be a compendium of cliches that incites yawns instead of revelatory tremors. But "The Killer," now streaming on Netflix, falls gloriously into the right hands with director David Fincher calling the shots like the true cinema virtuoso he is.

Are we lucky? We are, indeed. It's a pleasure to behold Fincher doing his meticulous thing, putting his laser-focus on an unnamed assassin, played by Michael Fassbender, a mesmerizing actor unequaled at showing an angry flame flickering just under an uber-cool surface.

As written by Fincher's "Seven" collaborator Andrew Kevin Walker, based on French comic books by Luc Jacamon and Alexis "Matz" Nolent, "The Killer" is essential Fincher, not quite up there with "Fight Club" and "Zodiac" but raising hell in ways too satisfying to spoil in a review.

PHOTO: Michael Fassbender in a scene from "The Killer."

Holed up in an abandoned WeWork building in Paris, the killer trains his sniper rifle on a posh hotel suite just across the street. But he's playing a waiting game, marking time until his target shows up by scarfing McDonald's, practicing yoga and listening to the Smiths (his fave band).

MORE: 'All the Light We Cannot See' review: Audiences deserve better

He's also barking orders at himself in voiceover, reminding himself to keep his blood rate as chilled as a vampire's, ignore empathy at all costs ("It's a weakness") and telling us that if you don't like waiting around, maybe a job as a professional killer (or a film director) is not for you.

It's Fincher's deliciously depraved conceit that his process is not that different from the killer's. You can't watch this movie provocation without thinking of Fincher, the perfectionist behind the camera, the man who put Jesse Eisenberg through nearly a 100 takes to get the first scene of "The Social Network" absolutely right. Mistakes not allowed.

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Yet it's a mistake, a lethal and telling one, that kicks off this movie with the killer actually missing his target. Hodges (Charles Parness), his lawyer handler, offers to have the killer eliminated to placate the client. Hodges even sends two assailants to our boy's hideout in the Dominican Republic, where they beat his lover, Magdala (Sophie Charlotte) nearly to death.

Getting personal is crossing a line. And the killer forgets all his rules to exact revenge. Suddenly, the film has a pulse and the audience catches the heat. So does Fincher, taking the killer on a revenge odyssey, starting with Hodges in New Orleans (watch that nail gun) and moving on to Florida where he takes on the "Brute" (Sala Baker), who bashed Magdala's face into pulp.

It's in New York, where the killer finds the Brute's partner, a woman said to resemble a Q-tip. She's played by the terrific Tilda Swinton and she's a thrilling antagonist. Cornering her at a chic restaurant where she orders a flight of whiskey to steel herself for what's ahead, the killer comes close to meeting his match.

MORE: Review: Colman Domingo wears his role in 'Rustin' like a second skin

PHOTO: Michael Fassbender in a scene from "The Killer."

Swinton is electrifying in the role, fiercely funny as she distracts the killer with a fable about a hunter pursuing a grizzly bear that ends with a sexual punchline you won't see coming. The laughs extend to the fake names the killer puts on his credit cards, usually vintage sitcom characters like Sam Malone and Felix Unger, names that Gen Zers never recognize.

Swinton and Fassbender spar like the legends they are. You'll want more of them, but the killer needs to make a stop in Chicago to confront the client (Arliss Howard) who started it all. Fireworks follow, but not the kind you're thinking.

"The Killer" is a first for Fincher -- it's the one where he refuses to stick to a plan, letting shards of humanity throw him off his raw and riveting game. Don't expect a sunny redemption. Fincher and his killer share an affinity for loose ends hauntingly left untied. "The Killer" is too machine-tooled to warm your heart, but you can count on its chill to linger and haunt your dreams.

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