The 10 Most Famous Movie Critics of All Time

Their reviews influenced the minds of moviegoers as well as the box office

Since the earliest days of cinema, movie critics have played a crucial role in filling seats (or not filling seats) at movie theaters. Countless movie reviews have been published over the decades, but only a select few film critics have become well-known for their work. The following famous movie critics have made a lasting mark on the film industry.

01
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André Bazin

Portrait of Andre Bazin with cat

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

France's André Bazin was one of the earliest major film critics, having started his career in 1943. He was a co-founder of the renowned film magazine Cahiers du cinéma. More important than Bazin's reviews are his extensive writing on film theory, including essays on the importance of realism in cinema that are still widely read by film students.

 

02
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Judith Crist

Film Critic Judith Crist at the Festival of India Diaspora in New York City on November 1, 2001. photo by Gabe Palacio/ImageDirect.

Judith Crist was one of the first female film critics to gain widespread recognition from her reviews in the New York Herald Tribune, New York magazine, and TV Guide, as well as her appearances on NBC's The Today Show throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. She was perhaps the first female film critic whose criticism was published widely outside of "female-focused" magazines.

03
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Roger Ebert

American film critic Roger Ebert. (Photo by Frank Capri/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

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. Because of his popularity in both print and on television, a review from Ebert could often make or break a movie's box office chances. He also started his own annual film festival, Ebertfest, which often highlights overlooked movies.

As famous as he was for thoughtful, in-depth film criticism, Ebert is also remembered for his savage and often hilarious negative reviews. His review of the 1994 movie North became famous for its vicious prose, including the lines, "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it."

04
of 10

Pauline Kael

The New Yorker

 

Pauline Kael began her career as a film critic when the editor of a San Francisco magazine overheard her talking about films with a friend in a coffee shop and offered her a job.

Later as a critic for women's magazine McCall's, Kael became famous for her in-depth analysis, as well as for weaving her personal life and experiences into her reviews. She is also known for giving negative reviews to movies that were otherwise popular favorites, such as her extremely negative assessments of It's a Wonderful Life and The Sound of Music.  

In 1968, Kael became a film critic for The New Yorker, where she regularly championed films that other critics ignored or dismissed. She also gained notoriety for her since-discredited 1971 essay Raising Kane that alleged that Orson Welles wrote very little of the Citizen Kane screenplay.

05
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Leonard Maltin

Leonard Maltin attends the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Opening Night Gala 50th Anniversary World Premiere Restoration of 'The Producers' at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on April 26, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tara Ziemba/WireImage).

Leonard Maltin began his career as a movie critic before he even graduated high school. Published regularly from 1969 to 2014, Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide was one of the most popular film reference guides, containing Martin's short reviews of hundreds of movies. He was also the film critic for the television show Entertainment Tonight for 28 years.

Maltin has since become one of the go-to critics for projects relating to the history of American cinema. He has hosted a variety of television programs about the history of movies.

06
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Andrew Sarris

Film critic Andrew Sarris attends the 25th Anniversary Of Columbia University's Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall on May 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images).

Longtime Village Voice film critic Andrew Sarris was a strong proponent of the "auteur theory" of cinema, which gives credit to a film's director as its primary author.

Sarris was also known for his book The American Cinema, which ranked filmmakers by their output and generated endless debate among film fans. Sarris was married to fellow Village Voice film critic Molly Haskell.

07
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Gene Shalit

NBC film and book critic Gene Shalit poses for a portrait in 1985 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Getty Images).

Best known for his unique look—bushy hair, mustache, and ever-present bow-tie—Gene Shalit wrote for a variety of publications before becoming the film critic for NBC's The Today Show, a role he held for 40 years (1970–2010).

Shalit was also a comedy writer who integrated puns into many of his reviews ("When it comes to oddball titles, The Men Who Stare at Goats would be hard to bleat!"). Shalit's puns, physical appearance, and overall jovial attitude have made him a popular subject of fond parody, even after he stepped out of the public eye.

08
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Peter Travers

Peter Travers attends 'Tumbledown' New York screening at AMC Empire on February 8, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/WireImage).

Longtime Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers is one of the most popular film critics of all timeespecially to Hollywood's publicity and marketing departments.

Travers has a tendency to lavish high praise on many films, which means his words are very frequently quoted on publicity materials like posters, trailers, and advertisements.

That doesn't mean Travers gives everything he sees a good review. He has written eviscerating reviews about otherwise very popular movies like A River Runs Through It, Barbershop and Jackass: Number Two. But if you do see a few quotes on a movie poster or television commercial, there's a good chance one of them originated from Travers.

09
of 10

François Truffaut

28th November 1979: The French film maker Francois Truffaut (1932 - 1984). (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images).

Unlike most film critics, France's François Truffaut didn't just review movies—he also made them. After a few years of writing famously tough reviews in the film magazine Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s, Truffaut put his money where his mouth was and began directing movies, starting with 1959's The 400 Blows. Truffaut proved he knew what he was talking about when The 400 Blows won him the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. His 1973 film, Day for Night, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

As a critic, Truffaut is best known for developing the "auteur theory" of cinema. He used Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he published a book-long interview, as an example of an auteur.

10
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Armond White

Armond White attends the 2010 New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Crimson on January 10, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images).

Armond White has written movie reviews for a variety of publications, including the New York Press and National Review. But rather than famous, many would refer to him as "infamous."

White is best known for giving negative reviews to otherwise nearly universally-acclaimed movies like Incredibles 2, Get Out, Black Panther, Toy Story 3, The Shape of Water, and The Florida Project. He is also known for giving positive reviews to otherwise negatively-received films, like The 15:17 to Paris, Justice League, and Transformers: The Last Knight. He has been labeled everything from a "contrarian" to a "troll," with many film fans calling for him to be removed as a Top Critic on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Yet White's against-the-grain criticism is often valuable, as it inspires thoughtful consideration of what makes his views so different from his fellow critics and moviegoers.