Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

“Bresson, one of the most thoughtful and philosophical of directors, was fearful of “performances” by his actors. He famously forced the star of A Man Escaped (1956) to repeat the same scene some 50 times, until it was stripped of all emotion and inflection. All Bresson wanted was physical movement. No emotion, no style, no striving for effect. What we see in the pickpocket’s face is what we bring to it. Instead of asking his actors to “show fear,” Bresson asks them to show nothing, and depends on his story and images to supply the fear.”

— Roger Ebert on Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket (1959)


“What he had actually done was make a philosophical statement about man’s place in the universe, using images as those before him had used words, music or prayer. And he had made it in a way that invited us to contemplate it — not to experience it vicariously as entertainment, as we might in a good conventional science-fiction film, but to stand outside it as a philosopher might, and think about it.”

— Excerpt from Roger Ebert’s Review of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

“The realization is sinking in that [Tarantino] is one of the greats and not just this goofy former video-store clerk kid with a chin Jay Leno envies.”

— Roger Ebert

“Halle Berry no longer can cite “Catwoman” as the low point of her career.”

Since 1999 I’ve been carrying a blue pill in my pocket, holding onto it for the moment when I’d truly need it. The pill, I was told, would instantly erase the memory of any movie — but just the one movie, just the one time.I was tempted to take that pill after “Freddy Got Fingered.” I had the pill in hand as I walked out of every other Adam Sandler movie of the last decade.  But I hung on to it, knowing something even worse was going to come my way one day.
Midway through “Movie 43,” I knew the day had come.
It didn’t work. The !&$@*! thing didn’t work!”

— Roger Ebert on Movie 43

This is Sofia Coppola’s third film centering on the loneliness of being female and surrounded by a world that knows how to use you but not how to value and understand you.

No, the picture is not informative and detailed about the actual politics of the period. That is because we are entirely within Marie’s world. And it is contained within Versailles, which shuts out all external reality. It is a self-governing architectural island, like Kane’s Xanadu, that shuts out politics, reality, poverty, society.

Coppola has been criticized in some circles for her use of a contemporary pop overlay — hit songs, incongruous dialogue, jarring intrusions of the Now upon the Then. But no one ever lives as Then; it is always Now. Many characters in historical films seem somehow aware that they are living in the past. Marie seems to think she is a teenager living in the present, which of course she is — and the contemporary pop references invite the audience to share her present with ours. Forman’s “Amadeus” had a little of that, with its purple wigs.

Every criticism I have read of this film would alter is fragile magic and reduce its romantic and tragic poignancy to the level of an instructional film.

Before she was a queen, before she was a pawn, Marie was a 14-year-old girl taken from her home, stripped bare, and examined like so much horseflesh. It is astonishing with what indifference for her feelings the court aristocracy uses her for its pleasure, and in killing her disposes of its guilt.

— excerpts from Roger Ebert’s review of Marie Antoinette (2006)

“Miyazaki says he made the film specifically for 10-year-old girls. That is why it plays so powerfully for adult viewers. Movies made for ‘everybody’ are actually made for nobody in particular.”

— Roger Ebert on ‘Spirited Away’

“I wanted to hug this movie.”

— review of Ghost World

“You’re stronger at the broken places,” they say. I’ve been there, and you’re not.”
—  review of Rust and Bone

The 50 Harshest Roger Ebert Movie Review Quotes

Kazaam (1996)
"As for Shaquille O’Neal, given his own three wishes the next time, he should go for a script, a director, and an interesting character."

Valentine’s Day (2010)
"Valentine’s Day is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it’s more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date."

Mad Dog Time (1996)
"Mad Dog Time is the first movie I have seen that does not improve on the sight of a blank screen viewed for the same length of time. Oh, I’ve seen bad movies before. But they usually made me care about how bad they were. Watching Mad Dog Time is like waiting for the bus in a city where you’re not sure they have a bus line."

Tomcats (2001)
"Tomcats was written and directed by Gregory Poirier, who also wrote See Spot Run and thus pulls off the neat trick, within one month, of placing two titles on my list of the worst movies of the year. There is a bright spot. He used up all his doggy-do-do ideas in the first picture."

The Exterminator (1980)
"The Exterminator exists primarily to show burnings, shootings, gougings, grindings, and beheadings. It is a small, unclean exercise in shame."

Old Dogs (2009)
"Old Dogs seems to have lingered in post-production while editors struggled desperately to inject laugh cues. It obviously knows no one will find it funny without being ordered to. How else to explain reaction shots of a dog responding to laugh lines?"

Stargate (1994)
"The movie Ed Wood, about the worst director of all time, was made to prepare us for Stargate."

A Lot Like Love (2005)
"To call A Lot like Love dead in the water is an insult to water."

Sorority Boys (2002)
"I’m curious about who would go to see this movie. Obviously moviegoers with a low opinion of their own taste. It’s so obviously what it is that you would require a positive desire to throw away money in order to lose two hours of your life. Sorority Boys will be the worst movie playing in any multiplex in America this weekend, and, yes, I realize Crossroads is still out there."

The Secret of My Success (1987)
"Like most movies about mistaken identities, this one relies heavily on the Idiot Plot: Everyone in the movie is an idiot or the mystery would be solved in five minutes. Does the movie really believe anyone is as stupid as these characters? Does it care?"

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
"Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson star. I neglected to mention that, maybe because I was trying to place them in this review’s version of the Witness Protection Program. If I were taken off the movie beat and assigned to cover the interior design of bowling alleys, I would have some idea of how they must have felt as they made this film."

The Bucket List (2008)
"I urgently advise hospitals: Do not make the DVD available to your patients; there may be an outbreak of bedpans thrown at TV screens."

The Spirit (2008)
"The Spirit is mannered to the point of madness. There is not a trace of human emotion in it. To call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material."

Seven Days in Utopia (2011)
"I would rather eat a golf ball than see this movie again."

200 Cigarettes (1999)
"Seeing a film like this helps you to realize that actors are empty vessels waiting to be filled with characters and dialogue… Here they are contained by small ideas and arch dialogue, and lack the juice of life. Maybe another 200 cigarettes would have helped; coughing would be better than some of this dialogue."

The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)
"Here is a film with all of the wit of the road kill that supplies not one but two of the lesser jokes."

Johnny Be Good (1988)
"This movie is simply financial leakage, a squandering of resources equivalent to polluting a river or plowing under a rain forest. I’m serious. We’re desperate for things to think about in this society, and these guys contribute to the situation by providing us with 86 minutes of zip. They oughta have their pictures on the post office wall."

Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (1992)
"The movie is more generous in showing what the visitors found here. Columbus encounters friendly Indians, of which one—the chief’s daughter—is positioned, bare-breasted, in the center of every composition. (I believe the chief’s daughter is chosen by cup size.) Columbus sails back to Europe and the story is over. Another Columbus movie is promised us this fall. It cannot be worse than this. I especially look forward to the chief’s daughter." —

Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (2001)
"I’ve seen audits that were more thrilling."

Diary of Forbidden Dreams (1976)
"If [a talented director has] made several good films, chances are that sooner or later someone will give him the money to make a supremely bad one. I wonder how much Carlo Ponti gave Roman Polanski to make Diary of Forbidden Dreams. Ten cents would have been excessive.”

The Last Airbender (2010)
"The Last Airbender is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.” —

13 Ghosts (2001)
"The production is first-rate; the executives included Joel Silver and Robert Zemeckis. The physical look of the picture is splendid. The screenplay is dead on arrival. The noise level is torture. I hope 13 Ghosts plays mostly at multiplexes, because it’s the kind of movie you want to watch from the next theater."

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
"The sexy Celia (voice by Jennifer Tilly) has a crush on Wazowski. What she sees in him is beyond me, although if there is anyone who can figure out how to have sex with a green eyeball, that would be Jennifer Tilly. I can imagine her brassy voice: ‘Blink! Blink!’"

Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)
"Elvis looks about the same as he always has, with his chubby face, petulant scowl, and absolutely characterless features. Here is one guy the wax museums will have no trouble getting right. He sings a lot, but I won’t go into that. What I will say, however, is that after two dozen movies he should have learned to talk by now."

Breaking the Rules (1993)
"The movie has to be seen to be believed. It is a long, painful lapse of taste, tone, and ordinary human feeling. Perhaps it was made by beings from another planet, who were able to watch our television in order to absorb key concepts such as cars, sex, leukemia, and casinos, but formed an imperfect view of how to fit them together."

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) (2011)
"The film is reprehensible, dismaying, ugly, artless, and an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency."

Sex Drive (2008)
"Sex Drive is an exercise in versatile vulgarity. The actors seem to be performing a public reading of the film’s mastery of the subject. Not only are all the usual human reproductive and excretory functions evoked, but new and I think probably impossible ones are included. This movie doesn’t contain ‘offensive language.’ The offensive language contains the movie."

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
"If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."

The Village (2004)
"To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes. It’s a crummy secret, about one step up the ladder of narrative originality from It Was All a Dream. It’s so witless, in fact, that when we do discover the secret, we want to rewind the film so we don’t know the secret anymore. And then keep on rewinding, and rewinding, until we’re back at the beginning, and can get up from our seats and walk backward out of the theater and go down the up escalator and watch the money spring from the cash register into our pockets." —

Last Rites (1988)
"Many films are bad. Only a few declare themselves the work of people deficient in taste, judgment, reason, tact, morality, and common sense. Was there no one connected with this project who read the screenplay, considered the story, evaluated the proposed film and vomited?"

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (2012)
“As faithful readers will know, I have a few cult followers who enjoy my reviews of bad movies. These have been collected in the books I Hated, Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie; Your Movie Sucks, and A Horrible Experience of Unendurable Length. This movie is so bad, it couldn’t even inspire a review worthy of one of those books. I have my standards.”

Revolver (2007)
"Some of the acting is better than the film deserves. Make that all of the acting. Actually, the film stock itself is better than the film deserves. You know when sometimes a film catches fire inside a projector? If it happened with this one, I suspect the audience might cheer."

The Blue Lagoon (1980)
"This movie could have been made as a soft-core sex film, but it’s too restrained: There are so many palms carefully arranged in front of genital areas, and Brooke Shields’ long hair is so carefully draped to conceal her breasts, that there must have been a whole squad of costumers and set decorators on permanent Erogenous Zone Alert."

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)
"That makes Hellbound: Hellraiser II an ideal movie for audiences with little taste and atrophied attention spans who want to glance at the screen occasionally and ascertain that something is still happening up there. If you fit that description, you have probably not read this far, but what the heck, we believe in full-service reviews around here. You’re welcome."

Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
"Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you’ve been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart."

The Skulls (2000)
"The real Skull and Bones has existed for two centuries, and has counted presidents, tycoons, and CIA founders among its alumni. Membership was an honor—until now. After seeing this movie, members are likely to sneak out of the theater through the lavatory windows."

Battlefield Earth (2000)
"Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad; it’s unpleasant in a hostile way."

Mr. Magoo (1997)
"Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly. There is not a laugh in it. Not one. I counted."

Dice Rules (1991)
"Dice Rules is one of the most appalling movies I have ever seen. It could not be more damaging to the career of Andrew Dice Clay if it had been made as a documentary by someone who hated him. The fact that Clay apparently thinks this movie is worth seeing is revealing and sad, indicating that he not only lacks a sense of humor, but also ordinary human decency.”

B.A.P.S. (1997)
"My guess is that African Americans will be offended by the movie, and whites will be embarrassed. The movie will bring us all together, I imagine, in paralyzing boredom."

Masterminds (1997)
"I stopped taking notes on my Palm Pilot and started playing the little chess game."

The Brown Bunny (2003)
"I had a colonoscopy once, and they let me watch it on TV. It was more entertaining than The Brown Bunny." —

Armageddon (1998)
"No matter what they’re charging to get in, it’s worth more to get out."

Little Indian, Big City (1996)
"There is a movie called Fargo playing right now. It is a masterpiece. Go see it. If you, under any circumstances, see Little Indian, Big City, I will never let you read one of my reviews again."

Caligula (1979)
"Caligula is sickening, utterly worthless, shameful trash. If it is not the worst film I have ever seen, that makes it all the more shameful: People with talent allowed themselves to participate in this travesty. Disgusted and unspeakably depressed, I walked out of the film after two hours of its 170-minute length."

Joe’s Apartment (1996)
"I am informed that 5,000 cockroaches were used in the filming of Joe’s Apartment. That depresses me, but not as much as the news that none of them were harmed during the production."

Godzilla (1998)
"Going to see Godzilla at the Palais of the Cannes Film Festival is like attending a satanic ritual in St. Peter’s Basilica."

Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005)
"Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo makes a living cleaning fish tanks and occasionally prostituting himself. How much he charges I’m not sure, but the price is worth it if it keeps him off the streets and out of another movie."

Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
"This movie doesn’t scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn’t below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

North (1994)
"I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."

Olivier Assayas on Robert Bresson


The truth of my feelings about the cinema of Robert Bresson is very simple. When walking out of a screening of Pickpocket as a young man, with close friends who hadn’t understood a thing about the film, who had missed what seemed so incredibly obvious to me, I felt, deeply, that it had let me see into the inner beauty of cinema in a way that would someday allow me to make films myself.

There are a lot of filmmakers I admire: Bergman, Fassbinder, Cassavetes, Visconti, Mizoguchi, Rohmer, Scorsese, Dreyer, Rossellini, Pasolini, Renoir, Tarkovsky, just to mention the few that most naturally come to mind.

But Bresson is, for me, in a category of his own. He is what keeps me faithful to what cinema can achieve. In moments of discouragement, he reminds me how great films can be…

And I don’t think I would be making films if not for him, or certainly not the same films.

Robert Bresson’s 1959 film Pickpocket


Robert Bresson’s 1959 film Pickpocket is superior to Steve McQueen’s 2011 film Shame, but to be inferior to Pickpocket is hardly an embarrassment. Both films explore willfully isolate protagonists who immerse themselves in addictive pleasures to escape vulnerability. In Pickpocket, Michel (Martin LaSalle) pickpockets, and in Shame, Brandon (Michael Fassbender) orgasms. But while Brandon seems painfully aware throughout Shame of his compulsion and its destructive qualities, Michel entertains a half-hearted philosophy in which breaking the law may be an artform, and he becomes aware of his dire situation only in Pickpocket’s final breathtaking moments. It would be reductive to say that one approach to the subject of compulsion is inherently preferable to the other, but perhaps illuminating to explore the ways in which these separate approaches foster distinct attitudes toward cinema.