Roger Ebert and the Art of Film Reviewing

Pulitzer prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert has died following a battle with cancer. Ebert was the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times for more than three decades, as well as co-host of the popular television show At the Movies.


Ebert got his start as a writer for the News-Gazette in Champaign-Urbana, then served as journalist and editor-in-chief of the Daily Illini while a student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the 1960s.

A great promoter of journalism and film, Ebert later spearheaded a fundraising campaign for the Daily Illini and launched a film festival in Champaign-Urbana.

I write this post on a break from proofing my own latest book review. Although I primarily write reviews for academic journals, my own approaches to reviewing historical books and films certainly owes something to Siskel and Ebert’s film reviews.

Siskel and Ebert were sometimes criticized for simplifying their criticisms of films, especially with their trademarked thumbs up, thumbs down judgments. But, they often presented brilliant analysis and criticisms of the acting, characterization, enplotment, cinematography, and directing in independent and foreign-language films that were otherwise ignored by mainstream publications. And, refreshingly, the two critics’ analyses often diverged significantly.

Both Siskel and Ebert departed too soon, but they left behind an impressive legacy in the fields of film, criticism, and journalism.

NPR remembers Roger Ebert’s career and influence in film criticism. Chicago’s WBEZ aired a show celebrating Ebert’s life and has podcast it. The Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago offers a remembrance of Ebert, who was Siskel’s long-time sparring partner and collaborator. The Daily Illini also provides a remembrance.

Roger Ebert delivered his own living testament on The 11th Hour on PBS. His own website at the Chicago Sun-Times provides information on all of Ebert’s journalism and activities.

Northern Illinois University students in HIST 390 History and Film may be interested in following the stories about Roger Ebert’s career as a film critic, as well as reading some of his reviews of historical films.

This entry was posted in Academic Publishing, Historical Film, History in the Media, Humanities Education, Writing Methods. Bookmark the permalink.

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