For the Love of Movies

For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is the first documentary to dramatize the rich saga of American movie reviewing. Directed by Boston Phoenix critic, Gerald Peary, For the Love of Movies offers an insider's view of the critics' profession, with commentary from America's best-regarded reviewers, Roger Ebert (The Chicago Sun-Times), A.O. Scott (The New York Times), Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), and Kenneth Turan (The Los Angeles Times). We also hear from young, articulate, Internet voices, including Harry Knowles ( and Karina Longworth ( Their stories are entertaining, humorous, and personal. Those who hear them may gain new respect for the film critic profession, knowing the faces and voices, and also the history.

From the raw beginnings of criticism before The Birth of a Nation to the incendiary Pauline Kael-Andrew Sarris debates of the 1960s and 70s to the battle today between youthful on-liners and the print establishment, this documentary illuminates the role that film criticism has played in the evolution of American film.

With James Agee, Jami Bernard, Vincent Canby, Bosley Crowther, David D'Arcy, Manny Farber, Owen Gleiberman, Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Harlan Jacobson, Stanley Kauffmann, Stuart Klawans, Harry Knowles, Vachel Lindsay, Leonard Maltin, Janet Maslin, Elvis Mitchell, Wesley Morris, John Powers, Rex Reed, B. Ruby Rich, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Richard Schickel, Robert Sherwood, David Sterritt, Mike Szymanski, Scott Weinberg, Frank E. Woods, Lisa Nesselson, Otis Ferguson, Richard Corliss, Gene Siskel, Michael Wilmington.

'I enjoyed it immensely, I learned a lot. Very well done, edited, researched--and narrated!' Roger Ebert

'Quirky, beautifully constructed and indispensable, Gerry Peary's film, For the Love of Movies, chronicles the cultural and aesthetic history of the last fifty years of American film criticism. Infused with the same movie-madness that grips most film critics (Mr. Peary is also a world-class film critic), the piece engages with the various battles writers wage with one another for aesthetic dominion. Replete with examples from a half-century of American Cinema, the film explores the nature of filmic experience and the daily missives that constitute the film critic's work. Piece by piece, the film builds an argument for the deep value film criticism has added to the history of movies, and to our understanding of them. Not only a terrific film for the classroom, but a terrific film as well.' Robb Moss, The Rudolf Arnheim Lecturer on Filmmaking, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University, Filmmaker, The Same River Twice and Secrecy

'A lively and thoughtful survey...For the Love of Movies offers a concise, entertaining account of mass-market movie criticism, and I think a lot of universities would want to use it in film and journalism courses.' David Bordwell, Professor of Film Studies, Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Author, Film Art and Film History

'I think it's a terrific film, and one that should prove very successful in filling in the woeful gaps in our students' knowledge of the history of American criticism and its purpose and future. It's absorbing throughout and should prove a big hit in film criticism classes, and even introductory film classes.' Peter Brunette, Reynolds Professor and Director, Film Studies, Wake Forest University

'Gerry Peary's For the Love of Movies is a highly informative and entertaining work that is a one-of-a-kind virtual course on film criticism in the U.S.. With archival footage and spirited interviews of all the important players, the story of this rarely exposed writing craft is revealed and studied. The influence of film critics on filmmakers and audiences is under-appreciated no longer.' William E. Pence, Director of Film, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Dartmouth College

'I will be teaching a graduate course in American Movie Criticism at Columbia this spring and I plan to show my students the excellent new documentary, For the Love of Movies. Not only does this film capture the temptations and the quandaries of writing film criticism at this point in time, but it also does a superb job of summarizing the history of the practice in this country and the distinctive, sometimes eccentric, flavor of the participants. I recommend the film to all who have even the slightest interest in the subject.' Phillip Lopate, Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia University

'Gerald Peary's For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is an eye-opening look at the state of contemporary film criticism and a revealing overview of its history since the early days of the film medium. Peary entertainingly and insightfully profiles leading critics past and present as part of his searching investigation of the craft and politics and cultural influence of film criticism. In this time when newspapers are laying off film critics and much of the action is shifting to the Internet, Peary's film provides an important look at how film criticism can survive. I enthusiastically recommend this lively documentary for all educational programs, because it fills a major need in a time of cultural crisis.' Joseph McBride, Film Historian and Associate Professor, Cinema Department, San Francisco State University

'Well-researched, informative, and entertaining, For the Love of Movies is a must-see for those of us who like reading, writing, and talking about films almost as much as we like watching them.' Diane Waldman, Mass Communications and Journalism Studies, University of Denver

'A requiem for the heavyweights of a dying vocation...The documentary rewinds the forgotten prehistory of film criticism, but its narrative spine is the legendary grudge match between Andrew Sarris and Pauline Kael, the Tracy and Hepburn--or maybe Trotsky and Stalin--of American film criticism.' Thomas Doherty, American Studies, Brandeis University, The Chronicle of Higher Education

'Relays a fascinating history and successfully characterizes the role of a film critic...Ultimately, the film decides that it is and has always been a field that is about the eponymous 'love of movies.' The critics do their job because of their passion for film but also the entire profession is really for the continued improvement of the film industry. Directors and actors benefit have an added incentive to make a movie as good as possible and critics have a long tradition, dating back to Sherwood's time, of giving their opinions in the movie-making process. Most importantly, these critics spark conversations, whether it be between Kael and Sarris or a cab driver and AO Scott, and elicit ideas and dialogue over the common viewing of films. With these reasons, they certainly make a convincing case for the continued importance of this profession.' HopkinsCinemAddicts, blog of the Johns Hopkins University Film and Media Studies Program

'Peary has assembled a remarkably thorough historical overview of film criticism...Whether looking at the old or new guard, popular or academic oriented, Peary explores what it takes to be a critic (e.g., finding one's own voice) by letting more than two dozen critics (including Roger Ebert and Kenneth Turan) discuss their work in fresh as well as archival interviews. Film criticism may be a profession under siege (30 newspaper reviewers have been let go in the last few years), but this pithy yet edifying tribute gets a thumbs up for all movie-goers.' Jeff Dick, Library Journal

'Expansive and illuminating...An enlightening and surprising exploration of the history of film criticism as it has variously flourished in print media from the silent era to up to the online blogosphere-dominated present...The interviews of the main feature are richly interspersed with archival footage (of both films and famous critics, like Pauline Kael), and the Special Features section is generously packed with extended interviews with both traditional and newer online critics. Given the wide breadth of interests it will appeal to everyone from students and practitioners of film criticism to average movie-goers. For the Love of Movies is highly recommended not only for collections serving film studies and communications, but also for more general public and academic library collections.' Rob Sica, Eastern Kentucky University, Educational Media Reviews Online

'Illuminating...There's good stuff here for cinema buffs...Recommended.' Video Librarian

'For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism briskly covers a great deal of ground, and often engages with illuminating insights...Could wind up being a valuable teaching tool for educators in film studies programs, and might also attract receptive auds in cable and pubcast venues.' Joe Leydon, Variety

'It's a treat to see the best-known film critic on the planet, Roger Ebert, give a never-before-seen interview. The sound bites are distinctive, the insider's perspective is refreshing, the historical overview is welcome, and the overall impression is positive.' Peter Martin, Cinematical

'For the Love of Movies does an excellent job in telling the history of not just film criticism, but of American film itself, not an easy task when you consider the breadth of that history.' Tim Basham, Paste Magazine

'This is a documentary meant for viewers who appreciate the voice of critics. If you are such a person, keep a pen handy for jotting down suggested readings and viewings mentioned throughout. Putting a face (and voice) to these reviewers gives us a sense of the personalities behind their opinions.' William Lee, Cinema Verdict

'A unique journey...Considering most of [Gerald Peary's] commentators are better known by their bylines than by sight, viewers are offered a unique perspective into the motivations and character of critics when they are finally allowed to speak candidly about their own love for film.' Pat Tarantino, Patriot Ledger

'The movie's a lively and important first step in assaying the worth of a field on the verge of extinction...The question bears asking, though. What can the better working critics offer to a world where everyone is digitally empowered to give an opinion? It depends on whether you think context, clarity, and broad understanding of film history, world history, and culture are important.' Ty Burr, The Boston Globe

'Anticipated peer reviews raised the stakes for [Gerald Peary's] passion project, but his larger challenge was to assemble a story that would entertain not just critics but those pedestrians who don't know Cineaste from bouillabaisse.' Chris Faraone, Boston Phoenix

'A must-see for anyone who loves films, and has enjoyed reading the serious film criticism that once was so important in American cinema.' The Charleston Gazette

'An unapologetic sermon on the importance of film criticism in American culture...The subject matter (at least to my taste) is so fascinating, I'd be happy to watch it again.' Emma Rose Johnson, Blast magazine

''Is cinema more important than life?' Francois Truffaut asked. Anyone tempted to answer 'yes' will enjoy this documentary.' Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

'[For The Love of Movies] is finally here and it does the job nicely. Which is to say intelligently, competently, lovingly, and, after a fashion, comprehensively. Meaning that it tells the story as thoroughly as the budget and running time have allowed. For those who don't know much about the lore of the realm, it's nutritious food and then some.' Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere

'This film really made us wonder what was left on the cutting room floor, because there's some great stuff being said here from some really important critics! If you're a serious (or developing) student of film, this documentary is required viewing.' Black Box Office

'Gerald Peary's seminal cinematic exploration of the wealth of American film criticism provides a wonderful roadmap of where we have been and observes the many directions the whole endeavor is now moving.' Chale Nafus, Austin Film Society

'It informs, enlightens and generates enthusiasm, but its real success will come when a viewer opens their paper (or web browser) and dives into a review with a new perspective.' Star City Blog


Main credits

Geller, Amy (film producer)
Peary, Gerald (screenwriter)
Peary, Gerald (film director)
Clarkson, Patricia (narrator)

Other credits

Edited by Sabrina Zanella-Foresi, Aleksandar Lekic; music by Bobby B. Keyes; cinematography by Craig Chivers [and 3 others].

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

American Studies
Film Studies
Marketing and Advertising
Media Literacy
Performing Arts
Social Psychology


film criticism, evolution of American film, Boston Phoenix, Gerald Peary, Roger Ebert, A.O. Scott, Lisa Schwarzbaum, Kenneth Turan, Harry Knowles, Karina Longworth, film history, Birth of a Nation, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Patricia Clarkson, James Agee, Jami Bernard, Vincent Canby, Bosley Crowther, David D'Arcy, Manny Farber, Owen Gleiberman, Molly Haskell, J. Hoberman, Harlan Jacobson, Stanley Kauffmann, Stuart Klawans, Vachel Lindsay, Leonard Maltin, Janet Maslin, Elvis Mitchell, Wesley Morris, John Powers, Rex Reed, B. Ruby Rich, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Richard Schickel, Robert Sherwood, David Sterritt, Mike Szymanski, Scott Weinberg, Frank E. Woods, Lisa Nesselson, Otis Ferguson, Richard Corliss, Gene Siskel, Michael Wilmington,"For the Love of Movies",Bullfrog Films

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