Roger Ebert's Top 20 Best- and Worst-Reviewed Films
6:45 PM PDT 4/4/2013 by THR Staff
From raves over "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Aguirre, Wrath of God" and "Raging Bull" to acerbic barbs at "The Hot Chick," "Tommy Boy" and (who could forget) "North," the iconic film critic had strong opinions about which films deserved a thumbs up -- and which didn't deserve a thumb at all.
Roger Ebert called Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, "a great visionary leap, unsurpassed in its vision of man and the universe. It was a statement that came at a time which now looks something like the peak of humanity's technological optimism."
"An Alan Smithee Film"
"In taking his name off the film, Arthur Hiller has wisely distanced himself from the disaster, but on the basis of what's on the screen I cannot, frankly, imagine any version of this film that I would want to see. The only way to save this film would be to trim 86 minutes," wrote Ebert.
Of Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 war epic, Ebert said: "Apocalypse Now is a film which still causes real, not figurative, chills to run along my spine, and it is certainly the bravest and most ambitious fruit of Coppola's genius"
"Aguirre, Wrath of God"
Werner Herzog was among Ebert's most celebrated filmmakers. In his review of Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God, he described the film as "one of the great haunting visions of the cinema"
"This is an old idea, beautifully expressed by Wordsworth, who said, 'Heaven lies about us in our infancy,'" wrote Ebert. "If I could quote the whole poem instead of completing this review, believe me, we'd all we happier. But I press on."
While recounting his favorite films of all time, Ebert had but a simplistic comment for the Orson Welles drama: "Citizen Kane speaks for itself."
"Dukes of Hazzard"
"It's a retread of a sitcom that ran from about 1979 to 1985, years during which I was able to find better ways to pass my time. Yes, it is still another TV program I have never ever seen. As this list grows, it provides more and more clues about why I am so smart and cheerful.... Bo and Luke are involved in a mishap that causes their faces to be blackened with soot, and then, wouldn't you know, they drive into an African-American neighborhood, where their car is surrounded by ominous young men who are not amused by blackface, or by the Confederate flag painted on the car. I was hoping maybe the boyz n the hood would carjack the General, which would provide a fresh twist to the story, but no, the scene sinks into the mire of its own despond."
"La Dolce Vita"
"La Dolce Vita has become a touchstone in my life: A film about a kind of life I dreamed of living, then a film about the life I was living, the about my escape from that life. Now, half a century after its release, it is about the arc of my life, and its closing scene is an eerie reflection of my wordlessness and difficulty in communicating. I still yearn and dream, but it is so hard for me to communicate that--not literally, but figuratively. So the Fellini stays," he wrote.
In one of his most infamous reviews, Ebert said of North: "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."
"One Woman or Two"
In another blistering review, he commented: "Add it all up, and what you've got here is a waste of good electricity. I'm not talking about the electricity between the actors. I'm talking about the current to the projector."
"Many would choose Taxi Driver as [Martin] Scorsese's greatest film, but I believe Raging Bull is his best and most personal, a film he says in some ways saved his life," Ebert wrote. "It is the greatest cinematic expression of the torture of jealousy--his Othello."
Larry David's 1998 comedy did not sit well with Ebert. "How to account for the fact that Larry David is one of the creators of Seinfeld? Maybe he works well with others. I can't easily remember a film I've enjoyed less. North, a comedy I hated, was at least able to inflame me with dislike. Sour Grapes is a movie that deserves its title: It's puckered, deflated and vinegary. It's a dead zone."
Selecting his favorite silent film, Ebert chose Buster Keaton's The General, calling it "his best."
"The Hot Chick"
Of Rob Schneider's teen comedy -- which introduced many to a young Rachel McAdams -- Ebert said: "The movie resolutely avoids all the comic possibilities of its situation, and becomes one more dumb high school comedy about sex gags and prom dates.... Through superhuman effort of the will, I did not walk out of The Hot Chick, but reader, I confess I could not sit through the credits. The MPAA rates this PG-13. It is too vulgar for anyone under 13, and too dumb for anyone over 13."
"To call it an anticlimax would be an insult not only to climaxes but to prefixes," he lamented of M. Night Shamalan's 2004 psychological horror film. "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."
"Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie"
"As faithful readers will know, I have a few cult followers who enjoy my reviews of bad movies," he began. "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."
"The older I grow and the more I observe how age affects our relationships, the more I think Tokyo Story has to teach us," he claimed. "Kurosawa's Ikiru has as much to say, but in the rigid economy of the Sight & Sound limitations, impossible choices are forced."
"Tommy Boy is one of those movies that plays like an explosion down at the screenplay factory," he said. "You can almost picture a bewildered office boy, his face smudged with soot, wandering through the ruins and rescuing pages at random. Too bad they didn't mail them to the insurance company instead of filming them."
"Tree of Life"
Ebert called Terrence Malick's Brad Pitt starrer, "affirmative and hopeful." "In The Tree of Life," he said, "Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family."
Ebert also named Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo among his 10 favorite films of all time. "Vertigo (1958), which is one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made, is the most confessional, dealing directly with the themes that controlled his art. It is *about* how Hitchcock used, feared and tried to control women."
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