There have been many film critics in the world, but no one seems as influential as Roger Ebert. If you check the wikipedia page of any movie, it's very likely that, in the reception section, they would have mentioned "what was Roger Ebert's reception to this movie". If you just google any movie, on the right hand side of the page they show a brief snapshot, where again it is highly likely that you will see Roger Ebert's score for the movie alongside Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, Metracritic etc.

So Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metracritic show aggregated results, but Roger Ebert is just one man. What makes him so special?

  • @cde : So you're saying it's just publicity and nothing else ? Please read tcrosley's answer. He has mentioned some very good points. We should not be in a hurry to dismiss any question with the first thought that comes to our mind.
    – Ankit
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 5:56
  • Basically, yes. The more one person appears on camera/print, the larger the audience they are exposed to. Brand recognition. Market access.
    – cde
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 5:57
  • 1
    His answer is basically the first section of Ebert's wiki article. But honestly speaking, there is nothing that places Ebert's critiques on a higher level of quality than any other critic. Ebert's fame comes from being the first to do it on a national tv level.
    – cde
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 6:00
  • @cde: I think you started off on the wrong foot and now you're latching on to it. I never asked why he was "famous" which you are trying to answer. I asked why his opinion counts so much, why his opinion is often mentioned in movie receptions ? And I think tcrosley mentioned some good points like he won Pultizer Prize for criticism. It asserts that he indeed was really good at what he did. Would you say that he won the Pultizer prize too because he had more publicity ?
    – Ankit
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 7:10
  • @MichaelStern I am neither saying he "was" the best or that he was unanimously thought of as a great critic. My question says why he was "considered" "one of the greatest". And the evidence to that has been mentioned in the question body, that his reviews are frequently mentioned by websites like Google and Wikipedia. So I am not presuming anything. Many might consider David Lynch's movies as boring, that does not change the fact he is considered among the best directors
    – Ankit
    Commented Sep 30, 2015 at 5:32

4 Answers 4


Roger Ebert was the all-time best-known, most successful movie critic in cinema history. He reached more movie fans via television and print than any other critic. He became the first movie critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 1975. He was also the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.

Ebert was the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013 (from cancer). His reviews were syndicated to more than 200 newspapers in the US and abroad. He teamed up with Gene Siskel, film critic for the Chicago Tribune (a fierce rival of the Sun-Times), to create the show "Sneak Previews" on public television. It was famous for the phrase "two thumbs up" which they trademarked. However they often disagreed on their opinion of a movie.

He co-wrote the screenplay for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" and other films with Russ Meyer. He wrote more than 20 books, mostly collections of reviews, but also others, such as "Perfect London Walk". He was the winner of several awards and was nominated for many more, including 10 Emmy Awards.

He estimated that he saw more than 10,000 films in his lifetime.


He was:

  • prolific
  • had personality
  • was one of the first to be on TV (along with Siskel), which gave him great face-recognition
  • talented (he Won a Pulitzer prize in '75 for his work)

This answer will add to/repeat some of what's above.

Although Roger Ebert's fame has been more enduring, they were "Siskel and Ebert" at the time. They were talented, smart critics, but the key was accessible. In the 1970s and after, major film critics could be problematic, in evoking New York City and/or academia (Kael, Sarris, Kauffmann). At the other end, Rex Reed and Gene Shalit were TV caricatures of the critic. Siskel and Ebert were in the middle, also literally, being from Chicago.

The other key fact, of course: the Internet didn't exist for most of the S&E career. It's impossible for critic(s) to have the same impact, now. At the time, being a film critic was vaguely ridiculous to the average person; S&E broke that resistance, legitimizing the profession. Both were genuine newspapermen, but if Siskel was still vaguely elitist (in fact, a Yale graduate), it was easier to imagine Ebert bending elbows with Jimmy Breslin, et al. (Edit: I may have overstated here. They were both popular, but Ebert was closer to an everyman.)

Two other factors: self-promotion and longevity. Ebert had the necessary knack of occasionally stirring controversy, as with his oft-mentioned review of Night of the Living Dead, which decried parents taking kids to see the film. He also panned Blue Velvet. Right or wrong, he got attention.

Longevity: They met a need for televised film criticism, a half-hour per week, but Ebert outlived Siskel by 14 years. "Siskel and Ebert" ultimately became "Ebert and Roeper," but after Ebert left TV, the show faltered, leaving his name the common factor. Even so, he remained prolific, continuing to work despite major health issues. This adds to his legend; in this sense, he bears comparison to Christopher Reeve.

The bottom line: Roger Ebert was a great (Pulitzer-winning) film critic. If he wasn't better than the other greats, he was in the right place at the right time, and made the most of it.


To the utility of having an individual's opinion included, in addition to aggregate scores:

Roger Ebert is, indeed, just one man - but a man who reviewed thousands of movies in his career, and a man whose reviews reached millions of people.

So, if you see what he thought about a movie, you have thousands of other reviews by him to compare with - you may find that you frequently agree (or disagree) with his reviews in certain genres, allowing you to make a more personal assessment based on his review. Or, you may find that he has a soft spot for certain actors, and you don't like those actors much, meaning that a movie with one of those actors in it that he liked, you may not.

With aggregate scores, you never know who all is being aggregated, and can't really use those aggregates for anything more than "this is the average of what a bunch of people thought." It can be difficult to use that general information to figure out whether you'll like that movie.

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