Two thumbs up

By any standard, the late Roger Ebert was one of the greatest film critics of all time. According to him, these are the 10 best movies ever made (presented in no particular order).

“Citizen Kane”

First up is “Citizen Kane.” In Ebert’s words: “I say it is deep indeed, because it illustrates the way that human happiness and pain is not found in big ideas but in the little victories or defeats of childhood.”


No surprises with this next one, “Casablanca,” which is regarded by many as one of the all-time cinematic achievements. Ebert, however, didn’t point to the same qualities that many others have. To him, “It’s not because of the romance, or the humor, or the intrigue, although those elements are masterful. It’s because it makes me proud of the characters.”

“Floating Weeds”

Next up is “Floating Weeds.” Ebert had great respect for the director, Yasujiro Ozu, and remarked that he “fashioned his style by himself, and he never changed it, and to see his films is to be inside a completely alternative cinematic language.”

“La Dolce Vita”

Like Ozu, Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini was the object of Ebert’s admiration. Fellini’s 1960 “La Dolce Vita,” in Ebert’s words, “has grown passe in some circles, but I love it more than ever. Forget about its message, or about the contrasts between the sacred and the profane. Simply look at Fellini’s ballet of movement and sound, the graceful way he choreographs the camera, the way the actors move.”

“28 Up”

Ebert’s next choice was “28 Up,” an incredible documentary project that interviewed 14 British 7-year-olds and then filmed the same individuals every seven years. According to Ebert, “The miracle of the film is that it shows us that the seeds of the man are indeed in the child. In a sense, the destinies of all of these people can be guessed in their eyes, the first time we see them… This ongoing film is an experiment unlike anything else in film history.”

“Gates of Heaven”

“Gates of Heaven” is an oddball documentary nominally about pet cemeteries, but director Errol Morris uses the subject as a springboard to address greater questions about mortality. Ebert called the film “a bottomless mystery” and “infinitely fascinating.”

“The Third Man”

Ebert’s love for the next movie on the list, “The Third Man,” stemmed from the empathetic qualities he identified in it. “This movie is on the altar of my love for the cinema,” he said. “It was so sad, so beautiful, so romantic, that it became at once part of my own memories—as if it had happened to me.”

“Raging Bull”

The acclaimed boxing movie “Raging Bull” is one of Ebert’s best for the trio at its center: director Martin Scorsese, screenwriter Paul Schrader, and actor Robert De Niro. His praise for the three (who also worked together in “Taxi Driver”) revolved around the film’s central themes: “A man’s jealousy about a woman, made painful by his own impotence, and expressed through violence.”


No such list would be complete without mention of the brilliant director Alfred Hitchcock. About Hitchcock’s 1946 masterpiece “Notorious,” Ebert stated, “Hitchcock was always hidden behind the genre of the suspense film, but as you see his movies again and again, the greatness stays after the suspense becomes familiar. He made pure movies.”

“2001: A Space Odyssey”

Last but not least, Ebert listed “2001: A Space Odyssey.” For Ebert, Stanley Kubrick’s film exemplified some of the greatest and most magical qualities of all good movies: “Film can take us where we cannot go. It can also take our mind outside their shells, and this film is one of the great visionary experiences in the cinema.”