Although Danny Peary remains my favorite film critic (click here to read updates on a new documentary specifically about him — and here I am being interviewed!), there are many other excellent reviewers out there, and the internet has made it easier than ever to read their work. Below I list some of my favorite reviewers, review websites, and film-centric blogs, and explain why I think they’re worth checking out.
General Review Websites
The following websites provide reviews for a wide range of movies. Each has its own unique strengths, which I’ve tried to elucidate.
All Movie Guide Reviews
This meta-website offers concise synopses and/or reviews of nearly every movie ever made, as well as excellent career-overviews of directors and actors — definitely a find for film fanatics.
Bright Lights Film Journal
This self-described “popular-academic hybrid of movie analysis, history, and commentary” looks at “classic and commercial, independent, exploitation, and international film from a wide range of vantage points”. An elegant and provocative site.
Pithy capsule reviews of classic and more recent films.
Classic Film Guide
An indispensable source for any film fanatic, this site aims to “celebrate, educate, as well as provide reviews and recommendations of classic (and also obscure) films.” Sections include “Essential Films”, “Obscure Films”, “Oscar’s Best”, “Silent Films”, “Hitchcock”, and more. Check it out!
Ferdy on Films
This enjoyably literate site features in-depth reviews (by Marilyn Ferdinand and Roderick Heath) of a wide variety of titles, with plenty of accompanying screen-caps.
Four Word Film Review
This fun, interactive website is exactly what it purports to be. It doesn’t provide much analysis, but certainly gets to the heart of any movie in a hurry!
This wonderful website (written by Tim Dirks) is an excellent primer for new film fanatics. Dirks provides an overview of several hundred “great” films, as well as discussions on a variety of cinematic topics (including genres, famous quotes, and how to view a film critically). It also provides links to many other “top 100” film sites.
New York Times archived reviews
The NY Times website offers a rare chance to read original movie reviews going as far back as the 1910s, by famed reviewers such as Mordaunt Hall, Bosley Crowther, Janet Maslin, and Vincent Canby. It’s especially interesting to compare critics’ initial reactions with modern ones—the passage of time often yields intriguing differences in what is found worthy or not, and why.
An “international journal of culture criticism”, this website includes reviews of music, books, and comics in addition to films. The meaty reviews are always insightful.
ReelViews: James Berardinelli’s Movie Reviews
Berardinelli has been reviewing films for nearly two decades, and you’ll find reviews for literally hundreds of movies–from all eras–on his site. He’s an engaging writer, well worth checking out.
Roger Ebert’s reviews
Roger Ebert’s legacy lives on through this website, maintained by his fans and widow.
Strictly Film School
As its name implies, this elegant website is written from an academic perspective and truly does offer interested readers an “education” in world cinema. Set up as a weblog, many reviews are followed by user comments. Films are searchable by title, genre, theme, director, and more.
They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They?
This indispensable website is a haven for film fanatics, especially those who subscribe to the notion of auteurism in cinema. The site is self-described as a “cinematic traffic cop”, one which hopes to “guide readers in the direction of each director’s best work”.
Time Out London
This British web site posts every capsule review from the Time Out Film Guide 13, and earns my vote as providing the best “short reviews” in existence. Within 4-5 sentences, the Time Out reviewers get to the heart of every film—bravo!
TV Guide Reviews
Believe it or not, these are actually pretty good! The film snob in me was surprised. Check it out.
DVD Review Websites
Since the advent of digital media, numerous websites have emerged which critique every conceivable aspect of a DVD release. Below are just a few of the better ones.
This excellent website for digital nerds exists primarily to compare DVD releases from various regions around the world, and is a tireless advocate of region-free coding. You’ll find detailed information on every aspect of DVDs, from sound quality, to image quality, to the comparative appearance of DVD Menus. My favorite aspect of the website is the inclusion of original movie posters and a smattering of “screen captures”.
This fun website poses its well-written and thorough reviews as cross-examinations, including sections such as The Charge, The Evidence, and Closing Statement. You’re guaranteed to enjoy these literate debates over whether a movie is “guilty” of bad taste or “free” to be savored.
Specialized Review Websites
The following websites and blogs all cater to special movie interests. As such, they’re naturally “limited”, but can often provide even deeper insights into a genre.
1,001 Movies You Must See
This self-explanatory review blog, dedicated to covering all the titles included in Barron’s 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. While I have mixed feelings about the utility of the book itself, there’s no denying its visibility as the primary go-to manual for modern film fanatics these days — and I fully support anyone in favor of discussing its entries!
My favorite features on this humorous website—self-described as “a safe place to indulge in your more unsavory cinematic tastes”—include “Stuff to Watch For” (complete with time tracking), and “Things I Learned From This Movie”.
This excellent site includes LOTS of goodies, including cast photos (with commentary), trivia, a minute-by-minute (and I mean this literally) synopsis of the plot, “special awards” for the characters (including the “Kiss My Ass Award” and the “Smokestack Award”), “Unanswered Questions” (a.k.a. “WTF Moments”), movie stats (i.e., “number of annoying voiceovers”), Screen Captures with captions, sample dialogue, a thematic breakdown (Giant Monsters, Annoying Kids, etc.), and more (whew!). Only a true B-movie lover would go to this much trouble—I’m impressed, and grateful!
Consistently amusing, detailed reviews of horror flicks, with a special emphasis on the “queer elements” of horror.
This site is dedicated to “navigating the murky world of Canadian “exploitation’ cinema”.
Classic-Horror: Reviewing the History of Terror
The reviews on this archived website — “dedicated to exploring and celebrating the history of the horror film” — are succinct and enjoyable to read. Check it out!
Literate reviews of vampirism in films.
Dark City: Film Noir and Fiction
This site offers reviews of classic and modern film noir flicks. Readers can choose to click on a “mini summary”, “complete summary”, or “review”, or scroll down to view screen stills and memorable dialogue.
Documentaries are one of my all-time favorite genres, so I was happy to find this excellent site. Definitely check it out.
History on Film
A find for historical film lovers, this site offers detailed information on both the Historical Background and the Historical Accuracy of numerous films set during previous eras.
Jabutoo’s Bad Movie Reviews
Self-described as “devoted to the savoring of films at the very bottom of the Cinematic Bell Curve”, you’ll find reviews here of films such as Creeping Terror (1964) and Queen of Outer Space (1959). Check it out.
Not Coming to a Theater Near You
As its name implies, this site specializes in “older, often unpopular, and sometimes unknown films that merit a second look.”
Categories of reviews on this specialized site include Women in Prison, Prison Dramas, Prison Action, Prison Comedies, Prison Musicals, and Prisoners of War. The fact that Chicken Run (2000) is listed as a “Women in Prison” flick had me chuckling before I’d even checked out the review. Definitely work a look.
Good reviews of sci-fi films, including sections on “What Works” and “What Doesn’t Work” in any given movie.
SciFi Movie Page
Fairly succinct reviews of sci-fi flicks, often with links to scripts.
SF, Fantasy and Horror Film Reviews
This excellent website by Richard Scheib is devoted to sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films. The reviews are immensely readable, and quite enjoyable.
Chris Edwards’ blog on silent films makes a convincing case that, as he puts it, “the medium is not dead”. He offers detailed reviews on an astonishing variety of silent flicks.
Silents Are Golden
This site contains vintage reviews from magazines such as Photoplay, Movie Weekly, Motion Picture News, The Film Spectator, and more. Additional features include photo stills, lobby cards, synopses, and biographies of famous silent film stars. A true gem for silent movie fans.
“Meta” Review Websites
The following websites don’t provide original reviews, but instead serve the purpose of gathering lots of information about movies into one convenient spot. While there are many such sites, they are not all created equal. I recommend the following three, for different reasons and purposes.
Internet Movie Database
The acknowledged champion of film databases, IMDb keeps growing and getting better every day, it seems. This is always the first place I jump to when I want to find out detailed information about a film, and the External Reviews link usually provides a diverse set of reviews.
Whenever I want to get a “meta” sense of how a bunch of reviewers have responded to a film, I head over to Metacritic.com. Their methods for calculating scores from ungraded reviews are far from perfect, but they nonetheless provide at least the gist of a critical consensus. The main problem with the site is that reviews only go back a few years, so (as of now) it’s not reliable for anything other than relatively recent releases.
Movie Review Query Engine
This site is the number one resource to check if you’re looking for online reviews of any movie.