Roger Ebert’s 20 Quotes on Film

Quotes Themselves


    1. “In thinking about ‘depressing movies,’ many people don’t realize that all bad movies are depressing, and no good movies are.” 

    2. “We feel the same emotions for our ideas as we do for the real world, which is why we can cry while reading a book, or fall in love with movie stars.” 

    3. “Movies do not change, but their viewers do. When I saw La Dolce Vita in 1960, I was an adolescent for whom “the sweet life” represented everything I dreamed of: sin, exotic European glamor, the weary romance of the cynical newspaperman. When I saw it again, around 1970, I was living in a version of Marcello’s world; Chicago’s North Avenue was not the Via Veneto, but at 3 a.m. the denizens were just as colorful, and I was about Marcello’s age.

    When I saw the movie around 1980, Marcello was the same age, but I was 10 years older, had stopped drinking, and saw him not as a role model but as a victim, condemned to an endless search for happiness that could never be found, not that way. By 1991, when I analyzed the film a frame at a time at the University of Colorado, Marcello seemed younger still, and while I had once admired and then criticized him, now I pitied and loved him. And when I saw the movie right after Mastroianni died, I thought that Fellini and Marcello had taken a moment of discovery and made it immortal.”

    4. “There will always be those who love old movies. I meet teenagers who are astonishingly well-informed about the classics. But you are right that many moviegoers and video viewers say they do not “like” black and white films. In my opinion, they are cutting themselves off from much of the mystery and beauty of the movies. Black and white is an artistic choice, a medium that has strengths and traditions, especially in its use of light and shadow. Moviegoers of course have the right to dislike b&w, but it is not something they should be proud of. It reveals them, frankly, as cinematically illiterate. I have been described as a snob on this issue. But snobs exclude; they do not include. To exclude b&w from your choices is an admission that you have a closed mind, a limited imagination, or are lacking in taste.”

    5. “It’s hard to explain the fun to be found in seeing the right kind of bad movie.” 

    6. “A lot of fans are basically fans of fandom itself. It’s all about them. They have mastered the Star Wars or Star Trek universes or whatever, but their objects of veneration are useful mainly as a backdrop to their own devotion. Anyone who would camp out in a tent on the sidewalk for weeks in order to be first in line for a movie is more into camping on the sidewalk than movies. Extreme fandom may serve as a security blanket for the socially inept, who use its extreme structure as a substitute for social skills. If you are Luke Skywalker and she is Princess Leia, you already know what to say to each other, which is so much safer than having to ad lib it. Your fannish obsession is your beard. If you know absolutely all the trivia about your cubbyhole of pop culture, it saves you from having to know anything about anything else. That’s why it’s excruciatingly boring to talk to such people: They’re always asking you questions they know the answer to.”

    7. “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.” 

    8. “Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”

    “Gene [Siskel] often mentioned something François Truffaut once told him: the most beautiful sight in a movie theater is to walk down to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience.”

    10. “When a movie character is really working, we become that character. That’s what the movies offer: Escapism into lives other than our own.”

    11. “Entertainment is about the way things should be. Art is about the way they are.” 

    12.“In the previous century the movie theater was often, in smaller towns and cities, the only grand architectural statement, save perhaps for a church or courthouse. They unashamedly provided a proscenium for our dreams.”

    13.“A depressing number of people seem to process everything literally. They are to wit as a blind man is to a forest, able to find every tree, but each one coming as a surprise.” 

    14. “There was a time when the feature was invariably preceded by a cartoon, and audiences smiled when they heard the theme music for ‘Looney Tunes’ and ‘Merrie Melodies’ from Warner Bros. Cartoons have long since been replaced by 20 minutes of paid commercials in many theaters, an emblem of the greed of exhibitors and their contempt for their audiences. In those golden days, the cartoon (and even a newsreel and a short subject) was a gift from the management.”

    15. Every great film should seem new every time you see it.”


    “Socrates told us, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I think he’s calling for curiosity, more than knowledge. In every human society at all times and at all levels, the curious are at the leading edge.” 

    17. “If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn’t.” 

    18. “Because we are human, because we are bound by gravity and the limitations of our bodies, because we live in a world where the news is often bad and the prospects disturbing, there is a need for another world somewhere, a world where Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers live.” 

     19. “A film director, like an orchestra conductor, is the lord of his domain, and no director has more power than a director of animated films. He is set free from the rules of the physical universe and the limitations of human actors, and can tell any story his mind can conceive.”

    20. “It seems to me that there are two basic approaches to any kind of comedy, and in a burst of oversimplification I’ll call them the Funny Hat and the Funny Logic approaches. The difference is elementary: In the first, we’re supposed to laugh because the comic is wearing the funny hat, and in the second it’s funny because of his reasons for wearing the funny hat. You may have guessed by now that I prefer the Funny Logic approach. . .”


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