The best books about the movies

David Mikics Author Of Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker
By David Mikics

The Books I Picked & Why

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film

By David Thomson

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film

Why this book?

David Thomson can outmatch any film critic I know for sheer pungent accuracy, as well as passion. He knows every director, every actor, every movie, and he always has something valuable—and often something essential—to say about each one. Thomson’s New Biographical Dictionary of Film, now in its sixth edition, is a continuous delight, a perfect book for browsing. A required purchase for every film buff.


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From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

By Molly Haskell

From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies

Why this book?

Molly Haskell, like Thomson, is one of my idols. Her pioneering feminist account of how Hollywood depicted women from its golden age to the late twentieth century is also a monument to its supreme women actors, including Stanwyck and Davis, Hepburn and Bergman, and Monroe. Haskell is an expert at understanding how art shapes and responds to its era, and how film actors refine their roles.


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The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture

By Robert Warshow

The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture

Why this book?

If I had to pick the two most basic, and most enthralling, essays for understanding American movies, they would be Warshow’s "The Westerner" and "The Gangster," both included in this book. Warshow, who died tragically young, also gives us the two finest pieces ever written about Chaplin, in which he argues that the flaws and stresses in Chaplin’s film art somehow make it more, not less, impressive. Add Warshow’s properly skeptical account of Soviet cinema—he is appreciative, but also aware of how Communist ideology distorted Soviet film—and you have the very best from a star among the New York intellectuals.


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Hitchcock's Films Revisited

By Robin Wood

Hitchcock's Films Revisited

Why this book?

Wood’s book Hitchcock’s Films made the case that Hitchock was a major artist, not merely a manipulative “master of suspense” but someone who reflected profoundly on human limits, power, and authority, comedy and tragedy, men and women. He paved the way for later critics like William Rothman, who demonstrated that Hitchock’s films were richly rewarding frame by frame. Wood is always attentive to the human value of the movies he discusses, inquiring into the world of each film and wondering what it has to tell us. His book is great fun, but at the same time, it takes Hitchcock seriously as one of our deepest contemporary artists.


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La Règle Du Jeu

By V. F. Perkins

La Règle Du Jeu

Why this book?

Virtually any volume in the BFI Film Classics series—now sadly defunct--is worth recommending. But I’m especially fond of this one, about Jean Renoir’s masterpiece The Rules of the Game (La Règle du Jeu)--my favorite movie along with Kubrick’s 2001 (a very different kind of film!). Perkins explores each of the film’s characters, bringing out the full dimensions of Renoir’s humanism, his grand comic flair, and the bittersweet aura of this great movie completed as World War II was about to engulf Europe.


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