Skip to main content

Roger Ebert, renowned film critic, dies at age 70

By Alan Duke, CNN
April 5, 2013 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition," his wife says
  • Ebert told readers Tuesday he planned to slow down because of cancer
  • "I'll see you at the movies," were the last word's Ebert wrote to his readers
  • He started as the Sun-Times film critic on April 3, 1967

Los Angeles (CNN) -- The last hand in the "two thumbs up" film critic team, Roger Ebert, died Thursday, two days after revealing cancer returned to his body.

Ebert and Gene Siskel co-hosted the iconic review show "Siskel and Ebert At The Movies" until Siskel's death in 1999 after a battle with a brain tumor.

The Chicago Sun-Times, the base of operations for Ebert's syndicated reviews, announced his death at age 70.

"We were getting ready to go home today for hospice care, when he looked at us, smiled, and passed away. No struggle, no pain, just a quiet, dignified transition," his wife, Chaz Ebert, said in a statement Thursday.

"I'll see you at the movies," were the last words Ebert wrote to his readers. They were published in an essay titled "Leave of Presence" on his blog Tuesday, in which he explained he was planning to slow down and reduce the number of movie reviews he wrote.

Opinion: Ebert's sheer love of life

Film critics Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert pose in this undated photograph. Ebert died on Thursday, April 4, according to his employer, the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert had taken a leave of absence on April 2 after a hip fracture was revealed to be cancer. Film critics Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert pose in this undated photograph. Ebert died on Thursday, April 4, according to his employer, the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert had taken a leave of absence on April 2 after a hip fracture was revealed to be cancer.
Roger Ebert: A life in review
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
Roger Ebert: A life in review Roger Ebert: A life in review
Ebert's legacy more than 'two thumbs up'
Richard Roeper: Glad Ebert is at peace
Click through to see people who passed away in 2013. Click through to see people who passed away in 2013.
People we lost in 2013
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
>
>>
Photos: People we lost in 2013 Photos: People we lost in 2013

"My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked and greatly admired by me," Ebert wrote. "What's more, I'll be able at last to do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review."

Ebert had already lost his voice and much of his jaw after battling thyroid and salivary gland cancer.

He suffered a hip fracture in December, and it recently led to the revelations about cancer, he said.

Ebert started as the Sun-Times film critic on April 3, 1967, writing about 200 reviews each of those 46 years, he said. The last year however, was his most prolific.

"Last year, I wrote the most of my career, including 306 movie reviews, a blog post or two a week, and assorted other articles," he said. "I must slow down now, which is why I'm taking what I like to call 'a leave of presence.'"

Ebert kept us entertained 'At the movies'

Ebert: The critical critic with an open mind

Ebert, who won a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism in 1975, had a way with words and a sharp wit that is not easily matched.

-- About Rob Schneider's "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" in 2005: "If he's going to persist in making bad movies, he's going to -- have to grow accustomed to reading bad reviews."

-- Concerning Schneider's reaction to another critic who panned the film: "But Schneider is correct, and Patrick Goldstein has not yet won a Pulitzer Prize. Therefore, Goldstein is not qualified to complain that Columbia financed "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" while passing on the opportunity to participate in "Million Dollar Baby," "Ray," "The Aviator," "Sideways" and "Finding Neverland." As chance would have it, I have won the Pulitzer Prize, and so I am qualified. Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks."

Two years later, flowers showed up at Ebert's door with a card, signed "Your Least Favorite Movie Star, Rob Schneider."

"The bouquet didn't change my opinion of his movie, but I don't think he intended that," Ebert wrote. "It was a way of stepping back. It was a reminder that in the great scheme of things, a review doesn't mean very much. Sometimes when I write a negative review, people will say, 'I'll bet you can't wait to hammer his next film.' Not true. I would far rather praise the next film to show that I maintained an open mind."

Opinion: What the Internet owes to Roger Ebert

-- A good example of Ebert's willingness to keep an open mind comes from his review of Tom Green's 2001 comedy "Freddy Got Fingered" of which he wrote one of his most scathing reviews:

"This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels."

But after watching Green in "Stealing Harvard" a year later, Ebert revisited the film that he had awarded a rare zero stars:

"But the thing is, I remember 'Freddy Got Fingered' more than a year later. I refer to it sometimes. It is a milestone. And for all its sins, it was at least an ambitious movie, a go-for-broke attempt to accomplish something. It failed, but it has not left me convinced that Tom Green doesn't have good work in him. Anyone with his nerve and total lack of taste is sooner or later going to make a movie worth seeing."

-- Reviewing "Crocodile Dundee II": "I've seen audits that were more thrilling."

-- Giving no love to "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith": "To say that George Lucas cannot write a love scene is an understatement; greeting cards have expressed more passion."

Ebert: The film philosopher

-- "Every great film should seem new every time you see it."

-- "No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough."

-- "If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn't."

-- "If a movie isn't a hit right out of the gate, they drop it. Which means that the whole mainstream Hollywood product has been skewed toward violence and vulgar teen comedy."

-- "I am utterly bored by celebrity interviews. Most celebrities are devoid of interest."

Tweets remembering Roger Ebert

Ebert: Remembered

--Wife Chaz Ebert: "I am devastated by the loss of my love, Roger -- my husband, my friend, my confidante and oh-so-brilliant partner of over 20 years. He fought a courageous fight. I've lost the love of my life and the world has lost a visionary and a creative and generous spirit who touched so many people all over the world. We had a lovely, lovely life together, more beautiful and epic than a movie. It had its highs and the lows, but was always experienced with good humor, grace and a deep abiding love for each other.

"Roger was a beloved husband, stepfather to Sonia and Jay, and grandfather to Raven, Emil, Mark and Joseph. Just yesterday he was saying how his grandchildren were 'the best things in my life.' He was happy and radiating satisfaction over the outpouring of responses to his blog about his 46th year as a film critic. But he was also getting tired of his fight with cancer, and said if this takes him, he has lived a great and full life."

-- American Film Institute president and CEO Bob Gazzale: "Roger Ebert championed the art of the moving image and by the courage of his personal example demonstrated how much movies matter. Ebert chaired the AFI AWARDS jury of critics, filmmakers and scholars who selected the year's 10 best films in 2004. He held the gavel that day with the same enthusiasm for excellence that made his voice a force in American popular culture."

-- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel: "Our whole city learned with sadness today of the passing of Roger Ebert, whose name was synonymous with two things: the movies and Chicago. In a Pulitzer Prize winning career that spanned more than four decades, thousands of reviews and countless acts of generosity to others, Roger championed Chicago as a center for filmmaking and critiques. With a knowledge of his subject as deep as his love for his wife Chaz, Roger Ebert will be remembered for the strength of his work, respected for his courage in the face of illness, and revered for his contribution to filmmaking and to our city. The final reel of his life may have run through to the end, but his memory will never fade."

-- Sun-Times Media Editor in Chief Jim Kirk: "The long relationship between Roger and his Sun-Times family speaks volumes about Roger's commitment to his craft and to his fans around the world. Roger's reviews were highly anticipated by readers and the film community. Film commentary was only one of several gifts. He was a reporter first, in every aspect of his craft. He could write as eloquently about world affairs as he could on the upcoming blockbuster. Roger will be missed not only by the Sun-Times family, but by the journalism and film communities. Our thoughts are with Roger's wife, Chaz, and their family during this time."

Roger Ebert, in his own words

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 0030 GMT (0830 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT)
Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
January 1, 2014 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT)
Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
January 1, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
December 23, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
December 22, 2013 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Al Goldstein, the foul-mouthed publisher of Screw magazine and pornography pioneer died in New York. He was 77.
December 31, 2013 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 0223 GMT (1023 HKT)
Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine died, her longtime friend Noel Beutel said. She was 96.
December 16, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
December 16, 2013 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Tom Laughlin, the actor who wrote and starred in the "Billy Jack" films of the 1970s, died at age 82.
December 12, 2013 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 1346 GMT (2146 HKT)
Actress Eleanor Parker, nominated for three Oscars and known for her "Sound of Music" role, died Monday at 91, her family said.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Bill Beckwith, who co-hosted HGTV home-improvement show "Curb Appeal," has died. He was 38.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
November 30, 2013 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Paul F. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died at age 79.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 2342 GMT (0742 HKT)
Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.
November 25, 2013 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Singer Wayne Mills, whose "outlaw country" songs center on honky-tonk life, died in a Nashville bar shooting.
ADVERTISEMENT