As cinema has become a regular feature of the cultural landscape, books about movies have helped moviegoers to understand the significance of the silver screen. Books about movies have expanded the joys of literary criticism, allowing regular viewers the chance to appreciate the symbolism and thematic elements that leading directors build into their films. Other books, such as Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, focus instead on simply telling movie fans which movies are worth watching.
As films have become more popular, the stories behind the making of famous movies have served as the subject of many books about movies. These tales resonate with movie fans, many of whom follow the world of film eagerly. Other books about movies are filled with biographies and fun facts of those who make the movies, including directors and actors.
#1 – The New Biographical Dictionary of Film
Since it was originally published in 1975, this volume has been one of the most reliable reference books about movies; it’s been constantly updated to give readers fresh information on the major directors, actors and actresses in the movie industry. Although the book is a reference guide, it does include some personal opinions from the author to give the book a conversational tone.
#2 – The Genius of the System
This book about the history of filmmaking covers the period between the 1920s and the rise of television in the 1940s. During this era, the studio system was used to carefully control all aspects of filmmaking, imposing contractual limits on the performers. The book covers each of the major studios at the time, including MGM and Universal, to give readers a thorough understanding of the system.
#3 – The Parade’s Gone By
In this book about movies, Kevin Brownlow investigates the history of the silent film era through interviews with those most closely involved, including the performers, directors, writers and many others. This book, which was published in 1976, was one of the last books about movies to feature firsthand accounts from those involved in cinema’s earliest days.
#4 – Awake in the Dark
This exhaustive book about movies showcases decades of writings from the noted film critic, Roger Ebert. Readers can enjoy his many interviews with famous individuals, including Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep. The book is also packed with many of Ebert’s most famous reviews of well-known movies. As one of the most influential books about movies, Awake in the Dark also includes essays about films and a brief history of the medium.
#5 – For Keeps
For 25 years, Pauline Kael worked at The New Yorker as a film critic; her writings influenced many other books about movies. This book collects many of her most prominent articles, including controversial reviews of popular movies and fascinating essays about prominent people in the movie business. Although her reviews of movies stop in the 1990s, film buffs will find plenty of worthwhile reviews in this 1200-page book.
#6 – Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide
Originally published in 1969, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide provides short reviews of movies. For many years, the book was revised annually until the final edition was released in 2014. The book uses a star system to grade movies and also covers movies that were only released on television. Before the growth of the Internet, Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide was one of the most reliable and influential books about movies available.
#7 – Life Itself
Written after a bout of cancer left him unable to speak, the film critic Roger Ebert examines his life in this memoir. He also discusses the many important elements that shaped him, including alcoholism and the challenging relationship he had with his mother. Ebert also reflects on the many people that influenced his life, including the Hollywood stars and directors that he met while working.
#8 – Prater Violet
This fictional story about filmmaking is based on the author’s own experiences in the movie industry. The book follows the production of a movie and the passionate director working on the film. The author uses satire to criticize the industry and covers a wide number of themes, including Nazism.
#9 – The Jaws Log
In this book, Carl Gottlieb examines the making of one of the most popular movies of all time, Jaws. Like the authors of many other behind-the-scenes books about movies, Gottlieb’s work on the movie gave him an inside view on the making of this iconic film. Highlights in the book include anecdotes about the often improvised script and the joys of putting lipstick on a shark.
#10 – Film After Film
This book investigates the changes to filmmaking that have taken place in the 21st century, including the proliferation of digital imagery to create locations and characters. The author also discusses how major world events have changed what audiences want to see in the movies. Although Hoberman only focuses on a single decade of filmmaking, the changes of the past decade have given his book just as much material to work with as older books about movies.