These guys were the most famous film critics in the world for a reason.
This week we lost beloved film critic Roger Ebert at the age of 70. Though his writing might prove to be his most important legacy, Ebert's greatest claim to fame was the 24-year period he spent talking movies on television with fellow film critic Gene Siskel. What started in 1975 as a local Chicago movie previews series turned into a nationally syndicated program, and Siskel and Ebert became "Siskel & Ebert," famous for their trademark "thumbs up/thumbs down" movie rating system that we all saw on so many TV spots, movie posters and VHS boxes over the years.
The partnership ended when Siskel passed away in 1999 (though Ebert would continue to co-host the show with fellow film critic Richard Roeper until he lost the ability to speak in 2006), but much of the fun the pair had together has made its way to YouTube (and with Ebert's passing, it seems likely that more will surface). To remember them both, and to imagine what fun they must be having finally talking movies together again in the Great Beyond, we've gathered some of our favorite clips of Siskel & Ebert praising, trashing and often arguing about sci-fi cinema.
"The Secret of Star Wars" (1983)
In anticipation of the release of Return of the Jedi, Siskel & Ebert devoted an entire episode to exploring what made the first two Star Wars films so popular. Their conclusions weren't always surprising, but they were always insightful (though you prequel haters will probably get a chuckle out of Siskel attributing the success of the franchise to "quality control").
The duo take on the now-classic sci-fi comedy, and they both agree that they really like Bill Murray.
Siskel & Ebert's take on the first Bat-film. Siskel had praise all around for it, but Ebert wasn't a fan of the performances (he also thought Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was more fun).
Two years after its release, Siskel & Ebert revisit John Carpenter's slasher classic and explain why it's more than just another horror film.
Jurassic Park (1993)
They don't necessarily hail it as an instant classic, but they do really dig Goldblum.
Is Aliens better than Alien? Discuss.
Batman & Robin (1997)
The biggest surprise of this review is that they stopped short of outright trashing this flick. They even agreed that it deserved two whole stars!
This Kevin Costner disaster had the honor of making Siskel & Ebert's Worst Movies of 1995 list. Click to the 4:45 mark to see why.
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
What did Siskel & Ebert think of this videogame adaptation disaster? Probably just about what you'd expect.
Toy Story (1995)
Watch Siskel & Ebert praise the landmark first film from Pixar Animation Studios.
Alien: Resurrection (0:15) and Starship Troopers (02:20) (1997)
It's not surprising that Alien: Resurrection appeared on Siskel & Ebert's Worst of 1997 show, but it might be surprising to some that Starship Troopers wound up there, especially considering that Siskel actually quite liked it.
Back to the Future (1985)
Watch the pair praise this classic time-travel flick, which Ebert likened to the cinema of Frank Capra.
The Evil Dead (1981)
Though they praised the effects, and Ebert called it a "pure" film, neither critic was very impressed with Sam Raimi's debut.
Siskel's reaction to this Michael Bay blockbuster is particularly interesting. He gave it a thumbs up, but he seemed just plain overwhelmed by the FX assault. Ebert gave it a thumbs down for the same reason. "I didn't care if the asteroid hit the Earth or not," he said. "I was afraid the movie was gonna hit me."
Ebert later added Contact to his "Great Movies" series. Here he calls it "the most intelligent and involving movie about extraterrestrial life since Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Here, Ebert looks back on what he calls one of the most "ambitious" films of Spielberg's career. He notes that Spielberg went back to add new scenes after the film's release, which led him to theorize that "someday we're gonna get a whole Spielberg movie devoted to what happened after that spaceship left Earth with its human passengers."
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
We just saw Ebert talk about what Spielberg might do with aliens after Close Encounters. Now we see Siskel & Ebert praise E.T. and draw a direct connection to the conclusions of Close Encounters.