Life Itself

Metascore
87

Universal acclaim - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 35
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 35
  3. Negative: 0 out of 35

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Simon Kinnear
    Dec 10, 2014
    100
    The film’s power lies in its use of archive footage, voiceover and even Ebert’s computerised speech translator to keep the writer’s voice alive.
  2. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Jul 31, 2014
    100
    Life Itself impressively covers the elements of Ebert's memoir.
  3. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Jul 18, 2014
    100
    Chaz Ebert says that Roger would have loved Life Itself. I'll take her word for it. She knew him far better than I did. Clearly. But I'll add this: I love it, too.
  4. Reviewed by: Geoffrey O’Brien
    Jul 3, 2014
    100
    Life Itself is a work of deftness and delicacy, by turns a film about illness and death, about writing, about cinema and, finally, and very movingly a film about love.
  5. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Jul 3, 2014
    100
    This is a uniquely powerful motion picture, the kind of open and honest portrayal I can't ever recall having seen about a celebrity. Life Itself stands not only as a moving piece of documentary cinema but an epitaph.
  6. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Jul 2, 2014
    100
    Anyone who shares Ebert's love of movies and who followed his career will be exceptionally moved by Life Itself, but anyone who appreciates a well-lived life should be touched as well.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Jul 2, 2014
    100
    The irony is that Ebert famously lost his actual voice. Yet as the extraordinary documentary Life Itself shows, that couldn’t quiet one of America’s most beloved critics and cultural commentators.
  8. Reviewed by: Chris Nashawaty
    Jul 2, 2014
    100
    In the end, cancer may have cruelly taken Roger Ebert's voice, but it couldn't silence his greatest gift: his ability to speak to his audience directly, honestly, and with empathy. Thumbs up.
  9. Reviewed by: Chase Whale
    Jan 27, 2014
    100
    James tells this unapologetic story with little sympathy, as per Ebert’s wishes, and a lot of passion—he wants the audience to really know who Roger Ebert was, and understand the importance of his work.
  10. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Jan 27, 2014
    100
    James cuts — as in all of his best work — straight to the human heart of the matter, celebrating both the writer and the man, the one inseparable from the other, largely in Ebert’s own words.
  11. Reviewed by: Daniel Fienberg
    May 22, 2014
    91
    Life Itself gives measured and pragmatic reflection to many of the things that are most interesting about Ebert's personal and professional life.
  12. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Jul 3, 2014
    90
    James — the director of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters — gives us a sense of Ebert as a man who kept reinventing life as he went along — out of necessity, sure, though he also took some pleasure in adapting. It couldn't always have been easy, but that, too, is part of the story.
  13. Reviewed by: Genevieve Koski
    Jul 3, 2014
    90
    Death is a part of life—one that informs everything we do, on some level or another—and watching Ebert characterize whatever time he has left as “money in the bank,” from what viewers know is his deathbed, is life-affirming and heartbreaking in equal measure.
  14. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Jan 27, 2014
    90
    James has done a wonderful job of telling a colorful life story.
  15. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Jul 10, 2014
    88
    Directed by Steve James, whose “Hoop Dreams” Ebert hailed as the best film of the 1990s, it’s the kind of documentary the dying man wanted — honest, humane and inclusive.
  16. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Jul 10, 2014
    88
    “Movies are a machine that helps us generate a little empathy,” Ebert said about films. Life Itself is a lovely, eloquent tribute to a man who devoted his existence to showing us just that.
  17. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Jul 9, 2014
    88
    Don't miss it. Though Life Itself is a warts-and-all portrait Ebert didn't live to review, my guess is his thumbs would be shooting upward. Mine sure are.
  18. Reviewed by: Matt Zoller Seitz
    Jul 5, 2014
    88
    Life itself, that loaded two-word phrase, is what Roger really wrote about when he wrote about movies.
  19. Reviewed by: Bruce Ingram
    Apr 17, 2014
    88
    Far more than just a tribute to the career of the world’s most famous and influential film critic, the often revelatory Life Itself is also a remarkably intimate portrait of a life well lived — right up to the very last moment.
  20. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Jan 27, 2014
    88
    This is a big-hearted, absorbing documentary about a writer who kept on writing until very near the end. Anyone who cared about Roger Ebert will find it necessary viewing.
  21. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jul 5, 2014
    83
    His greatest legacy, however, as this film documents, was his courage in the endgame of his life.
  22. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Dec 15, 2014
    80
    The heart of Life Itself, and the part of the film that’s most instructive even for those familiar with Ebert’s story, is the long middle section dealing with his stormy, never-resolved relationship with Gene Siskel.
  23. Reviewed by: Nick de Semlyen
    Nov 10, 2014
    80
    A clear-eyed celebration of a giant of film writing. We’ll refrain from the thumb jokes, but consider this a hearty recommendation.
  24. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Jul 4, 2014
    80
    Life Itself is a joy for people who love movies or who love anything with an unwavering passion.
  25. Reviewed by: Alonso Duralde
    Jul 3, 2014
    80
    Life Itself paints a captivating portrait of a man who embraced life and art, whose spirit never flagged even when his body did. You don't have to be a film critic to find inspiration from Roger Ebert's extraordinary life.
  26. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Jul 3, 2014
    80
    Life Itself may sound like it's a film that would only be of interest to those who knew Ebert personally or to fellow film critics, but the opposite is true.
  27. Reviewed by: Joshua Rothkopf
    Jan 27, 2014
    80
    Unusually moving (not only to stray film critics in your crowd), director Steve James's keen profile of the late, great Roger Ebert works both as a compact appreciation of the reviewer's vast public impact, as well as an unflinching peak into a cancer patient's final months, fraught with pain, hope and constant treatment.
  28. Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
    Jan 27, 2014
    80
    This is an impressively clear-eyed and deeply moving portrait.
  29. Reviewed by: Louis Black
    Jul 9, 2014
    78
    Eloquent, it is surprisingly moving and beautifully structured.
  30. Reviewed by: James Rocchi
    Jan 27, 2014
    77
    It isn’t surprising how warm and enjoyable Life Itself is – James is a singularly talented documentarian who literally owes his career to Ebert, and Ebert approached the facts of being filmed the same way he faced films, or for that matter faced anything: With honesty and good humor.
  31. Reviewed by: Liam Lacey
    Jul 10, 2014
    75
    When it came to describing what was happening to him, Ebert was forthright, clear-eyed and admirably free of neurosis and self-pity.
  32. Reviewed by: Walter Addiego
    Jul 5, 2014
    75
    It's fascinating stuff, but secondary to Ebert's genuine passion for the movies, which, if anything, grew toward the end of his life. He saw film as a great civilizing force, "a machine that generates empathy," as he says in the film. If that idea appeals to you, see Life Itself.
  33. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Jul 4, 2014
    75
    You may not have agreed with Ebert’s reviews — you may not have thought he was such a nice guy. But if you aren’t moved by Life Itself, you ought to have your heart examined.
  34. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Jul 1, 2014
    75
    Roger Ebert makes an unusual candidate for a documentary: He was a writer, which isn’t cinematic, and not the swashbuckling kind. He didn’t go to war zones, just movies.
  35. Reviewed by: Chuck Bowen
    Jun 29, 2014
    63
    There's a sense throughout of Steve James rushing and dutifully covering all his bases to evade accusations of creating a puff piece.

Awards & Rankings

User Score
8.8

Universal acclaim- based on 65 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 13
  2. Negative: 0 out of 13
  1. Jul 5, 2014
    10
    An uplifting and mesmerizing experience that should change your view of life. You can take Roger Ebert's life for an example, he lived hisAn uplifting and mesmerizing experience that should change your view of life. You can take Roger Ebert's life for an example, he lived his life enjoying every second of it and fought up to his last day where he had to let go and not because sickness took over him, but because he felt it is the right time. Two thumbs up, and may God bless your soul. Full Review »
  2. Jul 6, 2014
    9
    If all you like are loud, special effects driven films, you should probably avoid "Life Itself." For the rest of us, this film is well worthIf all you like are loud, special effects driven films, you should probably avoid "Life Itself." For the rest of us, this film is well worth seeing. It is a balanced, yet loving tribute of one of the 20th Century's most influential film critic. Hagiography the film is not, highlighting Ebert's many faults along with his achievements. The film includes interviews with his critics along with his many fans. Full Review »
  3. Jan 7, 2016
    10
    Roger Ebert was the first columnist I read as a kid. I read him from 1967 until his death. While in college, in the mid 70s, I created theRoger Ebert was the first columnist I read as a kid. I read him from 1967 until his death. While in college, in the mid 70s, I created the Film Society at UIC. I wanted to start out with a bang, so I called Ebert to see if he would honor our inaugural screening by introducing "Citizen Kane". I was expecting to get the receptionist, but to my surprise Ebert answered the phone. I was a little nervous, but before long he and I were engaged in a pleasant conversation. He took me up on my offer. And though we disagreed completely on "Citizen Kane", he came back the following year and introduced "Nashville". There is a little part of me that still holds dearly to Ebert's influence. I was always impressed by his passion for the cinema, and his passion for life itself. This is a good, heartwarming documentary. It is a love story of the highest order. It is a shame that it wasn't nominated for Best Documentary. I still miss him. Full Review »