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Movies That Mattered

More Reviews from a Transformative Decade

Dave Kehr’s writing about film has garnered high praise from both readers and fellow critics. Among his admirers are some of his most influential contemporaries. Roger Ebert called Kehr “one of the most gifted film critics in America.” James Naremore thought he was “one of the best writers on film the country as a whole has ever produced.” But aside from remarkably detailed but brief capsule reviews and top-ten lists, you won’t find much of Kehr’s work on the Internet, and many of the longer and more nuanced essays for which he is best known have not yet been published in book form.
With When Movies Mattered, readers welcomed the first collection of Kehr’s criticism, written during his time at the Chicago Reader. Movies That Mattered is its sequel, with fifty more reviews and essays drawn from the archives of both the Chicago Reader and Chicago magazine from 1974 to 1986. As with When Movies Mattered, the majority of the reviews offer in-depth analyses of individual films that are among Kehr’s favorites, from a thoughtful discussion of the sobering Holocaust documentary Shoah to an irresistible celebration of the raucous comedy Used Cars. But fans of Kehr’s work will be just as taken by his dissections of critically acclaimed films he found disappointing, including The Shining, Apocalypse Now, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Whether you’re a long-time reader or just discovering Dave Kehr, the insights in Movies That Mattered will enhance your appreciation of the movies you already love—and may even make you think twice about one or two you hated.

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2017

Film Studies


“Extraordinary. . . . The 1980s were not the most salubrious decade in which to shine as a movie reviewer, . . . but as with all great reviewers—Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Manny Farber—Kehr’s reviews fly free from their ostensible subjects to become specimens of cultural criticism. Agree with his opinions or not, they’re always smart, lucid, well argued, and witty. This book is a pleasure to read.”

Peter Biskind | New York Times Book Review

"The ability to see a film projected more than once has significantly aided the training of Kehr's visual sensibilities, which he displays with sharp analyses of the varied styles of Robert Bresson, Joe Dante, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Elaine May, and Orson Welles."


"Kehr is a prodigious critic and this collection is an excellent sampling of his voice."

Publishers Weekly

"Kehr's descriptive prose conjures a rich, multilayered experience—not unlike the one delivered through cinema."

Chicago Reader

Table of Contents

Foreword by Jonathan Rosenbaum
Introductory Note

Part 1: From Chicago Magazine

The Black Stallion (Carroll Ballard)
Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis)
Tess (Roman Polanski)
Disney Films
Budd Boetticher
The Mystery of Oberwald (Michelangelo Antonioni)
The French “Tradition of Quality”
The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock, by Donald Spoto
Jacques Rivette
Boat People (Ann Hui)
L’argent (Robert Bresson)
A Sunday in the Country (Bertrand Tavernier)
Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May)
The Coca-Cola Kid (Dušan Makavejev)
Ran (Akira Kurosawa)
Shoah (Claude Lanzmann)
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
Home Video

Part 2: From the Top Ten (Reader)

Supervixens (Russ Meyer)
Robin and Marian (Richard Lester)
Islands in the Stream (Franklin J. Schaffner)
Moses and Aaron (Jean-Marie Straub [and Danièle Huillet])
Blue Collar (Paul Schrader)
Luna (Bernardo Bertolucci)
Atlantic City (Louis Malle)
Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman)
The Legend of Tianyun Mountain (Xie Jin)
Pale Rider (Clint Eastwood)

Part 3: Favorites (Reader)

Twilight’s Last Gleaming (Robert Aldrich)
Movie Movie (Stanley Donen)
Saint Jack (Peter Bogdanovich)
Nosferatu (Werner Herzog)
Knife in the Head (Reinhard Hauff)
Macbeth (Orson Welles)
The Woman Next Door (François Truffaut)
Lola (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
Valley Girl (Martha Coolidge)
Gremlins (Joe Dante)

Part 4: Autopsies/Minority Reports

The Last Tycoon (Elia Kazan) (Reader)
A Wedding (Robert Altman) (Reader)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola) (Chicago)
Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton) (Chicago)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick) (Reader)
Dressed to Kill (Brian De Palma) (Reader)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg) (Chicago)
A Passage to India (David Lean) (Chicago)
Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen) (Chicago)
Salvador (Oliver Stone) (Reader)

Appendix: Top Ten Lists, 1974–86

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