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Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide: A Film Buffs Creed

Updated on July 5, 2019
Cody Wright profile image

The key to loving film is setting no boundaries. Maltin was one who set this example for me at an early age, and I've been hooked ever since

Standing Alongside IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes

Today movie goers and film fanatics often turn to the internet in search for the inside scoop, references, and the ultimate decision on whether a particular film is worth ones time. Before there was IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes, there was Leonard Maltin, among-st many others. However, Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide is perhaps the holy grail of film reference books, due to his short and concise take on any given film, along with a star rating system of one to four. Each entry, listed in alphabetical order also includes the title, theatrical release date, director, and a small listing of major cast members. The beauty behind Maltin's formula is organization. He's done the work for you, bringing the meat and bones of a film to the surface for a quick glance before or after viewing it.

Today the internet has perfected that very formula. IMDb does it with user friendly rating systems, and Rotten Tomatoes does something similar, however their rating is taken from the reviews of many professional film critics. These internet melting pots are great for film goers, however the one thing they lack is consistency.

Since IMDb takes reviews from any user, most reviews end up only coming in from extreme opinions.

The down side to a site like Rotten Tomatoes is that it takes a review that should be weighed and balanced and labels a film as good or bad. Yes, Rotten tomatoes scores are based on the opinions of numerous professional film critics, but the problem is that a review given a 59% is valued the same as a score of 0%. Scores 60% and higher are all given a fresh rating.

It's understandable that a site might do this for it's viewers sake, its main purpose is to help one decide whether a film is worth watching, but this can cause many great independent art house films to go unnoticed.

Maltin's Final Editions

Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide has been annually updated since 1987. In 2015 he released his final edition.
Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide has been annually updated since 1987. In 2015 he released his final edition. | Source
Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide was published in a separate edition in 2005, covering films no later than 1960. This made room in the regular edition for more recent films.
Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide was published in a separate edition in 2005, covering films no later than 1960. This made room in the regular edition for more recent films. | Source

Maltin Thinks for Himself

Consistency is not a problem with Maltin's reviews. His film expertise is not a problem given his laundry list of work in the business. The movie guide was first published in 1969 originally called T.V Movies, and was annually updated and re-published starting in 1987, until 2015 when he announced his last edition. Maltin has wrote many other books on the film industry, including Behind the Camera ( A Study of Cinematography), The Whole Film Source-Book, and Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. He also served as an in-house critic on Entertainment Tonight, starting in 1982, and continued working there for 30 years. He also served 2 years as president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. He now teaches at USC School of Cinematic Arts, often appears on Turner Classic Movies, and hosts a weekly podcast with his daughter called Maltin on Movies.

Qualification is far from the question, however personal preference is up for you to decide. I will say that Maltin is not a radical critic, his reviews are for the most part reasonable, and bad rating or not, he still gives the reader the basic info every picture deserves.

That is not say his personal opinion doesn't come through, there are some films the average film nut will believe to be classics that Maltin gives the treatment. Stanley Kubrick's, The Shinning, and Martin Scorsese's, Taxi Driver both only received a two-star rating that hasn't budged through the years. Whether you agree or disagree, this shows that Maltin doesn't follow the crowd and only believes in a classic by his standards, films like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and Sunset Boulevard, all receiving four-star appraisal. Is Leonard Maltin for me? That's the question you should ask yourself, he certainly has been for many over the years.

Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons
Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons | Source

The March of Time

With today's world of technology, we have become accustom to throwing out old and sub-standard ways. We want our information fast, easy, and reliable. There is no arguing how wonderful this new age of information is, but we have sacrificed some great qualities of the past as well. The relationship film fans created over the years with the man Leonard Maltin, through his countless quick takes on films we all love is a thing of the past. Whether he meant it or not, his books served as an introduction to film to myself and many others. His ability to see brilliance in a classic western like John Ford's, The Searchers, and to turn around and give a modern romantic drama like The Notebook a well deserved three-stars, shows his range and understanding of cinema.

I certainly will always miss buying the next copy of Maltin's Movie guide, and I know I'm not the only one.

In the introduction of Maltin's capstone edition he wrote, "We reached a vast audience- until the 'net came along and put us out of business. Times change, and there is no denying the inexorable march of progress. Just to be clear, I carry no ill will toward the Internet and Social Media. We're happy to share our lifelong love of films, just as we have in these pages over the years. Onward and upward!"

Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia
Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia | Source

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