There are so many film critics. Some never seem to like anything, and some seem to like everything (*cough* Dittman *cough*). What you have to do when choosing a film critic is pick someone who you are comfortable with, someone who you find yourself reading over and over. Someone who seems to "get it," even if you don't agree with them all of the time. Here's are seven great film critics working today.
1. Roger Ebert: I'm not sure if everyone will agree with me on this, because some people see him as just "that thumbs guy" (as a local news show host here in Boston once said). But can you name another film critic who manages to not only be popular, but also has the film knowledge and the writing chops to back up that popularity? I don't always agree with him (three and a half stars for Anaconda?!), but I agree with him a lot. And I can't think of another film critic working today who loves film more than Roger Ebert. Even when I don't agree with him I can see where he's coming from. You don't get that with many critics. And that's why he's at #1.
2. Anthony Lane: Plain and simple, this guy can write. There's a beautiful voice and rhythm in his writing, and he's as much at home talking about Luis Bunuel as he is about Julia Roberts. Have you read his book Nobody's Perfect: Writings From The New Yorker? It's a terrific collection of film and book reviews, along with profiles of celebrities and other pop culture figures, most of them from The New Yorker. After you buy Ebert's annual book for the film fan in your family, you should pick up Lane's.
4. Rob Blackwelder: One of the best reviewers on the Net. Thoughtful, mean when he has to be (but hardly ever mean-spirited), and with a ton of interviews and other features at his site to boot. Great stuff. (He's on hiatus right now; hope he returns.)
5. Stephanie Zacharek: Charles Taylor writes for Salon.com too, but Zacharek is the one I listen to. I find myself agreeing with her more and more.
6. James Berardinelli: One of the more prolific and well-known web reviewers (he also has two books out), Berardinelli's reviews are very accessible, and he uses a star system that cuts to the heart of the matter. He's also no pushover. Sometimes you sense that web-based film critics can either be overly snarky (because it's the web and they can get away with anything) or they just go ahead and give every movie a couple of stars right off the bat because of an "every film deserves it" mentality. Berardinelli is honest and won't give a filmmaker or actor a pass. If he gives something three and a half or four stars, you know they definitely earned it. That's refreshing.
7. David Edelstein: I often disagree with Edelstein, but the Slate (and soon to be New York magazine) film critic is a clever guy and writes enjoyable reviews that get the people on the forums talking. His reviews are often long and engrossing, with several detours to talk about not only the who and the what but also the why.