Leonard Maltin’s 2013 Movie Guide: The Modern Era

It rarely happens: I was overjoyed when I brought in the mail today. Why? My long-awaited copy of critic Leonard Maltin’s quintessential Movie Guide, revised and up-to-date with every review for just about every movie imaginable (save for those made after mid-2012, of course, as well as TV movies and direct-to-video releases, which aren’t even movies in my opinion), had finally come in from Barnes & Noble. It also appears that I had the glory of receiving it a few days earlier than most would: the Plume-published paperback doesn’t hit stores until August 29th (six days from now); furthermore, the Signet-published mass market paperback (my copy) doesn’t hit stores until September 4th (twelve days from now), except at Barnes & Noble, where it appears to be already available, despite displaying a September 4th publication date in the information section. Interesting.

Read on to find out more about the book (and Maltin himself), where you can find it, and what other books are in my collection.

Maltin, who began writing about films in 1965 at the age of fifteen, has maintained a successful career as both a film critic and historian, with a heavy appreciation for cinematic nostalgia and animation as well. Perhaps he is best known as the editor of this eponymous film reference. Formerly published as TV Movies and later as Leonard Maltin’s Movie & Video Guide, this resource’s inception was seen in 1969. After further editions were published in 1974, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, and 1987, it was confirmed that the book would have a new printed update each year beginning in 1988. This year, the official title is Leonard Maltin’s 2013 Movie Guide: The Modern Era.

It’s a very useful guide, if I may say so myself, and having devotedly reading it since I bought the previous edition late last year, I can quite honestly say that this is the must-have guide for any devout cinephile. Admittedly, he isn’t the most agreeable critic out there: he’s given unfavorable reviews to progressive classics such as (cue gasp!) Memento, (cue gasp!) The Shining, and even (cue gasp!) Blade Runner. But if being able to fluently express your opinion, even at a time when not one person other on this planet agrees, doesn’t define a film critic (or any critic, for that matter), then what does?

Here’s what you’ll find in the newest revision to Movie Guide:

  • film titles (the basics)
  • year of release
  • producing country (if only the U.S. produced the film, no countries are noted)
  • color or black-and-white specification
  • running time
  • grade (see next paragraph for explanation)
  • director
  • main cast
  • succinct, paragraph-long review
  • additional notes (i.e. “the director also co-wrote” or “director’s cut runs 17m. longer”)
  • MPAA rating (also noted if edited from another rating)
  • home video availability (a triangle means the film is available on VHS; a circle means the film is available on laserdisc; a semicircle means the film is available on DVD)

Maltin bases his grades on a four-star scale, but with the twist. According to page xii (“Key to This Book”): “Ratings range from ****, for the very best, down to *½. There is no * rating; instead, for bottom-of-the-barrel movies, we use the citation BOMB.” Some may pick up the scale a different way, but here’s how I’ve found myself interpreting the grading scale used:

**** – a must-see and a classic
***½ – highly recommended
*** – just fine
**½ – see it if you’re interested; enjoyable but flawed
** – unless you are very interested, skip it
*½ – not a hint of recommendation
BOMB – avoid with your very life

So that’s that. If you’re interested in purchasing this book (and if you aren’t, you probably aren’t that much into movies), here are links to where you can find it:

Amazon.com (paperback for $14.96 [new] – available August 29, 2012)
Amazon.com (mass market paperback for $9.99 [new] – available September 4, 2012)
Barnes & Noble (paperback for $15.25 (paperback for $15.25 [new] – available August 29, 2012)
Barnes & Noble (mass market paperback for $9.99 [new] – new and used from $6.19 – already available, for some bizarre reason)

For users of the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, there is also a mobile application. THE PROS – it’s far less expensive, it stays up to date with Maltin’s reviews for films out in theaters, it keeps a saved history in case you want to revisit a review but can’t remember what it was, and you can make film-centric lists (i.e. best movies, worst movies, guilty pleasures) from the app. THE CONS – it crashes when you least expect it and are really engaged, Leonard Maltin’s theatrical reviews don’t have the grades attached, not as much information is given, and as of now none of the reviews written in the last year have been truncated and attached to a grade (unlike in the print copy). So choose wisely…or choose both. Here’s a link to the application:

iTunes.Apple.com (mobile application for $1.99)

Please order this book, my fellow cinephiles! If you don’t, shame on you.

Peace wherever and whenever possible.
–Alexander “The Cinemaniac” Diminiano

P.S.: I have an ever-growing collection of movie reference guides. If you’re interested in knowing what the others are, here is the list in order of best to worst (not that any of them are remotely bad):

VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever 2012 by Jim Craddock (June 2011, list price: $25.95)
Leonard Maltin’s 2012 Movie Guide by Leonard Maltin (August 2011, list price: $20.00)
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (4th Edition) (September 2011, list price: $35.00)
The Academy Awards: The Complete Unofficial History (Updated & Revised) by Jim Piazza & Gail Kinn (September 2011, list price: $22.95)
Questions for the Movie Answer Man by Roger Ebert (June 1997, list price: $10.95)
Name That Movie: 100 Illustrated Movie Puzzles by Paul Rogers (March 2012, list price: $14.95)
The Film Encyclopedia 6e: The Complete Guide to Film and the Film Industry by Ephraim Katz [edited by Ronald Dean Nolan] (September 2008, list price: $34.95)
Roger Ebert’s Four Star Reviews: 1967-2007 by Roger Ebert (February 2008, list price: $24.99)
The Greatest Movies Ever: The Ultimate Ranked List of the 101 Best Films of All Time! by Gail Kinn & Jim Piazza (October 2008, list price: $22.95)
The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made (Updated & Revised) by the film critics of The New York Times (February 2004, list price: $24.95)
Chambers Film Factfinder (July 2006, list price: $13.95)
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (Revised Edition) by Syd Field (November 2005, list price: $16.00)
What’s That From?: The Ultimate Quiz Book of Contemporary Movie Lines (1st Edition) by Jai Nanda (February 1996, list price: $14.99)
Obsessed with…Hollywood: Test Your Knowledge of the Silver Screen by Andrew J. Rausch (October 2007, out of print)
Film Directing Shot by Shot (1st Edition) by Steven D. Katz (August 1991, list price: $27.95)
Bond Girls by DK Publishing (October 2010, list price: $15.00)
Film and TV (Modern Media Series): 1st Edition by Chris Oxdale (March 2000, list price: $5.95)

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21 thoughts on “Leonard Maltin’s 2013 Movie Guide: The Modern Era

    • If you love those books, I recommend VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever. It’s like a combination and and an expansion on both: Like Maltin’s book, the former section contains reviews, except direct-to-video releases and TV movies are also reviewed, and more information is listed, i.e. Academy Awards/BAFTAs and credits for the music, production, and writing. Like Katz’s book, the latter section contains the filmography of directors, actors, etc.–along with additional lists, such as movies by subject (i.e. alien movies), movies by grade (i.e. movies given “four bones”, the highest grade, or “WOOF!”, the lowest grade), and much, much, much more. You’d be impressed. I actually tried to make markups on the actors section to note the films I’ve seen (as I do with all my other movie books; many of them are kind of riddled with highlighter), but the list of actors is so freaking long I only got up to the letter C, and then gave up on trying to highlight in that whale. The only downsides: it’s gargantuan (obviously), the paper it’s made out of is flimsy, and it’s much more expensive than Maltin’s guide (but not as much as Katz’s!).

  1. I’m definitely going to get it!!!!! Sounds great – especially since you like it so much. I’m always looking for good things to watch, and I always come to your site to find the best ones!

    • Thanks Lucy! You’d really enjoy it. His opinions, though sometimes hard to agree with (nearly automatic proof is when he gives a 2.5/4 to The Shawshank Redemption, ranked #1 on the IMDb Top 250), are well supported and nice to read. He has I clever sense of humor also, i.e. in his review for The Naked Gun 33 1/3, he gives not 2 1/2 but 2 1/3 stars out of four, with a little note beside reading, “(what else?”.

      I’ve also noticed that there seems to be a tradition for placing randomly chosen yet intriguing lists in the beginning of the guide. Last year showcased his picks for the best of the 21st century so far. Now, the list is “Fifty Notable Debut Features of the Past Twenty Years”. Some standouts on the list are Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (Eli Craig), Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck), Mission: Impossible III (J. J. “Super 8” Abrams), Thank You for Smoking (Jason “Juno” Reitman), Serenity (Joss “The Avengers” Whedon), Following (Christopher “The Dark Knight” Nolan–and note that I may actually watch that film tomorrow!), Pi (Darren “Black Swan” Aronofsky), Bottle Rocket (Wes “Moonrise Kingdom” Anderson), and Reservoir Dogs (Quentin “Pulp Fiction” Tarantino).

  2. I have a copy of the 2011 guide. My opinion on Martin is mixed as I think he’s given so many great movies bad reviews. I do like that he has watched a great expansion of movies and the book is well-organized. Hope you enjoy it.

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