David Thomson (film critic)

This article is about the American-based film critic. For the British-based film and television producer, see David M. Thompson.
David Thomson

Thomson speaking in New York, 2013
Born 1941 (age 7475)
Occupation Film critic

David Thomson (born 1941) is a British film critic and historian based in the United States and the author of more than 20 books. His reference works in particular — Have You Seen...?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films (2008) and The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (6th edition, 2014) — are noted for their high literary merit and eccentricity. Benjamin Schwarz, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, called him "probably the greatest living film critic and historian" who "writes the most fun and enthralling prose about the movies since Pauline Kael".[1] John Banville called him “the greatest living writer on the movies”.


Thomson was born in London. He taught film studies at Dartmouth College and has been a regular contributor to The New York Times, Film Comment, Movieline, The New Republic, and Salon. Thomson has served on the selection committee for the New York Film Festival and scripted an award-winning documentary, The Making of a Legend: Gone with the Wind.

Thomson has written several biographies (see below), novels (Suspects, Silver Light) and unproduced screenplays, including Fierce Heat, which was to be produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Stephen Frears.

He has confessed that he prefers writing books to film writing.[2]

Thomson lives in San Francisco with his wife and their two sons. On April 1, 2014, the San Francisco International Film Festival announced that Thomson would receive the Mel Novikoff Award at the 57th annual SFIFF.

Personal top 10 films

In the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, Thomson revealed his ten favourite films of all time:


  • Movie Man (1967)
  • A Bowl of Eggs (1970)
  • Hungry as Hunters (1972)
  • Wild Excursions: The Life and Fiction of Lawrence Sterne (1972)
  • A Biographical Dictionary of Film (1975; 6th ed., 2014)
  • Scott's Men (1977, reissued in 2002 as Scott, Shackleton and Amundsen)
  • America in the Dark: Hollywood and the Gift of Unreality (1978)
  • Overexposures: A Crisis in American Filmmaking (1981)
  • Suspects (1985)
  • Warren Beatty and Desert Eyes (1987)
  • Silver Light (1990)
  • Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick (1993)
  • 4-2 (1996)
  • Rosebud: The Story of Orson Welles (1997)
  • Beneath Mulholland: Thoughts on Hollywood and Its Ghosts (1998)
  • The Alien Quartet: A Bloomsbury Movie Guide (Bloomsbury Publishing, 208 pages, 1999, ISBN 1-58234-030-7, as The Alien Quartet (Pocket Movie Guide), 2000 ISBN 0-7475-5181-2
  • The Big Sleep (BFI guide) (2000)
  • In Nevada: The Land, The People, God, and Chance (2001)
  • Hollywood: A Celebration (DK, 2001)
  • Cinema: Year by Year (Intro only) (DK, 2005)
  • Marlon Brando (2003)
  • The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood (2004)
  • Fan Tan (introduction; a novel written by Donald Cammell and Marlon Brando) (2005)
  • Nicole Kidman (2006)
  • "Have You Seen...?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films (2008)
  • Try to Tell the Story (2009)
  • The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder (2009)
  • Humphrey Bogart (Great Stars) (2009)
  • Ingrid Bergman (Great Stars) (2009)
  • Gary Cooper (Great Stars) (2009)
  • Bette Davis (Great Stars) (2009)
  • The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies (2012)
  • Moments That Made the Movies (2013)
  • Why Acting Matters (2015)
  • How to Watch a Movie (2015)


  1. November 2002 issue.
  2. Thomson, David; Teodoro, José (11 March 2009). "The 21st Interview: DAVID THOMSON". Stop Smiling. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
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