Here are excerpts from 7 of his memorable reviews for both film classics as well as movie duds.
1) "CASABLANCA" 1941
There are greater movies. More profound movies. Movies of greater artistic vision or artistic originality or political significance. There are other titles we would put above it on our lists of the best films of all time. But when it comes right down to the movies we treasure the most, when we are - let us imagine - confiding in the secrets of our heart to someone we think we may be able to trust, the conversations sooner or later comes around to the same seven words:
"I really love Casablanca."
"I do too."
2) "ISHTAR" 1987
Ishtar is a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy. ... This movie is a long, dry slog. It's not funny, it's not smart and it's interesting only in the way a traffic accident is interesting.
3) "THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS" 1991
If the movie were not so well made, indeed, it would be ludicrous. Material like this invites filmmakers to take chances and punishes them mercilessly when they fail.
4) "HEAVEN'S GATE" 1980
It is so smoky, so dusty, so foggy, so unfocused and so brownish yellow that you want to try Windex on the screen.
5) "TITANIC" 1997
James Cameron's 194-minute, $200 million film of the tragic voyage is in the tradition of the great Hollywood epics. It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted and spellbinding. If its story stays well within the traditional formulas for such pictures, well, you don't choose the most expensive film ever made as your opportunity to reinvent the wheel.
6) "NORTH" 1994
I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.
7) "THE GODFATHER" 1972
Although the movie is three hours long, it absorbs us so effectively it never has to hurry. There is something in the measured passage of time as Don Corleone hands over his reins of power that would have made a shorter, faster moving film unseemly. Even at this length, there are characters in relationships you can't quite understand unless you've read the novel. Or perhaps you can, just by the way the characters look at each other.
SOURCE: Chicago Sun-Times and Universal Press Syndicate. The AP's News Research Center contributed to this report.