Siskel & Ebert and the Movies (usually just called Siskel & Ebert) was a syndicated American television series that ran from 1986 to 1999, spun off from an earlier show on PBS: Opening Soon at a Theater Near You/Sneak Previews (1975 to 1982), as well as the syndicated At the Movies (1982 to 1986), both of which utilized a similar format of two critics, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, discussing and debating the week's new films. Roughly four or five films were critiqued per episode. It usually ended with a special segment like "Video/Laserdisc Pick of the Week/Month", an interview with a celebrity or director, or a short-lived segment where viewers wrote in to provide a second opinion or correct S&E about something. The show taped at ABC's Chicago station, WLS-TV, which is also where The Oprah Winfrey Show initially taped as well.
Occasionally, they would devote an entire episode to one issue in film: Their stance against colorization, against fullscreen cropping of widescreen films (and vice versa when it came to older Disney animated films), trends they noticed in film (such as directors influenced by Quentin Tarantino) and spotlights on whom they considered rising stars or directors. They even spent an entire episode analyzing who had the better filmography: Woody Allen or Mel Brooks? Most notable, however, were the annual "Memo to the Academy" (where Siskel and Ebert recommend what they think should be nominated for Oscars) and the "Best of" and "Worst of" the year lists, the latter of which were quite entertaining as they got to trash the bad films one last time. An annual hour-long special, hosted before a studio audience at a Disney resort, was devoted to "If We Picked the Winners," in which the critics discussed who they would pick for the upcoming Oscars if they were members of the Academy.
Siskel and Ebert's claim to fame was their method of reviewing movies, ultimately boiling down to a simple thumbs up or downnote . There was no middle ground, so it was interesting seeing them rationalize choosing either one or the other. And of course, when you have two major film critics from rival newspapers together, disagreements could occur. And the debates were some of the most fun moments in the show. Heck, sometimes the two would bicker on some small detail even if they both agreed on the film's merit!
Unfortunately, in early 1998, Gene Siskel was absent for a few weeks due to getting surgery for a brain tumor. Despite this, he was still able to phone in his reviews (literally!) and debate with Roger via a split screen and a still image of his face on one side. When Siskel returned, he was noticeably less animated and expressive, talking slower, and seemed to debate with Roger less. Nevertheless, he stuck with the show until early 1999 when he went back into surgery and, sadly, never came out. Gene Siskel died on February 20, 1999, and while the show continued under a few different banners and with different critics (Roger Ebert & the Movies, Ebert & Roeper, At the Movies), the Siskel & Ebert show was finished. Roger Ebert devoted an entire episode to Gene Siskel following his death, and it's clear that even though the two frequently disagreed, they didn't hate each other.
Ebert continued the show, first as Roger Ebert & the Movies with guest cohosts, and then as At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper with the addition of his Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper. Ebert stopped appearing on the show in 2006 because he lost the ability to speak due to his cancer and Roeper continued with guests until the two were removed from the show by their distributor, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, in 2008. They were replaced by Ben Lyons (son of film critic Jeffery Lyons) and film critic and Turner Classic Movies presenter Ben Mankiewicz (now part of The Young Turks' What the Flick?!) in a move to skew to younger audience. While most of the old fanbase of the show had no problem with Ben Mankiewicz, almost all of them (and Ebert himself) took issue with Ben Lyons' skill, ethics, and taste. The two Bens were fired from the show a little over a year later. The critics were replaced one final time with critic A.O. Scott (critic for the New York Times) and Michael Phillips (of Siskel's Chicago Tribune), choices Ebert expressed satisfaction with, despite no longer being associated with the show. However, these two hosts only lasted from August 2009 to March 2010, when Disney-ABC simply pulled the plug on the show, ending the Siskel & Ebert TV legacy for good.
... Or so we thought. Later in 2010, Ebert announced he had purchased the rights to the show and had taken it back to PBS. His new Ebert Presents: At the Movies began airing in January 2011, with Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of Mubi (who now writes for The Onion's AV Club) and Christy Lemire of the Associated Press (as with Mankiewicz, now a part of What the Flick?!) as the new critics. Ebert himself made appearances on the show, with Bill Curtis narrating his recent written reviews, as well as occasional narrations by Werner Herzog. The show was a ratings success, but due to funding problems it went on permanent hiatus at the end of 2011. Ebert died of cancer on April 4, 2013.
"These tropes receive two thumbs up":
- Accentuate the Negative: Averted. Siskel and Ebert love to give positive reviews, it's just that the films aren't always up to snuff. In fact, there have been a few episodes where they've given two thumbs up to every film. In the fall of 1996, they gave two thumbs up to every movie two weeks in a row, albeit Ebert describes that situation as unprecedented.
- To paraphrase Gene on one talk show, "I would rather watch Hannah and Her Sisters every day for the rest of my life than a bad movie ever again", essentially to counter the point that critics love to see movies for an opportunity to nitpick and criticize (as he had adored Allen's film).
- Ebert accused Siskel of giving praise to Jim Carrey grudgingly when they reviewed The Mask:Siskel: I don't give positive reviews grudgingly. (...) That's a rough characterization, because think about it: That means that I don't like to like something. I'm not like that. I love to like pictures.
Ebert: What a wonderful, warm, terrific guy.
Siskel: Thank you. Not the guy you think you're working with, apparently.
- Averted, not on the show, but on Ebert's corresponding series of "Video Home Companion" books chronicling his reviews. Since bad movies tend to be forgotten while good movies endure, movies with three to four stars tended to be retained from one volume to the next. Ebert himself acknowledged that this gave an illusion that he liked most of the movies that he reviewed.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Siskel laughed twice during Dice Rules - the disabled parking joke and the shock at seeing a garter at a wedding.
- All There in the Manual: In their review of Dumb and Dumber, Ebert said that one of the jokes in the movie made him laugh so hard that he almost had to be hospitalized. He didn't elaborate which scene he was referring to, but in his print review for the Sun-Times, it was the scene with the blind kid and the dead parakeet.
- Ambiguous Syntax: From their Telling Lies in America review, Siskel gave it a marginal thumbs down. Ebert argued, "Gimme Bacon. Come on, gimme Bacon." Siskel chuckled and remarked that he wasn't sure at first what he meant by that. Understandably, it sounded like Ebert was asking for some bacon to eat.
- Animated Adaptation: The Critic episode "Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice".
- The Announcer: The series had a Cold Open announcer for many years, but around 1996, Siskel and Ebert began introducing the shows themselves.
- Bad Mood as an Excuse: Occasionally, if there's a sharp disagreement on a film, the one who gave thumbs up will accuse the one who gave thumbs down of being in a bad mood the day they saw the movie, and letting that cloud their judgment.Siskel: No, I saw a bad movie.
- Bait-and-Switch: Gene gave a thumbs down to Mickey's Christmas Carol- when it came time for Roger to give his take, he seemed to be aghast that Gene dared to dislike it... only to reveal he was disappointed in it as well.
- Berserk Button:
- In their review of the 1995 French comedy French Twist, Ebert was appalled that the French chose this film as their submission to the Academy Awards, when they could've nominated Les MisÚrables (1995) instead. He wanted to get the voting crew to look him in the eye to say that French Twist was a better film and was convinced they wouldn't be able to do it, since he thought the voting was fixed and corrupt. It wasn't the first time they were pissed at the French, as they were similarly outraged at the omission of Vagabond (1985) (instead nominating Betty Blue) and other films later. (In fact, it was because of Vagabond's snub that the duo had a "there they go again" attitude about French Twist.)
- In his review of Leonard Part 6, Ebert went on a rant about Product Placement:Ebert: In one scene, his 20-year-old daughter brings home a 66-year-old man that she wants to marry. Cosby is appalled; this guy is robbing the cradle! What does he do? He calls for a sandwich and a Coke. And then he holds the Coke bottle prominently next to his face for the rest of the scene. First it says "Coca-Cola", and then the next shot, it says "Coke", in case you missed the point. Who released this movie? Columbia. Who owns Columbia? Coca-Cola. What is Coca-Cola doing with this movie? They have a lot of products in this movie, Gene, that you can get a tie-in where you can get the product in connection with buying a ticket for the movie. I think that that is an all-time low: Bill Cosby, the richest man in show business, $67.5 million income last year, reduced to holding a Coca-Cola bottle next to his face in order to get a picture made at Columbia. He ought to be ashamed of himself.
- You would be well-advised not to insinuate that Siskel was wrong simply because he held a different opinion than the majority, as we saw in their review of Outbreak when Ebert said Siskel was probably the only one who thought Dustin Hoffman looked ridiculous in the lab coat.Siskel: Hey, what am I supposed to do? Give a review of what you think of the movie?! I give a review of what I think!
Ebert: That would be a start...
- Siskel and Ebert were against colorization and cropping movies, and rallied against it whenever it was appropriate.
- Ebert ranted hard against Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter - yet knowing the franchise's success rate it didn't work to drive people away:Ebert: Yeah, real great. Jason, you can't see him, you can't hear him, he hardly even breathes, he's the latest word in leading men from the geniuses at Paramount Pictures. You get the idea. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is ninety minutes of teenagers being strangled, stabbed, impaled, chopped up, and mutilated. That's all this movie is, is just mindless bloody violence. And just think of the message this film offers to its teenage audience: The world is a totally evil place, this movie says. It'll kill ya, it doesn't matter what your dreams and hopes and ambitions are, it doesn't matter if you have a new boyfriend or a new girlfriend, or you've got plans for the future. You can forget all those plans, because you're gonna wind up dead. There is literally nothing else in this movie, and the sickest thing is, this isn't the final chapter. That's just an advertising gimmick. The ending clearly sets up a sequel, and what I wanna know is: I wonder if they're gonna be heartless and cynical enough to make a sequel, because why not? They've already taken the bucket to the cesspool four times for this sludge. I think the people that made this movie ought to be ashamed of themselves, and that's what I think, Gene.
- Both Gene and Roger had it in for the Academy Awards Documentary committee and their opaque at best and corrupt at worst method of selecting the nominees for Best Documentary feature. It seemed just about every year there would be an exclusion that would piss Gene and Roger off, most notably Hoop Dreams in 1994, but also The Thin Blue Line in 1988 and Roger and Me in 1989. Hoop Dreams, however, was the final straw for Ebert: After he wrote a newspaper column about the film being snubbed, the Academy did its own investigation of the nomination process for the award and completely revamped how films were nominated from then onward.
- In a year-in-review special, Ebert reflected that North was so astoundingly bad that something just came over him and moved him to (infamously) use the word "hated" ten times in his print review.
- Siskel hated two movie tropes in particular: Showing women or children in jeopardy, as he felt that was a cheap way to generate drama, and jerk fathers. In the latter's case, he got so annoyed by the trope that he thought they should do a special episode about the practice (they never did).
- Outside of the movies themselves, Siskel was rumored to have had no tolerance whatsoever for parents who bring their babies to a theater and don't take them out when they started crying, and was willing to go so far as to pay them to leave if they didn't.
- Big Guy, Little Guy: Siskel was tall and skinny; Ebert was short and fat.
- Blind Without 'Em: In their review of the live action Mr. Magoo, Ebert readily admits that he's as nearsighted as they come, but was never offended by Mr. Magoo, and certainly didn't think the disclaimer at the end of the film (which defended nearsighted and blind people) was necessary.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- In their "Worst of 1995" show, during their mention of Judge Dredd, Siskel talked to the camera as if addressing Sylvester Stallone.Siskel: You know, Roger, I have never looked at the camera and talked to an actor; I'm gonna break this tradition right now. I know, Stallone, you probably hate my guts, you think I hate you. I don't hate you; I like your talent, I want you to use it. This isn't what you were put on Earth for. You can do this in your sleep, and sometimes it looks like exactly what you're doing.
- When reviewing French Twist, Siskel also broke the fourth wall when he addressed the country of France by talking into the camera:Siskel: You know, the French film industry is saying how "we need protection for our own kind, America is dwarfing us", (looks at camera) so look what you send out to America, here's what you endorse into America. I mean, it's absurd.
- When Ebert and Roeper reviewed Garfield 2: A Tale of Two Kitties, Ebert directly addressed any kids who might be watching the show, ignoring Roeper (who was laughing incredulously that Roger was giving it thumbs up).
- Siskel spoke into camera and personally thanked the Farrelly Brothers for their film Kingpin.
- In their "Worst of 1995" show, during their mention of Judge Dredd, Siskel talked to the camera as if addressing Sylvester Stallone.
- In their review of Broken Arrow (1996), the movie where Siskel initially voted thumbs up but changed his vote after hearing Ebert's criticism, Siskel tried to get Ebert to vote thumbs down to Cop and a Half, which they had reviewed three years prior and which Ebert liked. Ebert refused to change his vote.
- There was a double callback in the Larger Than Life review: Siskel gave it a marginal thumbs up and Ebert accused him of being too soft, recalling a prior episode when Siskel argued that Ebert should've been tougher in their review of Sleepers (1996) (Ebert gave it a marginal thumbs up). Ebert then went on to say that he felt Larger Than Life would've been stronger if they had stuck with the motivational speaker satire and the elephant wasn't part of the story at all. Siskel sarcastically retorted that Ebert should review the movie that was made, not his rewrite. Ebert had accused Siskel of doing the same thing when they reviewed Bogus a few episodes prior. Siskel argued that they're obviously reviewing the movie that was made if they're coming up with alternatives of how the movie could've been better.
- Richard Roeper referenced his thumbs down to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in his final episode in 2008. That's right: A call back to a review from seven years prior.
- Catchphrase: Aside from the quote at the top, there's "Two [adjective] thumbs up, way up" or "Two thumbs down, way down", in both extreme cases. Each episode also opened with either Siskel or Ebert saying some variant of, "(movie title) is one of (four/five) new movies we'll be reviewing this week on Siskel & Ebert. I'm (Gene Siskel/Roger Ebert) of the (Chicago Tribune/Chicago Sun-Times)...", followed by the other saying their name and paper. The latter would then introduce the first film.
- Caustic Critic: Usually their reviews are fairly levelheaded, but occasionally a really bad film comes along that will cause one or both to rip it to shreds, such as North.
- Christmas Episode: For a while, Siskel and Ebert did an annual "Holiday Gift Guide" episode.
- Cold Open: Every episode began with an announcer telling a few of the movies Siskel and Ebert would be reviewing.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong:
- In the special episode "The Movie That Made Us Critics", Siskel told a story about how one of his first professional reviews was for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He thought there were some cute moments but overall found it underwhelming and gave it a negative review (to which Ebert agreed). A fellow employee came across his review before it was published and was shocked that he'd give a negative review to a Paul Newman movie. Conflicted, Siskel went back to see the movie a second time and didn't like it any more than he did the first time (and actually, liked it less because he saw everything coming). That was an early lesson he learned as a critic:Siskel: You have to tell the truth as you see it, regardless of how unpopular it may make you.
- Alluded to in their review of Outbreak when Ebert said that Siskel was probably the only one who thought Dustin Hoffman looked ridiculous in his lab coat (Siskel thought he looked like Benjamin Braddock in it).
- In the special episode "The Movie That Made Us Critics", Siskel told a story about how one of his first professional reviews was for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. He thought there were some cute moments but overall found it underwhelming and gave it a negative review (to which Ebert agreed). A fellow employee came across his review before it was published and was shocked that he'd give a negative review to a Paul Newman movie. Conflicted, Siskel went back to see the movie a second time and didn't like it any more than he did the first time (and actually, liked it less because he saw everything coming). That was an early lesson he learned as a critic:
- Complaining About Shows You Don't Watch: Invoked whenever they report on groups protesting a controversial movie, such as The Last Temptation of Christ or Get on the Bus: They say the groups' criticisms are invalid if they haven't actually seen the movie in question (and in nearly all cases, they hadn't).
- Completely Off-Topic Report: Can happen if the two go off on a tangent during the reviews. One of the more head-scratching ones was their "two thumbs up" review of Speed 2: Cruise Control, where they mostly debated whether Sandra Bullock was on-screen too much or not enough.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Played for Laughs in the infamous outtakes. Siskel, in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, rallies against WASPs, claiming they run the country, and Ebert name-drops the "international bankers" and the Vatican.
- Creator Provincialism: Setting a movie in or around Chicago was guaranteed to draw their interest, although this could be positive or negative.
- Deadpan Snarker: Both Siskel and Ebert often fell into this. An example:Siskel: And I think you're off on Batman; I think you had a better time, you know it's a smarter movie. You felt like you were being directed, didn't you?
Ebert: You know, Gene, if you're so good at telling me I had a better time, and what I felt, and how I thought, I don't know why it's necessary for me to be here on this show—
Siskel: I've thought about that, too.
- Another example, from their review of Teen Wolf Too, when Ebert said it was a worse film than Date With an Angel because it didn't have someone like Emmanuelle Béart in it:Siskel: As I once said to you on another film, many years ago: "Date her, don't give the film a positive review."
Ebert: Y'know, if criticism ever gets tiring to you, Gene, you could always open a Lonely Hearts Agency.
- Michael Phillips was the deadpan critic whenever he was paired with the more energetic Richard Roeper. Ironically, Phillips was out-deadpanned whenever he worked with the New York Times' A.O. Scott.
- Another example, from their review of Teen Wolf Too, when Ebert said it was a worse film than Date With an Angel because it didn't have someone like Emmanuelle Béart in it:
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- Frequently, after finishing a review and moving onto the next one, Siskel or Ebert would say: "Next movie, and our next movie is ______."
- In Ebert and Roeper's review of She Hate Me, Ebert describes the film as tackling "office politics, sexual politics, and politics politics."
- Disappointed in You: Siskel gave a positive review to Baby's Day Out, and Ebert replied by saying he hated the movie more than anything they'd ever reviewed on the show and said he was disappointed in Siskel and should be ashamed of himself.Siskel: What? Not agreeing with you? I've never been ashamed of that, I've been proud of that.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Ebert seemed more vulnerable to this, sometimes giving mediocre movies a pass if they had a particularly attractive woman in it (Roeper often chided Roger for his infatuation with Angelina Jolie), but Siskel wasn't above it, either... one of his major criticisms of Showgirls was that Elizabeth Berkley didn't look sexy enough.
- Both Siskel and Ebert both found themselves experiencing sexual stimulation when watching 1974's Emmanuelle, a film they both actually praised.Siskel: Rarely do you read in [...] any review of any work of art that a critic was aroused sexually by it. [...] This film did exactly what it was designed to do, turn me on.
Ebert: OK, Gene, since we're bearing our souls on this program, I have to admit that it turned me on, too.
- Both Siskel and Ebert both found themselves experiencing sexual stimulation when watching 1974's Emmanuelle, a film they both actually praised.
- Don't Explain the Joke: When reviewing The Rugrats Movie, Gene said that the Pickles have a baby named Dil.Gene: Get it? Dil Pickles.
- Double Standard: In their debate about Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Ebert asked Siskel (who was Jewish) if he'd feel the same way about this film if it starred Jewish people and had Jewish stereotypes. Siskel said that if it were funny, he'd like it just as much. Ebert then expressed doubt that anyone would make such a film.
- This was one of their complaints with the MPAA ratings system.
- Dude, Not Funny!: Ebert accused Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood of making fun of serious subjects which he felt shouldn't be mocked. Siskel tried to call him out on it, suggesting that any topic can be parodied if done right.
- Do Wrong, Right: They're not happy about the parody they suffered in the Godzilla movie, but it's just because the writers didn't do anything imaginative against them, like have the monster squash them or something.
- Dump Months: This is why January was usually reserved for their annual "Best of" and "Worst of" episodes, along with "Memo to the Academy". Late August was also a time usually reserved for reruns of "special" episodes from earlier in the season.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: Nothing major, as the show stayed roughly the same since it began in 1986, but in 1992, the show's backdrop switched from a yellow-ish hue to a blue one.
- Also, in the early shows, Ebert had thicker glasses and bushier hair.
- During the show's earliest incarnation in the 1970s, Siskel had a thick mustache.
- Neither Siskel or Ebert were featured in the opening sequence to Sneak Previews; they would be starting with At the Movies.
- Up until about 1985, Gene and Roger would introduce each other ("Across the aisle from me, Gene Siskel.") rather than the more familiar method of introducing themselves ("I'm Roger Ebert.").
- Sneak Previews didn't use the trademark thumbs up & down yet; the votes were merely YES or NO.
- Eight Deadly Words: Invoked: A common criticism if they dislike a movie- when reviewing The Big Squeeze, Roger said he didn't care about the characters so he was bored.
- End of an Age: The 1999 episode featuring At First Sight, Another Day in Paradise, The Hi-Lo Country, Playing by Heart, and The Theory of Flight was Gene's final episode.
- Enforced Plug: When the Internet began to take off, Siskel and Ebert naturally got their own website, which led to one of the two plugging it at the end of every episode. Unfortunately, this meant they had no time to get a little more debating in, which was the highlight of the 1986-1995 shows.
- Exact Words: During their review of The Mask, Siskel said he liked the movie, leading to:Ebert: So, you loved this movie-
Siskel: No, I liked it.
Ebert: I agree with you that it is a better movie than the first Garfield, so I liked it even more. (Roeper does a Face Palm)
- Played for Laughs in Ebert and Roeper's review of Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties. Richard said he didn't hate it as much as the first film; Roger (who gave thumbs up to the first film) ran with this remark:
- False Dichotomy: Ebert made one when he reviewed French Twist and was upset that France selected the film for the Academy Awards instead of Les MisÚrables (1995):Ebert: The problem is, that film portrays some French people as Nazi sympathizers, while this film merely portrays them as idiots. I guess it's clear what choice they prefer.
- Fan Disillusionment: Siskel hated She's Out of Control so much that he briefly considered quitting reviewing movies, feeling the movies had failed him. Luckily, later that day he saw Say Anything... and all was right with the world. Ebert completely understood what Siskel felt and emphasized that Siskel was not joking.
- Fat and Skinny: Ebert and Siskel, respectively.
- Finger Wag: Films that were Not Screened for Critics got the Wagging Finger of Shame. This rating was short-lived, however; it only lasted a year before Ebert abandoned it, claiming that it wasn't really stopping studios from withholding their movies from critics.
- Finish Dialogue in Unison: In their review of Over the Top (1987), Siskel and Ebert both said "the strap" at the same time. Twice!
- Flashback Effects: In Ebert and Roeper's review of Scooby-Doo 2, Ebert recalled his review of the first film, and the picture dissolves to his and Roeper's earlier review. The same occurred when they reviewed Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties.
- Formula-Breaking Episode:
- As stated in the intro paragraphs, some episodes take a break from reviewing new movies and focus on a specific issue (colorization, "What's Wrong With Home Video", favorite villains, guilty pleasures, etc.).
- Sometimes a standard-format episode would have a segment briefly discussing a hot film-related topic along with the usual reviews; in late 1991 they discussed the controversy over Michael Jackson's "Black or White" video — specifically its violent, crotch-grabbing finale. They weren't so much bothered by that as the fact that they had no idea what was going on in the video.
- The music video for Michael Jackson's Thriller was reviewed alongside the regular movie fare in January 1984. They panned the video, claiming it relied on stock special effects that weren't scary, minimizing the music or the iconic dance sequence.
- The tribute to Gene Siskel episode didn't feature any movie reviews at all, a rarity for the show.
- The duo never reviewed TV shows, but they made an exception with The Critic, due to its subject matter. They reviewed the first three episodes and gave it a marginal thumbs down. However, they sensed promise in the premise and felt the show should stay focused on satirizing movies. They eventually guest-voiced a second-season episode ("Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice") which parodied many film tropes to break the two apart and bring them together again.
- Similarly, the duo rarely reviewed made-for-TV movies but occasionally they made an exception, such as when they reviewed The Rat Pack.
- Any episode where they focused on one director or actor, such as an episode all about Robert Redford. Similarly, any episode analyzing one movie, such as Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Phantom Menace, and Eyes Wide Shut.
- The episode from 2000 when Roger interviewed Bill Clinton. No new movie reviews, just a discussion with a (now former) president about his favorite movies.
- Friendly Rivalry:
- Siskel and Ebert made no efforts to hide this, naturally, because they worked for different newspapers in the same city.
- Though Michael Phillips and Richard Roeper also worked for the rival Chicago papers (Siskel's Tribune and Ebert's Sun Times, respectively), they were generally more amicable to each other than Gene and Roger.
- Gratuitous Animal Sidekick: Spot, the Wonder Dog (Sneak Previews), who was followed up by Aroma, the Educated Skunk (At the Movies).
- Guest Host:
- Tom Shales filled in for Gene Siskel when he went in for brain surgery in 1999. After Siskel died, Ebert tried numerous other guest hosts in 1999 until finally deciding on Richard Roeper in 2000 as permanent replacement co-host.
- After Ebert left the show to deal with his operations in 2006, Roeper cycled through various guest hosts throughout the next two years (some being critics like Robert Wilonsky and Christy Lemire, some being entertainers like Jay Leno or Kevin Smith) before settling on Michael Phillips as a permanent co-host for the last few months of his tenure.
- Good News, Bad News: When reviewing The Hot Chick:Ebert: About half an hour into the screening, the film got trapped in the projector and it caught fire! That was the good news! The bad news was, the screening continued, and hardly any of the film was destroyed.
- In the recap of The Wizard:Ebert: Two thumbs down for The Wizard. The bad news is, it's a Nintendo commercial, the worse news is, it's a bad one.
- In the recap of The Wizard:
- Guilty Pleasures: Ebert has been known to give certain movies thumbs up, even if he admits they're ridiculous and/or not as good of quality as other films. Examples: Congo, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.
Michael: It's about 10,000 pounds of cheese on a cracker, and Richard, now and then, you know what I'm in the mood for? 10,000 pounds of cheese on a cracker!
- Michael Phillips gave a "see it" to 10,000 BC.
- Siskel gave a surprising thumbs up to Armageddon (1998)note , saying the lightning fast editing and constant camera movement actually amused him after a while.
- Siskel also liked Lambada despite admitting its faults, which resulted in being chewed out by Ebert for being too soft.
- Gushing About Shows You Like: Invoked, as the purpose of their annual "Best of" episodes. Also arguably the point of their "Memo to the Academy" episodes.
- "On the Sunny Side of the Screen", a special all about the duo recommending great summer movies.
- Similarly, "Kid Vid", an episode about movies that parents would enjoy with their kids.
- The annual "Holiday Video Gift Guide" specials as well.
- Heads or Tails?: Why is it "Siskel & Ebert" and not "Ebert & Siskel"? Ebert lost a coin flip.note
- Hilarious Outtakes: The famous outtakes of Siskel and Ebert on YouTube have garnered millions of hits.
- Hire the Critic: Invoked. On more than one occasion, Siskel and Ebert have said that if they were hired by Hollywood, they could fix a lot of bad screenplays.
- Ho Yay: Invoked. And played with. During their review of "Female Perversions":Siskel: ...And as men, we know it goes on; you know the old line, "Men think about sex every, y'know, thirty seconds" or something like that; this is not an exaggeration.
Ebert: (smiling) I'm thinking about it right now.
Siskel: Thank—aw, that's sweet. That's very sweet.
Ebert: I was picturing Paulina Porizkova. I wasn't thinking of you.
- Idiosyncratic Ratings Scale: The Trope Maker. Siskel and Ebert's simple thumbs up/down way of rating films, combined with their lively discussions/arguments supporting their decisions, made the show almost a cultural touchstone for movie reviewing prior to Rotten Tomatoes.
- Insane Troll Logic: One particularly baffling Viewer's Thumb entry claimed that the only reason the duo gave Space Jam two thumbs up is because Michael Jordan is from Chicago, where the show was filmed.
- Insistent Terminology: Siskel and Ebert will generally refer to characters in the films they review by the names of the actors portraying them.
- Instrumental Theme Tune: Used throughout all incarnations of the show.
- Insult Backfire:
Siskel: This is not quality, and I don't want you suggesting that people might like it. I think that they, y'know, I actually liked the first 3 Ninjas movie, and I think that if parents are, have their kids who want to see this picture, I say "rent the first one", don't take 'em to this, 'cause it's really quite bad.
- During their review of 3 Ninjas Kick Back:
Ebert: Oh Gene, you're doing a great job of setting yourself up here as the great, noble defender of childhood entertainment-
Siskel: Yes, I am.
- Similarly, when they reviewed Benji the Hunted:Ebert: I don't know, Gene, your review is the sort of blasé, sophisticated, cynical review-
Siskel: I'll take "sophisticated".
- They both were parodied in Godzilla (1998), with the characters Mayor Ebert and his sidekick Gene. They were not amused because the filmmakers didn't have the audacity to have the two squished by Godzilla.
- Irony: In one of their most famous episodes, Ebert gave a marginal thumbs down to Full Metal Jacket, claiming it wasn't Kubrick's best. Siskel used the logic that it was way better than most of the movies released that year and deserved a thumbs up. Eight years later, the roles were reversed when they reviewed Casino: Siskel gave it a marginal thumbs down because he compared it unfavorably to Scorsese's earlier work (especially Goodfellas) and Ebert claimed it was better than the majority of the movies that year and was worth seeing.
- Later-Installment Weirdness: Towards the end of the Roeper & guest era, the thumbs up/down rating was replaced by See It, Rent It, or Skip It, as Disney/ABC refused to pay Ebert and the Siskel estate for continued use of the "Two Thumbs Up" trademark.
- The second half of the 1998-1999 season is this, due to every episode containing a different guest host, due to Gene Siskel's sudden death. The 1999-2000 season also had this, but by then they had narrowed the stable a bit until they decided on Richard Roeper as his permanent co-host.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Their arguments could fall into this quite often; the two had been paired together so long that they knew what made the other tick and jumped on that. And while they did argue, they also kidded each other just as much.
- Limited Wardrobe: Throughout the entire run, the typical outfit for both Siskel and Ebert was a blazer with a turtleneck underneath. However, there have been exceptions: Both wore tuxedos for some of their "Best of" shows, and Ebert wore a suit and tie for his Gene Siskel tribute episode. Perhaps the biggest aversion occurred in a special 1994 episode "Sunny Side of the Screen", where they both wore blazers with Hawaiian shirts underneath.
- Logical Fallacies:
- Ebert made one during their review of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. He gave the film thumbs up despite listing some flaws. Siskel said that all of Ebert's flaws were accurate and suggested renting one of the early giant monster movies instead (which he felt were superior). At this point, Ebert took Siskel's point too far by sarcastically suggesting that the audience shouldn't bother with any of the films on the program and to just rent Citizen Kane. Ebert's fallacy backfired when Siskel said: "Well, you could do that, and I think you and I both look at Citizen Kane regularly. But I'm just saying is, that I think you want to like this picture more than you know in your heart of hearts that it really contains entertainment value."
- Siskel made one in the episode where Ebert gave Full Metal Jacket a marginal thumbs down. Siskel said it was absurd that Ebert was giving a Kubrick film that rating, while in the same show he gave a recommendation to Benji the Hunted (which he disliked). As Ebert rightfully pointed out, Jacket and Benji are two totally different genres and as such, deserve to have different criteria for judging themnote .
- Long List: In their review of Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy, Ebert rattled off a list of adjectives as to why he hates the film:Ebert: Boy, are we apart on this one. I found this movie to be awful, terrible, dreadful, stupid, idiotic, unfunny, labored, forced, painful, bad!
Gene: One, the story is not credible. Two, the characters are laughable. Three, the child's ailment is exploited. Four, people escape dangerous situations simply through an edit to them being safe. Five, the identity of the werewolf is tipped in the first five minutes. If you can't figure out who the werewolf is, you never should go into a movie theater. Six, the needless and hilarious narration by the young girl there as an adult, played like she's sixty years old and it's only nine years later. I think I'll take a breath, stop, and leave Roger to name number seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven that are wrong with this movie.
- "Three Wishes has its heart in the right place, but the plot is all over the map. I'm afraid the brain is missing. The movie might've been better if it had simplified its storyline, and not tried to deal with homeless men, baseball, romance, cancer, aliens from outer space, magic fireworks, people who are missing in action, and the small town resentment of outsiders. I think- I did cover baseball, okay."
- Gene gave one when reviewing Silver Bullet:
- Long Runner: The show in its various incarnations ran from 1975 to 2011.
- Love It or Hate It: Invoked nearly every time Siskel and Ebert disagreed on a film, giving it a split "Thumbs up/Thumbs down" rating, and inevitably leading to a heated argument.
- Memetic Hand Gesture: Famously, they awarded each movie they reviewed a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down. Their thumbs were in fact trademarked to prevent other shows from copying them!
- Mood Whiplash: Due to the wide variety of films that debuted each week, they could review a slasher flick... followed immediately by a lighthearted family film.
Siskel: Our next movie, and it's The Rugrats Movie... we cover the waterfront, don't we?
- Lampshaded by Siskel in one episode:
- Another good one was when they reviewed Nicolas Cage's It Could Happen To You, which they were very enthusiastic about, calling it one of the best films of the year... After the commercial that followed this review came the North review, which doesn't need an explanation.
- An even more extreme example: In one 1985 episode, they reviewed Shoah, which they considered one of the greatest films of all time (Gene appropriately said it's the best usage of film)... and after the commercial break was Death Wish 3. 'Nuff said.
- Moral Guardians: Their review of Silent Night, Deadly Night consisted mostly of them wagging their fingers and clucking "Shame, shame" at all the names listed in the credits. There's also Siskel's infamous review of the original Friday the 13th (1980), in which he referred to the director as "one of the most despicable creatures to ever infest the movie business" and gave out the personal addresses of some of the people involved in the film's creation so equally infuriated viewers could send their hate mail directly to them.
- Morning Routine: The opening to Siskel & Ebert: The duo write their reviews for their respective newspapers, and head for the news stands where the papers with their reviews are being delivered, followed by the two heading into the theater while arguing with each other about each others' reviews.
- Mundane Wish: In their review of Frozen Assets (which both would name the worst film of 1992), Ebert said that as a reward for having to view this film, he deserved months "in a beautiful valley with honey and nectar and zephyr-like breezes". Siskel joked that he had simple tastes, to which Ebert added: "...And a big car!"
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Siskel and Ebert were spoofed in many shows, usually in a Take That, Critics! kind of way:
- The 1998 American version of Godzilla had the mayor of New York City as an Ebert lookalike (campaign slogan: "Thumbs Up for New York!") with an aide named Gene, who criticizes the mayor's decision to exploit the disaster with a "thumbs down." (Siskel and Ebert had criticized Emmerich's earlier productions.) Siskel said the caricature was "petty," and Ebert complained, not that he felt insulted, but that he was in a Godzilla film and didn't get to be eaten or squashed by the monster.
- A segment in Animaniacs featured obvious caricatures "Codger Egbert and Lean Hisskill" as a pair of TV critics who are tormented by Slappy and Skippy Squirrel for rating Slappy's cartoons "two stinky toes down."
- Averted when Roger and Gene played themselves on The Critic episode "Siskel & Ebert & Jay & Alice".
- Non-Answer: Twice in the series, Ebert resorted to this in the same context:
- When reviewing Double Dragon (1994), Ebert said kids might enjoy it but nobody else:Ebert: We're not kids—
Siskel: Then why not recommending it?
Ebert: Because I'm not a kid. I can't say that I enjoyed it, because I didn't.
Siskel: I wanna-I wanna— I'm gonna praise you in spite of yourself. You have recommended, on this show, kids films that you've liked, and you've knocked kids films that you don't. Why, suddenly, all of a sudden, are you praising a film that you don't like?
Ebert: To the degree that that's praise, I accept it.
- A similar situation came up when they reviewed Good Burger, and Ebert accused Siskel of reviewing it as if the film were made for adults instead of the movie's target audience (kids who are fans of the Good Burger skits on All That):Siskel: You're giving it a positive review?
Ebert: Not for myself, but I'm trying to give a fair assessment of the function of the movie and its intended audience.
Siskel: I thought you were a guy who always says you review movies, what you think, and not try and predict what the audience is gonna think?
Ebert: Well, if I have been useful to our viewers, I'm very grateful.
- When reviewing Double Dragon (1994), Ebert said kids might enjoy it but nobody else:
- No Sense of Humor:
- Siskel accused Ebert of this when Ebert gave a scathing review to Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy.Ebert: I got my sense of humor. My sense of humor was starving for a laugh!
- Siskel also asked Ebert where his sense of humor was when Ebert gave a thumbs down to Eddie Murphy: Raw.
- Siskel accused Ebert of this when Ebert gave a scathing review to Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy.
- Not Distracted by the Sexy: Siskel derided the sex scene in Disclosure, saying it was unrealistic for the boss to sleep with an employee on the first night:note Siskel: This is a totally preposterous scene, no matter how much you like looking at these actors' bodies.
- The same went for Barb Wire; Siskel got annoyed at Pamela Anderson's "assets" being shoved in his face.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: One of their stranger arguments was debating whether Ed was truly stupid (what Siskel believed) or faking it to be ironic (what Ebert believed) in Good Burger.
- Oddball in the Series: The 1996 season introduced a couple new segments that were quickly dropped: The Viewer's Thumb (video criticisms from viewers), which was quickly dropped, and The Revolving Thumb (the duo giving thumbs up or down to a trend in the movies), which lasted a little longer but was mostly gone from the series by 1997.
- Once a Season: "Memo to the Academy", "Oscar Surprises", "Best of", "Worst of", "If We Picked the Winners".
- One of the Kids:
- Ebert called himself "eternally young" when he gave a positive review to Garfield 2: A Tale of Two Kitties.
- In Siskel and Ebert's review of Star Kid, Ebert liked the film because he was in touch with the child inside himself.
- One-Word Title: This was pretty much Siskel and Ebert's only criticism of Bound: The title was vague and didn't really give a clue as to what the movie was about. They theorized that's why it didn't do especially well at the box office.
- On the Next: Before the closing catchphrase, each episode featured Siskel or Ebert saying what they'd review on the next show.
- Precision F-Strike: The duo generally avoided even the mildest curse words, but Gene let a "damn" slip out when he reviewed Speechless:Siskel: This screenplay didn't care enough to teach us a damn thing- excuse me, a darn thing, about politics, speech writing, or political campaigns.
- Pretentious Pronunciation: Played for laughs: Roeper pronounced Fockers as "Fauquers".
- Professional Butt-Kisser: A few of Ebert's guest hosts could be seen as this.
- Promotional Consideration: The sponsors varied, but two companies that often appeared in the "Promotional Consideration" slide were Nestle's Raisinets, sponsor of the Video Pick of the Week segment, and Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.
- Pun: While the duo resisted using bad puns in their reviews, they occasionally let one slide.
- From the Mr. Magoo review:Siskel: Mmm-hmm. Have you seen enough? Well, multiply the experience of seeing those two scenes by about twenty, and you see you get your eyeful rather quickly.
- In their review of Home Alone 3, Siskel said the theme song for the movie should be "Dumbbells Keep Falling On My Head".
- In their review of Scooby-Doo 2, Ebert said: "Or, as it will certainly be known in France, "Scooby Doo Doo (Deux)".
- From the Mr. Magoo review:
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In their "Worst of 1994" show, Ebert recalled what he wrote in his Chicago Sun-Times review of North (which they both considered the worst movie of that year):Ebert: I hated this movie! Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie! Hated it! Hated every stupid, simpering, vacant, audience-insulting moment of it!
- Rearrange the Song: The Ebert & Roeper theme music is a remixed version of the Siskel & Ebert theme.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: In their "Worst of 1995" show, Siskel and Ebert criticized the parents who took their kids to see Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, when they could've taken them to better family movies instead.
- Replaced the Theme Tune: Each new version of the show has had a different instrumental theme song.
- Retool: Infamously done during the Lyons/Mankiewicz era.
- Review Ironic Echo: These would occasionally pop up between Roger and Gene.
- For the 1990 film Stella, immediately after Roger praises the film, Gene provides a rather biting rebuttal against it.Roger: Stella is a movie with a lot of style, warmth, and heart. [...] This movie was inspired by the 1937 Barbara Stanwyck classic Stella Dallas, and the film historian Leslie Halliwell said of that movie that movie audiences came to sneer and stayed to weep. The same thing happened this time.
Gene: I came to weep... and sneered.
- For the 1990 film Stella, immediately after Roger praises the film, Gene provides a rather biting rebuttal against it.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: In their "Worst of 1995" show, Siskel criticized Sylvester Stallone for doing Judge Dredd:Siskel: Y'know, out there, he gets $20 million a picture, what's his reputation worth?
Ebert: Uh, worth $20 million a picture, obviously.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Siskel walked out of Black Sheep (1996).
- Roeper walked out of The Brothers Solomon.
- Serious Business: While the duo sometimes exchanged funny banter, for the most part the duo took film criticism very seriously, even occasionally accusing each other of lowering their standards (see the Predator review). This is perhaps why they gained such a reputation as an authority on what are the best films to see (to the point where "Two thumbs up!" was practically a given to mention in ads or on video covers).
- Shout-Out: In their review of Black Sheep, Siskel gave a nod to the famous "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy" quote:Siskel: This. Stunk. Chris Farley is not funny. I knew John Belushi, I knew John Candy, he's [Chris Farley's] no John Belushi or John Candy.
- Shown Their Work: Siskel and Ebert rarely made mistakes during their reviews, and often mentioned screenwriters, cinematographers, and directors by name.
- Sick Episode:
- For a few weeks in early 1998, Siskel was in the hospital recovering from surgery; instead of sitting out entirely, he still reviewed the films from his hospital bed, using a split-screen format with a still shot of Siskel on the left.
- In early 1999, Siskel was absent entirely during one episode, due to returning to the hospital. Ebert did the episode by himself.
- Special Guest: Some of the guest critics may count (such as Jay Leno and Kevin Smith during the Roeper era). Also, Bill Clinton (a famous movie buff) appeared in one episode where he was interviewed by Roger. The transcript for that interview can be read here.
- Spinning Paper: Seen in the beginning of the intro.
- Spoiler: Unfortunately, some of Siskel and Ebert's reviews contained spoilers.
- The Stoner: Roeper accused adult SpongeBob fans of being on drugs in their review of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
- Straight Man: While Ebert occasionally had some funny lines, Siskel was the more comedic of the two.
- Take a Third Option: In a show with a single split decision and all other films receiving two thumbs down, it was hard to recommend any of the week's films, so Ebert said, "My recommendation? Go see The Crying Game"—or, on occasion, any film either/both recommended in a previous week.
- Take That, Audience!: In the short-lived "Viewer's Thumb" segment, one viewer disagreed with their thumbs up of the wildlife documentary Microcosmos, claiming it was boring and slow. Siskel retorted by saying the viewer had a short attention span due to lack of reading and watching frenetic television shows.
- Take That, Critics!:
- For their "Worst of 1993" episode, both Roger and Gene selected a film the other enjoyed as the year's worst film: Roger selected Carnosaur; Gene selected Cop and a Half.
- When both Roger and Gene disliked 1997's Lost Highway, some of that film's promotional posters proclaimed "Two thumbs down!" with pride.
- That Came Out Wrong: When the duo reviewed The Living Daylights, Siskel called Timothy Dalton's portrayal of Bond "mousy", which baffled Ebert.Siskel: I called James Bond a "mouse", and I lived to say it.
- When they reviewed White Squall, one of Siskel's criticisms was that the movie had too many characters who were only defined by their struggles and not being more developed than that, and that they hit the usual archetypes. Fine, except he described it as a "shooting gallery of kids". Er... not the best combination of words.
- This Is Unforgivable!: Ebert's remark about Patch Adams.
- This Is Gonna Suck: In reviewing The Stepfather, Ebert described the premise of the movie with obvious contempt and then declared that studio heads must have said, "Sounds good keep talking". Siskel audibly and painfully groaned, "Oh, God."
- Title, Please!: No episode titles are present on the screen. Episodes are unofficially referred to as "Week of ____" and/or the movies they reviewed on that episode.
- Averted with their annual "Best of...", "Worst of...", "Memo to the Academy", and "If We Picked the Winners" shows.
- Tongue-Tied: Siskel had a tendency toward this, and Ebert sometimes poked fun at him for it.
- In his intro to 1987's Prince of Darkness, he called himself out on it:Siskel: Our next film is called Prince of Darkness, and yes, it's about the devil, about the opening of an age-old canister, and who escapes? Evil personisfied... personified. You know what I mean. It's evil, it's bad, it's naughty. (...) I would say, roughly, it's the devil. And this guy plays by a whole different set of rules, where up is down, in is out, I can't talk right, and all kinds of different rules. And if you're not careful, you're gonna be destroyed. (Beat) In this movie.
- When reviewing Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Ebert said that if the movie had been made by white people, it would've been labeled racist. Siskel meant to retort this by repeating it, but got tripped up:Siskel: Oh, I recommend it, I laughed throughout, and um, I... y'know, "If it had been made by whites", y'know, "If somebody had been made by..." "Black movies had been made by..." I mean, if you get into that line of thinking, Roger...
- In his intro to 1987's Prince of Darkness, he called himself out on it:
- Tough Room: In one review, Ebert made a joke and Siskel didn't laugh. Ebert thanked Siskel for his overwhelming support, and Siskel replied, "It wasn't that funny."
- Truncated Theme Tune: The remaining episodes in the 1998-1999 season after Gene's passing cut the intro short after the title graphic.
- Twisting the Words: Sometimes occurs, especially when they review movies about controversial subject matter.
- Visual Pun: Sneak Previews featured Spot, the Wonder Dog. At the Movies days featured Aroma, the Educated Skunk. Respectively, they represented segments talking about the dogs and stinkers of a given week or year (including a parody of the famous MGM logo, where a barking Spot replaces a roaring Leo under the banner "Major Garbage Movies"). These were excised when they moved to the Buena Vista series. During a 1992 interview on Late Night with David Letterman, Gene recalled working with the skunk.Siskel: The skunk was a very bashful creature and would always bury its head in the movie seat cushion as the camera and lights were put in position for taping the upcoming segment. Just before the cameras would start would come the order from the director "Spin the skunk!"
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Just watch this clip.
- Also to be expected when one watches any of their guest appearances on talk shows, ESPECIALLY with David Letterman.
- Vocal Evolution: Due to throat surgery, Ebert's voice changed in late 2003/early 2004.
- Volleying Insults: Would occur at times on the Ebert & Roeper version. Ebert gave thumbs up to A Prairie Home Companion, saying you just want to cuddle the movie, and when Roeper gave it a thumbs down:Ebert: You're giving this movie thumbs down? You have the appearance of a human being, but you are, in fact, an android.
Roeper: Well, you're the one cuddling with a movie.
- And of course this one from their review of Sahara (Ebert liked it, Roeper didn't):Roeper: Well you are the king of kindness on this one.
Ebert: Thank you very much.
Roeper: I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Ebert: I'm happy that the- may the balm of human generosity spread, perhaps, from my side of the aisle to yours one of these years.
Roeper: May you spend an afternoon seeing Sahara 2 someday as your punishment for recommending this movie.
Ebert: May a diseased yak make love to your sister's kneecap.
Roeper: That's funnier than anything I saw in Sahara.
- And of course this one from their review of Sahara (Ebert liked it, Roeper didn't):
This show discusses examples of:
- All Just a Dream: Gene is not a fan, criticizing its use in Jaws: The Revenge as a cheap trick that's a Dead Horse Trope. He's not alone, either; he noted how the audience with him that night groaned when it happened.
- Animation Age Ghetto: Siskel and Ebert seemed to go back and forth on this, Ebert even debunking it during his review of Ratatouille. But then again they fell into the ghetto with their review of An American Tail where Ebert insisted that kids can't handle a movie filled with pathos.
- Also debated during their review of Mulan, where Siskel thought Ebert was arguing that because Mulan is a cartoon, we can't/shouldn't take it as seriously as live action.
- Bile Fascination: Mentioned in their review of Frozen Assets. When Ebert said the movie may be the worst comedy ever made, Siskel (who hated the movie just as much as Ebert did) pointed out that the filmmakers could use that quote to make people want to see it.Siskel: Make it the second worst comedy ever made. They won't use it.
- Black Bead Eyes: The duo derided the main character in Jack Frost (1998) for having two lumps of coal for eyes, claiming that it made the character look creepy and hard to sympathize with.
- Color-Coded Characters: Referenced (and criticized) in their review of The Pebble and the Penguin. Ebert criticized the movie for color-coding its characters so that the villain had a dark complexion and the heroes had mostly white faces. He thought this sent a negative subliminal message to kids.
- Damned by Faint Praise: Occasionally occurs if a movie is really awful. In their brief review of The Hot Chick, Roeper listed the positives of the movie: It was in color, and was mostly in focus.
- He could say only one positive thing on the show's review of Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever three months earlier: "No Mounties were harmed in the making of this movie."
- While they both agreed that Free Willy 3 was the best of the Free Willy trilogy, Gene Siskel admitted that he did not care for the other two installments in the first place.
- While they gave it two thumbs down, Gene admitted D2: The Mighty Ducks was the best movie they reviewed on the episode... "which isn't saying a lot".Note
- Emotional Torque: Surprisingly used against An American Tail, which they criticized for being too dark and depressing for its Target Audience:"That's what little kids like when they go to the movies: sentimentality and pathos! They don't like to laugh, we know that, they don't like to feel excited."
- Flat Character: Their criticism of George Jetson in their review of Jetsons: The Movie: Gene called him a "dullard".
- Similarly, Gene really resented the main character in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, as most of his dialogue merely consisted of exclamations.
- Hilarious Outtakes: Gene doesn't like them. He claims that even when they're funny, it's a sign of desperation on the part of the filmmakers: "We're not sure if we made a funny picture, but now we're gonna throw this stuff in, and we'll leave you laughing on the way out." And he said it makes the movie feel like one of those blooper TV specials.
- Le Film Artistique: One completely incorrect statement about the duo is that they supposedly give thumbs up only to pretentious artsy foreign films and give thumbs down to all mainstream action films. Yeah, they really hated Die Hard 2, Executive Decision, The Fugitive, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Speed, Mission: Impossible, Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, and Men in Black, among many others.
- Not only this, but they frequently called out the Oscars at times where they felt Harrison Ford was ignored for Academy attention for his action roles, which they mentioned more than once that he could do better than anyone else (aside from maybe Steve McQueen in decades past). The Fugitive was probably one of the more notable examples of them feeling he was snubbed.
- Siskel addressed this stereotype in their review of Blade: "I think sometimes we get a rap that we don't like special effects pictures. And I'm saying Blade qualifies as a good one."
- Mickey Mousing: Criticized in their review of Hanna's War, claiming it distracted from the action rather than enhancing it.
- Money, Dear Boy: A common complaint from the two when discussing why certain actors took roles. Ebert stated that Connery's huge smile in Highlander II: The Quickening was perhaps because of the massive paycheck he received, especially since the film had a huge budget and looked like it had No Budget.
- Oddly Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo: Twice in their review of Highlander II: The Quickening, Ebert remarked, "...What a title."
- Invoked; a common complaint from Siskel about most non-Disney animated movies. He gave particular criticism to Balto, calling it "sketchy".
- Ebert disliked how Cool World looked, saying the animation moved too fast for the human mind to read the images. Siskel called the animation "farmed out".
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: One of Roeper's criticisms of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, claiming that Angelina Jolie's British accent slips in and out.
- Origins Episode: Their criticism of the The Beverly Hillbillies 1993 movie, since the TV show already covered it.Siskel: I don't know why we needed the long, tedious set-up of the Clampetts striking oil at the beginning of the film, it could've been handled just like in the credits, like they did on the TV show. Then, no, I would've picked one character and really told a great story about him or her, maybe something we wouldn't have guessed from the TV show. This version always takes the most obvious approach. The result is pure boredom. All they've done, if you think about it, is remake the big pilot, remake the TV pilot for the big screen.
- Padding: Invoked when they reviewed Ace Ventura When Nature Calls:Ebert: Well I don't agree with you that it's better than the first Ace Ventura movie. I gave that one thumbs down, but I thought it was richer and had more incident and more characters and more plot and more stuff in it than this one, which seems real thin, as if they were really depending on Jim Carrey to save the day.
Siskel: Well there's not a whole lot here.
- Quality by Popular Vote: Invoked. The duo got annoyed at the weekly box office results for this reason. They felt it turned movies into a competitive sport, where the movies that didn't do as well were seen as inferior in quality to the box office "winners", even though that wasn't necessarily the case.
- Sequelitis: A major sticking point for them... their "Worst of 1983" show was devoted entirely to sequels, and most of their "Worst of..." specials to follow would have a special segment devoted to mediocre sequels.
- Sex Comedy: Both were not big fans of this genre, and even devoted a whole episode in 1983 to how many they were getting due to the success of Porky's. Later in the episode they clarified they don't mind this genre if it's done well, but too often it's not.
- Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: An occasional defense used for a positive review on the show, such as Congo and The Fast and the Furious.
- So Bad, It's Good: Invoked: In their review of Assault of the Killer Bimbos:Siskel: It's kids from high school, college, who think, on a lark, "Let's go to this, it'll be so bad, it'll be good", 'cause that's the theory of great trash. Well, this is bad trash. It's not so bad that it's good, it's just boring.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Frequently cited as a negative in the films they review, as it often emphasizes meaningless special effects over story.
- For example, in their review of On Deadly Ground:Ebert: Now, if you like to see lots of stuff blowed up real good, this'd be a movie for you, but it doesn't pay to devote close attention to the plot of On Deadly Ground.
- Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever was similarly bashed as a "cynical exercise that... couldn't care less about any of its characters".Roeper: It's all about stunts and chase sequences and blowing things up and setting things on fire. Who. Cares?
- For example, in their review of On Deadly Ground:
- Sunk Cost Fallacy: Referenced when they reviewed She's Out of Control.Siskel: When I'm in a bad movie in a theater, uh, aren't you surprised that people stay?
Ebert: I think maybe they've just, they've spent their money, they don't have any place to go for two hours-
Siskel: Yes, but I would say this, when you're talking about robbing your life, see my thing is, I've always wanted to say to people is, I just want to stand up in the middle of a bad movie in a theater and say, "Aren't your lives worth more, for two hours than the", even, seven bucks in New York City. $3.50 an hour, that's below minimum wage, the new minimum wage! (Ebert laughs) Get out, and live!
Ebert: Go stand in the lobby and talk!
- Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: Invoked a few times when the duo review a movie which is really dark. In one instance, Siskel admitted that the first time he saw 12 Monkeys, he disliked it because the grim future setting drained him and he shut down on the picture, but he watched it a second time with a more neutral viewpoint and liked it much better.
- Ebert couldn't recommend The Doors, despite that he admitted it was well-done. He thought watching Jim Morrison self-destruct on screen was hard to watch and recommended the soundtrack album instead. Siskel, who recommended the film, countered by observing that Ebert was clearly invested in the film if he felt bad about the main character.
- This was the duo's biggest complaint about Xtro, with Ebert outright labeling it one of the most depressing and mean-spirited films he'd ever seen in his career.
- Gene and Roger both disliked Screamers for this reason; Gene in particular railed against the filmmakers for making yet another dystopian sci-fi film and wished there was a film set in the future that was optimistic for once.
- Where It All Began: In 1975, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert began their career as televised film reviewers at the same place Roger ended his in 2011: on the Chicago-area PBS station, WTTW.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Ebert accuses Roeper of not utilizing this enough when watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.