It’s a sad fact of life that we often don’t know what we have until it’s gone, and while we cherished the great film critic and writer Roger Ebert while he was with us, we were also perhaps a little surprised about how deeply his loss has been felt since news of his passing yesterday, and how many shared in that grief.

Roger Ebert was a talented writer, a knowledgeable film critic, and by the estimation of seemingly everyone who knew him, a great man. He, along with partner in crime Gene Siskel, made film-watching and movie-loving more accessible and popular than ever before. But that’s not to say that public opinion always fell in line with Ebert’s thinking, or that none of Ebert’s reviews deviated wildly from the consensus of his fellow film critics. Ebert was an individual, and he didn’t let anything but his own enjoyment sway his opinion. That’s why one of the things Ebert is best known for is championing movies that may be underlooked, underappreciated, or in some cases, just flat-out bad... to just about everyone but Ebert, that is.

We may not always have agreed with Ebert, but we could always trust that his opinion came from the heart. He didn't harp on bad movies just to please his snarky fans, but because he genuinely wanted them to be better. To celebrate the passing of one of the best film writers of all time, we’ve rounded up some of his most infamous and controversial “favorites” — movies that touched him in a way they touched few others. Perhaps, in considering the life of this thoughtful and intelligent man, it's time to reconsider some of these titles as well?

1. Anaconda

Metacritic Score: 37 (out of 100)

Ebert's Review: ***1/2 (out of four)

"This information is included in the opening titles of Anaconda, and as the words rolled across the screen I heard a chuckle in the theater. It came from me," Ebert wrote of this creature feature. While many other critics slammed it for its stupidity, Ebert admired its B-movie charms and gruesome goofiness: "beautifully photographed and splendidly acted in high adventure style. Its snakes are thoroughly satisfying."

 

2. Junior

RottenTomatoes Score: 32%

Ebert's Review: ***1/2

You can probably imagine that a movie about a preggers Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't exactly light most of the world's critics on fire, but Ebert found it utterly charming. "Is a pregnant Arnold any harder to believe, really, than Arnold as Conan the Barbarian?" he asked in his review, which is a fair question.

 

3. Speed 2: Cruise Control

Metacritic Score: 23

Ebert's Review: ***

"I was grateful to Jan De Bont, director of this film and the first one, for not overlooking such touches as The Dog Who Survives," Ebert wrote of this film, considered by many to be one of the biggest letdown sequels of all time. But Ebert embraced the silliness — including a cruise ship crashing through buildings on a pier, and Sandra Bullock wielding a chainsaw — and so do we. Because it's not any more ridiculous than the first one. "Movies like this embrace goofiness with an almost sensual pleasure." Ebert said. "And so, on a warm summer evening, do I."

 

4. Knowing

Metacritic Score: 41

Ebert's Review: ****

Ebert infamously listed this Nicolas Cage thriller as one of his Top Ten films of 2009... along with virtually nobody else... calling it "among the best science-fiction films I've seen — frightening, suspenseful, intelligent and, when it needs to be, rather awesome." Most audiences would just go with "frightening," and that's mainly because of another manic Nic Cage performance.

 

5. Crash

Metacritic Score: 69

Ebert's Review: ****

While Crash is a generally well-reviewed film and has a good many fans out there, it's also one of the most controversial (and hated) Best Picture winners of all time. Ebert was one of the film's biggest champions, praising its tension and ingenuity of storytelling. He called it "a movie with free will, and anything can happen. Because we care about the characters, the movie is uncanny in its ability to rope us in and get us involved."

 

6. Cop And A Half

RottenTomatoes Score: 17%

Ebert's Review: ***

You'd probably expect Cop And A Half to get a star and a half (if that) from any major critic. But this "sunny and good-hearted" buddy movie between a cop played by Burt Reynolds and an 8-year-old thief seemed to charm Ebert, even if it has been forgotten by almost everyone else except those who rank it as one of the most painful comedies of all time. Compare that to the Washington Post critic who said, "Cop and a Half manages to be offensive on so many levels that it deserves mention in the Guinness Book of World Records under cultural child abuse."

 

7. 2012

RottenTomatoes Score: 29%

Ebert's Review: ***1/2

Ebert called this "the mother of all disaster movies (and the father, and the extended family)." We might call it the red-headed stepchild instead. Though he was not the only critic to defend Roland Emmerich's bloated End of Days actioner, let's keep in mind that he gave this a half a star more than he gave to The Godfather Part II. If that isn't apocalyptic, what is?

 

8. The Cell

Metacritic Score: 40

Ebert's Review: ****

Tarsem's Jennifer Lopez thriller has its fans, but few who are bigger fans than Ebert. "I know people who hate it, finding it pretentious or unrestrained; I think it's one of the best films of the year," he wrote in his review. The trippy movie isn't for everyone, but the striking visuals spoke to what Ebert loved so much about the visceral impact of cinema... enough to rank it as his #6 film of 2000.

 

9. All Good Things

Metacritic Score: 59

Ebert's Review: ***1/2

Though the reviews for this story of suspense based on a real-life murder case weren't dismal, not too many critics praised it as one of 2010's best. But Ebert did, writing: "Kirsten Dunst is so good here as a woman at a loss to understand who her husband really is, and what the true nature of his family involves. The man she married and trusted has undergone the transformation of a Dr. Jekyll." And perhaps you should take Ebert's word for it and check it out, since it features a stellar performance from Ryan Gosling... in drag... as an old woman. (Yes, you read that right.)

 

10. Babe: Pig in the City

RottenTomatoes Score: 61%

Ebert's Review: ****

A huge disappointment at the box office, Ebert placed this unlikely candidate for the year's best at #7 on his best of 1998, saying: "I liked Babe for all the usual reasons, but I like Babe: Pig in the City more, and not for any of the usual reasons, because here is a movie utterly bereft of usual reasons." However, as much as Ebert liked it, one critic was an even bigger champion — Gene Siskel, who ranked this as his #1 movie that year.

Do you have a favorite Ebert review? Share it in the comments!