Andrew Sarris: A Look at his Life

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Andrew Sarris: A Look at His Life and Career

Andrew Sarris, an influential American film critic, is a name well known amongst film buffs and filmmakers alike. An ardent supporter of the “auteur theory”, Sarris championed the cinematic works of filmmakers such as Orson Welles and Jean-Luc Godard. With his insightful writings, Sarris helped shed light on the world of film criticism, establishing himself as a significant figure in the industry. Here, we take a look at his life and career.

Early Life

Andrew Sarris was born Andrew George Sarris in Brooklyn, New York in 1928. He was the son of Greek immigrants and was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith. As a child, he developed a love of herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians. Sarris attended Erasmus Hall High School, where he became interested in film. After graduating in 1946, he went on to the University of Missouri where he acquired his B.A. in 1952.

Career Beginnings

Following his graduation, Sarris worked briefly as a newspaper journalist in New York before he was offered the opportunity to review films for a short-lived magazine, The Film Journal. After it folded, Sarris went on to write for Film Culture, a magazine devoted to exploring the artistic and theoretical aspects of cinema. It was at Film Culture that Sarris wrote several influential pieces, including his famous essay, “Toward a Theory of Film History”, in which he pioneered the idea of the “auteur theory” and argued for the recognition of a film director as its author.

Rise to Prominence

In 1960, Sarris was hired by The Village Voice and began contributing to the newspaper’s film section. While writing for The Village Voice, Sarris elaborated on the “auteur theory” as well as conducted interviews with some of the biggest names in film including Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Jean-Luc Godard. One of his most notable works was his book, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968, which contained his even more in-depth analysis of the works of filmmakers he admired. The book earned him a plethora of critical acclaim and established him as one of the most respected film critics of his time.

The New York Film Critics Circle

In 1965, Sarris was elected president of the New York Film Critics Circle, a group of 75 professional film reviewers from the city’s various newspapers and magazines. During his time as president, he initiated several reforms which included extending the voting period, creating new categories for awards, and changing the rules relating to foreign films. These changes helped to solidify the organization’s reputation as a major player in the world of film criticism.

Later Years

In the 1970s and 1980s, Sarris continued his work in film criticism. He wrote for The New Yorker for a short time before returning to The Village Voice in 1983, where he would remain until his retirement in 1993. After his retirement, Sarris taught a popular course on film theory and criticism at Columbia University, which he remained affiliated with until his death in 2012.


Andrew Sarris is remembered as one of the most influential film critics of his generation. His championing of the “auteur theory” and his willingness to challenge the status quo helped to establish an entirely new approach to film criticism. Additionally, his academic work in the field of film studies and his renowned course at Columbia University have served as a guide for aspiring film critics.

Andrew Sarris remains an important name in the world of film criticism and his contributions to the field will be remembered for years to come. Through his impressive body of work, Sarris was able to raise the profile of film criticism in the eyes of the public and the industry. From his early days as a newspaper film critic to his later years teaching film theory at Columbia, Sarris helped to foster a greater appreciation of the art of cinema.

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