Joe Leydon

Joe Leydon soon will mark his 25th anniversary as a film critic for Variety, the premiere show business trade paper and Website, as well as his 15th as an adjunct professor of film studies at the University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication and Houston Community College. He is a contributing critic for Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, a contributing editor for Cowboys & Indians magazine, a Q&A host at the Nashville, Denver and Houston Cinema Arts festivals, a blogger at and a lecturer at Sam Houston State University.

When the first edition of his Guide to Essential Movies You Must See was published in 2004, Roger Ebert raved: “At a time when even some filmmakers seem to believe cinema history began with Star Wars, if not The Matrix, Joe brings passion, intelligence, and a bracing wit to his tour of the films we really must see to call ourselves literate.”

From 1982 to 1995, Leydon was film critic for The Houston Post. Since then, he has reviewed films for The San Francisco Examiner,, Houston NBC affiliate KPRC-TV, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Houston Press. Joe’s work has also been published by,, The New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Boston Globe, The Toronto Star, The Tennessean, The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Observer, Houstonia, Film Comment, MovieMaker and Stereophile Guide to Home Theater magazines.

Joe Leydon is available to host screenings of the following classic films (as well as others), preceded and/or followed by his observations and answers to your questions. These sessions are perfect for “spouse/guest” entertainment at conventions and retreats, or are a nice complement to a reunion weekend as you view the most popular movie from your graduation year. If you’re looking for a fun diversion from a conference filled with graphs and charts, Joe can provide two hours of escape, flavored by his unique personal experiences with the actors and filmmakers.


Joe talks about the production of the enduringly influential (and ingeniously creepy) thriller, and shares Anthony Perkins’ remembrances of Alfred Hitchcock.

His Girl Friday

Join Joe for the story behind the classic screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and directed by the great Howard Hawks.

Forrest Gump

Joe examines controversies surrounding the Oscar-winning classic during its original theatrical release, and shares stories told to him by Tom Hanks.

A Hard Day’s Night

Joe explores the production (and surprise success) of the Fab Four musical comedy, drawing on his interviews with George Harrison and director Richard Lester.

In the Heat of the Night

Joe provides historic context for the ground-breaking, Oscar-winning drama, and recalls his interviews with Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Scott Wilson (recently seen in “The Walking Dead”) and director Norman Jewison.


Hear Joe spin stories about the under-the-radar production of Robert Altman’s 1970 dark comedy, as well as the recollections shared with him by Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland.   

Joe’s definitely an asset to the festival and his knowledge of cinema seems boundless.

Brian Owens | Nashville Film Festival

For several years, Joe Leydon, the noted film critic, teacher and film scholar, has played a major role as a guest curator at the Starz Denver Film Festival (now in its 37th year), the annual 12-day cinematic celebration in November. Joe has interviewed high-profile film artists from the stage, conduced lively Q&As with filmmakers following screenings, moderated panels, introduced special film programs, written detailed and informative profiles of festival Tribute guests, and curated sidebar programs. Joe is a talented writer, an eloquent speaker, a knowledgeable historian and projects a winning personality.

Ron Henderson | Co-founder Denver Film Society/Denver International Film Festival

Since 2010, Joe Leydon has been conducting on-stage interviews for our festival with celebrated guests ranging from Ethan Hawke to Shirley MacLaine. Joe is extremely knowledgeable and very entertaining, and the guests love him. Shirley MacLaine even gave him, publicly, an affectionate pinch on the rear at their event, which is quite an endorsement.

Richard Herskowitz | Houston Cinema Arts Festival