Leonard Michael Maltin (born December 18, 1950) is an American film critic and historian, as well as an author of several mainstream books on cinema, focusing on nostalgic, celebratory narratives. He is known as a "go-to" critic for the major studios, for writing the shortest review in the U.S. and for creating the Walt Disney Treasures series.
Maltin was born in New York City, son of singer Jacqueline (née Gould; 1923–2012), and Aaron Isaac Maltin (1915–2002), a lawyer and immigration judge. He is married to researcher and producer Alice Tlusty. He has one daughter, Jessica Bennett ("Jessie") Maltin, born in 1986, who works with him (his production company, JessieFilm, is named after his daughter). Maltin is Jewish. Maltin grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, and graduated from Teaneck High School in 1968. He described his relationship with fellow film critic Roger Ebert as friendly but not close.
Maltin began his writing career at age fifteen, writing for Classic Images and editing and publishing his own fanzine, Film Fan Monthly, dedicated to films from the golden age of Hollywood. After earning a journalism degree at New York University, Maltin went on to publish articles in a variety of film journals, newspapers, and magazines, including Variety and TV Guide. In the 1970s Maltin also reviewed recordings in the jazz magazine, Downbeat.
As an author, Maltin is best known for Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, a compendium of synopses and reviews that first appeared in September 1969 and was annually updated from October 1987 until September 2014, each edition having the following year's date. (Its original title was TV Movies, and some editions were Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide.) In 2005 coverage of many films released no later than 1960 was moved into a spin-off volume, Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide, to allow the regular book to cover a larger number of more recent titles. He has also written several other works, including Behind the Camera, a study of cinematography, The Whole Film Sourcebook, Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia, Our Gang: The Life and Times of the Little Rascals, and Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons.
Starting May 29, 1982, Maltin for 30 years was the movie reviewer on the syndicated television series Entertainment Tonight. He also appears on the Starz cable network, and hosted his own syndicated radio program, Leonard Maltin on Video, as well as the syndicated TV show Hot Ticket with Boston film critic Joyce Kulhawik (originally E! personality and game show host Todd Newton). Maltin currently hosts a television show called Secret's Out on ReelzChannel movie network. He also spearheaded the creation of the Walt Disney Treasures collectible DVD line in 2001, and continues to provide creative input and host the various sets.
Maltin appeared on Pyramid twice as a celebrity player, in 1987 on the CBS $25,000 version, and in 1991 on the John Davidson version. He also appeared on Super Password as a celebrity guest in 1988.
In the mid-1990s, Maltin became the president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and is on the Advisory Board of the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. For nearly a decade, Maltin was also on the faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York City. He currently teaches in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.
In 1998, Maltin settled a libel suit brought by former child star Billy Gray, of Father Knows Best fame, whom Maltin identified in his review of the film Dusty and Sweets McGee as a real-life drug addict and dealer. The statement had appeared in print in Maltin's annual movie guide for nearly 25 years before Maltin publicly apologized for the error.
Maltin currently hosts The Maltin Minute for DirecTV customers. He also wrote the introduction for The Complete Peanuts: 1983–1984.
In 1990, he took a look at the MGM years of The Three Stooges in a film called The Lost Stooges, available on a made-to-order DVD through the Warner Archive Collection.
Popular culture appearances
Maltin was portrayed in an episode of the animated comedy South Park called "Mecha-Streisand" where he, along with actor Sidney Poitier and singer Robert Smith, fight Barbra Streisand, who has assumed the form of Mecha-Streisand, a giant, Godzilla-like robot version of herself. His own gigantic form was reminiscent of Ultraman with his initials on his chest. He also appeared as himself in Gremlins 2: The New Batch. This was spoofed in the Mad magazine parody of Gremlins 2. He also made an appearance on the cartoon show Freakazoid! where he voiced himself, only to be abducted by monsters.
Maltin starred on an episode of Entertainment Tonight, where he was presenting a time machine akin to one in the film The Time Machine. He sits in the machine and then vanishes, as does the character in the film. Maltin is one of the few people to appear as a "guest star" on Mystery Science Theater 3000; during a Season Nine episode, he joins Pearl Forrester in torturing Mike Nelson with the film Gorgo.
In The Simpsons episode "A Star is Burns", Marge says "Did you know there are over 600 critics on TV and Leonard Maltin is the best looking of them all?". Lisa replies "Ewwww!" In the 1995 video release of the original Star Wars trilogy, there was an interview with George Lucas conducted by Maltin included before the start of the movies. Maltin is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world's shortest movie review; his two-star review of the 1948 musical Isn't It Romantic? consists of the word "No". In 1985 he delivered a three-word movie review on Entertainment Tonight for that year's horror film spoof, Transylvania 6-5000. The review begins with a silent Maltin swaying to a recording of the Glenn Miller Orchestra playing "Pennsylvania 6-5000", wherein the instrumental melody is interrupted by the sound of a telephone ringing (part of the original recording), after which the band chants the title of the song. In his review, Maltin timed it so that his review began with the phone ringing: "Transylvania 6-5000 ... stinks!"
Maltin also selected and hosted a compilation of National Film Board of Canada animated shorts, Leonard Maltin's Animation Favorites from the National Film Board of Canada.
Comedian Doug Benson's podcast "Doug Loves Movies" features a segment called The Leonard Maltin Game, in which the guest must guess the name of a movie based on a subset of the cast list in reverse order and a few intentionally vague clues from the capsule review of the movie in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide. Maltin appeared on the podcast in February 2010 and played the game himself. He appeared on the show again in August 2010. In November 2010 Benson and Maltin played the game on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show. Maltin has repeated his appearances on Doug Loves Movies in September 2011 with Jimmy Pardo and Samm Levine, in September 2012 with Chris Evans and Adam Scott, and in November 2013 with Peter Segal, "Werner Herzog," and Clare Kramer.
Beginning in November 2014, Maltin has hosted the podcast Maltin on Movies on Paul Scheer's Wolfpop network; with comedian and actor Baron Vaughn. The two pick a topic generally based on what is currently in theaters and discuss three other movies within that topic: one that the two both like, one that the two dislike and one they think is a great lesser-known film - or 'sleeper' - within the category. Topics have included biopics, breakthrough performances, and sequels.