David Denby
Denby in 2016
Denby in 2016
Born1943 (age 80–81)
New York City, U.S.
OccupationFilm critic, journalist
Alma materColumbia University (BA, MA)
  • (m. 1981; div. 2000)
  • Susan Rieger
    (m. 2004)

David Denby (born 1943) is an American journalist. He served as film critic for The New Yorker[1] until December 2014.[2]

Early life and education

Denby grew up in New York City. He received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1965, and a master's degree from its journalism school in 1966.



Denby began writing film criticism while a graduate student at Stanford University's Department of Communication.[3] He began his professional life in the early 1970s as an adherent of the film critic Pauline Kael—one of a group of film writers informally, and sometimes derisively, known as "the Paulettes."[4] Denby wrote for The Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Phoenix, and New York before arriving at The New Yorker; his first article for the magazine was published in 1993, and beginning in 1998 he served as a staff writer and film critic, alternating his critical duties week by week with Anthony Lane.

Denby participated in the 2012 Sight & Sound critics' poll, where he listed his ten favorite films as follows: L'Avventura, Citizen Kane, The Godfather Part II, Journey to Italy, The Life of Oharu, The Rules of the Game, Seven Samurai, Sunrise, The Tree of Life, and Vertigo.[5]

In December 2014, it was announced that Denby would step down as film critic in early 2015, continuing with The New Yorker as a staff writer.[6]


Denby speaking at the Berkeley School of Journalism, 2009

Denby's Great Books (1996) is a non-fiction account of the Western canon-oriented Core Curriculum at his alma mater, Columbia University. In The New York Times, the writer Joyce Carol Oates called the book "a lively adventure of the mind," filled with "unqualified enthusiasm."[7] Great Books was a New York Times bestseller. In The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th century, Peter Watson called "Great Books" the "most original response to the culture wars."[8] The book has been published in 13 foreign editions.

In 2004, Denby published American Sucker, a memoir which details his investment misadventures in the dot-com stock market bubble, along with his own bust years as a divorcé from writer Cathleen Schine, leading to a major reassessment of his life. Allan Sloan in The New York Times called the author "formidably smart," while noting this paradox: "Mr. Denby is even smart enough to realize how paradoxical it is that he not only has a good, prestigious job, but that he is also in a position to make money by relating how he lost money in the stock market."[9]

Snark, published in 2009, is Denby's polemical dissection of the spread of low, annihilating sarcasm in the Internet and in public speech. In 2012, Denby collected his best film writing in Do the Movies Have a Future?

Denby’s next book, Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-four Books That Can Change Lives, published in 2016, is a kind of prequel to Great Books. It dramatizes the kind of reading and teaching can turn tenth-graders into lifetime readers. USA Today (February 17, 2016) described it as “by turns funny, bracing and utterly absorbing, it is that rare journalism artifact: a hopeful book about adolescence that doesn’t whitewash the nasty bits.”

Denby is married to novelist Susan Rieger, author of The Divorce Papers (2014), The Heirs (2017), and Like Mother, Like Mother (fall, 2024).



  1. ^ Has Hollywood Murdered the Movies?|The New Republic
  2. ^ "Contributors: David Denby". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  3. ^ "Biography: David Denby". World Leaders Forum: Columbia University. Archived from the original on June 8, 2010. Retrieved February 3, 2009.
  4. ^ Denby, David (October 20, 2003). "My Life As a Paulette". The New Yorker.
  5. ^ "David Denby | BFI". Archived from the original on August 18, 2016.
  6. ^ Hayden, Erik (December 13, 2014). "David Denby to Step Down as New Yorker Film Critic". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  7. ^ Oates, Joyce Carol (September 1, 1996). "Back to School". The New York Times. Retrieved March 20, 2008.
  8. ^ Watson, Peter (July 2002). The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th century. Harper Perennial. p. 733. ISBN 0-06-008438-3.
  9. ^ Sloan, Allan (January 28, 2004). "O.K., Sharp Film Critic, Not-So-Shrewd Investor". The New York Times. Retrieved March 20, 2008.