I was interested only in audio podcasts that are available internationally, broadcasting regularly as of May 2013 (most of these are weekly), have articulate presenters and good sound quality, and an archive of mp3s that are easy to find and download without any messing around with subscribing. Having interviews with famous names certainly helps to make a good podcast, but the main criteria are just how informed and energized the hosts are, and how well-balanced the program is. Whether I agree with their critics’ opinions or not had almost nothing to do with it.
I concentrated on podcasts that are exclusively or mainly movie-focused. There are also many 'general arts review' podcasts like the Slate Culture Gabfest, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and the BBC's Front Row and Saturday Review, all of which are good and usually feature at least one item about movies every week, but they're not included here. And there are programs like the often-excellent Tobolowsky Files, where character actor Stephen Tobolowsky tells tales of life, theatre (and occasionally the movies).
I originally wanted to do ’20 excellent movie podcasts’ but in the end could only come up with 8. That’s just because there are so many of them doing roughly the same thing -long reviews of the cool movie of the moment (the new Tarantino, Cronenberg, Fincher etc)- and two or three a week like this is more than enough. After all, if a podcast’s not telling you something new, what’s the point? And if you are going to go on for an hour or more you really need to have something extra to hold audience interest, for example a clearly defined structure which breaks things up into segments, like Filmspotting, or a critic who crams in a lot of information very fast, as on the Kermode and Mayo program.
I’ve given links only for the top 8 but if you search for the others online you’ll find them easily enough.
The Top 8, in alphabetical order
- A Damn Movie Podcast (US) Included here because it’s doing something different - reviewing old classics in depth. It’s sometimes a bit too long, but it doesn’t matter because the choice of films is so good and the level of conversation/analysis is excellent. (About 1 hr 30 mins)
- Double Feature (US) Again, a nice alternative: it reviews 2 old movies, sometimes with a quirky connection e.g. an Abbott and Costello film & a Cheech and Chong movie, or A History of Violence & Out of the Past. Intelligent original opinions and copious swearing. (About 45 mins)
- Filmspotting (US) Probably the most well-known movie podcast in the US. Adam Kempenaar is the main host who has been doing the program for years with various other hosts. Recently Josh Larsen has become the new permanent co-host: an excellent choice. The program has a review in depth, top 5s and various other segments and the conversation is always interesting and insightful. (About 1 hr 15 mins)
- Filmspotting SVU (Streaming Video Unit): it has good hosts, Alison Willmore and Matt Singer, and the same professional standards as Filmspotting, but looks at a different set of films every week: those available online.
- KCRW's The Business (US) A very professional and informative show. As the name suggests, it’s about the money-making side of movies (and TV). (About 30 mins)
- KCRW's The Treatment (US) Another good show from KCRW. Lots of big name guests, interviewed in depth about their own films. Intelligent and interesting. (About 30 mins) NB the two KCRW podcasts are about TV as much as movies, but if you explore their back catalogs there's lots of good movie stuff.
- Kermode and Mayo's Film Review (UK). This is the BBC’s ‘flagship’ film program. Kermode is a walking encyclopedia of film who talks a mile-a-minute in a sometimes high-flown but always impassioned way. Mayo balances him out with more of an everyman viewpoint. The first half hour of the podcast is non-essential stuff you may want to skip, but the quality of Kermode's reviews - especially his talent for vividly summing up every kind of film - is worth waiting for. It reviews all or nearly all films released in the UK that week, including family films and blockbusters that most other podcasts avoid, which can be fun if Kermode goes off on one of his famous rants against something like Transformers. (About 1 hr 30 mins)
- Post-Movie: I like the two main hosts and particularly enjoy their rounds-ups of weird and wonderful DVDs from around the world.
- Soundonsight (Canada) This apparently is part of a large network of movie- and TV-related podcasts. Has good commentary and a good mix of commentators (i.e. includes a woman, which is unusual amongst these podcasts!) (About 1 hr)
- The Criterioncast Podcast (US) Interesting program which focuses on Criterion DVDs and Blu-Rays but is not overtly promotional - they’re not actually working for the company as far as I can work out - and reviews other stuff as well. Good because it has different subject matter to most other podcasts. (About 1 hr 15 mins)
- Triple J Review (Australia) Funny and incisive, but each podcast is just 2 minutes long. Why not make a longer program?
- David Edelstein on NPR (US) and Kenneth Turan on NPR (US) Similarly these two well-known critics have some podcasts on NPR, but they’re only a few minutes long. (It would be nice if there were more full-length podcasts from professional critics who already write for magazines).
- Filmcast (US) A good podcast with intelligent discussion, but a bit too unstructured and covers over-familiar ground if you’re already listening to something like filmspotting.
- The Projection Booth (US) The one program I listened to - on Punishment Park (1971) – was very good. But it seems to covers very obscure films, too obscure even for me. Punishment Park was the only one I’d heard of and that’s not exactly mainstream.
- The BBC Film Programme (UK) It’s professional, it’s nice and short, and has some good interviews (the last one I listened to had John Landis, Miranda July and Philip Seymour Hoffman all within the space of 30 mins) But its one presenter sounds like she should she be reading political news and the segments on regional events are boring.
- The Guardian Filmweekly (UK) Sometimes good. I like the co-host Xan Brooks. It would be nice to hear the main host, Jason Solomons, offering up more insights and criticism of films.
- The Nick D Show-WGN Radio(US)
- Film Threat (US)
- Both of these seem pretty good. I’ve only listened to an episode or two of each.
- American Cinematographer (US) The magazine is excellent; from the three episodes I’ve listened to so far the podcast seems to be of variable quality but occasionally very interesting.
- The Q and A with Jeff Goldsmith (US) Some may like these live-Q-and-A-on-stage sessions more than I do. I just find that unless the guests are the type who really love being there and can own the stage, then I don’t like this format.
- Creative Screenwriting (US) Not available internationally apparently.
- The Documentary Blog (US) It would be nice to have a good doc podcast but this seems to feature very obscure films and the host sounds like he doesn’t even want to be there.
- Movies You Should See (UK)
- Cinescope Podcast (Ireland)
- The IFC show podcast (US)
- These three sounded good, especially Movies You Should See, and I like the IFC hosts Alison Willmore and Matt Singer, who have filled in on Filmspotting. But when I checked in Jan 2012 they all seemed to have nothing recent. Might be worth checking out their back catalogues anyway.
- Indie Film Nation (Australia) I could find hardly any names I’d heard of in their list of subjects/interviews. Has lots of video interviews as well, but again the names are rather obscure.
- Film Courage (US) A similar situation; I couldn’t find one name I’d heard of in a list of dozens of interviews on podcast. Moviemaker magazine apparently named them one of the top 10 podcasts for film-makers; maybe it’s more relevant to industry professionals.
- Film Junk (US)
- Film Feuds (US)
- The Film Vault (US)
- Movie B.S. with Bayer and Snider (US)
- The Movielicious (UK)
- The AtomicGeeks (Canada)
- All of these can be good at times and if you have lots of free time you might want to check them out. But for me they’re not distinctive enough. They generally run around 1 hr or 1hr 30 mins and seem a bit meandering and casual. Some seem like they want to present a comedy show more than a movie review show. Probably I’m not their target audience.
- Moviemail Online Podcasts (UK) One posh English guy who tries to make every review sound like a poetic rhapsody. Just awful in every way.