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The 100 Greatest Film Books of All Time 

THR’s list of must-read tomes — determined by a jury of more than 300 Hollywood heavyweights including Steven Spielberg, David Zaslav, Liza Minnelli and Ava DuVernay — proves there’s one topic the supposedly reading-averse industry can’t get enough of: itself.

There has long been an assumption that people in the movie business — and Hollywood specifically — aren’t exactly well read. “Millions to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots,” Herman Mankiewicz telegrammed Ben Hecht upon his arrival out West in 1926. Meanwhile, 2023 awards contender American Fiction includes the laugh line, “Nobody in Hollywood reads. They get their assistants to read things and then summarize them. The whole town runs on book reports.”

But THR, suspecting that’s painting with too broad a brush, and aware that many usually busy people had some time on their hands during the first simultaneous strike of actors and writers in 63 years, reached out to hundreds of distinguished members of the global film community and asked them to share their picks for the greatest books related to film — autobiographies, biographies, novels, how-to, making-of and every other sort — factoring in quality, impact and influence. They each received a “ballot” listing some 1,200 notable titles, plus slots for write-ins.

Among the 322 respondents were directors (including Steven Spielberg, Ava DuVernay, Oliver Stone, John Waters and Celine Song); actors (Liza Minnelli, Alec Baldwin, Laura Dern, Colman Domingo and Sarah Paulson); producers (Jerry Bruckheimer and Amy Pascal); writers (Tom Stoppard, Paul Schrader and John Mulaney); executives (David Zaslav, Sherry Lansing, Michael Barker, Tom Rothman and Bela Bajaria); documentarians (Ken Burns, Sheila Nevins and Errol Morris); animators (Floyd Norman); composers (Nicholas Britell); agents (Toni Howard); the heads of the Academy, Academy Museum, Golden Globes, BAFTA, MPA, AFI, American Cinematheque, Black List, Alamo Drafthouse theater chain and Sundance, Toronto and Karlovy Vary film festivals; journalists (Maureen Dowd, Graydon Carter, Roxane Gay, David Remnick, Lynn Hirschberg, Michael Wolff and Lawrence O’Donnell); film critics; academics; and, yes, a host of top authors of film books.

There have previously been “greatest film books” surveys of some of these constituencies, but never all of them, and never of this size and scope. It’s with the hope that THR readers will be inspired to check out these books and learn more about the art form and business that we cover that we proudly present — in order from fewest votes to most — the 100 greatest film books of all time (click here for a printable checklist), as chosen by the people who would know best.