Most movie podcasts are awful. This is a fact. In an age where anyone with a microphone and a Wi-Fi connection can broadcast his thoughts to the world at large, the Internet is littered with awful shows, where uninformed hosts prattle on like they're experts, their voices doing constant battle with a poor sound mix.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing worth your time. On the contrary, there are tons of great podcasts out there once you've filtered through all of the junk. So many, in fact, that narrowing it down to a top 10 was an absolute ordeal. Cutting shows from this list was like cutting limbs from my body, so don't consider this a final "best of" list, but rather a "great place to start" list.
10. The CriterionCast
Watching the movies collected under the Criterion Collection banner is a vital part of any film education and the CriterionCast is a vital part of discovering which of their releases you've been missing. Every episode finds hosts Ryan Gallagher and James McCormick picking a Criterion release and they talk about it. It's that simple. Thankfully, Gallagher and McCormick know their stuff and can talk about Wes Anderson just as easily as Seijun Suzuki, making them the perfect guides for a subject as broad and daunting as the Criterion Collection. When you combine the CriterionCast with its sister shows The News Stand, Off the Shelf and On the Screen, you've got a pretty complete film education readily available on iTunes.
9. The Golden Briefcase
It's a "meat and potatoes" kind of setup: two hosts (in this case, Tim Buel and Jeremy Kirk) and a guest chat movies for an hour or two, giving themselves enough space to go off in any direction with their conversations while keeping themselves on track with a specific format. They talk new movies. They talk old movies. They talk new releases on DVD and Blu-ray. And so on. What separates The Golden Briefcase from so many of its (impossibly dull and boring) peers is the fact that Buel and Kirk know their stuff, are amiable presences, and have good taste in special guests. The show's laid-back style means that each episode feels like you're quietly eavesdropping on a conversation amongst friends rather than waiting to be educated. This is smart, funny stuff, perfect for both casual and seasoned movie buffs.
8. How Did This Get Made?
The problem with most movie podcasts hosted by comedians (and there a ton of them), is that the opportunity to drop jokes often overwhelms the actual discussion. I love Doug Loves Movies, but that show uses cinema as an excuse to get a bunch of funny people riffing and little more (and to be fair, it's generally really, really funny). What's commendable about How Did This Get Made? is that it perfectly balances the laughs and the chatter. Each episode finds hosts Paul Scher, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzukas watching and discussing a movie that has no reason to exist. Usually, it's a piece of junk like the 1998 Godzilla or the Eddie Murphy bomb The Adventures of Pluto Nash, but sometimes they'll tackle a movie they absolutely love that still begs the titular question (like Crank 2: High Voltage and Punisher: War Zone). All three hosts and their guests manage to be funny while remaining on point, elevating one of moviedom's greatest pastimes (making fun of awful films) into thoughtful, hilarious listening.
7. The Motion/Captured Podcast
Drew McWeeny is a busy man, which means that the Motion/Captured podcast, the companion to his Motion/Captured blog over at HitFix, doesn't get updated nearly as often as it should. A shame, since McWeeny is one of the most valuable voices in film criticism, a man who knows the business and the history of Hollywood like no one else working in the online world. His discussions with frequent cohost Scott Swan range from serious talks about the state of the film industry to silly games like Movie God, where they are forced to eliminate important films from history and imagine the repercussions. With almost no format to speak of (although many episodes do feature an interview with a filmmaker), an episode of Motion/Captured is simply a freewheeling conversation between two good friends who are not only smarter and more clever than you, but have probably seen a lot more movies than you.
A podcasting institution, Filmspotting has been running since 2005 and has just about 400 episodes under its belt, making it the grandfather of every podcast on this list. Unlike most movie podcasts (which, let's face it, tend to be recorded over Skype in a garage), Filmspotting is also a public radio production, so its sound and production quality are almost absurdly top-notch and slick. Each episode follows a pretty standard format: Reviews of new releases, listener feedback, "Massacre Theater" (where the hosts re-create an iconic scene from a movie and the listeners attempt to guess where if came from) and a concluding "Top Five," where the hosts create personal lists that tie into some kind of theme, usually defined by the new release of the week. Although the show has gone through three cohosts over the years, host Adam Kempenaar has been a mainstay, helping build the show's soft-spoken, thoughtful tone. Filmspotting emphasizes critical discussion instead of industry news, meaning that is a movie podcast that is strictly about movies, not budgets.
5. Operation Kino
Operation Kino has a murderer's row of talent behind the microphones, a team that's almost intimidating in its intelligence. But this isn't a quiet affair based on calm, measured discussion. This isn't Filmspotting. Oh, no. Operation Kino is what happens when you put four incredibly opinionated, ludicrously smart cineastes in a room together and watch as they verbally duel to the death rather than cede any ground to their opponents. Katey Rich, Matt Patches, David Ehrlich and Da7e Gonzales are obviously friends, but that doesn't mean they have to play nice with one another or respect each other's opinions. With so many podcast hosts falling over each other to reach common ground, it's absolutely thrilling to listen to these four duke it out week after week. With such strong personalities in play, no one gets lost in the shuffle and you can't help but play favorites. I love 'em all, but I'm definitely Team Patches (and not an episode goes by where I don't shake my fist at Ehrlich).
4. Reject Radio
Like so many other movie podcasts, Reject Radio features a rotating cast of film writers and a pretty standard format (a chat about the latest movie news generally followed by an interview or extended discussion about a topic of interest). However, what sets Reject Radio apart from so many other podcasts can be attributed to one thing: Host Cole Abaius. In addition to being an amiable presence with great radio instincts (he lets his outspoken guests riff freely and provides perfect, almost invisible backup for his quieter guests), he is entirely unafraid to change up the format and style of the show. The result? Reject Radio has never gotten stale. Episodes from last year may be completely different than the most recent releases, but they all feel oddly uniform under Abaius' watch. A good host provides an entertaining show, but a great host guides and changes and perfects his show. Reject Radio has a great host.
3. Filmspotting SVU / The IFC News Podcast
It may seem weird to call a movie discussion podcast a "masterpiece," but the IFC News Podcast was a masterpiece. As the name implies, it began as place where hosts Matt Singer and Alison Willmore could discuss the latest news relevant to the Independent Film Channel and its viewers, but it soon took on a life of its own; an outlet where Willmore and Singer could riff on any subject they saw fit. It was a combination of good-natured, humorous conversation and serious debate, easily one of the smartest and most flat-out entertaining film podcasts available. Sometimes, they actually would talk about the latest news from the indie filmmaking scene. Sometimes, they would attempt to make a master list of reoccurring tropes in cop movies. More often than not, it ended up leading to a dissection of Arnold Schwarzengger's career. Anything and everything was a topic.
Although the IFC News podcast has long since concluded, Singer and Willmore can be now be heard on the the Filmspotting spin-off show, Filmspotting: Streaming Video Unit (or SVU), where they discuss movies and television shows that are available for streaming online. As the tongue-in-cheek title implies, the goofy wit that made their original show so memorable remains intact and Filmspotting SVU is a more than worthy successor to the IFC News Podcast.
2. The Tobolowsky Files
A spin-off from the Slash Film podcast, The Tobolowksy Files is simply a series of stories and monologues from prolific character actor Stephen Tobolowksy. That would mean nothing if Tobolowksy wasn't one of the best storytellers you'll ever hear, a man with more incredible anecdotes about Hollywood than you can possibly imagine. Whether he's talking about working on a masterpiece like Groundhog Day or how he almost got killed by a bull on the set of Wild Hogs, it's seemingly impossible for Tobolowksy to not be entertaining. Although not every episode deals directly with the film industry (there are plenty of episodes where he reminisces about his childhood or recounts his failed and successful relationships), every episode informs us about what it means to be an artist and what it means to have a career in film. The Tobolowsky Files is not a show about creating masterpieces or making millions headlining blockbusters -- it's about the experience of being a character actor, the story of working the "blue collar" side of Hollywood. It's required listening.
1. Movie BS
What do you look for in a movie podcast? I ask because Movie BS probably has it. Do you want insightful conversation? Hosts Jeff Bayer and Eric D. Snider have been reviewing movies long enough to have more than a thing or two to say. Do you want hilarious banter? Bayer and Snider have the timing of a trained comedy duo, with Bayer frequently acting as the perfect straight man to Snider's deadpan absurdity. Do you want a catchy theme song that will get stuck in your head for hours on end? Movie BS has several, which rotate on an episode by episode basis. You always wish an episode of Movie BS would be longer than an hour, but you're glad it never overstays its welcome. If things ever get a little too serious, one of their hilarious, improvisational movie games is surely right around the corner. Recently, the duo took their podcast to the Cannes Film Festival, where they took every opportunity to make fun of the French while reporting on the films they saw. Every episode of Movie BS is so much fun that every episode, even those from several years ago, are worth listening to. Sure, their review of the Clash of the Titans remake in their first episode won't be useful, but you'll be too busy laughing to care.