Peary was born in West Virginia and grew up in South Carolina and New Jersey. He earned a B.A. in History from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and an M.A. in Cinema at University of Southern California. He is the brother of film critic, columnist, and documentary filmmaker Gerald Peary. He has lived in New York City since 1977.
Peary and Karyn Kay ran the Pinocchio Film Society at UW. While at USC, he worked as the fine arts and sports editor for L.A. Panorama. His film criticism has been published in TV Guide (Canada), Focus on Film, Bijou[disambiguation needed], The Velvet Light Trap, Newsday, Film and Filming, The Philadelphia Bulletin, Movieline, Cineaste, Video Times/Video Movies, The New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, Soho News, Timessquare.com, brinkzine.com, and FilmInk. In the mid-eighties, he wrote episodes of two animated series, Thundercats and Silverhawks.
Peary remains an important and influential figure in the film reviewing field chiefly due to his three volume book series Cult Movies (1981), Cult Movies 2 (1983), and Cult Movies 3 (1989). Peary’s informative and passionate dissection of such critically ignored (at the time) cult film hits as Black Sunday (1960), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), The Conqueror Worm (aka Witchfinder General) (1968), Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), Eraserhead (1977), The Shooting (1966), and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), helped foster a growing interest in these and many other out-of-the-mainstream titles among the more general film fan audience. In all, Peary wrote lengthy reviews of 200 movies in the three books, providing thoughtful criticism and production details, including information gleaned from interviews Peary had with various producers, directors and actors. Peary’s response to the films under discussion was not always positive, and his writing often shows bemusement regarding the appeal of some titles (such as Emmanuelle (1974) or Zardoz (1974)), as well as occasional disgust (Blood Feast (1963)). While the majority of these films have subsequently been extensively written about and discussed in other books, magazines and various genre-specific websites, in some ways the Cult Movies books can be seen as one of the first critical “Seal of Approval” acknowledgements of many of these titles.
Peary is the New York correspondent for the Australian magazine FilmInk, and has a blog, Danny Peary on Film, for Sag Harbor (Express) Online. For several years he was a contributing editor to the defunct brinkzine.com. However, he currently mostly concentrates on sports. He is the writer-researcher on the long-running national sports interview television show The Tim McCarver Show and has done 3 books with McCarver, a close friend. He worked with Ralph Kiner on his autobiography, Baseball Forever. His 21st book, written with Tom Clavin, was his first biography, Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero. Their next collaboration was "Gil Hodges: The Brooklyn Bums, The Miracle Mets and the Extraordinary Life of a Baseball Legend." He is currently collaborating with Olympic gold medalist and cancer survivor Shannon Miller on her memoir, "Beating the Odds."
Peary has made numerous television and radio appearances promoting his books or discussing cult movies. He was interviewed for "True Hollywood Story" documentaries on Russ Meyer and Claudia Jennings on the E! network. He was also interviewed for Machete Maidens Unleashed! (2010), a documentary film about Filipino genre films of the 1970s and '80s. The director of that film, Mark Hartley, has said that, "I’d worn my copies of Cult Movies 1, 2 and 3 into the ground from constant re-reading so meeting author Danny Peary was a pleasure." A documentary by Brian Saur about the influence of Peary's books on fans, critics, and filmmakers is in progress.
- Cult Movies: The Classics, the Sleepers, the Weird and the Wonderful (1981)
- Cult Movies 2 (1983)
- Alternate Oscars (1985), Peary's choices for best picture, actor, and actress Oscars
- Guide for the Film Fanatic (1986), short reviews of over 1650 films
- Cult Movies 3 (1989)
- Cult Movie Stars (1991)
- How to Buy, Trade and Invest in Baseball Cards & Collectibles (1989), with Bruce Chadwick
- Tim McCarver's Baseball for Brain Surgeons and other Fans (1998), with Tim McCarver
- The Perfect Season (1999), with Tim McCarver
- Raising a Team Player (2002), with Harry Sheehy
- 1,001 Reasons to Love Baseball (2003), with Mary Tiegreen
- Baseball Forever: Reflections on Sixty Years in the Game (2004), with Ralph Kiner
- Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero (2010), with Tom Clavin
- Gil Hodges: The Brooklyn Bums, the Miracle Mets and the Extraordinary Life of a Baseball Legend (2012), with Tom Clavin
- Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book (1978)
- Omni's Screen Flights/Screen Fantasies: The Future According to Science Fiction Cinema (1984)
- Cult Baseball Players: The Greats, the Flakes, the Weird and the Wonderful (1990)
- We Played the Game: 65 Players Remember Baseball's Greatest Era, 1947-1964 (1994)
- Super Bowl: The Game of their Lives (1997)
- The American Animated Cartoon: A Critical Anthology (1980), with Gerald Peary
- Great Golf: 150 Years of Essential Instruction from the Best Players, Teachers, and Writers of All Time (2005), with Allen Richardson
- Tim McCarver's Diamond Gems (2008), with Tim McCarver and Jim Moskovitz
dannypeary.blogspot.com Sag Harbor (Express) Online, "Danny Peary on Film"