Emanuel Levy began his studies at Tel Aviv University, where he received B.A. in sociology, anthropology and political science. He did graduate work in sociology, film, and culture studies at Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. Among his mentors were Sigmund Diamond, a professor of social history and the distinguished film critic Andrew Sarris. Reading Sarris' seminal book of 1968, American Directors, the Bible of Auteurism, has changed his view of film and motivated him to become a film scholar and film critic
Most of his film education in the pre-VCR era was done at French Cinematheque, New York's Museum of Modern Art, Film Forum, Thalia, and other art houses that no longer exist.
Levy belongs to a small group of scholars who have juggled two full-time careers, as film professor and as film critic. He has taught at Columbia University, New School for Social Research, Wellesley College, ASU, where he was chair between 1990 and 1992, at UCLA Film School, and now in the department of cinema studies at New York University.
He is the only critic in the U.S. who's a voting member of eight groups: Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), mostly known for the Goden Globes, Los Angeles Film Critics (LAFCA), Broadcast Film Critics (BFCA), National Society of Film Critics (NSFC), New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO), Gay and Lesbian Critics Association, On Line Film Society, and the International Federation of Film Critics (Fipresci).
His very first book, The Habima--Israel's National Theater, 1917-1977, launched his writing career, winning the prestigious 1980 National Jewish Book Award.
His critical chronicle of the Oscar Award, the first serious book about this most popular of awards, was published in 1986 under the title of And the Winner Is. There have been numerous updated editions of the book, including Oscar Fever in 2000 and All About Oscar in 2003. The subtitle has remained the same: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards.
Of the nine books he heas written, his magnum opus is considered to be "Cinema Of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film," first published as hardcover in 1999 and then as paperback in 2001. A finalist for the National Book Award, "Cinema of Outsiders" is the most popular film book in the history of NYU Press, used as textbook in numerous film schools across the country.
Levy's most recent book is the first comprehensive biography of Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer, by St. Martin's Press. Levy has written for various newspapers and magazines, including American Film, the Los Angeles Time and the Financial Times. While in Arizona, he ran the ASU Film Society, and then the Scottsdale Independent Film Festival.
Formerly a senior critic at Variety, and chief film critic of the UK publication Screen International, Levy established a website of film reviews and essays in 2004, www.EmanuelLevy.com. As of 2014, the site contains over 20,000 film reviews, profiles, interviews, and and commentaries, written by Levy and a staff of writers.
He has served on the juries of 54 international film festivals, including Cannes, Venice, Montreal, Hawaii, San Francisco, Taormina, Locarno, Shanghai, Sundance, Rome Film Festival in 2008 and Guadaljara Film gest in 2011. In interviews, he had singled out the Sundance Dramatic Feature Jury due to its outstanding composition: Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, David O. Russell, and Forest Whitaker.
- The Habima, Israel's National Theater: A Study of Cultural Nationalism (1979). Winner of the 1980 National Jewish Book Award.
- And the Winner Is: The History and Politics of the Oscar Awards (1987)
- John Wayne: Prophet of the American Way of Life (1988)
- Small-Town America in Film: The Decline and Fall of Community (1991)
- George Cukor: Master of Elegance (1994)
- Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film (1999)
- Citizen Sarris, American Film Critic: Essays in Honor of Andrew Sarris (2001)
- Oscar Fever: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards (2001)
- All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards (2003)
- Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer (2009)
- "Gay Directors/Gay Films: Pedro Almodovar, Terence Davies, Too Haynes, Gus Van Snt, John Waters" (Columbia University Press, December 2014)