Crumb (film)

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Crumb Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Produced by Terry Zwigoff
Lynn O'Donnell
Starring Robert Crumb
Music by David Boeddinghaus
Cinematography Maryse Alberti
Edited by Victor Livingston
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics The Criterion Collection
Release dates
  • April 28, 1995 (1995-04-28)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $3,174,695

Crumb is a 1994 documentary film about the noted underground cartoonist Robert Crumb (R. Crumb) and his family. Directed by Terry Zwigoff and produced by Lynn O'Donnell, it won widespread acclaim. It was released in the USA on April 28, 1995, having been screened at film festivals the previous year. Jeffery M. Anderson (later critic for the San Francisco Examiner) placed the film on his list of the ten greatest films of all time, labeling it "the greatest documentary ever made."[1]


Crumb is about the experiences and characters of the Crumb family, particularly Robert Crumb's brothers, Maxon and Charles, his wife and children (his sisters declined to be interviewed). Though Zwigoff had the consent of the Crumb brothers, some questioned the ability of the more disturbed brothers to provide that consent.[2]


Robert Crumb initially did not want to make the film, but eventually agreed. There was a rumor, accidentally created by Roger Ebert, that Terry Zwigoff made Crumb cooperate by threatening to shoot himself. Ebert has clarified this in the commentary of the film's recent Criterion Collection re-release. Ebert notes that “it may be true that Zwigoff’s life was saved because he did make the film.” [3]

During the nine years that it took to make the documentary Zwigoff said he was “averaging an income of about $200 a month and living with back pain so intense that I spent three years with a loaded gun on the pillow next to my bed, trying to get up the nerve to kill myself.”[3]


Crumb was met with wide acclaim from critics, earning a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] The late critic Gene Siskel rated Crumb as the best film of the year.[5] Roger Ebert gave the film four (of four) stars, writing that "Crumb is a film that gives new meaning to the notion of art as therapy."[6] In The Washington Post, Desson Howe's review was similarly positive.[7] The San Francisco Chronicle rated the film as "wild applause", as critic Edward Guthmann called the film "one of the most provocative, haunting documentaries of the last decade." He also noted that Robert Crumb and wife Aline had drawn a "scornful" cartoon about the film in The New Yorker.[8]

Critic Jeffrey M. Anderson called it "one of the most brave and honest films I've ever seen", and listed its characteristics as those of "great documentary", giving it four (of four) stars.[9]

Despite strong reviews, Crumb was not nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (the nominating committee reportedly stopped watching the film after only twenty minutes). The Oscar snub of Crumb, and the same year's equally acclaimed Hoop Dreams, caused a media furor which forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to revamp its documentary nomination process.[10] Zwigoff stated in an interview that: “The Academy Award thing had much more to do with the fact that at the time, a lot of the documentary membership was made up of distributors of documentary films. The rules have changed since then. But they would just vote for the films they distributed because it was in their financial interest to do so.” He continued: “I just assumed they were disgusted with the film."[11]

In 2008, Entertainment Weekly named Crumb the 14th best film of the last 25 years.[12] In 2012 Slant Magazine ranked the film #74 on its list of the 100 Best Films of the 1990s, calling it "Arguably the greatest of all nonfiction films."[13]


The film won several major critical accolades:


  1. ^ Anderson, Jeffrey M. (May 20, 2012). "My ten great films". Jeffrey M. Anderson blog. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  2. ^ Patricia, Aufderheide (2007). Documentary: A Very Short Introduction (1 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-19-518270-5. 
  3. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (November 20, 2005). Crumb review. Chicago Sun Times.
  4. ^ "Crumb". Rotten Tomatoes. 
  5. ^ 'Screening Room - "Siskel and Ebert" Top Ten Films (1980-1998)' - 1995. Gene Siskel, the Official Site. The Estate of Gene Siskel. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 26, 1995). "Crumb". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved 2012-11-17
  7. ^ Howe, Desson (May 26, 1995). Crumb. The Washington Post
  8. ^ Guthmann, Edward (May 26, 1995). "Exposing the Nerves of Crumb 's Tortured Soul - Film profiles underground artist of '60s". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  9. ^ Anderson, Jeffrey M. (April 28, 1995). "Crumb (1995)". Combustible Celluoid. Archived from the original on 2001-01-11. Retrieved 2012-11-17. 
  10. ^ Crumb.
  11. ^ Murray, Noel (August 10, 2010). Interview with Terry Zwigoff.
  12. ^ The New Classics: Movies. Entertainment Weekly. #999-1000 June 27, 2008.
  13. ^ "The 100 Best Films of the 1990s". Slant Magazine. November 5, 2012.
  14. ^ Marks, Laura U. (Spring 1995). "Drawing on the Edge of Madness - Terry Zwigoff's Crumb". Filmmaker Magazine. Archived from the original on 1999-02-24. Retrieved 2012-11-17. (TOC)
  15. ^ Sundance 1995 Award Winners". Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Guthmann, Edward (December 20, 1995). "Crumb Racks Up Critics' Honors / Documentary still can't get Oscar bid". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2012-11-17
  17. ^ "Previous Awards - Awards for 1995". National Board of Review. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  18. ^ "1995 Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  19. ^ "Previous Years Winners" (1995) (rendered in Flash). Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  20. ^ "Past Award Winners". Boston Film Critics Society. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  21. ^ "Film and Video Awards: International Documentary Association: Feature Documentaries IDA Awards" (1995). Media Resources Center. University of California at Berkeley. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  22. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 2012-11-17.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Freedom on My Mind
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Succeeded by
Troublesome Creek: A Midwestern