Obit is a 2016 documentary film about the obituary writers at The New York Times.[3]

Film poster by Kristin Bye[1]
Directed byVanessa Gould
Produced byCaitlin Mae Burke, Vanessa Gould
CinematographyBen Wolf
Edited byKristin Bye
Music byJoel Goodman
Green Fuse Films
Distributed byKino Lorber
Release date
  • April 15, 2016 (2016-04-15) (Tribeca)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$315,049[2]


Obit is the first documentary[citation needed] to look into the world of newspaper obituaries, via the obituary desk at The New York Times. Writers are interviewed as they research and compose obituaries, including one for William P. Wilson, who coached John F. Kennedy on his historic TV debate with Richard Nixon,[4] and one for Dick Rich, who developed ground-breaking advertising for Alka-Seltzer.[5] Along the way obits for many other people are discussed, with accompanying film clips of their lives. Writers attend editorial meetings and struggle to get their lede just right in time for the 6 pm print-edition deadline. The lone keeper of the Times' morgue files, too massive to move to the paper's new building, describes its functions and shows off some of its treasures, including "advances" — obits written well before a person dies and kept in a locked filing cabinet. One was prepared in 1931 for Elinor Smith, an early aviator who the Times believed might die in a plane crash. When she died in 2010, age 98, her advance informed the obit desk almost 80 years after it was written.


All appearing as themselves


Obit premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 15, 2016. The film was released theatrically in New York City on April 26, 2017 at Film Forum and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, and in Los Angeles on May 5, 2017 at the Landmark Nuart. Obit's release expanded in May and June 2017, playing on 100 screens theatrically in the United States and Canada, including an 8-week engagement in Washington D.C., and 6- and 7-week engagements in New York City, Philadelphia and Berkeley, California.[6]

Critical receptionEdit

The film has generally received high critical praise.[7][8][9] Obit currently has a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.[10]

Entertainment Weekly listed Obit in its Ten Best Movies of 2017 midyear report, calling it a "a wry, charming celebration of life in every form."[11]

It received a Critic's Pick in the New York Times, and outside reviewer Gene Seymour wrote, "It is modest, observant, graceful and nonchalantly witty. Beneath bright newsroom lighting, cameras peer avidly over the shoulders of writers and editors as they work to meet deadlines, assemble facts and obtain perspective on the recently deceased. And one comes away from Obit grateful that the paper has at its disposal a team of humane, gifted people who make commemorating the dead a lively, lasting art."[12]

Deadline Hollywood's Pete Hammond named Obit his favorite documentary of 2017 to date (in May), writing "As documentaries go, few of them are as outright entertaining to watch as director Vanessa Gould’s fascinating treatment of The New York Times obituary reporters, called, appropriately enough, Obit."[13]

Writing for The Nation, Stuart Klawans states that Obit is "a remarkably good film about the craft of writing."[14]

NPR's Andrew Lapin described the film as "heartfelt and unshakable."[15]

Rolling Stone described the film as "stunning."[16]

The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan also named it a Critic's Pick.[17]

Richard Roeper wrote in The Chicago Sun-Times "Vanessa Gould's Obit is a life-affirming, slyly amusing, affectionate tribute to the skilled reporters at the New York Times who spend their days gathering information and writing the first-draft mini-histories of the most interesting players on the world stage, from superstar celebrities to historical supporting players to anonymous figures who impacted our lives without us ever knowing their names – until they died."[18]

Soheil Rezayazdi observes in Filmmaker, "Obit teems with colorful anecdotes. Gould’s camera hovers as reporters research, call relatives and pitch pieces to editors. She mixes the fly-on-the-wall work with abnormally eloquent interviews—these are Times writers, after all—and splashes of archival footage to take us outside the cubicles. The film celebrates human achievement and human strangeness. It effuses an obit writer’s intellectual curiosity and itch for a good story."[19]

The Economist stated "Obit is a rich, compelling portrait of a profession that rarely receives the dignity it so graciously affords others."[20]

Rex Reed, in the New York Observer, gave the film three out of four stars: "informative, fascinating and surprisingly this riveting documentary demonstrates, the Times staff that chronicles the passing of both heroes and villains strives to make sure their obits have next to nothing to do with death and everything to do with life."[21]

British online magazine The Upcoming named Obit "the perfect documentary, with morbid wit and fearless curiosity."[22]

Film festivalsEdit

Obit screened by invitation at more than 40 international film festivals, including:

Home mediaEdit

Obit has been released as a region 1 DVD.[23]

Further readingEdit

  • Between the Folds is a 2008 documentary film directed by Vanessa Gould about the art & mathematics of origami (paper folding).


  1. ^ Curry, Adrian (8 November 2019). "The Best Posters of the 2010s". MUBI. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  2. ^ "Obit". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  3. ^ "Obit". Tribeca Film Festival. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  4. ^ Weber, Bruce (December 11, 2014). "William P. Wilson, Kennedy's TV Aide for Historic 1960 Debate, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  5. ^ Vitello, Paul (December 16, 2014). "Dick Rich, Who Helped Redefine TV Advertising, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2017.
  6. ^ "obit". obit. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  7. ^ Dennis Harvey (2017-04-25). "Film Review: Obit". Variety. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  8. ^ John DeFore (2017-05-04). "'Obit': Film Review". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  9. ^ Tom Allon (2017-06-06). "Obit Movie Is A Must See". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  10. ^ "Obit". Rotten Tomatoes. 26 April 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-08.
  11. ^ "The 10 Best Movies of The Year (So Far)". 2017-06-23. Retrieved 2017-06-24.
  12. ^ Seymour, Gene (2017-04-25). "Review: Obit Follows the Team That Writes Death Notices for The Times". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  13. ^ Hammond, Pete (2017-05-08). "Obit Review: Who Knew Obituary Writers Could Be So Fascinating?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  14. ^ "When Big Names Are Everywhere". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  15. ^ Lapin, Andrew (27 April 2017). "The Journalists Who Wring Life Out Of Death: Obit". Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  16. ^ "Culture Index: Trevor Noah, Handmaid's Tale, Tom Scharpling and More". Rolling Stone. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  17. ^ Turan, Kenneth (2017-05-04). "Obit is a lesson in how to bring the dead to vivid life". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  18. ^ "Each obituary celebrates a life, as amusing documentary affirms". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  19. ^ Rezayazdi, Soheil. "Tribeca Critic's Notebook #2: Obit and Contemporary Color". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  20. ^ "A new documentary brings obituary writers out of the shadows". The Economist. 12 May 2017. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  21. ^ Reed, Rex (21 April 2017). "Fascinating 'Obit' Doc Brings the Business of Death to Life". Observer.
  22. ^ Garre, William. "Tribeca Film Festival 2016: Obit – Review". The Upcoming. Retrieved 2017-06-15.
  23. ^ Obit (DVD (region 1)). Kino Lorber. 2017. OCLC 998827913. {{cite AV media}}: |format= requires |url= (help)

External linksEdit