Life Itself Credit: Kevin Horan

Steve James’s 2014 documentary portrait of Roger Ebert alternates between a spirited account of the film critic’s life and a sobering chronicle of his final months, when he continued working as his body disintegrated from cancer. This isn’t one of James’s best films, but it’s still impressively nuanced and unsentimental. The biographical material never lapses into hagiography; James acknowledges Ebert’s personal failings and even gives screen time to other critics who disagreed with his worldview (including Reader contributor Jonathan Rosenbaum). Yet it’s the unflinching depiction of Ebert’s physical decline that gives the movie its emotional force. No less than James’s capital punishment documentary At the Death House Door, this asks us to think long and hard about what it means to die with dignity.