Roger Ebert, there will always be an aisle seat kept open for you.

The influential Chicago Sun-Times critic and former "At the Movies" co-host died Thursday after battling cancer. Throughout his storied career, the Pulitzer Prize-winner wrote and, later, tweeted passionately and authoritatively about cinema in trademark prose that was smart, conversational and to the point.

Here are the five things that we'll miss most about him.

1. How he championed smaller films. Case in point, 1997's "Eve's Bayou." Directed by Kasi Lemmons, the Southern drama with Samuel L. Jackson earned four stars and much love from him. From the review posted on his website: "If it is not nominated for Academy Awards, then the academy is not paying attention."

2. How he made film criticism accessible. He was anything but a snob, trusting his instincts and embracing and praising numerous genres of filmmaking, including horror. He didn't mind going out on a limb either. Case in point: His positive review of the 2009 Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock time-travel romance "The Lake House." While other reviewers jeered, Ebert was willing to look past the film's questionable time travel plot and handed it 3.5 stars based on other merits. From his "Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2009": "What I respond to in the movie ... is its fundamental romantic impulse. It makes us hope that these two people will somehow meet."


Advertisement

3. How he never pussyfooted around a film he didn't like. Consider this well-known snippet from his review of 1994's "North" with Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood: " I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it." Ouch.

4. His courage and indomitable spirit. Ebert's tireless commitment to cinema never waned, even when he was sick as a dog with thyroid and salivary gland cancer. He still made appearances, even wrote a cookbook and didn't romanticize his illness. Through his writing and his numerous social media posts, he told it like it is, a man who fully embraced life no matter what challenges it threw at him.

5. His humanity. Ebert was as fearless with his political opinions as his views on movies. With wit, he eloquently yet forcefully expressed views on a gamut of issues: gun laws, Obama birthers and same-sex marriage via social media. His humanity also shined in his reviews, as he revealed his beliefs and related personal stories.