Best Boy (film)

Best Boy is a 1979 American documentary made by Ira Wohl. The film received critical acclaim, and won many awards including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[2]

Best Boy
Directed byIra Wohl
Written byIra Wohl
Produced byIra Wohl[1]
CinematographyTom McDonough
Distributed byInternational Film Exchange
Release date
1979 (1979)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States


The film follows Philly Wohl, Ira's mentally handicapped cousin, who at that time was 52 years old and still living with his elderly parents. Ira forces his aunt and uncle to realize that they will not be around to care for Philly forever, and that they must start making preparations for when that time should come. Philly then begins to attend classes in New York City to learn how to take care of himself and become independent.

Philly's father, Max Wohl, dies during the course of the film. His mother, Pearl, died in 1980. Philly, himself, died in late April, 2020, at the age of 92. Zero Mostel died in 1977, and the film was dedicated to his memory.


Best Boy premiered at the 1979 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was one of two documentary films (alongside Michael Moore's Roger & Me ten years later) to win the festival's People's Choice Award before a separate People's Choice Award was instituted for the festival's documentary stream.[3]


Writing in New York, David Denby called Best Boy "a remarkably powerful film" with "an undercurrent of humor".[4] In Film News, Jack Neher described Best Boy as "a beautifully detailed and very moving portrait of a family undergoing profound change".[5] In Commonweal, Colin Westerbeck wrote "It's difficult to describe the documentary that Ira Wohl has made about his cousin Philly in terms that aren't cliches. Best Boy is a movie that's "heartwarming." It's that rare film which is able to remove the quotation marks from such terms and leave us, for once, unembarrassed to use them."[6]

In addition to the Academy Award, Best Boy won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Documentary.


A sequel titled Best Man: 'Best Boy' and All of Us, 20 Years Later, was produced in 1997.[7] Following the sequel, Wohl released Best Sister in 2006, which rounded off the trilogy by looking at the effect Philly's sister had on his current life.[8]


  1. ^ 1980|
  2. ^ William Shatner and Persis Khambatta present Documentary Oscars® in 1980 - Oscars on YouTube
  3. ^ "TIFF 2015: 40 facts for the fest's 40th year". Toronto Sun, August 16, 2015.
  4. ^ Denby, David (1980-03-24). "Making Love, Not War". New York. 13 (12). pp. 76–77. ISSN 0028-7369.
  5. ^ Neher, Jack (1980). "Best Boy". Film News. 37 (4). p. 26.
  6. ^ Westerbeck Jr, Colin L. (1980-04-25). "Rising to the Occasion". Commonweal. CVII (8). pp. 243–244.
  7. ^ "The Documentary As Family Memoir: A Surprise Sequel". The New York Times, January 11, 1998.
  8. ^ "Ira Wohl To Screen His Academy Award-winning Film “Best Boy” May 17th At The CoSA Theater". Coronado Eagle and Journal, April 27, 2015.

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