Caseen Gaines

Caseen Gaines is an author, director, educator, and popular culture historian.

​His work has received praise from media outlets around the world including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, The Hollywood Reporter, and Esquire.

​He is the author of We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy, which led to his television appearances on Entertainment Tonight and Netflix's The Movies That Made Us. His book The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History received a starred review in Booklist. His first book, Inside Pee-wee's Playhouse, was a 2012 Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medalist. Its follow-up, A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic, was featured on The TV Guide Network, where Gaines also appears on a perennially televised documentary. He is also the author of the 2022 book E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History.

His latest book, When Broadway Was Black: The Triumphant Story of the All-Black Musical That Changed the World, was recently featured in the New York Times.

​Beyond his books, he has been published at Vanity Fair, io9, and New York Magazine — and has written original features for Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club, and Decider. He has also worked as a consultant and ghostwriter on several narrative nonfiction projects.

He holds a Master’s Degree from Rutgers University in American Studies, where he focused on racial representations in popular culture, and, in addition to writing, is co-Artistic Director of a nonprofit theater company he cofounded in 2005 and a high school English teacher in New Jersey, where he has taught for sixteen years.

Find him online at and on social media @caseengaines.

Scream Real Loud

Pee-wee Herman Was My Childhood Friend. Paul Reubens Was Harder To Know

ByCaseen Gaines

For one writer, saying goodbye to Paul Reubens is painful, and complicated.

Read Together

15 Essential Chapter Books For Elementary School Kids

ByCaseen Gaines

These new and classic chapter books invite your young ones into complex worlds that they can understand.

Fatherly Icons

Jeffrey Wright Makes Every Role Count

ByCaseen Gaines

Whether he’s working with Wes Anderson, fighting crime with Batman, or offering counsel to his two grown children, Jeffrey Wright takes every job seriously. And he’s not done. Not by a long shot.

Watch Together

The 100 Best Kids TV Shows Of All Time

ByRyan Britt, Caseen Gaines, Ian Spelling, Nathan Rabin, James Grebey, Tyghe Trimble and Harlan Sharpe

From modern classics to the shows we parents grew up on, there’s never been a better time to be a kid with a clicker.

Old Friends

40 Years Ago, The Critics Hated Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal. They Were Wrong

ByCaseen Gaines

Children's cinema has rarely been braver or more artful than The Dark Crystal.

Watch Together

The 100 Greatest Kids Movies Of All Time, According To Movie Critic Dads

ByRyan Britt, Tyghe Trimble, James Grebey, Ian Spelling, Richard Newby, Nathan Rabin and Caseen Gaines

From golden oldies to 21st-century instant classics, here’s our deeply curated, and surely controversial, ultimate ranking of 100 movies kids must see before they hit their 10th birthday.


Big Bird Will Never Die, But Kids Should Know Who Caroll Spinney Was

ByCaseen Gaines

Caroll Spinney once debated with Fred Rogers about breaking an illusion. But maybe kids need to know who this guy was.

Real Talk

A Christmas Story Doesn’t Really Want Kids To Love Guns

ByCaseen Gaines

The kid wants a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle for Christmas. Here's why this matters.