Ann Hornaday grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and graduated cum laude with a degree in Government from Smith College. After working at Ms. magazine as a researcher and editorial assistant, she became a freelance writer in New York City, where she eventually began to write about movies for the New York Times Arts & Leisure section and other publications. In 1995 she became the movie critic at the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas, where she stayed for two years before moving to Baltimore to be the movie critic at the Baltimore Sun. She left the Sun in 2000 and began working at the Washington Post in 2002. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2008.