Universal acclaim - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. 88
    Seems deceptively straightforward, coming from a director with Cronenberg's quirky complexity. But think again. This is not a movie about plot, but about character.
  2. 75
    Although there's little wrong with the first two-thirds, A History of Violence slides onto a tangential path during its final act, and this misstep reduces the production's overall effectiveness.
  3. 75
    Solid entertainment value for the money, but those who think it's saying anything new or profound are kidding themselves.
  4. 100
    Other films this year will have to sweat bullets to match the explosive power and subversive wit of David Cronenberg's A History of Violence. It slams you like a body punch and then starts messing with your head.
  5. 88
    For all the bloodshed, it's fundamentally a cold, cold fable, the icy whisper that turns every happy thing to ash.
  6. But for director David Cronenberg and the commitment of his actors, A History of Violence might have been a cartoony action film. Its origins are in a cartoon, of sorts -- specifically, in a graphic novel, by John Wagner and Vince Locke.
  7. David Cronenberg's brilliant movie -- without a doubt one of the very best of the year.
  8. A ticking time bomb of a movie, a gripping, incendiary, casually subversive piece of work that marries pulp watchability with larger concerns without skipping a beat.
  9. This peculiarly predictable picture has been calculated, or miscalculated, to set up certain expectations, fulfill them, and then do the same thing again, thereby giving us a chance to see what's coming and, at least in theory, be shocked when it actually comes.
  10. Cronenberg's movie is eerily compelling and darkly humorous. And chilling - to the bone.
  11. A sobering reflection on our culture's attitude toward violence.
  12. 88
    It's a punchy, straight-up genre picture, a crime drama that might have once starred Charles Bronson or Steven Seagal.
  13. 88
    The film has the perverse intelligence of Cronenberg's other movies. It's not his best, but it is certainly his most accessible, least stagy work, obeying the laws of chronology and serving up characters whom we recognize as people.
  14. This masterpiece, an art film deftly masquerading as a thriller, seems to celebrate small-town pastoralism and critique big-city violence, but this position turns out to be double-edged.
  15. It ranks high on the Cronenberg scale as one of his more disturbing forays into depravity.
  16. A History of Violence poses the right question: Are those who don't study history doomed to repeat it?
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Lack of depth, complexity or strangeness make this a relatively routine entry for the director.
  18. 91
    It's Cronenberg's most mainstream work, and yet it has all the power of his creepiest nightmares.
  19. From its quiet opening sequence to its silent final shot, everything about A History of Violence is deceptive, and deceptively simple.
  20. 90
    Although Josh Olson's script was originally based on a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke, it has now unmistakably become a Cronenberg movie, and one of his finest.
  21. It's absorbing and often excruciatingly suspenseful, and it gives Viggo Mortensen a strong, change-of-pace vehicle to follow up his "Lord of the Rings" triumph.
  22. 58
    A History of Violence is a hollow story from an empty graphic novel.
  23. A masterpiece of indirection and pure visceral thrills, David Cronenberg's latest mindblower, A History of Violence, is the feel-good, feel-bad movie of the year.
  24. Don't let the slow, deliberate pace fool you. A lot is going on in David Cronenberg's masterful A History of Violence, and you'll miss it if you blink.
  25. 80
    Ed Harris and William Hurt deliver inspired turns as the villains.
  26. 90
    Cronenberg's movie manages to have its cake and eat it--impersonating an action flick in its staccato mayhem while questioning these violent attractions every step of the way.
  27. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Violence is in the spirit of the hardest-hitting film noir offerings from the '50s, but far more explicit. It's also in the spirit of the Western.
  28. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    It turns a hot topic into a pretty cool entertainment--one that satisfies the viewers' need for righteous revenge while leaving them a queasy little question on the way out: Does gun diplomacy make sense only in movies? Or do Americans want it to play out in real life?
  29. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Over-the-top and shockingly vicious. But what strikes some critics as complexity feels to me like shame--the shame of Cronenberg, an uncompromising director whose bloodshed has always been genuinely horrifying.
  30. This sort of investigation has been done so masterfully by Sam Peckinpah in "The Wild Bunch" and Oliver Stone in "Natural Born Killers" that, in a sternly utilitarian sense, we don't need Cronenberg. He is not, as far as I have seen, in their class. He proves it again in A History of Violence.
  31. 90
    Cronenberg holds up a mirror, but he leaves it up to us to recoil at what we see.
  32. Sometimes junk is junk, no matter how fancy the platter upon which it's served. Which isn't to say A History of Violence is useless junk. It provides a few pleasures and a few giggles; it's a comedy, after all, an action movie in which things unfold at a deadpan pace.
  33. Clever and fast-paced thriller.
  34. If this all sounds very heavy, well, it is, but it's also very, very funny. Cronenberg may want to say something important about violence, but he's also head over heels for it, ending each gunfight and neck-breaking with a close-up on the victim, blood either pooling behind his head or brains spilling from his face. Big laughs.
  35. I'd like to hear from some women about the sole scene I didn't buy--Bello getting angry, then super-turned-on when she learns about her calm Tom's tough-guy origins--but otherwise, A History of Violence is a remarkably convincing examination of heroism, hero worship, and the seductive allure of villainy.
  36. Reviewed by: Adam Smith
    Cronenberg's best for a long time -- broad and entertaining enough for those unacquainted with the director's work, but layered with the themes of infection and mutation that have defined it.
  37. Reviewed by: Michael Ferraro
    This is definitely not your typical Cronenberg. No matter if you either love his cinematic oddities, or if you’re put off by them, watching A History of Violence would prove beneficial. It’s no doubt one of the best films of the year.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 616 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Nov 8, 2012
    It is very rare that a film is so compelling that it keeps my eyes absolutely glued to the screen from its opening sequence to its final frame. Surely, A History of Violence is one of the great films of the decade. Full Review »
  2. Jan 3, 2011
    This review contains spoilers, click full review link to view. This movie is phenomenal: from the long take, no cutting opening to the incongruity of Ed Harris' car in the small town to Viggo experiencing a rebirth after having killed his brother, to the brilliant and wordless scene that closes the film, this movie is almost virtuoso beyond belief. This film is just about perfect. Full Review »
  3. Apr 2, 2014
    A history of violence was the first movie ever that i realized that a one and a half hour movie can be painfully long.
    i was completely
    shocked by the overall terrible performances, even from Viggo Mortensen and i was shocked again when i knew that William Hurt was nominated for an academy award for his terrible awkward performance, and what made it worst is the directing.
    Yes the directing was terrible coming from the director of Eastern promises. from the first 5 minutes i realized that the movie was slow, and i was kinda hoping for it to be like a cool directorial thingy, but it's not, it kept going like this making the movie painful to watch.
    i just seen Eastern promises and i really liked it, Viggo Mortensen character was dark and the story had depth but here, we have a shallow character that just playing awkward to the point that even the connection between family members were awkward and unreal, i mean come on, a teenage boy kiss his mother good morning every day seriously ?
    and i'm not against nudity in films but the wife coming out of the bathroom completely naked was pointless and stupid, it was like "hey, we can do this and that" and the sex scene on the stairs was awkward, i genuinely felt that i was watching a movie by M. Night Shyamalan.
    Full Review »